Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Building Theatre

I'm currently at a workshop called "Devising Civic Theatre," which is taught Sojourn Theatre. The goal is to learn how to create community engagement and dialogue through theatre. In large part, this means encouraging people who don't self-identify as artists to express themselves through dramatic forms.

I've been very impressed by the basic technique that Sojourn uses. In essence, participants begin by creating a very specific, very simple action or pose within set parameters from their personal experiences. Gradually they create additional movements/poses/phrases and develop a "vocabulary" -- essentially building blocks which they will combine in different ways. Overtime they may begin layering actions on top of previous actions or to combine their building blocks with those of others. Out of this can come visually fascinating images and tableauxs, to which participants react by posing questions which are evoked, or they may create scenes and stories which explore the thematic issues that arise. Very profound conversations can manifest out of what began as the simple repetition of a daily action.

Particularly for people who don't feel comfortable creating a play out of whole cloth, or wouldn't know where to begin expressing their emotions through physical movement, this very gradual building of discrete movements based on personal experience seems like a non-threatening and power means to creative self-expression.

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