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The shared space: Staging a high school musical in a professional venue

Aris, Matthew (2017) The shared space: Staging a high school musical in a professional venue. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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As the landscape of arts education continues to change, the field has witnessed a concomitant increase in focus on what constitutes a quality education in the arts. This focus is particularly important in the context of developing collaborative partnerships between schools and the arts sector—where industry experience is key—for the purpose of creating quality arts-related projects and events. Although there is substantial support in the literature on the benefits of arts education partnerships, there is a lack of contextually rich research that explores the ways in which education and arts industry experience and negotiate these partnerships.

The aim of this research is to explore how one particular form of arts education partnerships function in order to consider the enablers and constraints to working together. Using a combination of phenomenology and autoethnography, this study captures through in-depth interviews and the researcher’s reflective journal, the ‘lived experiences’ of eight key education and industry professionals’ over a ten day period during the staging of a high school musical in a professional venue.

The central finding of the research was how the contrasting identities between the two socio-culturally configured groups (education and industry), shaped the challenges involved in working effectively together. Of particular significance were the ways that the participants negotiated multiple formal, informal, traditional and emerging roles throughout the partnerships journey. These findings were captured in a unifying metaphor represented in a 3 Act ‘play’ on partnerships that I conceptualise as The Shared Space. Each of the acts of this play: Bumping in, Negotiating the Space and The Shared Space collectively capture twelve essential themes, and represent significant transformational points in both groups partnership’s journey.

The research identifies and makes visible the shifting social and cultural characteristics that dynamically shape partnerships at crucial points during the staging of a high school musical. Participants’ roles were negotiated and re-negotiated, highlighting an emerging landscape for both industry and education staff in which traditional roles and practices are being re-visioned and (Hogan, 2006) reshaped. The findings reveal that the development of a shared language that encompasses both industry and education values—connecting aesthetic quality with educational outcomes—is an essential ingredient to producing inclusive, functional, productive and mutually beneficial partnerships.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor: Wright, Peter and Pascoe, Robin
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