RCSSD Celebrates World Community Arts Day!

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I want to start off by thanking those who have been involved or got involved with this project.

Debbie Davies – providing us with the Space at C4CC. It was a wonderful space to work in and would hope to work there again in the near future.

To all those who participated and shared their love and gratitude of Community Arts: Sara Athens, I-Hsuan Chen, Athena Agroti

To Shalyn Yong: for demonstrating her energetic workshop based on the theme of ‘separation’.

And finally to Carlos Arenas: for coming on board to help me with the logistics, documenting and facilitating the process. He is a pleasure to work with and is also very good at taking my verbal abuse. What a legend.

 

why should we as artists/practitioners celebrate community arts?

On the 17th February 2014, I decided to put together a workshop to celebrate World Community Arts Day for students of Central School of Speech and Drama. As the future of drama leaders and artists, I believe that we should take the opportunity to come together and share our skills and ideas in hope that it continues to build the community network within our school.

There was a morning and an afternoon session, both very different but both very interesting! By the end of the day we had accumulated lots of drawings, scribbles and writing materials, which we gathered all into our TIME CAPSULE. This is in hope that next year, whoever might run the session next year, can open it up and see what we got up to!

But before we get to the end, let’s begin at the start of the day.

MORNING SESSION – GLOBAL COMMUNITY THEATRE.

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Sharing experiences of community theatre: we have more in common than what we initially thought!

This session we looked at how community theatre might be different around the world. The purpose was to collaborate with each others experience of “community theatre” and see what was our outcome. Totally open with direction and discussion. (Plus we had grapes and cakes to munch on, so it was pretty casual!)

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Colombia, Nottingham and Alaska in the house!

Our first exercise, at first glance looks pretty confusing, but there was a method to our madness! We wrote down in a quick fire fashion everything that we understood by community theatre from our hometowns. We were made up of 1 Colombian from Bogotá, 1 American from Alaska and 1 Birtish from Nottingham. We then took the time to read each other’s and question what we meant by certain terms. In these discussions we were seeing a lot of similarities such as “community theatre being deemed as ‘amateur’ or ‘low quality’. We all agreed upon that community theatre sometimes doesn’t get the full recognition it deserves, and sometimes the point gets missed, that it’s more to do with ‘bringing people together’ rather than putting on something of ‘stupendous quality’.

We connected our ideas together based on similar themes and experiences we have had in the past. We all saw that we had taken part in a community theatre group back at home, and we all had some positive and negative points on this, which lead us onto our next exercise.

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Sara posed the question, ‘What would you do differently to your community projects back home now you’re learning all you know at Central School’? to answer this, we gave ourselves 10 minutes to note down an example of a local performance/festival/group that we knew of and imagine we were now in charge of the project. We all had very in depth detail about the aims/intentions of the project, the creative process and how it would be long running in the future. However, we were stumped on two things…

HOW DO YOU GET THE FUNDING? AND HOW DO YOU GET THE PARTICIPANTS TO START WITH?!

Which again…. We digressed onto one final exercise. Advertising our show!

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We picked up on my idea (for no particular reason – maybe because if we got REALLY into it we could always drive up north and start prompt!) and drew an advert, asking for people to join my company. We thought it was important to state what it was and include a picture of a local hero, to get them hooked! We were pretty logistic too, thinking about when submissions for applicants (yes – very professional) had to be in with relevance to when the show was to perform. Typical of MA Students I suppose?

The session was really great to find out what community theatre was like in specific areas of the country, and surprise ourselves with the similarities and differences too. I think we were all very proud of our experiences… I certainly am very pleased I was involved in pantomime from a young age, down the local council hall, slapping my knee and yelling catchphrases about the fact that no one was behind me…

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Afternoon Session – Skill Sharing

 

Mosquito!

Mosquito!

One Costa coffee later, Carlos and I were ready to take on the most active part of the session! With workshop plan in hand and eager participants to show their styles, it was off we go go go!

