History and Origins of Theatre for Development

The reading ‘History and Origins of Theatre for Development’ taken from ‘The Applied Theatre Reader’ begins to explore theatre for development that lives within the umbrella of applied theatre. The reading discusses the utilisation of applied theatre as a method to inspire development and by doing so, questioning “What is development?”.

As the reading mentions ‘Applied Theatre’ has become generally accepted to describe many areas of theatrical activity, usually happening outside of a traditional theatrical setting, thus touching upon political, socially and culturally issue.  When reflecting on what applied theatre is, we can also reflect on what un-applied theatre could be. Referred as ‘pure theatre’ the reading states that it is a genre of theatre that utilises conventional aesthetics. This genre of theatre was used to allow the audience to escape the struggle of their everyday life, this being activities or routines. As theatre is a performance that recreates life within the safety of a stage.

In the chapter ‘The Rise of Development’ we begin to read that development was launched publicly through the illustration from President Harry Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States of America between 1945 to 1953.

“we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.” (Prentki)

By announcing such a divide, the ‘developed’ and the ‘underdeveloped’, Truman had set out to equalize the power levels in which we are separated by, such as:  the rich from the poor, stable and unstable and achievers and un-achievers.

 

Bibliography:

Prentki, Tim. “History And Origins Of Theatre For Development”. Sheila Preston and Tim Prentki. 1st ed. 2009. Print.

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Week 7

Today’s Applied performance lesson was run by guest lecturer ‘Hannah Hermann’ from the company ‘Clean Break’, the lesson consisted of a series of workshops to introduce us to Prison Theatre.

Clean break is an organization that helps woman who have been or on the verge of committing, and becoming apart of the criminal justice system. Clean Break is an all female organisation, which was founded by two ex-offenders once released. Creating a space for the woman to progress and grow in regards to their future, working alongside the women to unlock potential artistic careers and also a space in which they can find meaning contacts. Once graduated from the course, clean break offers the woman a chance to then go and tour their performances, or to further their knowledge at Central School of Speech and Drama

As we move on with the session, Anna Hermann declared that we will be playing a few activity games, in which she would run when working with the woman who attend clean break. Instructed to form a circle, we began to introduce ourselves accompanied by a lie. For example, I introduced my name “Mickel Phillips-Mee” and my lie was “I’m really 30 years old”.  This activity was extremely humorous as the lie’s that were being stated were very ludicrous. The next part of the activity was to discuss with the person next you, one thing that you have in common and then one thing that is different about you. When presenting back to the class, you would each introduce each other with either the thing you have in common or the thing that makes you different.

The activity that followed was called “let the sunshine on… “, the overall aim of this activity is to start to build an ensemble within the group. The rules of the games are that one person would stand in the middle and say “let the sunshine on..” followed by something that is true to themselves but could also apply to someone who is in the same room. If this applies to a person within the room they would have to get up and run to another chair, you are trying to not be the last person standing. If you are the last person standing you will have to start the game off again. The beginning of the game consisted of questions that represented a piece of clothing or a colour that you could see being warn, for example “people who are wearing black jeans”. Within the development of the game, the questions began to identify personal experience that have occurred in someone’s life, such as, has anyone ever made you cry?

The next activity that we were asked to participate in, wanted us to pick a person within the room. With that person in mind, we were instructed to stay as far as possible away from that person whilst also moving in and around the space. In reference to Clean Break, this activity represents a person who would have a negative influence on you life. Once every sustained a clear understanding on being as far away from the negative influencer, we were then instructed to find a person to identify as a shield, the shield is a person in which could help protect you from the negative and lead you onto a positive path. The person in which you focused on to be the shield would have to be in-between you and the negative person at all times. This activity allowed me to form a clear understanding on the struggles that the woman face on a daily basis, trying to sustain a stable routine.

The next activity was an individual task, where we were instructed to write down all the laws that we have broken. We were then to write down a person that we love, a thing that we love to do and a place that we love because we feel safe. When everyone completed their write up, Anna Hermann then asked the class to imagine that, if the law in which we broke was illegal, how would we feel if we were no longer allowed to the person we love, no longer allowed to do the thing we love doing and if we weren’t allowed to visit the place we love going because we felt safe. Anna Hermann explained that the way we are feeling now, would be how the woman would feel when being incarcerated.

In the final activity, we were given a script that was produced through the woman who participated within Clean Break. The script was about a girl named Billy who had just been released from prison. We were advised to read over the script, to become familiar with how the woman in clean break view how they are perceived when released. The script follow’s Billy’s life as she leaves prison, she tries to reconnect with her family but get’s turned away due to a new man in her mother’s life. The story focus on the ups and downs of woman who leave prison but, shows that support is there when needed, you don’t have to return to old behaviour.

