Professor Michael Balfour
Head of School

Professor Michael Balfour

University of Lancaster. Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance (1998).

University of Ulster Bachelor of Arts (First Class Hons) Theatre and Media Studies (1992) First Class Honours.

Arts,Design & Architecture
School of the Arts and Media

Michael Balfour is Head of School and Professor of Theatre and Performance at UNSW.

Michael’s research explores applied theatre and performance work in a range of social contexts. He is currently lead investigator on Future Stories, a collaboration between UNSW, Griffith University and Queensland Childrens’ Health which explores the social benefits of co-designing virtual reality (VR) experiences with children in hospital. He has received numerous competitive national grants for projects including theatre and performance-based work in prisons, creative approaches to supporting the mental health of returning servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan, and arts-based work with newly arrived refugee communities. Michael’s work with creative approaches to working with people with mid to late stage dementia won a Creative Partnerships Award, and he was also the recipient of the Arts and Health National Leadership Award in 2017.

Michael has authored or edited 8 books, and over 50 book chapters and academic journal articles. His most recent publications include Performing Arts in Prisons: Creative Perspectives (Intellect, 2019), and Applied Theatre: Understanding Change (Springer, 2018) with Kelly Freebody, Michael Anderson and Michael Finneran. He is the series editor of the Bloomsbury Methuen applied theatre book series, that brings together leading international scholars to engage with and advance key themes in the field of applied theatre.

Before joining UNSW, Michael was Chair, Applied Theatre and Deputy Head of School, School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University, Brisbane. He has also held positions at the University of Exeter, the University of Winchester and the University of Manchester.

