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And Now….?

The unforeseen adventures that were created by being forced to re-invent, re-imagine, to find ways to re-connect with our audiences at this time of distance and disconnection had a profound impact on me.

It became clear that, for some of our audience, taking shows directly to where they are, taking the flexibility of the shows to a whole new level was what really worked for them.

So this year, inspired by that adventure and that discovery, I’m making a new show called SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS that can play anywhere. A garden, around a hospital bed, outside a school, in a hospice – wherever makes most sense of our audience. It’ll be a tiny intimate show with just two performers, a gentle magical soundtrack and two gorgeous costumes created by leading Irish fashion designer, Rebecca Marsden who works with responsive wearable tech fashion – costumes that light up with the connection we make with our audience, costumes that transform an ordinary space into an extraordinary moment. The development is funded by Wicklow Arts Office and will happen this July and September in creative consultation with St Catherine’s School, County Wicklow families and with St Catherine’s Hospice, hopefully leading to a longer tour next year to my national Network For Extraordinary Audiences.

And right now, we’re on week 3 of an 8 week tour of GROOVE – a chilled out 70’s inspired happening for children and young people with complex needs, full of immersive video and live harmony singing. In masks of course.

It’s a wonderful co-incidence that for GROOVE (conceived in 2019 so well pre-pandemic) that there’s such an overwhelming visual element – even with one side of the tent missing in order to allow sufficient ventilation – the combination of the immersive video art and the live singing to a hypnotic soundtrack is so rich and all around that it has an energy and a presence that, whilst not replacing the usual tactile offers that we might make, has a welcome viscerality.

I’ve been describing GROOVE as a happening – I remember reading the definition of a 60’s/70’s happening – in broad terms it’s about an environment being created and then what happens is totally dependent on who comes and what they bring.  That’s the space and the adventure that I wanted to create with my audience for GROOVE.

I hardly dare hope that we’ll make it through all of the 8 weeks all over the country.  I’m grateful for each day and for the incredible welcome that the schools have given and are continuing to give us in what must be the hardest year they’ve ever had.    They truly are extraordinary audiences.

Throughout these last 18 months, the power of human connection has continued to be my lodestar and it, and my audiences, keeps me putting one foot in front of the other as we move forward as best we can.

Respond. Re-Imagine. Re-Connect.

The next chapter of my theatre adventures last summer was a re-imagining (or in fact three different re-imaginings) of my show SING ME TO THE SEA – created in 2018, SING ME TO THE SEA is a blissful watery adventure for children & young people with complex needs full of harmony singing, tiny waterfalls, shiny globes and rainbow fish that was created to be performed in hydropools with 3 performers and three audience members, each with an adult companion – with everyone in the water! [https://www.annanewell.ie/work/sing-me-to-the-sea/}

I’ve always said that the heart of my work is that it is flexible, that it is responsive, that it is nuanced moment by moment by our audience.  And in Summer 2020, I had to really walk the walk with that one and take that flexibility and responsiveness to a whole new level.

So, with huge support (and flexibility!) from our funders and venue partners, we created a dry-land at-home version of the show.  And we hired a campervan.  For three weeks in August 2020, we drove around Dublin, Meath, Carlow and Wicklow, taking the show directly to families in their own gardens and driveways.  We sang in the rain, we were stared at by milkmen, curious neighbour children gathered – and we were given the extraordinary opportunity to connect with our audiences where they were.

Later in the summer, we took this dry-land version to Baboró International Festival and performed the show in the magical setting of the gardens of the Ardilaun Hotel.  And although they were only a few weeks into what must have been the hardest term of their lives, the special schools came in their droves – not only did we sell out the schools’ performances but we had to add more!

And, then, astonishingly, the wonderful pool staff at St Gabriel’s School & Centre called us up and said they’d like to give it a go.  So, singing in masks and visors and working within AquaPhysio Guidelines, we were back in the water.

The unforseen adventures that were created by being forced to re-invent, re-imagine, to find ways to re-connect with our audiences at this time of distance and disconnection had a profound impact on me.

And it inspired a whole new show for 2021.  More of that in my final blog…

The Everyman & Graffiti Theatre Company

Dates: 1 – 31 May On Demand

On demand audio stream theatre for young audiences 8+ for families or schools.

