The Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy

Deliberative Theatre

The concept of a deliberative theatre was first developed by CMU Alum Shannon Deep and combines the tradition of theatre with the principles and practices of deliberative democracy. It was first used for a Campus Conversation on controversal student sponsored film topics.

At a Deliberative Theater event, participants experience a brief performance that reveals the dynamic interplay of multiple perspectives on an issue. They also receive a playbill/fact-sheet containing balanced information about the issue. The performance and the fact-sheet serve as resources during structured small-group dialogues facilitated by trained moderators. The performance, fact-sheet and dialogues spur questions that the participants then ask to a resource panel of experts. Prior to the event participants complete a survey that records their views on the issue; they complete a similar survey at the end of the event. After the event, the results of both surveys and the structured dialogues are made available to policy makers, educational institutions, and the media.

In July 2011 WQED produced a deliberative theatre event called Managing Marcellus. in October WQED broadcast a TV production of this event, including commentary from area citizens engaged in the issue of the Marcellus Shale.

In November the League of Women Voters held a version of this deliberative theatre in Washingtom County, PA. As noted in the Observer-Reporter:

Following a production of the play "Managing Marcellus," former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said he wished other Pennsylvanians had seen it.

"How can we dialogue and work together and produce better outcomes?" he asked a group who attended the play and panel discussion afterward. "I think a night like this is really, really important. I wish, frankly, the whole state could have seen that drama."

Background Materials

Managing Marcellus: A Deliberative Theatre

Utilizing the idea of a theatrical performance, we have developed a Playbill that not only has the list of actors and sponsors, but also provides background information on the issues to be discussed and the choices to be considered.  This Playbill was used for the Washington County forum.

Report ("Epilogue")

This document contains a detailed analysis of the data gathered from the July deliberative theatre event and presents it in a way that may be useful to policy makers and the general public.


WQED Production

The complete play, Managing Marcellus, can be viewed as streaming video on the WQED site.

The program on Managing Marcellus can be seen on WQED TV.

Partners and Sponsors

Special thanks to WQED Multimedia, the Unseam'd Shakespeare Company, Pop City Media, the Coro Center for Civic Leadership and the League of Women Voters.

Special funding for these events was provided by the Colcom Foundation.


© Copyright 2005 Program for Deliberative Democracy