Teaching Drama during COVID
I have been quiet on here for a couple of years. But I want to use it as a space to reflect on teaching Drama and Theatre in today's difficult climate.
There’s no denying that studying Drama this year is very different to the norm. As drama lecturers, we have tried to find innovative and interesting ways to keep the students engaged and allow them to still access theatre. We are lucky that we live in a creative world where those working in the theatre industry have themselves also been trying to find ways to keep going during these trying times. Theatre companies have been adapting their work for online. Women and Theatre, a company who normally work directly with communities, have created a film called Women in Lockdown that explores ‘the experiences of and impact on women in this unique moment in history.’ Imitating the Dog, who experiment with multi-media and often mix film and theatre, have generously put full shows on to their website for people to access. Rash Dash, a contemporary, all-female group, have created a concept album: Don’t Go Back To Sleep: The Lockdown Album. Their audiences can access this remotely and listen to stories from around the world about our current situation.
One of the questions that we are asking the students and asking ourselves as lecturers is: Is this still theatre? We are all missing the liveness, we are missing gathering in the room together and creating work - this contact and this connectedness of theatre is what makes it theatre and being at the other end of a screen removes its very essence. Yet as it always does, the arts prevail, and we, both students and lecturers, keep on finding novel and thought-provoking ways to keep ourselves engaged in a subject that relies upon and is about immediacy and liveness. We have been working with the students to find ways of adapting material for an online platform and we’ve been bowled over by the choices, the research and the ideas that have materialised. Drama students are resilient, they challenge themselves, they push themselves, they work with the idea of process over product and from that comes critical thinking and thought-provoking material and for that, as lecturers in drama, we will always be impressed. We have to keep working to find ways to keep theatre alive - as a university, as a country, and globally - because it’s one of the few art forms that we have that is about being in the same space, as audience members and as creators, that challenges us to think together about the world we inhabit.
Exciting new project
I am thrilled to be working with Rural Futures, Wales to create socially engaged projects in two locations, Llandovery and Sennybridge. These projects are about local voices being heard and shared in bespoke projects, and I am thrilled to be one the artists commissioned to bring those stories alive through local exhibitions.
Living in Powys for the past 2.5 years has really opened my eyes to the joys and challenges of rural living. I witness first hand the difficulties of accessing culture and the lack of money and resources that is given to some of these communities. Therefore, opportunities such as this are hugely important because they not only provide those resources, they open up dialogues with people, allowing an array of stories to be told, listened to and shared .
I cannot wait to get started with the planning team and the local communities and begin the project.
The year has flown by and my work has been extremely busy. I am in the process of wrapping a few of these up and thinking of new ones.
I am keen to work locally and one way to do this is to try and set up some theatre workshops in Brecon. I have met the lovely Ruth at the Muse who has kindly agreed to provide the space for this to happen. I want to offer contemporary theatre workshops and what this means is working from a set of devising skills rather than script and traditional acting. I am excited about the prospect of working with children and adults using the methods I use in university teaching as well as my own theatre making.
Fingers crossed for some really exciting work happening in the near future.
The wind is howling outside and there seems no better time to update my website.
I am working on a few new projects which is great. I am directing a weekly adult theatre class in Hay on Wye which is great fun, writing a performance walk concerning the Anthropocene which is a new challenge and continuing the Lead Creative Schools projects, one of which is brand new and really exciting. I am also teaching at two Universities and continuing my Creative Agent work. So lots to get my teeth into, plan, create, write and deliver.
After a busy winter I finally have time to update my website and plan for the future.
Over the cold period I was working on 5 different project, 5 days of the week. It was a reminder of the fluctuation and the demands of freelance work. Since Winter has turned to Spring projects have subsided, with evaluation deadlines and planning for the next year taking their place. Spring should be a good time for conceiving new projects, with new life brings new ideas - but it is, as always, difficult to find work that is just isn't there and develop ideas in a changed climate. Still - the search, the generation and the hope continues.
