Chair and Professor, Applied Theatre, School of Education and Professional Studies
Michael Balfour is inaugural Chair of Applied and Social Theatre at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. His area of research is focussed on the social applications of theatre and performance and explores how the arts can respond to contemporary contexts, from working in prisons to understanding the role of theatre in war.
Professor Balfour has published three monographs and four edited books, as well as more than twenty-six peer-reviewed papers in high impact journals and collections. He has won many awards for his research in arts and health, applied theatre as well as several prestigious National Teaching Awards.
In the last five years Professor Balfour has been extending his practice and research through developing Australian Research Council funded projects exploring drama and social justice issues, including creative approaches to working with newly arrived refugees, verbatim theatre with returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, mapping performing arts projects in Australian prisons, and exploring the impact of playful work with people who have mid to late dementia.
Research expertiseMichael’s research expertise is in the social applications of theatre – theatre in communities, social institutions and areas of disadvantage and conflict. His specialist areas of research include:
- Arts practice in sites of war and conflict
- Prison Theatre
- Arts-based work with returning military personnel
- Play and dementia
- Drama work with participants from a refugee background
- Documentary theatre
Current teaching areas
- Devised Theatre
- Theatre lab
- Performance essay
- Postgraduate supervision and teaching
Current postgraduate students
- Linda Davey, PhD. Awarded a GU scholarship.
- Jenny Penton, PhD. Awarded a GU scholarship.
- Penny Glass PhD. Awarded a GU scholarship.
- Natalie Lazaroo, PhD. Awarded a GU scholarship.
- Craig Wood, PhD
- Elise Greig, PhD
- Dwayne Lawler, PhD. Awarded a GU scholarship.
- Shaun Charles, PhD
- National Leadership in Arts and Health Research, Arts and Health National Awards, 2015.
- Nominated, The Return (Play) Council of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) Prize for Distinctive Work in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences 2015.
- Playful Engagement and Dementia, Creative Partnerships Australia Award 2013.
- Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, Australian National Awards for University Teaching, 2012
- Pro-Vice Chancellor Arts, Education and Law, Senior Researcher Award, 2011
- National Teaching Excellence Award, Australian Learning and Teaching Council, 2011.
- Pro-Vice Chancellor Arts, Education and Law, Research Group Award 2010
- Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, 2009
Recent keynote/conference presentations
- Special presentation: Theatres of Possibility (with co-presenters Bundy, Dunn, Hassall, Stinson, Woodland), Drama Queensland, Queensland Theatre Company, 11-13th March 2016.
- Invited speaker: Amnesia Museum Forum. Invited guest speakers from the arts and neuropsychology explored the relationship between imagination and memory loss, and the role of art in relation to both the scientific understanding and lived experience of memory. University of New South Wales Gallery, Sydney, 4th March 2016.
- Keynote: Surprising histories: the arts and social health of returning military personnel, The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, 7th Annual International Arts and Health Conference, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, 17-19th November 2015.
- Playful engagement and dementia: a critique of hope. International Applied Theatre Symposium, University of Auckland, 9-11th November 2015.
- Keynote: Theatre, conflict and the social: making theatre in a post-political context, Rethinking Political Theatre in Western Culture, Tel Aviv University, March 2-4, 2015
- Yum-cha moments: Playful engagement and dementia with residents in an aged care facility, The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, International Arts and Health Conference, University of New South Wales, 12-15th November 2013.
- Lead Organizer: Creative Innovations in Corrections: Using the Performing Arts in Service delivery, Inaugural Arts in Corrections Conference, South Bank, Brisbane. 10-11th February 2014. Attracted 120 delegates from Corrections, Criminology, arts practitioners working in prisons. International presentations and performances from UK, Chile.
- Keynote: The art of return: researching arts-based practices that seek to support military personnel and their families in the transition from military to civilian life after recent conflicts. International Symposium, Critical Journeys in Applied Theatre, University of Auckland, 24-25th October 2013.
- The Soldier’s Return: the art of peace building with returning veterans’, A better world is possible: Peace and Justice in the Globalised World, International Peace Research Association, Mie University, Japan, 26th November 2012.
