Staging areas : Vietnam veterans from Aotearoa-New Zealand and therapeutic landscapes in black box theatre : an exegisis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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The purpose of this exegesis is to document my attempt to ride the practice-theory divide in an arts-based research project on therapeutic landscapes and war veterans from Aotearoa-New Zealand. Over a period of nine months, a group of Vietnam veterans engaged in photo-elicitation methods to explore the concept of therapeutic landscapes from their unique and subjective experiences as former personnel of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). Of particular interest was to understand how veterans construct narratives of self-hood and wellbeing, as impacted upon by their service in an unpopular war, and their subsequent treatment by the government and public in the years hence. The data produced by the veterans was analysed and transformed into a draft script; then in collaboration with Te Rākau (a Māori community theatre group), the script and its underlying themes were re-worked in the studio using principles and techniques specific to theatre making. The studio inquiry produced a picture of Vietnam veterans as highly motivated individuals who are politically cognisant, loyal to their cohort, media savvy, self sufficient, and who continue to draw upon their Army training to measure and maintain optimum physical health in their senior years. Key themes that emerged from the data was their belief in taking individual responsibility for one’s health, an appreciation of alternative and complementary therapies as part of self-care, and a collective opinion that the current model of government support is inadequate and difficult for veterans to access. These and other findings were disseminated via a live presentation of the work-in-progress, which provided opportunity for further analysis by the veterans, and resulted in the creation of a final play-script, The Landeaters. Finally, by sharing excerpts from my production diary, this exegesis explores my input as a student researcher-artist, and, in doing so, brings to light both professional and personal challenges that may occur when practising arts-based inquiry with one’s community – and on a topic close to one’s heart.