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Why Theatre? Revisited, II of II

February 25th, 2011 No comments

I’ve explored corners of an emerging field (applied theatre/drama) that in highschool, one couldn’t even imagine would exist. That is just three years before I would be a student of it.  Like pioneers to a new land, it has been an arduous process of studying and cultivating the rugged terrain as an applied theatre practitioner.  A process probably made more difficult by my stubbornness, insecurities and expectations (a.k.a. impatience); all very limiting to a process of cultivating a creative style, learning to teach while honouring my own unique voice amongst the expert opinions.  This privileged challenge of navigating unchartered career waters has been made possible by my having participated in drama, acting, musical theatre, recreational dance, and music/band classes in my teen years, when forming a sense of self is the only thing that is of any true significance.

The arts activities that engage and develop the right-brained abilities such as harmony, aesthetic, metaphor, story, and design, are traditionally considered to be fringe benefits in the schools referred to, in this cleverly animated talk.  Now, we are in the dawn of an era that demands more of the right-brain aptitudes, demonstrated in the highest grossing industries such as culinary arts, cosmetics and fashion, but mostly by the degree of problem-solving our world requires for our survival!  I agree that the ARTS professions, and therefore our civilizations, have not been served by the industrial era’s school system in a manner that is sustainable.  Seems obvious now that we also recognize that the industrialization of production and consumption are no longer sustainable.  I feel so passionate about opening up the creative channels in our schools and workplaces that I could probably obsess about it for years to come!  So for the sake of getting through this blog post, I’ll curb my enthusiasm here to introduce you to the third inspiring video of my day that re-affirms why I choose theatre and dramatic arts over and over, wherever I end up, doing whatever it is I do.

Sir Ken Robinson, a visionary on education and creativity follows his 2006 TED talk with this witty talk about a learning revolution; the waves of which, led me to study drama therapy at New York University in 1999.

What Sir Robinson refers to is a revolution that has been a few decades already underway, beginning with a few enlightened masters; their efforts often ignored, resisted and belittled by many.  The movement to change how we teach children persists in as many ways as are needed to serve the diversity of the many ways that humans learn.  I hope you enjoyed these videos as much as I have enjoyed reflecting upon them and posting here.

A deeply heartfelt-appreciating hug to all my teachers who inspired me to question, seek, express and grow!  And thanks for visiting my online playground!

Why Theatre? Revisited, I of II

February 1st, 2011 No comments

Today, through my facebook news feed, the question was posted, “Why do theatre?”  To people who have yet to experience the joy of analyzing the great many benefits for human development and cognition that theatre offers, I can appreciate that the answer to that question is not obvious.  At a time when much of the world is habitually turning to screens of all sizes for their information and communication needs for convenience, novelty or cost-effectiveness, it seems far easier to list reasons of why not to do theatre.

Theatre, in the most common of professional forms, is costly to produce, promote and limited for reproducing beyond the run of live shows, thereby limited for potential revenue.  And so came film.  I get it.  Why, indeed?  Sometimes, I am persuaded to focus on other forms of “work” by their mere practicality in the current economic climate.  Then comes along a day like today when I come across this question, “Why Theatre?”, followed by lunch with a friend and three different, but related videos.  The first one below started my morning after breakfast; posted by a theatre colleague, it had me laughing out loud!

Can you relate?  I could!   And not because I identify as having a disorder or being of the elderly demographic, but because in particular states of mind, I have experienced this unstoppable stream of linked, but seemingly disorganized thoughts and impulses that I act upon, taking me from one incomplete task to start another activity that is interrupted by a thought which brings me into another frame of focus, and so on.  Sometimes, I do return back to my initial activity, but it is highly problematic for productivity in the workforce, when I don’t.  And it seems that many many people, often creatives and innovators are often misplaced, misunderstood and highly undervalued in most workplaces and schools.  What is interesting is that others who have shared a similar experience also exhibit a great tendency – nay, an insuppressible drive for artistic expression that is as strong as the “ADD” behaviour.   Perhaps they are connected to, or inform each other.   I’m not of the opinion, however, that they are exclusive to each other, nor do I buy the claim that there is an epidemic.  If you keep reading and watch the second video in this post, you may further understand why I go on to say here that it is the larger societal structures ie. schools, laws, medicine, that are not evolving, or tranforming, at a rate which supports the human response to what is current and true.

After watching that video in the morning, I spent most of the afternoon becoming re-acquainted with a friend who is on her way towards a medical residency in plastic surgery. We had a delicious meal of Peruvian and South American delights at El Inka Latin Deli in Burnaby.   She shared her stories of a new romance and I, my recurring considerations on taking up filmmaking courses. With the fear of abandoning the riches of my formal training in applied drama and theatre, despite little monetary riches to show for it, I have been reluctant to pursue any further training that diverges from the applied theatre path.

Insightfully, Brandi points out that documentary filmmaking, the genre to which I currently feel drawn, would be bringing together all the previous training I’ve had and incorporate other pleasures of researching, writing, and collaborating with a diversity of people.  I go home with a very satisfied tummy and a full head of questions: Maybe I can still practice theatre and develop my film-making skills in a parallel and complimentary way?  It’s another art form, can I pay the bills with it?  Is it the accessibility of the medium that is my block, or my own internal maze of questions that lead to inaction?  Perhaps what my artistic voice is trying to manifest is a hybrid of these mediums.  Hybridity.  It’s how I’m made! No surprise I would fuse play with work, live performance with digital.  And my friends often check-in with the curious, “Janice, what are you up to now?” It seems adventurous, I suppose, to the observer, but it has largely been frustrating because it’s taken me yeeears, a full decade after finishing 7 years of higher education, to realize the fuller scope of my heart’s desires.  What did I expect?  Well, I’m impatient.