Room 311S, Webster Building University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney NSW 2052
  • Books | 2018
    2018, Applied theatre: Understanding change, Freebody K; Balfour M; Finneran M; Anderson M, (eds.), Springer
    Books | 2016
    2016, Leadership in Diverse Learning Contexts, Johnson G; Dempster N, (ed.), Springer International Publishing,
    Books | 2015
    Balfour M; Bundy P; Burton B; Dunn J; Woodrow N, 2015, Applied theatre resettlement: Drama, refugees and resilience, Bloomsbury Methuen
    Books | 2013
    2013, Refugee performance: Practical encounters, Balfour M, (ed.), Intellect
    Books | 2012
    Balfour ML, 2012, Permissions
    Books | 2009
    2009, Performance: In place of war, Thomson J; Hughes J; Balfour M, (eds.), University of Chicago Press
    Books | 2006
    2006, Drama as social intervention, Balfour M; Somers JW, (ed.), Captus University Publications
    Books | 2004
    2004, Prison theatre: Theory and practice, Balfour M, (ed.), Intellect
    Books | 2004
    Balfour M, 2004, Theatre in prison: Theory and practice
    Books | 2001
    2001, Theatre and war: Performance in extremis, 1934-1945, Balfour M, (ed.), Berghahn Books
  • Book Chapters | 2020
    Balfour M; Dunn J, 2020, 'Geographies of hope: Exploring departures in applied theatre work with people living with advanced dementia', in Prentki T; Abraham N (ed.), The Applied Theatre Reader, Routledge, London, pp. 56 - 62,
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Balfour M; Dunn J, 2020, 'Identifying and understanding the notion of quality within an applied theatre project designed to playfully engage people living with dementia', in Breed A; Prentki T (ed.), The Routledge companion to applied performance, Routledge,
    Book Chapters | 2019
    Balfour M, 2019, 'The politics of care: Play, stillness and social presence', in Eckersall P; Grehan H (ed.), The Routledge companion to theatre and politics, Routledge, pp. 93 - 97,
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Balfour M, 2018, 'Music projects with veteran and military communities', in The Oxford Handbook of Community Music, pp. 555 - 572,
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Balfour M; Freebody K, 2018, 'Theories of change: Cultural value and applied theatre', in Freebody K; Balfour M; Finneran M; Anderson M (ed.), Applied theatre: Understanding change, Springer, pp. 19 - 31
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Freebody K; Finneran M; Balfour M; Anderson M, 2018, 'Concluding Thoughts', in Applied Theatre: Understanding Change, Springer Nature, pp. 187 - 189,
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Freebody K; Finneran M; Balfour M; Anderson M, 2018, 'What Is Applied Theatre Good for? Exploring the Notions of Success, Intent and Impact', in Freebody K; Balfour M; Finneran M; Anderson M (ed.), APPLIED THEATRE: UNDERSTANDING CHANGE, SPRINGER, pp. 1 - 17,
    Book Chapters | 2017
    Balfour M, 2017, 'Music projects with veteran and military communities', in Bartleet B-L; Higgins L (ed.), The Oxford handbook of community music, Oxford University Press, pp. 101 - 131
    Book Chapters | 2017
    Balfour M; Dunn J; Martin K, 2017, 'Playful engagement: Exploring the features of applied theatre approaches to engaging Individuals living with dementia', in McCormick S (ed.), Applied theatre: Creative Ageing, Bloomsbury Methuen, pp. 128 - 149
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Balfour M, 2016, 'Performing the promised land: The festivalizing of multi-cultures in the margate exodus project', in The Festivalization of Culture, pp. 207 - 228
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Balfour M, 2016, 'The art of facilitation: Tain’t what you do (it’s the way that you do it)', in Preston S (ed.), Applied theatre: Facilitation, Bloomsbury Methuen, pp. 151 - 164
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Hassall L; Balfour M, 2016, 'Transitioning home: Research-based theatre with returning servicemen and their families', in Belliveau G; Lea GW (ed.), Research-based theatre: An artistic methodology, Intellect, pp. 103 - 116
    Book Chapters | 2015
    Balfour M, 2015, 'A fragile dance: Art and place making in times of war and not war', in Fleming M; Bresler L; O Toole J (ed.), The Routledge international handbook of the arts and education, Routledge, pp. 305 - 314
    Book Chapters | 2015
    Balfour M, 2015, 'The difficult return: Supporting returning veterans through an arts-based social leadership program', in Johnson G; Dempster N (ed.), Leadership in diverse learning contexts, Springer, pp. 389 - 408,
    Book Chapters | 2015
    Whyte T; Matthew C; Balfour M; Murphy L; Hassall L, 2015, 'Getting to know the story of the Boathouse Dances: Football, freedom and rock ‘n’ roll', in McDonald J; Mason R (ed.), Creative communities: Regional social inclusion and the arts, Intellect, pp. 81 - 97
    Book Chapters | 2014
    Balfour M, 2014, 'Performing the promised land: The festivalising of multi-cultures in the Margate Exodus Project', in Bennett A; Taylor J; Woodward I (ed.), Festivalisation of culture, Ashgate Press, pp. 207 - 228
    Book Chapters | 2013
    Balfour M; Woodrow N, 2013, 'On stitches', in Balfour M (ed.), Refugee performance: Practical encounters, Intellect, pp. 15 - 34
    Book Chapters | 2012
    Balfour ML, 2012, 'Refugee performance: Encounters with alterity', in Refugee Performance Practical Encounters, pp. 213 - 228
  • Edited Books | 2022
    Prendergast (Anthology Editor) M; Sadeghi-Yekta (Anthology Editor) K; Balfour (Series Editor) M; Balfour M, (eds.), 2022, Applied Theatre: Ethics, Bloomsbury Methuen, London,
    Edited Books | 2020
