One of the main assignments for the applied theatre course requires that two groups of students work with facilitators on a devising process that could be used to create a community-engaged theatre project. Our facilitators, Declan Gorman and Jenny Macdonald, each take a group and spend about five days modeling their individual devising processes in a concentrated experience. It’s important to note that these processes usually occur over weeks or months, but because of the short duration of the course, Declan and Jenny find ways to telescope their processes so that students achieve strong results in an extraordinarily short period of time. It helps that these students are talented and game to be working in this fashion, but it’s still a superhuman undertaking.
The final sharings of these projects occurred on Wednesday, August 8, in the Beckett Centre Theatre at Trinity College. We were happy that many of our facilitators from the Abbey Theatre, Upstate Theatre, and ANU Productions were able to attend the sharing. We were also joined by a group of young people from Tallaght, who are working with Jenny on another long term community project. This support from our friends and colleagues meant a lot to all of us, and we’re grateful for their attendance.
Sharing new work or work in development requires that the audience understands the context in which the work was created. In this case, we wanted to be clear that the students were learning a process rather than trying to create a finished product. After discussion with Jenny and Declan, we decided to frame the sharing as “evidence of a learning process.” Declan used this phrase to describe the potential of the experience, and I think it aptly represented the purpose and result of the devising process. Jenny’s work with the students focused on devising a performance piece beginning with their own personal stories, whereas Declan’s work focused on devising a fictional script that was then animated through a staged reading.
Each time I experience this devising process in Ireland, I’m appreciative of the opportunity to re-see the students as artists and to see many of them defy my expectations. From the very first day of our work together, I asked the students to experience the course work as artists and fully engage in all of the processes, rather than getting too engrossed in observing the processes from a meta perspective. This particular group really took my charge to heart, and I’m appreciative of their commitment to explore the art form through this creative devising process.