What is ‘Devised Theatre’? 

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Written by Josh Orlando


There are so many different and new forms of artistic expression emerging from theatre. In traditional theatre, actors would show up on the first day of rehearsals expecting two very important resources at their service, a script and a director. Scripts and directors equip the actor with their lines and stage directions, which pretty much tell the actor much of what they should be doing on stage. But a new form of theatre-making is emerging, many are calling this method “devising”. Devised theatre is a free-formed style in which all members of the creative group work collectively and collaboratively, to design a performance completely from scratch. There is no script involved prior to the devising process, but rather the script gets written along the way. The goal of devising is to develop something new. 

Devising happens when a group of theater-makers collaborate through improvised activities, games, and exercises. This process allows the group to begin teasing out the kinds of stories they want to tell, and how exactly they want to tell them. When devising techniques are employed, there are less conventional restrictions throughout the creative process such as time, rehearsal structure, and a written text. Devising represents uncharted territory, it is important that the group collaborates patiently throughout the development of the performance. Devising is fairly new and experimental to most theatre practitioners, here are ten things to keep in mind

A good way to practice devising is through playing games. Though this method diverges from a traditional rehearsal, in devising it is useful to experiment with creative play. The lack of a rigid structure helps foster the kinds of creative thinking that spring from free-form performance. For those looking to get involved with devising work, here are some books that you might find useful when practicing games. 

Devised theatre can be exceptional at highlighting underrepresented narratives in the world. Since everyone’s voice from the group is an integral component in the process, more perspectives get sifted through while collaborating. From actors to designers to writers and on, each member is involved. This makes devising a useful tool when mobilizing for social movements in political theatre. Devised theatre has become a medium in which theatre artists can communicate with audience members around the kinds of political issues that impact our shared communities. Devising can be a very liberating form of theatre-making for both artists and audiences alike. In both professional theatre companies and in educational institutions, artists are using the techniques from devised theatre to respond to sociopolitical movements taking place in the world today. Here are some professional theatre companies who are devising around the world right now!

Josh Orlando

Josh Orlando

Josh Orlando (he/she/they) is a gender nonconforming artist, activist, educator based out of Los Angeles, CA. They have a masters degree in Theater Arts from the University of California Santa Cruz. Josh is where performance art meets gender politics.