- Balfour, M., Bartleet, B., Davey, L., Rynne, J., Schippers, H. (2017) Performing Arts in Prisons, Intellect; Bristol (contracted)
- Balfour, M., Burton, B, Bundy, P, Dunn, J., Woodrow, N. (2015) Applied Theatre: Resettlement: Drama, Refugees and Resilience, Methuen
- Balfour, M. (Ed.) (2013) Refugee Performance: Practical Encounters, Intellect Press.
- Thompson, J., Hughes, J., & Balfour, M. (2009) Performance: In Place of War. Seagull Press/University of Chicago Press.
- Balfour, M.(co-edited with Somers, J), (2006). Drama as Social Intervention. Captus Press.
- Balfour, M. (2004). Prison Theatre: Theory and Practice. Intellect.
- Balfour, M. (2003). The Use of Drama in the Rehabilitation of Violent Male Offenders. Edwin Mellen Press.
- Balfour, M. (Ed.) (2001) Theatre and War: Performance in extremis 1934-1945; Berghahn Books.
Book Chapters (recent)
- Balfour, M., Dunn, J., Moyle, W., Cooke, M. (2017) Complicite and the clown: playful engagement and dementia, in Sheila McCormick (Ed.) Applied Theatre: Creative Ageing, Bloomsbury Methuen; London (in press, submitted 10/1/16).
- Balfour, M. (2016). The art of facilitation: Tain’t what you do (it’s the way that you do it), in Sheila Preston (Ed.) Applied Theatre: Facilitation, Bloomsbury Methuen; London (in press, submitted 31/6/15)
- Balfour, M. (2016). War Songs: making music with veteran and military communities in Lee Higgins and Brydie Leigh-Bartleet (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Community Music, Oxford University Press; Oxford (in press, submitted 31/09/15).
- Hassall, L and Balfour, M. (2016). Transitioning Home: research-based theatre with returning servicemen and their families, in George Belliveau and Graham Lea (Eds.) Research-Based Theatre, Intellect; Bristol (in press).
- Balfour, M. (2015). A fragile dance: art and place making in times of war and not war, in Mike Fleming, Looira Bresler, John O’Toole (Eds) The Routledge International Handbook of the Arts and Education, Routledge; London.
- Whyte, T., Matthews, C., Balfour, M., Murphy,L., Hassall, L. (2015). The Boat House - Representing the Elders: Indigenous research, oral history and documentary theatre, in Robert Mason and Janet McDonald (eds) Creative Communities: Regional Social Inclusion and the Arts, Intellect; Bristol.
- Balfour, M. (2014). Performing the promised land: the festivalising of multi-cultures in the Margate Exodus Project, in A.Bennett, I. Woodward and J.Taylor (eds.) Festivalisation of Culture, Ashgate Press; Farnham, Surrey.
- Balfour, M. (2013). Refugee performance: encounters with alterity’, in M.Balfour (ed) Refugee Performance: Practical Encounters, Intellect; Bristol.
- Balfour, M. and Woodrow, N. (2013). On Stitches, in M. Balfour (ed) Refugee Performance: Practical Encounters, Intellect; Bristol.
- Balfour, M., Martin, K. Dunn, J., Moyle, W., Cooke, M. (2015). Playful care: what lies beyond the red nose, Australian Journal of Dementia Care (August-September).
- Balfour, M. and Stewart, D. (2015) Perspectives and contexts of arts, social health and the military, [Special Edition] Journal of Arts and Health, Michael Balfour and Donald Stewart (eds). 7, 2.
- Davey, L., Day, A., Balfour, M. (2014) Performing Desistance: How might theories of desistance from crime help us to understand the possibilities of prison theatre? The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 0306624X14529728.
- Balfour, M., Westwood, M., Buchanan, M. (2014) Protecting into emotion: therapeutic enactments with military veterans transitioning back into civilian life, Research in Drama Education,19.2 (2014): 165-181.