The first half of the session was extremely lively. Even when running my parts, I was taken a-back at how much energy I suddenly feeling (nothing to do with the coffee, honest) We ran the workshop like it was aimed at a focus group in the community of young people. We checked in, stating 1-10 (1 being low 10 being great) seeing how everyone was feeling in the room but without disclosing personal information. It really is crucial, especially if you’re working in a vulnerable group.

I got the heart racing with a quick thinking name game and focus game called “Mosquito”, which I felt we played for quite a long time. We were all very determined to win the game as it was a team effort. The frustration of losing focus was too much, but, we got there eventually! 

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We then had a very special workshop lead by Sharlyn. She had run this workshop before back in her hometown of Singapore, dealing with the theme of ‘separation’. She put us through our paces (and really gave us a good work out!) by using her own version of a ‘walk-around-the-space’ exercise, followed by abstract sound and movement improvisations.

Movement and sound around separation

Improvising with movements and sounds around separation was an amazing experience!

It was pretty fun, having to make noise rather than use dialogue for a change. You could really tell that a lot of thought and consideration had been put into her workshop as every moment related to her theme and built confidence up steadily. Everything had a meaning, a purpose, a goal, and a good sense of team-work. Good work, I highly recommend giving her workshop a try! We all got something from it.

For the end of the session, it was time for a sit down and a ponder to yourself. Music to relax the body was playing softly in the background and it was now time to think about the day in hand – why should we celebrate World Community Arts Day as future artisits/practitioners?

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I love to draw. And I love to make theatre. So what better way to combine the two to explore our most inner thoughts? Firstly we drew our own expression of our response to today, and then had a go at replicating this with others. It was pretty tricky, because at first nobody could see each other’s drawings, we had to describe it to them whilst the other had a go at re-creating the vision. It was pretty frustrating to watch, and certainly frustrating for the person to draw it out!

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The pictures were then transformed into theatre performances, demonstrating our interpretations of what we could see. There was no discussion into why everybody chose to draw what they did – it wasn’t important to anyone but the individual. To share this expression in this illustrative way was natural, and to have someone interpret this without knowing any back history was really organic. See what you can see in the expression presented here:

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Finally, we rounded the day off by looking towards the future. We gathered our drawings and work from the walls and placed them into our time capsule. Each of us contributed a ‘final word’ to our future bubble, which stated how we wish to continue to contribute to community arts, and what we expect from working in our field in the future. Some really beautiful things were said actually

Community Arts time capsule!

Community Arts time capsule!

And that’s a wrap! What a wonderful day of meeting new faces, exploring different ideas and practices and thinking about our future! We hope to do this again next year, we hope that the time capsule gets opened, and we hope that everybody around the world had a marvelous day doing creative arts!

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17th February 2014 marks the 8th celebration of the World Community Arts Day, an occasion for getting together and sharing different expressions of art.

Come and join us from 10:00 am at the Centre for Creative Collaboration for reflecting on the meaning of community arts through theatre!

How to get there?

The Centre for Creative Collaboration is  a 10 minutes walk way from King’s Cross, in 16 Acton Street (WC1X 9NG).

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Please confirm your attendance by clicking on the following link: http://doodle.com/9su96z7u7m57svfsbhmt3zv4/admin#table

Check out the official website to see what other exciting projects are happening around the world! – www.worldcommunityartsday.com

Check out our institution Royal Central School of Speech and Drama! http://www.cssd.ac.uk/about-central

The Applied Theatre course at RCSSD specializes in working with and for communities:
Catherine McNamara, Central School of Speech and Drama, London, UK:
“We run an MA and BA Applied Theatre and the course focus on theatre practices that promote inclusion and access in a variety of settings where difference or disadvantage might exist. They address the ways theatre can be an agent for change, empowerment, enablement and transformation but also explore the problematics/ethics of such terms and concepts. The ‘applied’ aspect of Applied Theatre, for us, concerns practices that engage with issues, dramatize relevant stories and involve participants in processes that they find useful, informative in ways specific to them.”

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