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Training by theatre, seeking authenticity: a study of the everyday dramas of training and development in Australian organisations
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:23 authored by Sara Zaeemdar
This dissertation reports on studies of training and development practices in Australia, referred to here as personnel development. Two trends at present prevalent in this field are explored: the application of theatre in training programs and the authenticity discourse of organisation members in training and development events. This research focus emerged during fieldwork which included shadowing, participant observation and interviews with personnel development professionals. A dramatistic frame of analysis is adopted to interpret the results of the field studies. This analytical framework borrows interpretive tools from a diverse selection of drama-inspired theorisations of social action - 'dramatism', 'dramaturgy', 'the ritual process' and 'the narrative approach' - as well as from the dramatic theories of identity - that formulate the self as relational, multiple and socially constructed - and from organisation studies probing the relationship between drama and organisational life. The thesis contributes to the developing body of research on theatrical interventions in organisations. It builds on observations of two theatrical training events, a coaching session based on role-play and a training event incorporating a piece of participative theatre. The underlying processes through which theatrical training works are explored. Moreover, and unlike most studies on theatrical interventions, audience responses to the theatrical training are documented and interpreted. The dramatistic analysis reveals that theatre-based training encourages reflexivity and offers trainees increased engagement with the content of training. The thesis also contributes to empirical studies of identity and authenticity in organisations. The observations of the way personnel development professionals teach authenticity and the interviews about the way they practice and make sense of authenticity reveal that Australian personnel development is part of the contemporary social trend which demands authentic lives and authentic workplaces. The study introduces a dramatistic perspective on authenticity which, unlike previous studies, reconciles theatricality with authenticity.