Drama persists as a natural form of healing and has existed as a ritual healing process for thousands of years. Developmentally, children naturally use dramatic play to master difficult moments in their lives. Historically and cross-culturally, individuals and communities have sought out the performative qualities of shamans to contact the spirit world and apply its healing medicines to various forms of personal and communal ills. When confronted by unexpected trauma, people can also turn to an applied form of drama to contain their fears and forestall debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress. This paper discusses an applied use of drama, that of drama therapy, in preventing the onslaught of symptoms following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. The author discusses one drama therapy approach called ‘Standing Tall’, which transformed the roles and stories created by 9-year-old children who witnessed the attacks into a theatrical performance. Through the dramatic process and the subsequent performance, the children were able to begin to make sense of the events they observed and share their roles and stories with their community, leading to a mutual sense of support and hope.
A version of this paper was originally presented as a key note address by the author at Inspiring Transformations: Arts and Health Conference at The University of Northampton in September 2007.