The Sapphire = Applied Theatrea line of smiling teachers with their hands in the air

What is Applied Theatre?

Essentially, it’s using theatre in non-traditional ways and in non-traditional spaces such as community development, health care, businesses, museums, schools, universities, youth organizations and beyond. #AppliedTheatre is most often participatory (vs. passive), focused on outreach (taking theatre to the people) and designed to meet community needs and shape social change. Applied Theatre has a purpose.

What makes The Sapphire Theatre an Applied Theatre company?

Essentially, we use theatre in non-traditional ways and in non-traditional spaces such as community development, health care, businesses, museums, schools, universities, youth organizations and beyond. The Sapphire Theatre is always participatory (vs. passive), focused on outreach (taking theatre to the people) and designed to meet community needs and shape social change. The Sapphire is performing arts with purpose.

“Theatre has had an historic role in society as providing a relatively safe way of talking back to power. Across many cultures and traditions overtime, we can trace patterns and instances of groups of people using the stage as a space in place to share their stories and their lives. This aesthetic and emotional outlet allows for potential katharsis, a safe way for citizens to express their concerns, criticisms and frustration to each other and to society at large.” – Applied Theatre: International Case Studies and Challenges for Practice by Monica Prendergast and Juliana Saxton

What are some examples of how The Sapphire produces Applied Theatre?

Everything The Sapphire does engages performing arts with purpose. Below are some shining examples of how we use applied theatre techniques to accomplish this objective.


In response to COVID, our team created a live, virtual Open Mic Night series that ran for months in 2020. As a company, we keep our finger on the pulse of the community to be ready to serve the current needs – in 2020, the community needed to connect, to interact, to express artistically and to enjoy live moments of artistic expression. We responded with an ongoing, live and virtual talent show. With over 300 views per show (and over 5500 views total) this free, public series has been a way to provide entertainment and connectivity to audiences, and a safe stage for a variety of artists.

CLICK HERE to view the Playlist of STC OPEN MIC NIGHT Videos on YouTube

TRAIL SKILLS ACADEMY – US and CA Federal Defenders

Beginning in 2017, The Sapphire has provided professional actors to augment the Trial Skills Academy training of Federal Defense Lawyers. We have worked with both the U.S. Courts’ Federal Defenders Training Office and the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. (FDSDI).  In these week-long, intensive trainings, our professional actors work at the direction of the academy’s faculty in creating immersive roleplay simulations for participants of the academy.



This free, one-of-a kind PreEnactment Theatre production spans three Indianapolis city blocks along 16th Street from the Monon Trail to Dr. Andrew J. Brown Ave. to help envision what a neighborhood OUGHT to be – just, equitable and economically vibrant. PreEnactIndy is produced by the Harrison Center and directed by The Sapphire Theatre Co. with a cast of local professional theater groups. With numerous community partners, the event transforms vacant lots and buildings, existing businesses, street lanes and sidewalks and bring to life a section of the Monon16 neighborhood for a public gathering that gives attendees fully-immersive experiences of the active, healthy and well-designed neighborhood the area deserves.

VIDEO: Three Years of PreEnactIndy


IUPUI’s Tunnel of Oppression is an emotionally immersive experience of live interactive theatre in a safe environment. Student-researched and -created scenes performed by professional actors from The Sapphire lead into facilitated conversations where the audience takes center stage, asking questions and practicing communication skills. Participants will be challenged to give up their preconceived notions and take action to assess, prevent, and end oppression throughout the world.


Our Voiceless Issues Programs are interactive performances designed for extraordinary audiences in exceptional circumstances. Today’s complex social issues are so challenging and divisive that it’s hard to know where to start meaningful conversations. We stage stories, based on real events, to allow audiences to engage in meaningful dialogue. Rather than presenting topics in a detached, general terms, our programs focus on the very people struggling with the issues.

The POWER of CONSENT: Empowering Students to Prevent Campus Assault – #POWERofCONSENT

This interactive performance with guided conversations is designed to raise awareness about the prevalence and prevention of sexual assault on college campuses. This program prepares both male and female students, parents and campus communities for safe and healthy university experiences, and was created in partnership with Planned Parenthood.

