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Interactive replay soap: A new form of theatre therapy?

Yam, Simon Hosea S.M. (2003) Interactive replay soap: A new form of theatre therapy? PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This PhD thesis proposes a possibly new form of theatre therapy, which seeks to elevate concepts of experiential, interactive and applied theatre into the world of soap opera.

It all began almost four years ago, when I was going through a rather emotionally challenging period in my life. I did not know how to deal with the situation I was involved in. Desperation resulted in escapism, and I turned to the comfort of my favourite daytime soap opera, The Bold And The Beautiful, which I have been faithfully following for the past eight years. Watching the characters suffering their fair share of tragedy and emotional strife seemed to be rather assuring for me. Amidst all that glamour, boldness and beauty, these characters were constantly besieged by endless problems.

One particularly storyline drew my attention. It concerned Taylor Hayes, Ridge Forrester, and Brooke Logan: the ‘eternal love triangle’ that began almost as long as the soap has been running. Taylor returned to Los Angeles, after suffering amnesia from an aeroplane cash, and revealed herself to Ridge and Brooke, who both thought she died. Ridge then had to make the biggest decision of his life: to stay with Brooke, whom he had moved on with, or to return to his ‘back-from-the-dead’ wife, Taylor. When Ridge finally decided to divorce Taylor for Brooke, Taylor was totally heart-broken. Yet, she found the inner strength to move on with her life. It was then that I said to myself, “I can do that.”

Since that day, Taylor became my alter ego. identified with her, and her predicament. Using this identification to my advantage, I followed her ‘footsteps’ and emerged from my own emotional tribulation. Yet there was an unquenchable thirst within me that remained unfulfilled. I wanted to share my personal encounter with Taylor. I wanted her to know what I went through, and to let her know that she was not alone. In fact, I wanted her to know that it was she who helped me pull through my personal issue. By watching what Ridge and Brooke put her through, and what she did to help herself out of that situation, it provided answers to my problem. I saw what was depicted, I accepted it, and derived a sense of catharsis through it.

It was then that I asked myself: “Just how many soap opera viewers have identified with characters through the years, and have wished to be given the chance to share their real life problems with these characters with whom they identify?” The prospect of giving these viewers the opportunity to share their personal experiences, and to incorporate these experiences into the script of the soap characters, seemed incredibly exciting.

Thus, the concept of “Interactive Replay Soap” was born. This PhD thesis guides you on a journey of exploration of this original concept, starting with a brief introduction of applied and interactive forms of theatre, which involves the process of ‘active reviewing’. This is discussed in Chapters 1 and 2 (Personal Stories, Drama and Theatre, and Active Reviewing; Applied and Interactive Theatre). Chapter 3 (Daytime Soap Operas) establishes existing theoretical frameworks which surround the genre of daytime soap operas. Having established that there is such a distinctive genre, I then present a popular American daytime soap opera as a case study in Chapter 4 (A Case Study of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’), in support of the theories raised in Chapter 3.

This is followed closely by Chapter 5 (The First Interactive Replay Soap Opera: ‘Search For Tomorrow’), whereby I introduce a soap opera which I have created. This would be the soap opera that would act as the springboard for the process of Interactive Replay Soap.

In Chapter 6 (Viewer Identification and Involvement with Daytime Soap Opera), I attempt to study the parasocial interaction viewers of soap operas have with their alter egos in the soap operas they watch, and to locate and recognise processes of identification these viewers have for their alter egos. I also explore the emotional and psychological connection between viewers and the characters of the soap opera. These theories are measured closely with the statistical data which I have consolidated through an Internet survey on soap opera viewership identification and involvement. This is discussed in detail in Chapter 7 (Internet Survey Analysis).

It is in this chapter that I will also explore the possibility for these survey participants to reflect, and to investigate, their real life issues and problems, from which these various identifications stem from. I also studied the level of desire of these viewers to ‘enter into’ the world of soap operas, and to share these same issues and problems with the characters with whom they identify with.

In Chapter 8 (The Interactive Replay Soap Process), I seek to present next major step for these viewers to embark on: that is to have the viewers’ real-life issues, problems and experiences incorporated within the performance script of their alter egos. These soap opera characters, thus, ‘replay’ or re-enact these experiences, through the structure and nature of the soap opera. It is, at this stage, that careful guidance, facilitation and direction be conducted to ensure that these viewers, or participants, achieve therapeutic advantages from the process.

The praxis of this thesis surrounded the production of possibly the world’s first Interactive Replay Soap (opera), Search For Tomorrow, which ran over a course of eight episodes. This soap opera not only retained elements of the genre, it also paved the way for viewers to establish forms of identification, as well as permitted the interactive nature of allowing the viewers to have their real stories incorporated within their alter ego’s performance script.

This experiment attracted four participants from the audience, who contributed major personal stories for five of the eight episodes. The participants achieved immense pleasure as an audience member, impressive knowledge of theatre production as a contributor, and most importantly, generous therapeutic value as an Interactive Replay Soap participant. These feelings and thoughts are described in Chapter 9 (Feedback and Future of Interactive Replay Soap). It is also in this chapter that I discuss the possibility of Interactive Replay Soap occurring within a talk-show framework, thus edging it onto the platform of existing interactive media.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Arts
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Moody, David
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