Unlike my usual practice of having my blog feed my paper (which is what’s happening with what I’m writing about last week’s workshops), I’m posting my opening reflection for the Study Abroad trip that begins next week (!).
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“I am excited to go to the United Kingdom” is an understatement. If the computer screen you’re reading this on were to express the depth of what I feel, multicolored fireworks would burst out of it while accompanied by enthusiastic, Doctor Who-inspired cries of “Geronimo!”
I have never been to Europe; this alone is more than enough reason for me to count the days to this study abroad program. Encountering a different time zone, a different geography, a different mix of cultures—I have no doubt that I’ll be learning many things in the next three weeks and not just about Drama and Youth. Similar to other parts of the world, the United Kingdom finds itself in a tense position both economically and sociopolitically, particularly because of Brexit. While I have read articles about this issue, I’m curious to see how it manifests in the daily experiences of the people in the UK and how it influences their conversations about social justice and equity. To push this a little further (and into the core of this brief reflection), I’m equally curious to learn of the many roles drama plays in the United Kingdom, especially in relation to today’s societal concerns.
Many of the practices within the field of educational theatre hails from different parts of the world, such as Brazil, for instance, with Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The United Kingdom is particularly relevant to the development of Theatre-in-Education (TIE), a “theatrical pedagogy [that seeks] to encourage young people to participate in theatre as a learning medium and as a vehicle for social change” (Nicholson, 2009). In university programs all over the world that have to do with drama and education, British luminaries in the field such as Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton are always included in the curriculum.
TIE made its strides during the 1960s: it was “an era of protest…youth culture flourished…Theatrically, it was also a time to question the boundaries between art and life, theatre and revolution, dramatic action and social activism…TIE was participatory, dynamic, collaborative, playful, pertinent to young people and politically radical” (Nicholson, 2009). The Conservative Thatcher government and the political crisis of the Left hindered its further growth and, as Helen Nicholson writes in Theatre and Education, in some places and for various reasons, i.e., funding, TIE itself had become a proponent of the status quo, instead of its critic (Nicholson, 2009).
The discussions surrounding TIE—and education, as a whole—have only become more complex over time, given the rapid changes happening all over the world. Yet I believe, in the face of today’s rampant strongman politics and ethical bankruptcy, we find ourselves in an era not unlike the 1960s. Where does TIE in the UK find itself in all this? What challenges and opportunities is the field facing locally? I look forward to engaging with the established scholars and practitioners we’ll be meeting, like Helen Nicholson and Geoff Readman, about this.
Connected to this, as an artist, I find myself gravitating towards civic practice. Sojourn Theatre’s artistic director, Michael Rohd, defines civic practice as:
“[an] activity where an artist employs the assets of his/her craft in response to the needs of non-arts partners as determined through ongoing relationship-based dialogue. The impulse of what to make comes out of the relationship, not an artist-driven proposal.” (Rohd, 2012)
I am curious to hear how civic practice, in the context of TIE, is done in the UK. The inclusive and participatory nature of Oily Cart’s work, in particular, draws me and I am eager to learn whatever I can from Tim Webb.
On a different tangent: a large component of the Drama and Youth study abroad program is going to the theatre. This is a practice I’ve sorely neglected. Although I would argue that a theatre habit in New York City is expensive, I liken my own neglectfulness to a writer who rarely reads. I am aware that going to the theatre could only broaden my artistic imagination and that it will feed into my practice one way or another, even if I don’t see myself primarily working in conventional theatre spaces. I look forward to watching the various plays set out for us, especially those that are classified as “Theatre for Young Audiences” (TYA). A lot of theatrical innovation in TYA is occuring in Europe, based on what I’ve observed fromThe New Vic here in New York City; I’m excited to see what TYA in the UK has to offer.
Apart from the opportunities laid out in the Drama and Youth syllabus, I want to take this chance to connect with UK-based artists whose work interests me. While nothing is set in stone, I’m reaching out to the Agency of Coney, a group of interactive theatre-makers who use game design theory in their work. I also plan to catch up with fellow theatre practitioners from the Philippines and Singapore who are currently studying in the UK. I want to hear about what their experience in the UK is like and what they’re learning.
Finally, whether it’s because I’m in the doctoral program or because of my choice of courses, I don’t get to interact as much as I want to with my fellow graduate students in Educational Theatre. This trip will be a good time to get to know (at least) some of them well.
Without a doubt, my summer in London will be jam-packed! Geronimo!
Nicholson, H. (2009). Theatre and education. Palgrave Macmillan.
Rohd, Michael. (2012). Translations: The Distinction between Social and Civic Practice and Why I Find It Useful. Retrieved from http://howlround.com/translations-the-distinction-between-social-civic-practice-and-why-i-find-it-useful