This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing by Finegan Kruckemeyer, is presented by The Everyman and Graffiti Theatre Company as part of Play It by Ear, a programme of shows performed on The Everyman stage, and available as an audio stream.

Triplet sisters are left in the forest by their woodcutter father. From this fairytale beginning, three resolutions are made – one sister will walk one way, one the other, and the third will stay right where she is. Twenty years later, having circumnavigated the globe, and fought Vikings, and crossed oceans, and tamed wilds, and achieved greatness, the three meet again, as women.

Fun and accessible resources will be available on Graffiti’s website for teachers and parents to support children’s enjoyment of the episodes.  These resources – which will be available for the audio stream live date – will include creative prompts and activities to give children a deeper engagement with the piece.

Price: On Demand Audio Stream Family €12 | Schools €65

Age recommendation: 8+, recommended for young audiences and their families

Running Time: 5 X 10mins

For further details go to everymancork.com/events/this-girl-laughs-this-girl-cries-this-girl-does-nothing/

Creative Schools
Deadline: 2 April, 2021

Creative Schools is forming a panel of Creative Associate Regional Coordinators across the country. It is envisaged that the Arts Council will engage the services of 8 Regional Coordinators. Both individuals and organisations (who nominate a particular representative) may apply to provide these services.

The main tasks of the Creative Associate regional coordinators are:

– Work closely with the Arts Council’s Creative Schools’ team to support and assist in coordinating the work of the Creative Associates at a regional level.

– Liaise with and support up to twenty Creative Associates and their assigned schools across each region.

– Be required to carry out services for around seventy days per annum, with a minimum of one day per week between the months of September to June.

Deadline for applications: Friday 2nd April, 2021

For more information, see www.etenders.gov.ie/ (select Arts Council in ‘authority’ field of an advanced search on etenders).

How Spiderman Inspired Me Last Summer

In 2019 (which now feels like a decade ago), I made a new show for early years audiences called BigKidLittleKid.  It’s a wordless physical theatre piece for ages 3-6 years about the complicated world of sibling rivalry.  It opened at The Ark for Dublin Theatre Festival and toured to the Mermaid, the Civic and Draiocht.

Through the summer of 2020, I grew surer and surer about my commitment to finding a way to keep a live connection with my very particular audiences.

During what had become my weekly check-in with my wee brother, he was talking about some guy somewhere in England who’d dressed up as Spiderman and spidey-ed his way through his local streets to the utter delight of the children forced to stay at home in these first shut-in weeks of the first lockdown.

I’ve always been interested in making the ordinary extraordinary and believe that if you can literally change the landscape, you make visible the possibility of change and of hope.

So I hatched a plan.

Thanks to the Ready Steady Show programme run by my main producing partner the Civic, a wee pot of money was found to create a PopUp Play version of BigKidLittleKid which we played on a tennis court outside a summer camp, in a massive hall inside another summer camp and outside a nursery.

My favourite picture of the whole summer was the picture of the one pod sitting watching the extraordinary adventure that unfolded in their tiny playground with the second pod who weren’t allowed to share the same space as them, determinedly pressing their noses against the window intently watching the entire show.

For us as artists, being out there with our audiences again, hearing that very particular laughter of children delighted with a new story, a new connection, was extraordinary.  Our hearts soared and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t shed a tear or two of hard-won joy and hope.

 

What. How. Why.

I remember really vividly where I was on 12th March 2020. I was visiting the cast at the end of their 3rd week of a 10 week tour of my show for babies ‘I AM BABA’ and our tiny gorgeous tent was set up in a rather grand hotel ballroom in Trim. We came out of the third show to the news of the announcement of lockdown. We threw the set and costumes back in my storage facility without masses of care – as we knew it was only going to be a couple of weeks.

I know.

For the next 2 months, I was lost, desperately trying to think what to do and how to do it.

And then I worked out that it wasn’t about the what or the how but rather about the why.

When creating ‘BLISS’, the first show I made specifically for audiences of children with complex needs, I was doing some creative consultation in a classroom and over the course of these few days these children revealed to me what I think theatre is – one human being connecting with another. That’s it. And that my job is to create the optimum conditions for that connection.

And for my audiences, the optimum conditions overwhelmingly are that it’s a live experience.

