Forum Conversations: An organisational theatre method for improving managers' interpersonal communication

  • Peter Birch

Student thesis: Phd


Forum Conversations is an organisational theatre method for helping individuals to deal with their difficult conversations in the workplace. It uses professional actors to simulate participants' 'difficult others' and to play out confrontational conversations from participants' own experience. This study adds to the empirical base of research into organisational theatre. It further conceptualises organisational theatre methods as reflective or refractive.This qualitative, interpretive study examines the perspectives of both participants and actors through a dramatistic lens and also assesses if and how the Forum Conversations method has affected changes in behaviour and approach in the ways individual participants communicate with others in the workplace. In this assessment a novel, methodological approach based on attributions made by participants was used to make comparisons between individuals' pre- and post- Forum Conversations views about their difficult conversations. Outcomes included improvements in confidence and awareness but also of agency in participants' dealings with others. The interaction between actors and participants is discussed in terms of a partial dialogism that dwells in the moment of exchange between interactants. From the actors' side the study highlights the subtly layered reflexivity of the actors in process and also of their tendency to accentuate performance skills. In this context, the interaction is seen to compare with the way professional actors might use rehearsal to prepare for theatre performance. Overall, it is concluded that Forum Conversations is a powerful learning method that enables participants to embody their learning experience and leads to sustained individual change that occasionally includes personal transformation both at work and at home.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester


  • Burke's pentad
  • reflective and refractive
  • attributions
  • interpersonal communication
  • dramatism
  • dialogue
  • organisational theatre
  • Forum Conversations

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