    McAvinchey C; Balfour M; Preston S, (eds.), 2020, Applied Theatre: Women and the Criminal Justice System, Bloomsbury Methuen, London,
    Edited Books | 2019
    Balfour M; Bartleet B-L; Davey L; Rynne J; Schippers H, (eds.), 2019, Performing Arts in Prisons: Creative Perspectives, Intellect, Bristol, UK,
    Edited Books | 2018
    Balfour M; Mullen M; Balfour M, (eds.), 2018, Applied Theatre: Economies, Bloomsbury Methuen, London,
  • Journal articles | 2023
    Balfour M; Hassall L, 2023, 'The Return: Research-Based Theater With and for Ex-Military Personnel Experiencing Posttraumatic Stress', Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 29, pp. 332 - 342,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Balfour M; Cattoni J; Sextou P; Herbert A; Seear L; Lobwein G; Gibson M; Penton J, 2022, 'Future stories: co-designing virtual reality (VR) experiences with young people with a serious illness in hospital', Research in Drama Education, vol. 27, pp. 458 - 474,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Balfour M, 2019, 'The difficult return: The arts and social health of returning military personnel. [Special edition: Arts and the military]', Arts in Psychotherapy, vol. 62, pp. 61 - 67,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Balfour M; Sallis R, 2019, 'The tyranny of distance', Applied Theatre Research, vol. 7, pp. 3 - 6,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Dunn J; Balfour M; Moyle W, 2019, 'Quality of life or ‘quality moments of life’: Considering the impact of relational clowning for people living with dementia', Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, vol. 24, pp. 38 - 52,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Hatton N; Dunn J; Balfour M, 2019, 'Editorial', Research in Drama Education, vol. 24, pp. 1 - 5,
    Journal articles | 2018
    Balfour M, 2018, 'Disobedient Theatre: Alternative Ways to Inspire, Animate and Play', APPLIED THEATRE RESEARCH, vol. 6, pp. 77 - 79,
    Journal articles | 2017
    Balfour M, 2017, 'Arts, activism and human rights [Special edition in partnership with Amnesty International]', Journal of Arts and Communities, vol. 8, pp. 75 - 92,
    Journal articles | 2017
    Balfour M, 2017, 'Performing Noncitizenship: Asylum Seekers in Australian Theatre, Film and Activism', CONTEMPORARY THEATRE REVIEW, vol. 27, pp. 418 - 420,
    Journal articles | 2016
    Balfour M; Stewart D, 2016, 'Perspectives and contexts of arts, social health and the military', Journal of Arts and Health, vol. 7, pp. 87 - 95,
    Journal articles | 2015
    Balfour M, 2015, 'Humanitarian Performance from Disaster Tragedies to Spectacles of War', NEW THEATRE QUARTERLY, vol. 31, pp. 295 - 295,
    Journal articles | 2015
    Davey L; Day A; Balfour M, 2015, 'Performing desistance: How might theories of desistance from crime help us understand the possibilities of prison theatre?', International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 59, pp. 798 - 809,
    Journal articles | 2014
    Balfour M; Westwood M; Buchanan ML, 2014, 'Protecting into emotion: Therapeutic enactments with military veterans transitioning back into civilian life', Research in Drama Education, Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, vol. 19, pp. 165 - 181,
    Journal articles | 2013
    Balfour M, 2013, 'Acting Together Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict', PEACE REVIEW-A JOURNAL OF SOCIAL JUSTICE, vol. 25, pp. 447 - 453,
    Journal articles | 2013
    Balfour M, 2013, 'Fears of Loss, Tears of Joy: Raun Raun Theatre and Its Role in the Construction of a National Culture in Papua New Guinea', CONTEMPORARY THEATRE REVIEW, vol. 23, pp. 237 - 238,
    Journal articles | 2013
    Dunn J; Balfour M; Moyle W; Cooke M; Martin K; Crystal C; Yen A, 2013, 'Playfully engaging people living with dementia: Searching for Yum Cha moments', International Journal of Play, vol. 2, pp. 174 - 186,
    Journal articles | 2012
    Balfour M, 2012, 'Mapping realities: Representing war through affective place making', New Theatre Quarterly, vol. 28, pp. 30 - 40,
    Journal articles | 2012
    Balfour M, 2012, 'Refugee performance: Encounters with alterity', Journal of Arts & Communities, vol. 2, pp. 177 - 195,
    Journal articles | 2011
    Balfour M, 2011, 'Theatre in co-communities: articulating power', RIDE-THE JOURNAL OF APPLIED THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE, vol. 16, pp. 127 - 130,
    Journal articles | 2010
    Balfour M, 2010, 'Developing the capacities of applied theatre students to be critically reflective learner-practitioners', Australasian Drama Studies, vol. 57, pp. 54 - 63
    Journal articles | 2010
    Balfour M, 2010, 'Reading Against the Orientalist Grain: Performance and Politics Entwined with a Buddhist Strain', NEW THEATRE QUARTERLY, vol. 26, pp. 395 - 396,
    Journal articles | 2009
    Balfour M, 2009, 'The difficult return: Contexts and developments in drama-based work with returned military personnel', Applied Theatre Researcher/IDEA Journal, vol. 10, pp. 1 - 11
    Journal articles | 2009
    Balfour M, 2009, 'The politics of intention: Looking for a theatre of little changes', Research in Drama Education: Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, vol. 14, pp. 347 - 359,
    Journal articles | 2007
    Balfour M, 2007, 'Performing war: ‘Military theatre’ and the possibilities of resistance', Performance Paradigm, vol. 3, pp. 1 - 9
  • Conference Abstracts | 2019
    Balfour M, 2019, 'Shakespeare in prisons conference, Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, Friday 23rd–25th March 2018', in Research in Drama Education, Vol. 24, pp. 209 - 210,

