A new model of Living Lab

The Drama Labs are innovative interventions in the case studies to explore new ways to engage with conflict productively. The Drama Labs use a mix of performative and applied drama to enable transdisciplinary engagement between researchers and theatre makers, as well as governmental, market and civil society actors.

Performative drama

Performative drama stages social issues in a performance before an audience, while applied drama does not work towards a performance but instead uses theatrical methods to transform interaction between participants. Known for its ability to generate and transform societal dialogue, drama is usually framed as belonging to the domain of recreation or as a public engagement tool.

Applied drama

Our Drama Labs form a key part of our research into what it means to wage conflicts productively. Participants in the Drama Labs gain access to embodied and affective means of argumentation that can be a vehicle for the expression and understanding of emotion, (dis)connections and stories that are normally left untold. The aim is to use the tension between conflicting perspectives on climate transition to generate transformative capacity.

What is a Drama Lab?

One of the key innovations of the CONTRA project is the Drama Lab, which is a new manifestation of the Urban Living Lab (ULL). The Drama Lab expands the current practices and methods of the ULL through knowledge and practices developed in the field of theatre and performance. In each of the consortium countries, the research team works in close collaboration with local theatre partners to develop Drama Labs that respond to the urban challenges that characterize the national case study.

In many ways, ULLs and Drama Labs are quite similar. Both celebrates experimentation and creativity and addresses urban challenges through a hands-on process that brings together a range of different stakeholders. The main differences between the two, concern the general approach and goals.

Differences between Urban Living Lab and Drama Lab

Urban Living Lab

The ULL starts from an experimental set-up that aims to control and ‘level out’ real-life contingencies to deliver a new product, service or system. It is often solution-oriented, focusing on developing knowledge for practical improvement of an urban challenge and/or knowledge about the factors that hamper their solutions. Studies show that, in practice, it often falls short of representing multifaceted and contesting identities and interests, because it follows a project logic, a managerial understanding of social innovation or suffers the dominance of certain stakeholders.

Drama Lab

In contrast, the Drama Lab aims to develop knowledge for critical, embodied understanding of the conditions that shape urban challenges or hamper their solutions. Importantly, while the ULL is focused on finding (practical) solutions, the Drama Lab is geared towards increased critical understanding which may or may not lead to a productive locally shared agenda. The Drama Lab is hence founded on the belief that it is impossible to reach full consensus – a belief that, although seldom made explicit, seems to accompany solution-oriented approaches prevalent in Urban Living Labs.

Drama Labs in CONTRA

Drammen Drama Lab

Norway was the first country to execute the Drama Labs, which took place in the city of Drammen in the beginning of May 2023.

Theatre Partner: Marthe Sofie L. Eide and team

Gdynia Drama Lab

The second country that executed Drama Labs as part of the project was Poland. The event took place in the city of Gdynia in mid-July 2023.

Theatre Partner: Gdynia Glowna Theatre

Tilburg Drama Lab

The Netherlands was the third country to execute Drama Labs as part of the project. The events took place in November 2023.

Theatre Partner: Taco van Dijk & Maarten Smit

Genk Drama Lab

The last country to perform Drama Labs as part of the project will be Belgium. Events are planned in the first half of 2024.

Theatre Partner: Nieuwstedelijk Theatre Company