It has been months since I last posted and a lot has happened.
I am currently learning to manage five separate projects, which is both exciting and daunting. I am thrilled to have taken up a part time lecturing post at the University of Gloucestershire in Performing Arts. This came at a very good time also as I started a few days after submitting my PhD, which will remain in the back of my head for a while.
With the new term also comes lots of school projects. I am busy organising agent tasks for the Arts Council Wales Lead Creative Schools scheme. I am responsible for two schools, a secondary and primary in Powys. I will post more details of these as the project commences. This is a really exciting venture for me and new territory.
In Stoke-on-Trent I am working with Partners in Creative Learning and I am teamed up with a school to look at raising literacy standards in boys in year 5. It is great to visit a different part of the country and get varied perspectives on learning.
I was very honoured to be invited back to Gwernyfed school to be their theatre practitioner again this year. I am working alongside a beatboxer to look at raising literacy standards in year 8 and 9. It is really exciting to link these two practices and encourage a more physical approach to working with concepts and texts.
The module I am teaching at Gloucestershire is all about working within the industry, and I used the word "grafting" the other day, and it really is about that.
Very busy and very happy :)
Working where you live
As a theatre practitioner who lives relatively rurally, and who wants to continue living that way, I am finding it increasingly more apparent that it is hard to work and live in the same place as an artist. Don't get me wrong, I love applying to projects all over and working in different places, meeting new people and engaging in various projects across the country. However, I would also like to see more opportunities arise more locally. Access to the arts in rural places is a real issue - we should be able to live in rural places and still have choice, not in numbers but in activity.
I have recently teamed up with the Globe at Hay to start running theatre workshops for children, the aim is to run weekly sessions for two different age groups. I think outlets such as these are incredibly important, parents should be able to find activities for their children to do locally rather than seeking them out in the nearest city. This is an exciting new venture and I really hope we can drum up enough interest in the idea.
You can find information on the workshop here.
News for the new year
It has already been a busy couple of months, the Lead Creative School's project is well underway and the planning is in motion for Wild Worlds at The Wilson.
Kev Moss and I have been working with the entire of year 8 at Gwernyfed on a James Bond project that aims to raise literacy standards. Having transformed a old space of the school into our MI5 headquarters we are busy working with the students as Innovators and Marketers to produce an event for a public audience in March.
The students have been designing the ultimate spy app - which of course is top secret until its reveal in March.
I am very excited to be involved in a project that embeds creativity into everyday learning and I am looking forward to where it takes us over the next few weeks.
Over in Cheltenham planning is underway for family and school workshops to take place. I will be leading children through workshops that help them create stories and themes to be included in an immersive and interactive exhibition.
I am delighted to have been offered a commission to devise a Roald Dahl story into a play in a day with Key Stage 2 children for the annual Lichfield festival in July. It's always exciting and a challenge to do projects such as this, and I can't wait to meet the children to learn about their ideas for the performance!
I am delighted to have been offered a Creative Practitioner position as part of the Creative School's Scheme in Wales.
Creativity that is embedded in learning is crucial for young people's development. Through projects such as these young people learn how to think differently, collaborate and work to their strengths. I am so happy to be part of that process!
Back to it...
It has been far too long now, I have neglected adding to my blog! I am writing this as my spaniel is staring at me in a "is it time to go out yet?" "yet?" "yet?" kind of way. Nearly.
I am back to applying to commissions as I come towards to final stages of the PhD research. Commission browsing can take up a whole day, so it feels rewarding to find even one to apply to. I have been offered one, creating an immersive environment for children, more news to follow... and I am writing and submitting more. It is quite exciting to be back in this world again, it is great to see and hopefully be a part of some of the fantastic opportunities that are out there, both for artists and audiences. The PhD has certainly given me the skills to feel like I can go at it alone, and I take comfort in knowing so many fascinating, hard-working and intelligent artists out there, I admire them all.
But for now a walk across fields and stick throwing must commence.
Theatre maker, researcher.