The work has always had at its very heart the live responsive connection and an inherent and crucial ability to nuance and change from moment to moment.  And I realised what I had to do was to take this built-in flexibility to a whole new level…

Thanks to the incredible support of funders, venues, audiences and artists and more than a little bit of luck, I managed to tour work live for 8 weeks in the summer, autumn and winter of 2020.

And in my next couple of blogs, I’ll tell you the how and the what.

 

Baboró International Arts Festival, Graffiti Theatre and TYA Ireland

Deadline: Monday 8 February 2021

Callout for a 6-month playwriting programme led by Finegan Kruckemeyer for established and emerging playwrights based in Ireland who are interested in writing for young audiences.

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, Graffiti Theatre and TYA Ireland are excited to collaborate with International TYA Playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer to host a new playwriting programme for writers and theatre makers in Ireland who are interested in writing plays for young audiences.

At a time when the world and its distances are both larger and smaller than ever before, a collaboration will occur, spanning half a globe, and half a year, and driven by that most exciting of provocations – to forge something from nothing.

Beginning with a blank page, eight Irish authors will respond to writing aids and impositions both as they explore theatre for young audiences – what makes a TYA play, and what TYA play they wish to make.

But more important than the audience, shall be the idea. And in writing work solemn and silly, foreign and known, as vast as an ocean and as small as a boat which may rock upon it, eight individual voices shall be celebrated, and their plays play out to their ends.

Who is this for?
This opportunity is open to both established and emerging playwrights, residing in Ireland, interested in writing plays for young audiences. Applications are encouraged from artists with a disability, those from minority ethnic communities and those who feel their voices are not commonly represented. There are eight places available on the programme.

Irish language writers are welcome to participate in this project through the medium of Irish.  Support and translation will be provided to facilitate a bilingual writing journey with Fin. Samples of writing in Irish can be included in the application.

Cuirimid fáilte roimh scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge páirt a ghlacadh sa togra seo as Gaeilge. Cuirfear tacaíocht agus aistriúcháin ar fáil chun an turas scríbhneoireachta dátheangach le Fin a éascú. Is féidir samplaí Gaeilge a bheith mar chuid den iarratas.

Deadline for Applications is Monday 8 February 2021

For further information and application details go to https://www.baboro.ie/news-events/you-fin-and-the-play-between

The Ark

Available until 31 December

Explore the importance of all creatures small and large in this video drama workshop from The Ark for ages 2-4 with their grown-ups led by Early Years Artist in Residency Joanna Parkes.

Mouse may be small and shy, but does that mean he can’t help the lion? Let’s see!

Using the Aesop’s Fable of The Mouse and The Lion as a starting point, pack your make-believe backpacks, set off to find the proud lion and see where your imaginations can take you.

If you like, you can bring a few things with you:

A cushion
A small bag or backpack
A soft toy (any favourite cuddly animal will do)
Wear an adventurer’s hat of any kind if you want!

Combining drama, story and play, this video workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, join in with a 2 to 4 year old to discover, explore and create together in this delightful workshop adventure.

Recommended:

Watch Free Online – ark.ie/events/view/video-workshop-lion-mouse

For ages 2-4 and their grown-ups
Video duration: Approx. 15 mins, plus pauses for you to pretend and play in your own time at home

 

Youth Theatre Ireland

Deadline: 5pm, 14 September 2020

Youth Theatre Ireland is pleased to announce two grant schemes to offer assistance to Youth Theatres in these challenging times, with the generous support of the Creative Ireland Programme. The first, “Include YT – COVID Relief Inclusion Grant”, is available to affiliated theatres and the second “Join In – Youth Theatre Inclusion Grant” is available to developing Youth Theatres.

The Include YT grant will provide a maximum of €3,000 to help affiliated theatres to increase young people’s access to youth theatre and address exclusion on social or disability grounds. Emerging from Covid-19, youth theatres’ capacity to include new members may be severely challenged as they face additional costs and extended workshop programmes in order to comply with public health measures and social distancing guidelines. This grant is designed to help youth theatres keep social inclusion at the heart of their practice by resourcing approximately 6 youth theatres to engage with young people who have difficulty accessing youth theatre on social or disability grounds.