2018 Humanities Grant Development Fellowship ($6,000) Future Stories: emotion, empathy and social technologies. Exploring the affective benefits of immersive 360 video with children receiving palliative care services and their families.

2017 International Workshop Awards, Griffith University. Engaging the arts in ageing and wellbeing: Communities and care ($6,000).

2014 Collaborative Research Grant, Griffith University. Re-conceiving asylum seekers/refugees as transnational justice actors: Re-thinking practice and theory through creativity ($9,987).

2014 Strategic learning and teaching grant. The Twenty-first Century Academic: Re-imagining the life and work of academic staff to contribute to an enhanced university experience for staff and students ($50,000).

2013 Department of Immigration and Border Security. Traction and engagement project with young people from Logan ($50,000). Co-investigator with community agencies and Queensland Theatre Company.

2013 Australian Council of the Arts, Daughters of the Floating Brothel, ($20,000). Creative development of a verbatim project with women in corrections. Co-investigator with Woodland, S.

2012 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (2012-2015). Playful engagement and dementia: assessing the efficacy of applied theatre practices for people with dementia in residential aged care facilities ($220,000).

2012 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (2012-2015). Captive Audiences: The impact of performing arts programs in Australian prisons ($138,000).

2012 Collaborative Research Grant, Griffith University. The Boat House – Representing the Elders. Indigenous research, oral history and documentary theatre ($15,000).

2012 Griffith Grants for Learning and Teaching. Theatre Scope 2nd stage development ($14,000). Principal investigator with Woodland, S. 2012-2013.

2011 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (2011-2014). The difficult return: arts-based approaches to mental health literacy and building resilience with recently returned military personnel and their families. ($240,000). Principal investigator with Stewart, D., Nasveld, (University of Queensland) P., Fuery Chapman University, USA)

2011 Collaborative Research Scheme, Griffith University. The Boat House - Representing the Elders: indigenous research, oral history, and documentary theatre ($16,000).

2010 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (2010-2013). Developing refugee resilience and effective resettlement through drama-based interventions ($80,000). Principal investigator with Burton, B Bundy, P and Dunn, J.

2010 Diverse Australia Grant (Department for Immigration and Citizenship) ‘Live Stories’ worked creatively and collaboratively with diverse community groups to enhance inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding ($33,000) Principal investigator with Woodland, S. 2010-2011.

2009 Griffith Grants for Learning and Teaching Theatre Scope: Attainment, Access and Engagement. Developing sustainable responses to inclusion, diversity and student success through innovative and creative work-based learning initiatives ($50,000). Principal investigator with Woodland, S. 2009-2011.

2009 Leverhulme Trust. A three-year international research network grants to foster and develop partnerships with performance artists working in war zones (£88,000). Co-investigator with Thompson, J.

2008 Department of Immigration and Citizenship, in partnership with Refugee and Immigration Legal Services (RAILS) for a community based Citizenship Education Program. ($40,000).

2004 Arts and Humanities Research Council Major Research Grant (2004-2008). In Place of War (£390,000). Co-investigator with Thompson, J (Principal, University of Manchester).

2017 National Leadership in Arts and Health, Arts and Health National Awards.

2015 National Leadership in Arts and Health Research, Arts and Health National Awards.

2015 Nominated, The Return (Play) Prize for Distinctive Work in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Council of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS).

2013 Playful Engagement and Dementia, Creative Partnerships Australia Award.

2012 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, Australian National Awards for University Teaching.

2011 National Teaching Excellence Award, Australian Learning and Teaching Council.