Last night I stumbled into a lovely networking event put on by Greater Hartford Arts Council.
I met a plethora of wonderful artists and chatted with them about their work and the projects they were working on.
Theatre isn't an art you can touch.
I met a stain glass artist, photographer, painter, graphic designer , and many more. What struck me as I spoke to them was how tangible their work was.
When I met the stain glass artist I immediately thought of the window in my bedroom. (I live in an old building).
When I spoke to the photographer I thought of the amazing photos taken by our dear friends at our wedding.
When I spoke to the painter and graphic designer I thought of all the artwork we have hung in my apartment.
Then I went into explaining my work as a theatre artist. I can tell people understand the work- but they aren't sure how it works. When they hear theatre they think of the high school musical or Shakespeare. Maybe they are a theatre-goer so they think that everyone who does theatre has to be an actor. There's no So You Think You Can Facilitate Civic Engagement on television. We started Via Arts is because of the lack of hands on theatre in our community. The catch is our community doesn't know what it is -because there isn't anyone doing it. "Aye, there's the rub."- As Billy Shakes would say.
So...how does it work?
If you stick with me, I'll walk you though how a program run by Via Arts works. Please keep in mind that theatre is an experience. I can describe how we do it, but you'll never know what it's like until you do it!
1. It's all about our partner.
Civic Engagement Theatre is theatre be created by and for the community. Via Arts is interested in getting non-theatre artists active in the creative process. That means we facilitate and you create.
Please see my blog post about devising. In summary, theatre is the only art which replicates how humans interact with one another. Which means as you create- you are practicing how to be a better community member. Theatre can build trust in a community or give it a means to discuss and problem solve. Watching a play is magnificent- building your own is life-changing.
2. Choosing a Goal aka Who do you want involved?
Start with "I want to engage _______________ so they ________________"
- I want to engage teens so they get involved in the city.
- I want to engage seniors so they come to Town Hall Meetings
- I want to engage teachers so they use arts in their classrooms.
Once we have a goal we can create a project that works for you.
3. Creating a Project Structure and Final Presentation
Projects can be 12 sessions long or they can be 2 hours. We can work with you to decide what's best. THIS is where we decide what we will make.
SOME OPTIONS ARE:
- Formal Show: Audience, costumes, set, memorized lines
- Informal Show: A staged reading, or small community gathering
- Share: Casually presenting the work that was done in a session, sometimes even just with the group itself
- Interactive Performance: A piece that feeds on audience participation and community discussion
4. Choosing the Inspiration
Let's take an example from above, "I want to engage teens so they get involved in the city." Well, how do you want them involved? Do you want them getting jobs or doing more community service?
Your inspiration might be a topic like, "Deciding what to do after high school." Where students interview community members and create a piece on the different occupations they found in your town. This creates a mosaic of your community members and serves as an opportunity for teens to learn different professions.
Inspiration is whatever you want your project to stem from. Maybe you want the group of teens to decide an inspiration for themselves- we can do that!
5. The Process
- Ensemble Games aka Ice Breakers' Cool Older Cousin
- Training: Usually done through play this part of the process gives participants the skills they need to get to that final presentation
- Devising: Making the piece
- Rehearsal: Polishing it
* Even if the project is a training- it will follow this general guideline
Try It Out!
Maybe there's an idea in the back of your head. A group that you want to reach out to or a project you wish you could have in your school or neighborhood. Why not try accomplishing it with us? You can't touch it, put it up in your home, or watch it on tv, but you CAN be a part of it.
If you have an idea for a theatre project email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
The theatre is a weapon, and it is the people who should wield it. -Augusto Boal