- Dunn, J., Balfour, M., Moyle, W., Cooke, M., Martin, K., Crystal, C., & Yen, A. (2013). Playfully engaging people living with dementia: searching for Yum Cha moments. International Journal of Play, 2(3).
- Balfour, M. (2012). Creative ecologies: multi-arts approaches to resilience for newly arrived refugees, 7arakat Conference: Theatre, Cultural Diversity And Inclusion e-proceedings, La Trobe University, Melbourne.
- Balfour, M. (2012). Mapping realities: representing war through affective place making, New Theatre Quarterly, 28 (1).
- Balfour, M. (2010). Refugee performance: encounters with alterity. Journal of Arts & Communities Special Edition Arts & Human Rights in partnership with Amnesty International, vol.2 (3).
- Balfour, M. (2010). The Difficult Return: Contexts and Developments in Drama-Based Work with Returned Military Personnel, Applied Theatre Researcher, 10.
- Balfour, M. (2010). Developing the capacities of applied theatre students to be critically reflective learner-practitioners, Australasian Drama Studies.
- Balfour, M. (2009). The politics of intention: looking for a theatre of little changes, Research in Drama Education. 14.3.
- The Return. Writer/director Linda Hassall. Producer/researcher: Michael Balfour
- Documentary play based with ex-servicemen and actors. BEMAC Theatre, Brisbane 25th and 26th June 2014. Nominated, The Return (Play) Council of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) Prize for Distinctive Work in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences 2015.
- Balfour, M. (2015) James Thompson, Humanitarian Performance from Disaster Tragedies to Spectacles of War, New Theatre Quarterly, 31, 03, 295.
- Balfour, M. (2013). Alison Jeffers, Refugees, theatre and crisis. Applied Theatre Research, 12, Intellect.
- Balfour, M. (2013). Fears of Loss, Tears of Joy: Raun Raun Theatre and Its Role in the Construction of a National Culture in Papua New Guinea, Contemporary Theatre Review, 22.
- Balfour, M. (extended 3,000 word review) (2013). Cynthia E. Cohen, Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, Polly O. Walker (Eds.) Acting Together Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict Volume 1: Resistance and Reconciliation in Regions of Violence; Volume 2: Building Just and Inclusive Communities. Peace Review, Volume 24, Issue 4, Routledge. 447-453.
- Jen Harvie, Michael Balfour, Ralph Yarrow & John O'Toole (2011). Publications, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16:1, 125-142
- 2014 AEL Collaborative Research Grant Re-conceiving asylum seekers/refugees as transnational justice actors: Re-thinking practice and theory through creativity ($9,987). CI Simic and Balfour.
- 2012-2015 ARC Linkage Playful engagement and dementia: assessing the efficacy of applied theatre practices for people with dementia in residential aged care facilities ($220,000). Partner: Wesley Mission Brisbane. CIs Balfour, M. (Lead), Moyle W, Cooke, M, Dunn J. (Griffith).
- 2011-2014 ARC Linkage Captive Audiences: The impact of performing arts programs in Australian prisons’ ($138,000) Partner: Serco. CIs Schippers, H., Lee-Bartlett, B, Balfour, M., Rhyne, J.
- 2012 AEL Collaborative Research Grant ($15,000) The Boat House – Representing the Elders. Indigenous research, oral history and documentary theatre.
- 2010-2013 ARC Discovery ‘The difficult return: arts-based approaches to mental health literacy and building resilience with recently returned military personnel and their families’. ($240,000) Lead CI with GU, University of Queensland, and Chapman University (USA).
- 2009-2012 ARC Linkage ‘Developing refugee resilience and effective resettlement through drama-based interventions’. ($80,000). Lead CI with GU interdisciplinary team (drama, counselling and psychology).
- 2004-2008 Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) Major Research Grant ‘In Place of War’. A major four year research grant, focussed on performance and war. Outcomes included two published books, two PhD studentships, long term applied drama projects in Sri Lanka and UK (on the theme of asylum), and a major conference in 2008. Lead CI Thompson, J. (University of Manchester, UK) and Balfour, M.