SummerBLAST: Adventures in Youth Ensemble Devising

Thoughts on Day 3 of Youth SummerBLAST* at People's Light

(*Youth SummerBLAST is an annual four-week devising project with 26 ten to thirteen year olds, six artists, and five Teen Mentors....)

It’s 1:35pm on July 7. Already today we have learned a new song in French, applied a prime number theory sequence to Yankee Doodle Dandy, heard a few excerpts from THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, had two class sessions, and rocked out to some classic Motown at lunch. In the first few days of any theatre process, we take time to establish our “rules of engagement.” We do this democratically. The adults do not dictate these rules to the students–we ALL create the boundaries and springboards that will support the Work we hope to make together.

Yesterday morning, I asked the full ensemble of artists and students, “What do we need in order to do our best, most creative work.” Everyone discussed his/her/their ideas with a partner, jotted an agreed-upon idea for our discussion on  a note card, and shared these ideas with the full group.

I’ve worked with a lot of creative ensembles in the last 20 years, young and old, experienced and novice, and everything in-between. I have to say, our Youth SummerBLAST ensemble really wowed me with the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of their responses. We came up with a fairly long list, but we were able to distill it into six key principles:

20160707_103729This is just one example of what we do differently at People’s Light. We engage young people in the full creative process of being an artist. Why is that valuable? My belief is that we all have something that we approach with an artist’s mind and heart, because we care deeply about doing that thing exceptionally well. For me, it’s making theatre, but it’s also baking. My dad is a welder, but if you ever listen to him talk about his approach to a particular type of weld, he sounds a lot like me when I describe directing a play. I think we all have that something into which we invest our full mind, heart, and energy.

We know that not all of our students will pursue a career in theatre. We actually expect that very few of them will. But we recognize just how much of the theatre-making process is about developing a personal creative practice that can apply to anything we choose to pursue. It’s an incredibly nuanced and interdependent set of skills and behaviors. It’s a skill set I use every day, whether I’m doing budget projections for the next fiscal year or making earl grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting. “The divine is in the details,” a mentor of mine used to say, and it’s absolutely true. An artist approaches his or her or their work with both intention and attention, and from that energy of thought and care, the extraordinary emerges.

This is just a work in progress, and it’s kind-of an amalgamation of several sources of inspiration, but I offer it as a glimpse into how we approach these four weeks of time with our students.

20160706_163625Originally Published in Exuent, Pursued by...Blog





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