The course work begins

First day of course work on the applied theatre experience in Dublin. Some quick thoughts and observations:

1. “Applied theatre” is an academic term according to Helen Nicholson in her text Applied Drama. Theatre in communities has been happening for many years prior to the emergence of applied theatre as an academic discipline. Like so many things in the academy, people gain stature through the naming process. Terms come into existence so that phenomena can be named and categorized. I appreciate the term, but I don’t always find that it’s necessary to categorize the work that I make. The term “applied theatre” provides legibility and legitimacy for certain kinds of work in the academy. Seems a bit unnecessary on many levels. I may go to academic hell for writing that, but my ticket to hell has been stamped for so many other reasons at this point that I’m not sure it makes a difference. Main point: I worry that in our urgency to name something in the academy, we sometimes dilute that thing’s core principle. In this case, applied theatre needs to be theatre with a strong artistic aesthetic. Do we need anything beyond that, regardless of who we’re making it with? That’s the core question for me at the moment.

2. Orla Hasson facilitated an opening exercise with the students and asked them to consider what it means to be a community. The session concluded with a series of post-its on the wall documenting important characteristics of any community and hopes that students had for their newly developed community here in Ireland. After witnessing Orla’s facilitation, Joanna Parkes noted how an exercise in the hands of another facilitator can unfold in a completely different way and yield different outcomes. We know this as facilitators, but it was exciting for all of us to see Orla at work. I liked so much of the language that she used and how she transitioned from one section of the exercise to the next. And she consistently reminded the group about tempo. Slow. Yes. Like it. Note to self.

3. Seeing Declan Gorman in his one-man show introduced me to a lesser known work by James Joyce and made me want to read it. Through his nuanced portrayal of multiple characters of varying ages and experiences, I was reminded of the rich history of Dublin, as well as how theatre can actually capture the essence of a community through the enactment of the people and the time in which they live. Declan created a stellar adaptation of primary and secondary source material and left the audience wanting more of his storytelling. An exciting work that more people need to see. The Dubliners Dilemma: check it out!

See the images below from our morning facilitation with Orla Hasson in the Beckett Centre at Trinity College.