Traumaturgy: A Dramaturgical Methodology for the (Re) Processing of Traumatic Memory Through the Performance of Autobiographical Trauma Narratives


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This complex practice as research project was designed to interrogate the potential of `Traumaturgy', an emergent dramaturgical methodology, in addressing the many challenges of writing, staging, and performing, autobiographical trauma narratives and to understand the impact of this process on the psychic, and somatic memories, of the autobiographical performer. The methodology was designed to motivate complex reflections on personal and cultural traumata as critical provocations for the re-writing and performing of the memory-scripts associated with the autobiographical traumatic life events such as adoption, which are explored through the traumaturgical performance process. Rather than distracting the psyche from the autobiographical traumatic experience, the traumaturgy model functions by seeking to establish new internal cognitive networks: positive associations that might facilitate an empowering, liberating transition, initiated through the act of traumaturgically framed narrative performance. Models of trauma intervention locate narrative reconstructions of the traumatic experience as a central focus for the process of recovery (Eagle., 2000; Herman, 1992; Schwartz & Prout, 1991) etc, however, unlike expressive therapies (see Glading, 1991; Moreno, 1975) which exist within the relative safety of the applied theatre space, key to this methodology is the achievement of strategic closure, by returning the performance to the traditional theatre environment and inviting an audience to play the role of witness. This creative synthesis between trauma theory and dramaturgical responses to the staging, and performing of post-traumatic memory based materials, forms the axis of this methodological approach. The research-sharing event In Search of Duende, which represented the performative articulation of this thesis, culminated in the performance of the play Dancing For Franco, which sought to re-write, and re process the researcher's autobiographical trauma-based memory scripts through its witnessed performance. The play takes the somatic language of flamenco intertwoven with the adoption narratives of the researcher, and individuals affected by the Francoist system of illegal baby theft which are collectively known as the Niños Robados (Spain's Stolen Children), and the fictional narratives of created characters, to understand how the traumaturgy model might instigate transformational processes within the autobiographical performer.
Date of Award10 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVICTOR MERRIMAN (Director of Studies), HELEN NEWALL (Supervisor), SHEILA MCCORMICK (Supervisor) & PHILIP CHRISTOPHER (Supervisor)

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