ZAMEK Culture Centre

“Social Theatre” \ lecture by Justyna Sobczyk

Lecture introducing the essential issues of social theatre.

Justyna Sobczyk is a theatre teacher and director. She obtained her MA in theatre pedagogy from the Universität der Künste in Berlin (2004), having earlier studied pedagogy (Nicolaus Copernicu University, Toruń) and Theatre Knowledge (Theatre Academy, Warsaw); she is a recipient of scholarships from the GFPS (Gemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Kultur in Mittel und Osteuropa, Germany), DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, Germany), and Poland’s Minister of Culture and National Heritage (2013).

Sobczyk is the head of Theatre Pedagogy department at the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw and co-founder of the Theatre Pedagogues’ Association. Graduate of two programmes at the School for Leaders: Leadership Innovation Laboratory and Two Sectors – One Vision. Together with Zofia Dworakowska, she heads the post-graduate programme in Theatre Pedagogy at the University of Warsaw, created jointly by the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute and the Institute of Polish Culture.

Justyna Sobczyk is the founder and artistic supervisor of Theatre 21, the only professional company in Poland composed of persons facing exclusion (due to trisomy 21, widely known as the Down syndrome, as well as autism). The company can boast numerous accolades, participation in many national and international festivals, as well as enthusiastic reviews in the most respectable European media. We had the immense honour of hosting them at CK ZAMEK as part of our project!

Social theatre is an umbrella term which spans numerous concepts of how performative arts function in the contemporary society. Launched in 2016, CK ZAMEK’s Common Theatre covers only a fragment of the broad phenomenon, focusing on using the skills and means of theatre while working with those who find it difficult to adapt in today’s world.

The therapeutic and purifying effect of drama was noted already in antiquity, while in the 20th century theatre and psychotherapy began to co-exist on quite an extensive scale, influencing each other. In the 1920s, Jacob Moreno developed the rudiments of psychodrama, a method of treating persons with mental disorders using the tools of theatre. Since then, therapeutic theory and practice have been studied, analyzed, and elaborated, yielding more and more knowledge about the effectiveness of emotional liberation of the individual from the issues transferred onto the stage. A new approach emerged—drama therapy—which presupposed departure from the immediate, inner problems of the treated persons in favour of concentrating on the positive effect of the very participation in the dramatic creative process. Members of the North American Drama Therapy Association, established in 1979, as well as their successors, drew attention to the therapeutic value of expanding the repertory of behaviours, reaching the non-conscious, opening and simulating life’s activities, improving self-esteem and teaching one to express unmanageable feelings and thoughts. In particular, research has discovered and confirmed positive outcomes of entering roles on stage, which offers a kind of therapeutic haven.

The most important area that was common to theatre people and psychotherapists emerged with the attempts to determine the self, manifesting in the creative act taking place on stage. In the case of actors, the prime motive to search for oneself is the integrity of artistic message, expressed in the repeatable, disciplined spontaneity. On the other hand, therapists seek to discover what has been hidden behind the barriers that impede individual development, cause the inability to adapt to the internal and external realities. Using theatre techniques, both sides are concerned with the same questions and arrive at similar answers.

In the world today, use of theatre techniques is not limited to working with persons with mental disorders. Training in gesture and movement, exercises in breathing, vocal expression and rhythm which precede the rehearsals have become methods one employs to benefit persons with all kinds of handicap, regardless of the mental, intellectual, motor or sensory faculties affected. It also turned out that the issues of persons suffering from social exclusion are more effectively resolved by therapy through action rather than addressing it in conversation. For the participants of theatre activities, playing roles means experiencing behaviours and an ability to make choices, which they may then apply in their lives.




The lecture was organized as part of Common Theatre, an all-year, authorial performative arts project at Zamek Culture Centre in Poznań, which showcases performances created by persons facing exclusion due to health, background, or social status.

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