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Photo credit: Antje Budde

Project title PLAYStrong – Mental Health and Interactive Prototypes for Self-Learning


Oct.4, 2023

Written and web-design by Antje Budde

Project leads: Antje Budde and Mark Chignell

Student collaborators

Brief Description 

In the Fall of 2021 the Digital Dramaturgy Labsquared (DDL2) was awarded the interdisciplinary XSEED grant in collaboration with the Interactive Media Lab, U of T. This was followed in 2023 by an inaugural INLIGHT research award through the recently established INLIGHT Student Mental Health Research.


Our PLAYStrong research project investigated opportunities and potentials for creative, performance-based, interactive and participatory learning (inspired by Brechtian concepts of learning plays) in support of everyday student mental health and wellbeing, focussed on prevention, awareness, playful self-discovery and solidarity.

  • We are grateful to the funding partners of XSEED at U of T: Engineering Department, Faculty of Arts and Science, Dept. for Industrial and Mechanical Engineering, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies.

  • We are grateful to the many students (undergraduate, graduate, post-doc) from divers disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, who participated in this research project in a number of capacities.

  • We are grateful to all staff members and administrators who supported this project with their labor and expertise.


Research output produced between Sept.2021 and August 2023.

Participatory Praxis/Research Workshops

Oct.23-24, 2021

arttech: Performance and Embodiment in Technology for Resilience and Mental Health

- Organized by Antje Budde, Mark Chignell and Jamy Li.

CSCW2021 24th ACM Conference On Computer-Supported Cooperative Work And Social Computing 

Website by Jamy Li 

Workshop creative interaction design and digital dramaturgy: Antje Budde, Don Sinclair and Joy Tanner

Summer/Fall 2022

arttech workshop documentation

Video showcase by Antje Budde 

Documentation website by Antje Budde

April-May 2023. THREE week workshop

PLAYStrong: Performing wellbeing, creative resilience – Testing interactive performance spaces

- Conceptualized and organized by Antje Budde

- Co-organized by Mark Chignell and Youzhi Hu (doctoral student)

- Learning strategist and student focus group facilitator: Rahul Bhat

- International artist collaborators: Renusha Athugala (Vietnam), Gustavo Sol (Brazil) and Danielle Lottridge (New Zealand)

- Computational artist collaborator: Don Sinclair, York U.

- Indigenous creative observer: Candy Otsikh:èta Blair

- Student interns: Tanya Humeniuk, Thais Holanda, Powrnika Kugathasan, Ethan Persyko

- 14 student focus group members


June-July 2023

PLAYStrong Workshop documentation

  Website creation by Tanja Humeniuk, supervised by Antje Budde

Project presentation

Oct.1, 2022

“PLAYStrong – Mental Health and Interactive Prototypes for Embodied Self-learning”

Antje Budde with Mark Chignell.

Oct.1, 2022. Critical Digital Humanities International Conference, Toronto Sept.30-Oct.1, 2022. Munk Centre, University of Toronto.

Slides: Antje Budde. Digital Dramaturgy Labsquared, open access library.

Community-focussed research and exchanges

Sept. 2021 - July 2023

Research on mental health discourses

Representations over the past 10-15 years in VarsityU of T NewsUniversity of Toronto Magazine, and artistic explorations The Theatre Times


Facilitated and supervised by Antje Budde and post-doctoral fellow Sebastian Samur, CDTPS

Pre-liminary report: Sebastian Samur

2021-22 work-study students: Liam Donovan and Stefania Stoica

2022-23 research assistants: Amir Haidar, Ohryong Kwon, Evan Moritz, Yizhou Zhang

March 3, 2022

Dancing Tensions – Taanteatro Companhia (Brazil) in conversation


Facilitated and organized by Antje Budde and Don Sinclair/Susan Lee York. U.


Maura Baiocchi - Choreographer and dancer. Sao Paolo

Wolfgang Pannek - Artistic director. Sao Paolo


Candy (Otsíkh:èta) Blair - Interdisciplinary Artist. Tkaronto

Mark Chignell - Director of the Interactive Media Lab, U of T. Toronto

Ilja Mirsky - (Digital) Dramaturg and scholar on human-ai interactions. Zurich, Tübingen.

Yizhou Zhang - Experimental theatre maker and doctoral student, U of T. Toronto

Reece Caldwell, Representative York Dance Ensemble, York University, Toronto

March 2022

Dancing Tension Event documentation and website: Antje Budde

April 27, 2022


Roundtable discussion with student mental health activists at U of T

Facilitated and organized by Antje Budde and post-doctoral fellow Sebastian Samur, CDTPS

Moderated by Antje Budde and Mark Chignell

Participating student mental health activists:

HannaRae Sabyan, Lauren Kroell, Sofia Assaker, Philip Zawistowski, David Birsan. Contributing but not present: Sydnie Philips

Work-study student assistants: Liam Donovan and Stefania Stoica

Summer 2023

Activate! - Roundtable transcription and reporting

Pre-liminary report: Sebastian Samur

Text transcription of video recording: Evan Moritz, Yizhou Zhang (research assistants)

Independent Studies Course

Summer 2023

"DRA4091H: Brecht, Transmedia, and Learning"

Directed reading course designed by Antje Budde and Tanya Humeniuk.

Website creation

Web-based AV essay


Budde, Antje and Gustavo Sol. “PLAYStrong–Engineering POETICstates: On Facilitating Mental Health through Bio-Signal Interfaces and Brechtian Learning Strategies" Critical Stages/Scènes critiques The IATC journal/Revue de l'AICT – June/Juin 2022: Issue No 25. Web.


Budde, Antje,  Mark Chignell, and Jamy Li. 2021. arttech: Performance and Embodiment in Technology for Resilience and Mental Health. In Companion Publication of the 2021 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW ’21 Companion), October 23–27, 2021, Virtual Event, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 5 pages. pp.310–314.

Publications - Forthcoming

BOOK Antje Budde, Mark Chignell and Jamy Li “arttech: Embodied Performance and Technology supporting Resilience and Mental Health”: (working title)

  • Manuscript (180 p.) currently under peer review by the publisher


ARTICLE by several authors, currently under blind peer review. Details cannot be disclosed at this point.


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