Pre-text based process drama in the professions: a case study across cultural boundaries

Submitting Institution

University of Chester

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies

Download original


Summary of the impact

Allan Owens has worked worldwide to bring drama into the professions. He has developed an artistic form that has impacted in a wide range of contexts including the social sector, in education, health, and public service, and also in private business. The trajectory of his research and practice has been concerned with pioneering the use of pre-text based process drama as a form of artistic initiative beyond mainstream education. The underlying research consists of authored articles and pre-texts which were part of the 2008 RAE submission classed as `internationally recognised with world leading elements'.

Underpinning research

The impact of Professor Owens' research is evidenced in the uptake of pre-text based process drama to create spaces for intercultural understanding. The key research insight is that the conceptualisation of `intercultural', as used in relation to this form, extends well beyond its conventional association with language and ethnicity.

It is concerned with the use of drama as an act of translationary context, where people are talking `at' or `past' each other. In such contexts, individuals and organisations can be restricted by the confines of their own world-view. In asking different questions and looking at issues from varied points of view, new world-views may emerge.

It is this process of seeing the world differently which allows individuals and organisations to see themselves from a new perspective. This form of research-based pre-text performance allows people and organisations to work through processes that can lead to change in working practices, behaviours and values.

The underpinning research consists of two performance-based outputs and two written outputs which further interrogate the key concepts underpinning the dramaturgical form (see section 3). These four research outputs have impacted directly on the professional practice of two theatre institutions, two theatre companies and two national drama organisations in a total of six countries as detailed below. The research, the activity and the impact of these cannot be easily separated as they are interwoven in long term, on-going change processes at national level, as the sources corroborating the impact confirm:

  • Finland (1995-2013): Theatre Academy of Finland. Over a period spanning 17 years, Owens has given master courses for multi-professional groups in theatres, prisons, education, health and business.
  • Japan (2000-2013): Taichi Kikaku Theatre Company Tokyo. Pre-text workshops have been incorporated in Children's theatre training (JCTA) and performance (TCKK).
  • Palestine (1996-2013): Owens has collaborated with the University of Bethlehem and universities in West Bank and Gaza using drama pre-texts as artistic inquiry and bringing about change in creative pedagogical practice.
  • Spain (2002-2013): Theatre Pa'thothom, Barcelona, La Neveva, Girona. Uses of pre-texts have changed the professional practices of actors, and social, health, and NGO workers.
  • Sweden (2007-2013): Work with the University of Stockholm has informed theatre educators in the use of the pre-texts with a range of client groups.
  • Estonia (2009-2013): Viljandi Culture Academy, Estonia. Owens was keynote workshop leader in the first three Estonian National Applied Theatre Conferences, which drew on the initial research and which has led to use of the pre-text form by professionals in theatre, education, health, youth work and prisons.

Throughout this period Owens has been the key researcher in his role as Senior Lecturer (1995-2007) and Professor (2007-onwards) at the University of Chester.

References to the research

1. Owens, A. (2007). `Momo Taro'& `Lear', The Theatre Academy of Finland, Helsinki.

2. Owens, A. (2007). The Bird in the Cage. Pre-text based research project performance. NEC, Kogakuin Institute, New National Theatre and National Children's Theatre Association ofJapan.

3. Owens, A. (2004). `Generative Space: Skinship and Vulnerability in Intercultural Applied Arts Work'. Drama Research Vol.3, National Drama, ISSN 1470-0484, pp.55-65.

4. Owens, A. (2005). `Planning for the Possibilities of Dissensus in Process Drama', Hyva Hankaus: Teatterikorkeakoulun julaisusarja nro 38, ed. Korhonen & Airraksinene, P. Helsinki, Draamatyo. ISBN 9789529765386, pp.8-16.

All four outputs were submitted by the University of Chester to UOA65: Drama, Dance and Performing Arts in RAE 2008 and were assessed as 2* or above.

Key research grants

Owens' practice-based research has attracted more than £240,000 of funding, much of it in the period 2008-2013, including:

  • Euros 16,000, Manager 2.0, Tekes-Finnish National Agency for Innovation and Technology Funding, with Lapeenranta Innovation Unit, Finland, 2012-2014.
  • £30,000, Comparative study of Creative Pedagogy, North West England and West Bank Palestine, British Academy, 2012-2015.
  • Euros 122,000, Intercultural Awareness and Competence: Drama. EU Erasmus Intensive Programmes. University of Chester (lead institution) with partner universities: Pädagogische Hochschule Wien, Austria; University of Flensburg, Germany; University of Malaga, Spain; Linkopings University, Sweden, June 2011-September 2013.
  • US$150,000, Reviving Palestinian schools: Creative Pedagogies, World Bank Quality Improvement Fund, with Bethlehem University, An-Najah National University, Hebron University, Islamic University-Gaza, Palestine, March 2011-December 2012.
  • £50,000, The use of Process Drama Across disciplines and professions in Higher Education and beyond, HEFCE NTFS Project, 2003-2013.

Details of the impact

The underpinning research has been developed internationally through a range of projects and networks in: the Social sector in Finland and Spain; Education in Finland, Palestine, Japan and Sweden; Health care and Leadership and Management in Finland.