REBUILDING HOME: Managing Moral Injury & PTSD – #RebuildingHome + #HelpIndyVets’

Interactive performances and workshops fostering healthy communication and support for military members, veterans, their families, and their friends. Through the power of theatre, REBUILDING HOME uses effective techniques to create real-life, relatable learning experiences for veterans, families, and community members. Includes take-away information on Moral Injury. This program was created in partnership with Dr. Rita Nakashima-Brock.

DRAMA CLUB! After-school Program

Since 2018, professional actors and teaching artists from The Sapphire has been teaching an after-school DRAMA CLUB for 3-6 graders at Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58 in collaboration with the Shepherd Community Center. ALL FUN! No auditions. No pressure. No fees to students or parents. Daniel A. Martin, Lead Teaching Artist, leads students to learn the basics of improvisation for the theatre, working together as an ensemble, creating characters and using the actor tools of body, mind and voice. This club is an overview designed to make playing drama games fun! Club members will get a chance to show off some of their new skills at the Club Showcase at the end of the semester.

As a totally mobile theatre company, The Sapphire makes our stage anywhere in the community!

VanGogh’s Bedroom at Newfields’ LUME Exhibit

The LUME Indianapolis is a totally immersive exhibit that combines great art and cutting-edge technology with floor to ceiling projections of some of the most famous paintings in the world. Created by Australian-based Grande Experiences, The LUME opened in 2021 featuring the work of Vincent van Gogh.

In addition to a hallway of angled mirrors, The Sapphire’s production team re-created an interactive 3-D set of Van Gogh’s bedroom as depicted in his three paintings The BedroomThe Bedroom in Arles and The Bedroom in Arles II. The Van Gogh Bedroom served as a finale to the LUME experience and featured three of Van Gogh’s other paintings replicated on canvases by The Sapphire’s David Orr. (Portrait of Milliet Second Lieutenant Of the ZouavesRocks with Oak Tree, and Self Portrait XIV).

ADULT SWIM Indy [2013-2015]

ADULT SWIM Indy was a fully immersive performance art experience specially designed for young, urban professionals and cultural progressives. This extraordinary recess for adults was modern “hip happening” that brought to life The Sapphire’s vision for unique, engaging mobile performances. Over 2,500 attendees enjoyed live performances, wild characters lit up and on stilts, music, face-painting, food and beverages and so much more!

CLICK HERE to view the Playlist of ADULT SWIM Indy Videos on YouTube

COMMUNITY STAGES at Fall Creek Gardens

Community Stages was a performing arts playground that was programmed and open to the public all summer long. Multi-level, multi-purpose stages that were visually engaging and enjoyable with a giant maze, community table and chessboards with sets. Events and workshops were offered free to the community and included Theatre Game Nights, Garden Talks, Workshops on Presentation Skills, Reader’s Theatre, Yoga, community pitch-ins, and much more!

Sponsors and Partners included: Big Car Collaborative, Fall Creek Gardens, Reconnecting to Our Waterways (R.O.W.)


As part of the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ “Vibrant Corridors” initiative, The Sapphire turned the cement pillars of New York Street’s underpass at I-65/I-70 into a luxurious pathway of marbled columns. This project was a partnership between the Arts Council, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Lilly who supplied volunteer painters during their Lilly Day of Service. David Orr was the project designer and coordinator, working with the organizations and volunteers to create a visually pleasing pathway for all who traveled this “Luxurious Underpass.”

Check out this VIDEO about the project!


PICTURE THIS® was created by David Llewellyn and provided by Community Health Network starting in 1984 as a process that uses theatre as a multi-functional tool for audiences to examine and explore complex issues. Bonnie Mill worked with this Community program between 1996-2000, eventually becoming the program’s assistant director. In 2013, The Sapphire legally acquired PICTURE THIS from Community Health Network with well wishes and hopes that the program would continue helping audiences of all types to improve communication on address difficult topics.

Check out this VIDEO about PICTURE THIS!