The experience with Hannah Hermann has gave me a clear understanding on what Clean Break do and what Prison Theatre means.

The Mothership

Anna Herrmann’s ‘The Mothership’ starts to discuss the growth and independence of five women who have been linked to the criminal system, and have taken control of their life through participating in a theatrical course with the company ‘Clean Break’. Clean Break helps guild woman who have been within the criminal system since 1979, when created by two women who had served time, to help woman have a new lease on life. Anna Herrmann starts to discuss the two approaches that Clean Break utilise from ‘Applied Theatre’, whilst demonstrating through their own work.

The reading incorporates five women’s testimonies on how clean break has changed their lives for the better. Helping the women disconnect themselves from the things that allowed them to become apart of the criminal system. With the resources given from clean break, the women are able to further their knowledge on theatre and also realise and sustain their aspirations for their future. This would then allow the women to continue exploring this field, such as becoming an actress, writer or stage manager, as a career path. Clean break gives the women that attend workshops/course, a platform for them to tell their experiences on crime/ prison. This approach allows the women to create a performance that is emotionally connected, and a performance that would make awareness and help guild woman who may be on the verge of committing.

Clean Break uses the devised performances as a beginning point to address the stereotypes that surround crime and the criminal system, by challenging the audience’s perception on the female crime.

Theatre & Prison

The reading ‘Theatre & Prison’ wrote by Caoimhe McAvinvhey, begins to discuss people’s ideologies that surround inmate’s ability to perform when incarcerated and, how theatre within prison can help the examination of the political, social and economic consequences within the 21st century.

Audience members were able to witness a performance of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men at the ‘HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs”. Devised by the company Only Connect Theatre at the medium-security men’s prison in Acton, West London. The performance was performed by prisoners and professional actors, audience members would have to check into the prison using their passports whereas, the professional actors had to stay within the medium-security prison before and after the performance. The reading indicates that the production devised by Only Connect Theatre raised a lot of questions surrounding why were they allowed to perform in such a prison and why the production was open to audience observation.

Theatre & Prison emboldens its audience members to contemplate the individual and state, indicating to the convict and the criminal justice system. These two concepts being major narratives within theatre and prison, as this is a form of culture. As prison is a complicated community and the only informant source being mediated by the media, this formulates people’s ideology on what prison is and how inmates behave whilst incarcerated. Therefore, as our representation of crime and prison is delivered through commercial advertisement, being able to witness inmates in their habit (matter of speaking) the reading mentions that this is called ‘Cultural imagination’. The reading also gives reference to TV-shows and films, such as: Porridge and Shawshank Redemption, that help shape our perceptions of crime and its punishments.

Theatre & Prison’s intentions are to alter the way in which prisons are being operated. It strives to identify a modification in the role of prison in concerns, to how the media demonstrates its major ideologies of it. Utilizing theatre within prison, practitioners are seeking a way in which they can use performance to address issues about punishment and justice.

 

 

Week 6

In today’s Applied Performance session, myself and the rest of my research group ran a series of workshop activities that related to our assigned reading “Drama for Conflict: Transformational toolkit “. The activities that we wanted the class to participate in where:

  • Dragons Den – Splitting the class into three groups, we wanted them to create a machine/device that would benefit the human race, help the world in some way. We then wanted the groups to work as an ensemble to create a physical representation of their product, to then perform in front of the Dragon Den panel (us).
  • Tableaux exercise – We wanted the class to create still images to represent social stereotypes – To get the class thinking on the right path, we gave them an example of the 2011 London Riots, directing the theme on authority and youth culture.

Asking the group for volunteers, we started creating poses to reflect those ideologies; we then invited the rest of the group to build upon the tableaux or change the pose to create a new perspective. To get the group not only embodying a pose but to start thinking about the emotive response, we evolved the activity by using the “Shoulder tap” where you can add a line of dialogue to your physicality.

The activities we explored within our research group were to give the rest of the class an understanding on what the ‘Drama for Conflict: Transformation Toolkit’ was about. The toolkit’s manual gives examples on games and activities in which a facilitator could use when introducing conflict to youth and adults. What my resource group took from the reading was how to utilise the activities we chose to form an understanding of what Youth Theater for Peace intend to promote and make awareness of.

The next part of the session was led by Dr. Ananda Breed, who began to deliver a Commedia dell’arte workshop. Commedia dell’arte workshop derives from an Italian art group during the 1600’s, that explored creating performances through improvisation (sketches and scenarios). The workshops that were being created focused on reflecting the political and economic issues that occurred around the 1600’s, using the element of fun to discuss those specific issues.

