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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Homa Bay Memories : using research-based theatre to explore a narrative inheritance Lea, Graham Walter


In her article When Missions Became Development: Ironies of ‘NGOization’ in Mainstream Canadian Churches in the 1960s (2010), Ruth Compton Brouwer discusses the move from a missionary to a secular focus in international development. To personalize this transition she tells the story of a high-school friend who, instead of following her uncle into missionary work, joined a secular Non-Governmental Organization to teach in Kenya. Compton Brouwer’s unnamed friend was my mother and the stories of her Kenyan experiences became a significant part of my narrative inheritance (Goodall, 2005). Inspired by these stories I engaged with my narrative inheritance, travelling to, and teaching in Kenya as a part of my teacher training. At the heart of this dissertation is Homa Bay Memories, a theatrical script developed using research-based theatre and narrative inquiry to explore my and my mother’s Kenyan experiences almost forty years apart. This exploration is based on letters, photos, and audio recordings left behind by my mother after her death as well as artifacts and memories of my Kenyan experiences. Through this scripted research I seek a deeper understanding of a little known but influential part of my mother’s life and how her experience has, and continues to, shape my life. Developing the script Homa Bay Memories also provided an opportunity to critically engage with research-based theatre as a methodology. Saldaña (2010) notes a lack of accounts detailing the development and “critical decision-making processes” (p. 4) encountered in research-based theatre projects. I address this gap through a careful examination of the development of Homa Bay Memories. The methodological exploration becomes the spine of this dissertation as I closely examine key moments, tensions, and decisions I faced while crafting and conceptualizing this research for the stage. These experiential and methodological contributions are theoretically informed by Bakhtin’s notion of chains of utterances (1986). This theoretical lens suggests a relentless rationality and “unfinalizability” (Holquist, 2002, p. 195) that characterizes both the understandings and presentation of the research. The dissertation concludes by suggesting possible evaluative entry points into the work.

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