Sydney Cheek-O'Donnell (University of Utah, United States)


ISBN: 978-1-83867-336-9, eISBN: 978-1-83867-333-8

Publication date: 15 July 2021


Cheek-O'Donnell, S. (2021), "Prelims", Theatre (Arts for Health), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-ix.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Sydney Cheek-O'Donnell

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Series Editor: Paul Crawford, Professor of Health Humanities, University of Nottingham, UK

The Arts for Health series offers a ground-breaking set of books that guide the general public, carers and healthcare providers on how different arts can help people to stay healthy or improve their health and wellbeing.

Bringing together new information and resources underpinning the health humanities (that link health and social care disciplines with the arts and humanities), the books demonstrate the ways in which the arts offer people worldwide a kind of shadow health service – a non-clinical way to maintain or improve our health and wellbeing. The books are aimed at general readers along with interested arts practitioners seeking to explore the health benefits of their work, health and social care providers and clinicians wishing to learn about the application of the arts for health, educators in arts, health and social care and organizations, carers and individuals engaged in public health or generating healthier environments. These easy-to-read, engaging short books help readers to understand the evidence about the value of arts for health and offer guidelines, case studies and resources to make use of these non-clinical routes to a better life.

Other titles in the series:

Film Steven Schlozman
Theatre Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell
Singing Yoon Irons and Grenville Hancox
Music Eugene Beresin
Painting Victoria Tischler
Dancing Sara Houston
Drawing Curie Scott
Storytelling Michael Wilson

Title Page



University of Utah, United States

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

Copyright Page

Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2021

© 2021 Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell. Published under an exclusive license by Emerald Publishing Limited.

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No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. No responsibility is accepted for the accuracy of information contained in the text, illustrations or advertisements. The opinions expressed in these chapters are not necessarily those of the Author or the publisher.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-83867-336-9 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-83867-333-8 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-83867-335-2 (Epub)


About the Author vii
Acknowledgements ix
Introduction — Why Theatre? 1
1. What Helps? 9
2. Who Can Benefit? 17
3. How Can I Engage with Theatre? 31
4. What Can Professionals Do to Help? 47
5. What are the Challenges and Opportunities? 65
6. Resources 81
References 85
Index 95

About the Author

Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where she teaches new play development, dramaturgy, theatre history, theory, criticism, and dramatic literature.

Currently, she works on the application of theatre techniques in non-traditional places, like healthcare settings and STEM education. She is Principle Investigator, with Dr. Gretchen A. Case, on a randomized controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of a rehearsal framework to improve the interpersonal communication skills of medical learners. This study is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. She regularly collaborates with multidisciplinary teams at the Utah Center for Excellence in ELSI Research (UCEER) to leverage the arts – particularly theatre and storytelling – in the creation of education and support materials for women and families. Previously, she worked with a multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Nalini Nadkarni to explore using theatre, narrative, and ecological restoration as tools to shift the way people see themselves in relation to science, technology, engineering, and math.

She has earned PhD in Theatre History and Dramatic Criticism from the University of Washington’s School of Drama, and received her undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Minnesota.


The writing of this book would not have been possible without the support of colleagues, friends, and family, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. I wish to thank Greg Hatch for his amazing skills as a librarian, helping me scour the literature for the evidence base of this book. We spent countless hours in “parallel play,” searching for sources and reading through titles, abstracts, and articles. Many thanks also to the scholars and artists who generously took the time to speak with me about their work in the field of theatre for health – some of them responding to email inquiries from a total stranger. Blythe Corbett, Jacqueline Eaton, Peter Felsman, Beth Hagenlocker, and Persephone Sextou: I hope that this volume brings additional attention to your remarkable work.

Additional thanks go to my colleagues in the College of Fine Arts and the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah, who did their very best to help me carve out the time necessary for research and writing: Tim Slover, Harris Smith, John Scheib, Cami Rives, Cami Sheridan, and Aaron Swenson – thank you! My deepest gratitude goes to Gretchen Case and Karly Pippitt, who offered gentle but incisive feedback on various drafts, and cheered me along at every turn. Finally, I wish to thank Nick, for providing honest feedback and running interference with our children.