A case study of the participatory playwriting process with juvenile offenders

Janice Lake Betts, University of Pennsylvania


This case study focuses upon the growth in reading, writing and collaborative learning of four juvenile offenders in a residential correctional facility during the participatory playwriting process. Two fundamental questions stem from a consideration of this study: (1) what happens to the way the group members read, write and collaborate during their involvement in the process of participatory playwriting and (2) what specific changes occur in the way in which these individuals read, write and collaborate as a result of their involvement in the process. Previous studies on playwriting have focused upon the written script and/or production rather than upon the collaborative and participatory process itself. I investigated the participatory playwriting process which I define as a holistic process wherein the students are actively engaged in creating original one-act plays from the initial germination of the idea, through the writing and rewriting of the script, up to and including the actual performance of the completed work by Equity actors. This study derives its data from classroom sessions, interviews, first and later drafts of plays, and observation of rehearsals and performances. The study identifies changes in writing and collaboration when they occur within the group over a six month period. The data from this study shows that when given an opportunity to engage in participatory playwriting these juvenile offenders exhibited authentic reading and writing behaviors far beyond those evidenced in the traditional classes held at the correctional facility. The social interaction, discussion and collaboration the juvenile offenders shared within the playwriting sessions provide evidence that these young men benefited from the participatory playwriting process. I argue for a participatory playwriting program within juvenile correctional facilities where juvenile offenders have the opportunity to connect their stories to their lives on the outside. This study shows that such a program can make productive changes in the behavior of at-risk youth.

Subject Area

Language arts|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Betts, Janice Lake, "A case study of the participatory playwriting process with juvenile offenders" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9801848.