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arts therapies, Dramatherapy, ritual theatre

What is ritual theatre

a ritual theatre workshop at the Skyros Alternative Holiday Centre, Greece

If you’ve come across this blog and are wondering what on earth is ritual theatre, and how come it’s so marvelous. What makes it different from a classic theatre experience?

Here’s one explanation……

Ritual theatre quite simply is the enactment of a myth or archetypal story with the intention of bringing about healing– usually to resolve an issue, to deal with a difficult life experience, to restore depleted energies or to ease a transition.

Anyone can participate in a ritual theatre and it requires no particular ability or talent other than an open heart and a willingness to allow the journey unfold. The kind of ritual theatre that I am mostly talking about occurs behind closed doors of a workshop room or a private space where participants are also witnesses and onlookers of the ritual drama.

It can also take place in a hospital, a school, or in the community enabling marginalized groups to reintegrate into society.

However it can equally be a ritual performance before an audience involving large numbers of people. An example of such an event was the Cosmic Celebration, a vast mythic pageant, “celebrating the unity of all religious paths and the human family” which was initiated in the seventies by Pir Vilayat, a Sufi Master and was performed worldwide, including St James Church in London (see picture below). (A chapter on this ritual theatre production features in the book.)

This is a very different kind of experience to a normal theatre performance.

From "The Cosmic Celebration", a ritual theatre pageant. See Chapter 18 by Saphira Linden

Ritual Theatre takes participants on a mythic journey through which they can experience and explore the many parts of themselves diving into mythic adventure, of monsters and heroes.

It follows the patterns of the Hero’s Journey uncovered by Joseph Campbell, based on Carl Jung’s discoveries of how myth expressed the collective unconscious through which powerful healing of the psyche and soul could take place.

Ritual theatre brings the theatre element to Jung and Campbell’s discoveries enabling participants to express the collective unconscious through playing out powerful archetypal stories.  This is potent facilitating the healing of psyche and soul and much closer to the kind of ritual healing ceremonies that took place in ancient times and in tribal societies.

In fact ritual theatre is one of the most ancient forms of healing that is still practiced in tribal societies today. Since the earliest times ancient people healed themselves and explored what they couldn’t understand about the world through dramatic ritual. Such were the beginnings of ritual theatre.Much later the Ancient Greeks developed these into Dionysinian rites which eventually evolved into theatre because the Greeks very clearly saw that it was necessary and healthy for the wellbeing of their society for emotions to be released.  This was the sole/soul purpose of the performance. Theatre has developed considerably from these origins so that nowadays we equate theatre more often with being entertained. It is unlikely that we will associate theatre with healing or being changed ourselves.

This is why ritual theatre, is even more important and relevant in contemporary life – and why I and the contributors of this book believe that ritual theatre is coming back!

I hope this answers some of your questions and will inspire you to want to know more…..

Claire Schrader

Next ritual theatre workshop

Ritual Theatre book is published

About Claire Schrader

Developed myth-a-drama, an approach bringing together the healing potential of myth and drama (ritual theatre). I offer my clients an opportunity to play, and inhabit the parts of ourselves that normally get locked away. The benefits: more emotional health, a way of clearing out the toxic emotional junk that builds up in the course of our lives, release stress, and reclaim the child within.


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