Theatre and Performance Studies Seminar: An arts researcher’s observation in clinical-placed medical education & Verbatim theatre and hospital workplace culture
James Dalton, Sydney University
“Placement Comes First”: Arranging ethics clearance and negotiated interactive observation from an arts researcher in clinical-placed medical education
An early step in arranging fieldwork is to apply for ethics approval through a University’s Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). This is an important rite of passage for student researchers because it encourages a deeper consideration of the whys and hows of abstract proposals in their shift to a practical realisation. Traditionally, ethics approval and fieldwork are separate stages aligned with different fields (the academic institution and the objectified ‘field’ to be studied), with a linear progression from approval to recruitment and, eventual, ‘arrival’ in the field.
This chapter excerpt from my thesis describes what happens when the ethics approval process itself is already fieldwork. I outline experiences as a PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies attempting to conduct qualitative ethnographic research in a major metropolitan teaching hospital, and of the eighteen months I dwelled in a strange field of meetings, emails and interdisciplinary translations.
Dr Paul Dwyer, Sydney University
Who cares for the carers? Verbatim theatre and hospital workplace culture
How does one keep track simultaneously of the aesthetics and the ethics of verbatim theatre practice? What do the interviewee and interviewer take away when they encounter one another at the borders of theatrical and other cultures? Part of the promise of verbatim/documentary theatre forms is to do with how they evoke the sense of a viable public sphere, creating a context in which private utterances can become public documents, matters of common concern to be weighed up by an audience. The stakes for interviewees who open up to verbatim theatre makers in interviews are thus high, as is the potential for misappropriation. In this presentation, I will reflect on some aspects of the making and reception of Grace Under Pressure, a play about hospital workplace culture in Australia. Drawing parallels between the verbatim theatre-making process and qualitative research methodologies such as conversation analysis or grounded theory, I review the various omissions, re-orderings, juxtapositions, rhythmic and tonal shifts that were introduced into the interview materials as the theatre makers sought to convey a general view of hospital culture through the (already mediated) particulars of individual healthcare workers’ experiences.