With the whole class forming a circle, Dr. Ananda Breed started to explain the characters that are available with the Commedia. Walking around the black box theatre space, we had to start physically exploring each character, envisioning how the person walks, talks and how they would even would interact with others.

Picking people at random we were able to present our character expressions in front of the whole class, to develop this exercise further we began to work in small groups to incorporate these characters within a story presented by Dr. Ananda Breed. The story was an old folk tale which we had to create five still images, using the characters in which we explore and developed through the Commedia dell’arte workshop.

My group created five traditional images that represented the tradition characters within a story tale, such as: the joker, the protagonist and antagonist. One of the images that we created represented a queen being subjected to bullying for looking the way in she does, one person standing in the middle and the rest of the group standing in a circle around her representing mirrors. Developing the exercisers even further we began to incorporate sounds that be verbal/ non-verbal (atmosphere) for example, the still image that represented the hero saving the queen, instead of speaking we used our voice to sound out a heartbeat.

The finale part of the lesson was focused around the ‘Stop and…’ project that was to launch on the 10th November 2016. Myself, Abbie joined Robab to help create her prototype, as the person Abbie had interviewed did not want anyone knowing her information. When Robab discussed her project, we all came to an agreement that the game ‘Jenga’ would be an idea format to develop of as the stimulus behind it was about self-confidence and self-reassurance.

Here is a first draft of what our prototype would look like

  • Participant walks in, a recorder and headphones would be handed over
  • Whilst listening to the story that Robab recorded, the participant will begin to play the game Jenga
  • When removing the Jenga blocks, the participant will find words that have been wrote on the bricks, referencing the womans struggle with education and living in a patriarchal society.

As a group, we want to involve spoken word into the recording, so that the participant can have a reflection space to absorb the issues that were raised within the story. Also, as issues of labor were brought up within the interview we felt like having a time limit on the game so that we can create an atmosphere of determination.

Therefore, if the participant doesn’t finish the task there is a sense of deflation, we hope that this reflects the constant obstacle that the lady who was interviewed, would have faced.

 

YTP: Programme Evaluation Report

The ‘Youth Theater for Peace’ programme evaluation starts to explore how ‘Drama for Conflict transformation’ can help aid a safe environment in which members of different gangs can participate together within a series of workshops/ activities, to the develop a relationship so that they can promote/ make awareness for cultural peace.

Drama for Conflict Transformation is located under the umbrella of Applied Theatre, the process in which you can utilize drama to convey conflict found within communities, to help nurture and restore order and a form of normality for a growth of peace. The company IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) approaches individuals and communities to form a new perspective on conflict, using the methods of Augusto Boal ‘Theater of the Oppressed’. Applying work in countries such as: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, and Kenya, IREX have been able to create a platform for performances to help communities to explore local conflict, with conflicts ranging from either ethnicity to religious.

The reading mentions that the beginning method that helps companies be able to create such personally testimonies derives from Forum Theatre, a process in which can teach people on how to change their world. With the same characters that form within a traditional theatre/play setting, a hero, a villain and a person in limbo, turning points used within forum theatre can help change the outcome of the scenario.

The programs that were created from Youth Theater for Peace for Drama for Conflict, have been introduced to teachers and practitioners who specialize with youth, so that in the near future can progress into empowered youth groups that can help spread/ teach a new understanding on other ethnicities, religions, and/ or nationalities within their larger communities.

YTP Toolkit

Youth Theater for Peace ‘Drama for Conflict’ toolkit begins to identify the interactive theatre games and exercises that can be utilized to help create dialogue that explains the issues of concern within a community

With techniques such as: Image Theatre and Forum Theatre, that were developed by Augusto Boal, the Drama for Conflict toolkit gives examples on exercises that can used within any communities to educate that, issues that effect can be resolved if growth is welcomed.

The toolkit manual provides information on how to plan a workshop when planning to introduce Drama for Conflict. The activities in which the facilitator would want to explore, would need to have some significance to the overall topic that the participant group have been chosen to explore, due to the community in which they reside.

The place in which the workshops would be facilitated, would have to be carefully selected so that no harm would come to the youth and adults participating. As Drama for Conflict is a method that can bring up personal trauma.

The toolkit manual gives eight points on what would make a good facilitator, the eight points are steps in which the facilitator would need to have a clear understanding on, in order to keep the youth and adults engage, energised and on an approach that keeps them excited for the delivery of their message. These eight point are not only for the facilitator to taken into consideration, but are beneficial for the encouragement of the participants.