The impact and benefit of the research can be traced chronologically:

  • Through links with the outward-facing Creative Business Unit of the Finnish Theatre Academy (Kookos) from the mid 1990s, Owens was invited to develop artistic inquiry approaches with other key Finnish institutions. His pre-texts were translated into the book `Dramakompassi' (2010). This is required reading for drama pedagogues in Finnish universities. Examples of specific impact include the adopted use of pre-text in 18 business and organisational contexts through the nationally funded project Manager 2.0 (2011-2012) and in two health care institutions (2009-2011). Since 2008, Owens has also worked on eight other projects in universities, prisons, city theatres and the Tampere Theatre Festival, reaching approximately 2,000 participants.
  • As noted by users of Owens' research in Finland, his work:
    `...has had remarkable influence on Drama/Drama Education in Finland and his ideas/theories have spread to our neighbour countries including Estonia, Sweden.'
    (Raija Airaksinen-Björklund, Publisher, Finland)

    `... has mediated at least [the] following fields: Social Sector, School context, Health care, [...] Leadership, managing and innovative action, [...] wellbeing in working life and developing work in business context.'
    (Pekka Korhonen, Senior Projects Manager, Kookos Services, Theatre Academy, Helsinki)

    `...has made a significant contribution to the range of forms available in for use in professional institutions including schools, university departments, health faculties [...] business.'
    (Dr Anne Pässilä, Researcher LUT & Partner Susino Ltd, Lahti, Finland)

  • In 2000, Owens was approached by Mayumi Fukashima of NEC Tokyo to create pre-texts that moved between Japan and the UK. These included performances in collaboration with Taichi-Kikaku Theatre in the New National Theatre, Tokyo, NEC, and for the Japan Children's Theatre Association (JCTA). Specific impact included the adopted use of pre-text in Taichi-Kikaku's theatre practice and by approximately 30 professionals in JCTA mainstream primary, secondary and special schools (2008-13).This paved the way for a book co-authored by Owens and Green—the first on the application of drama pre-texts to originate in Japan (2010). The 22 performances (10 since 2008) and workshops in Japan and the UK, over 13 years, involved approximately 2,500 participants (1,200 since 2008) and included three reviews in the JCTA publication. In 2010, Owens became an editorial board member of the Asian Journal for Drama and Theatre in Education.
  • `There have been few practical and pedagogical drama education methods in Japan before Professor Owens' work.'
    (Yosuke Ohashi, Vice-President Taichi-Kikaku Theatre, Tokyo)

  • In 2011, the use of pre-texts in Palestine was substantially extended by the two-year World Bank-funded project `Reviving Palestinian schools' (2011-2012) and this impacted directly on the pedagogical approaches of 28 teacher educators. The extent to which this form of creative pedagogy transferred to Palestinian universities and schools is currently being evaluated through a British Academy Research Project (2012-15).The number of colleagues worked with between 1996 and 2013 is approximately 1,400.
  • `This process [...] is helping us as Palestinian academics in integrating all new creative pedagogies in teaching and learning in all educational levels [and] in developing the educational sector in Palestine.'
    (Dr Hala Al-Yamany, University of Bethlehem, Palestine)

  • An invitation to join the Finnish multi-partnership, EU-funded, Grundtvig Project `Dramaway' in 2002 led to the pre-text approach being taken up in Spain in 2002. Owens subsequently started long-term work with two of the key social participatory theatres in Catalunya, Theatre Patothom, Barcelona (2002-2013) and La Neveva, Girona (2007-2013), and, more recently, in Lorca with Euroacion (2011) and the University of Girona (2013). Specific impact has been on the adopted use of pre-text approaches by these two companies and, since 2008, approximately 400 professionals working in education and social work. The practical use of the approach by professionals in the social sector led to the publication in Spanish of the pre- texts Mapas Teatales (2011), edited by the artistic director of Theatre Pa'tothom. The number of professionals engaged over 10 years is approximately 900.
  • `... his work with pre-text drama has been very present in Catalonia with a strong influence over drama workers. Many professionals are using his pre-text drama in Spain nowadays.' (David Martinez, Artistic Director, La Nave Va Theatre, Girona, Spain)

  • The research has also been extended in the period 2007-2013, via the collaborative work with the Theatre Academy Finland, to Sweden, where `Draamakompassen' was published in 2007 and Owens' was involved in direct work with some 230 professionals, as well as Lithuania in 2008 (Draama Darbi) and Estonia in 2013, where work has benefited 300 professionals. The development of this involved keynotes and courses run by Owens in Sweden (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013), and Estonia (2010, 2011, 2012).
  • `...Owens' has been involved in our long-term efforts to build academic research in the Swedish drama field...this collaboration has proven to be of great value and truly inspiring for us.'
    (Eva Österlind, University of Stockholm)

    `The role of Allan Owens has been to expand pre-text based process drama method in Estonia, to introduce the pedagogical, cultural and political theory that informs it.' (Katrin Nielsen, Viljandi Culture Academy, Estonia)

Sources to corroborate the impact

Evidence of the impact of Owens' research and practice in the countries described in section 4 can be found in the following:


  • Seies, E-R. (2013). Draamatyöpaja kasvattaa esimiehiä, Fakta, Business Journal, Finland (Review of the two year research based project Manager 2.0. pp 18-23).
  • Foreword to 2nd Edition of `Drama Kompassi', Pekka Korhonen, Finland (2010).


  • Kobayashi, Y. (Tokyo City University) & Neelands, J. (University of Warwick). Foreword to Applied drama: communication through pre-texts. Tokyo: Tosho Bunka Press.


  • World Bank Project Report (2012). `Reviving Palestinian Schools: Creative Pedagogies (2011-2012).


  • Preface to Forcas, J. (2011). `Mapas Teatrales'. Written by Artistic Director, Theatre Pa'tothom, Barcelona.


  • Grünbaum, A. (2009). Resande I process drama — Allan Owens på Vasterberg, RAD Drama Forum, 2009, ISSN 1652-9286, RAD, the Swedish National Drama Association.