The final week of the Ireland applied theatre course began on Monday with some input from Chrissie Poulter. Chrissie has served as an academic tutor and a devising facilitator for the program in years past, and after a three-year career break, she is back as a faculty member at Trinity College. She offered to share some of her thoughts about the longer history of applied theatre and community arts in Ireland, and I thought that her experience and expertise could provide valuable insights for students as they began to consider their final project for the course: a prospectus for an applied theatre project partnering with an organization in the United States.
Chrissie met with the students on Monday morning, a bank holiday in Ireland, and I was most appreciative of her willingness to come in and speak with the students. Chrissie spent her time introducing some of her past projects as a way to illuminate the history of community arts and the development of applied theatre practice in Ireland on both sides of the border. She then transitioned into a discussion of how the prospectus for a new project needed to contain enough information and background for a potential partner without becoming too academic. This point really grounded the expectation for the prospectus assignment, as students will need to make sure that their projects are nested within the larger field of applied theatre without alienating the prospective partner by using too much “insider,” academic terminology. Chrissie summed it up by suggesting that students think about representing the body of applied theatre work in their own proposals and communicating their pedigree to the prospective partner. This language helps to clarify that the facilitator need not be a full-on expert in the given area that the prospectus suggests to address, but that s/he needs to understand the ancestry of the practice. By illustrating this understanding, even an early career applied theatre facilitator/practitioner can gain the confidence and support of a potential partner. Chrissie made the distinction between being an academic and a well-informed practitioner. The two do not necessarily need to be mutually exclusive, but it sometimes it can be useful to isolate the strengths and nuances of each identity, particularly when the practitioner is working in an academic environment.
As I’ve said on this blog before, Chrissie Poulter is one of the strongest and most nuanced facilitators that I’ve seen at work. I’m grateful for her time and presence on the course, and I know the students felt the same. I look forward to seeing how her input influences the final prospectus assignments that I receive on August 22.