School of Humanities


Rachel Hains-Wesson

Rachel Hains-Wesson profile photo


Swimming in Air (creative writing component): The role of the imagination from a scriptwriting and performance viewpoint in Peter Pan (1904), The Emperor's New Clothes (1934), and The Small Poppies (1989) (dissertation component)


Is children’s theatre an appropriate term to describe the interrelated manifestation of theatre designed by adults for children and can the imagination be purposely utilized in children's plays as a scriptwriting and performance technique? In this study, children's theatre will be defined as a production that has been written and performed by adults for the purpose of providing a 'best possible' theatre experience for children. The aim of this study is to first investigate and complete a historical analysis of children's theatre in Australia from an international perspective, and second to examine the role of the imagination as a scriptwriting and performance technique. This will be achieved by historically contextualizing and analyzing J. M Barrie's Peter Pan (1904), Charlotte Chorpenning's The Emperor's New Clothes (1934) and David Holman's The Small Poppies (2000). Furthermore, I will also be developing a full-length children's play with the working title Swimming in Air that implements the research findings, focusing on the imaginary world, imaginary objects and the imaginary companion.

Why my research is important

There are no texts to date which present a concise summary of theatrical art concerning early white settlement to the beginning of the twenty-first century that specifically views Children’s Theatre in Australia. Minimal understanding of this particular discipline’s historical story has been analysed, and confusion has remained concerning how Children’s Theatre has evolved and how it aught to be defined. If however, readers are made aware of Children’s Theatre’s comprehensive, overall historical narrative and its cultural importance it will be valued more and be viewed along-side the adult theatre’s historical narrative, accordingly. For, theatre for, by and with children has been paramount, as has adult theatre, in understanding society’s culture and history. Theatre is a reflection of our society and how we have evolved as a community and surely Children’s Theatre closely intertwines and reflects society too? Therefore, by investigating the children’s theatre movement in Australia and completing a close study of successful international and local mainstream iconic theatre productions for young people throughout the twentieth century, I hope to bridge this gab, and therefore assist in ceasing the misunderstandings associated with Children’s Theatre being viewed as secondary to adult theatre or as a sub-genre. By unearthing an all-inclusive identity that considers such things as past theatre experiences for, by and with children, and that Children’s Theatre has influenced the creation of Creative Dramatics, Creative Drama and Theatre-in-Education, a Children’s Theatre paradigm that has evolved over time, avoiding an essentialist view can therefore be achieved.


  • Awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund
  • Awarded a Postgraduate Students Association Postgraduate Research Travel Award Convocation Award
  • Postgraduate Services Association (PSA) Small Grants Award
  • A University of Tasmania Theatre Commission 2005 and 2010

Receiving a 2010 Convocation Award to study at The University of Wisconsin-Madison within the PhD Theatre for Youth Program