Feeling for Meaning: The making and understanding of Image Theatre

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Using iconic images created by students in Belfast and Sarajevo of their respective cities, this paper will explore how emerging ideas in the field of cognitive science (e.g. Gallagher, S. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press) can help explain the making and understanding of Augusto Boal’s ‘Image Theatre’. There has been growing interest in the intersection between performance and cognitive science (McConachie, B., and H. E. Hart, eds. 2006. Performance and Cognition: Theatre Studies after the Cognitive Turn. Routledge), particularly in terms of kinaesthetic empathy (Reynolds, D., and M. Reason, eds. 2012. Kinaesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Practices. Intellect), which can enhance our understanding of the embodied practices associated with Augusto Boal’s Image Theatre. This paper will analyse the ambiguities inherent in stage images of contested cities to explore how these may reveal unconscious insights into the image-makers’ perception of their home environments. An image of Sarajevo, for instance, ostensibly about the Winter Olympics, prompts consideration of the city’s internal divisions. An image of Belfast, ostensibly about the Titanic, suggests the limitations of the city’s Peace Process. Taking Boal’s idea that stage images should be felt rather than read, this article explores the fine line between feeling and meaning in the understanding of Image Theatre and suggests that alongside literacy and orality we now also need to include ‘imageracy’, the ability to interpret and understand images, as a key competency for the modern world.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
Early online date17 Feb 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 17 Feb 2017


  • Image Theatre
  • Augusto Boal
  • Applied Drama
  • Northern Ireland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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