During these extraordinary times, this once-off grant is designed to support youth theatre inclusion initiatives in the Sept – Dec term 2020 and will assist with many measures including bursaries to cover membership fees for young people whose families are facing challenging circumstances, resources or additional staff to support the participation of members with disabilities or additional needs. The total fund available to youth theatres through this scheme is €18,000.

The “Join In – Youth Theatre Inclusion Grant” will provide a maximum of €3,000 to  developing youth theatres operating in areas of social deprivation, to help increase young people’s access to youth theatre. During these extraordinary times, this once-off grant is designed to support the development of new youth theatres that are addressing social exclusion and that aim to affiliate in 2020. The total fund available to youth theatres through this scheme is €15,000.

Rhona Dunnett, Acting Director of Youth Theatre Ireland said, “Youth Theatre Ireland is delighted to be working with the Creative Ireland Programme to offer these once-off grants to youth theatres. Like many sectors, youth theatre is facing difficult financial circumstances in 2020 and these grants will support youth theatres to keep inclusion at the heart of their practice and increase young people’s access to youth theatre in socially disadvantaged areas. In these challenging times, young people need youth theatre more than ever to help them feel connected and give them a safe, creative space to express themselves and their ideas.”.

Deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday, September 14th 2020.

For further information and application details go to www.youththeatre.ie/news/press/youth-theatre-ireland-announces-2-supporting-grants.

 

Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic & Riverbank Arts Centre

August 2020

Due to tour to hydropools this July and September, this magical watery adventure is now scheduled to tour in August in collaboration with Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic and Riverbank Arts Centre. Rather than cancel the tour, Anna Newell Theatre Adventures and the partner venues were determined to bring high quality live art experiences to this very particular audience and so the ‘dry land’ ‘at-home’ version was invented. The “at-home” version is specifically for children/young people with PMLD.

Taking the responsiveness of the show to a whole new level, this re-imagined ‘dry land’ version will be performed in the gardens/drives/outside the windows of homes of families of children with complex needs. Still full of ethereal live harmony singing and gorgeous costumes (created by award-winning composer David Goodall and renowned costume designer Susan Scott), reflective silver balls, rainbow fish and water moving through colanders like waterfalls will all happen at an appropriate distance from our audience members, with their accompanying adults mirroring the action to add the up-close sensory element.

A process of a virtual pre-visit will take place to ensure that each different private ‘at-home’ adventure is magical, calm and, of course, safe.

Anna Newell is a Bray-based theatremaker who has been making theatre adventures for many different audiences since 1989. She was the first Irish-based theatremaker to create theatre designed especially for children and young people with PMLD and her work for Early Years audiences has been seen on 6 continents and off-Broadway.

Contact your nearest partner venue for booking details – click on the relevant link below:

SING ME TO THE SEA is co-produced by The Civic, Tallaght and funded by the venues, Wicklow County Council and Sunbeam Trust with additional funding from Arts Council of Ireland

Theatre Lovett

Dates: Late June/July 2020

Theatre Lovett are delighted to announce Teddy Talks; a series of clinics for theatre practitioners with a focus on Theatre for Young Audiences.

Led by Muireann Ahern, Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett, along with invited guests, these sessions will cover:

To Apply: 
Please send your C.V. or biog with a note outlining why you are interested in registering for Teddy Talks to muireann@theatrelovett.com.

Next Course Dates:
Late June/July 2020 (exact dates and times TBC depending on slots available due to demand). These clinics will be conducted online due to COVID-19.

For further information go to www.theatrelovett.com/workshops/httpswwwtheatrelovettcomworkshopsteddy-talks-advice-clinics

 

Branar Téatar do Pháistí

Deadline: 5pm, 1 may 2020

Do you have an idea for a show for young audiences?
Would you like to explore that idea?
Do you want to work with new art forms?

Branar’s Tiny Shows/Seóanna Bídeach initiative offers artists & theatre makers time and space to explore & develop new skills, new roles and new work in a developmental context.

This weekend long residency will facilitate the early stage development of ideas for new shows for young audiences.

The residency provides artists with the opportunity to:

Expected outcomes of this initiative include:

Previous applicants are welcome to apply again, with the same or new idea.

For further information or questions about Tiny Shows, please contact Niamh on info@branar.ie or go to www.branar.ie/tiny-shows.

 

Barnstorm Theatre Company

Dates: 4th, 5th, 6th – 9th of March 2020

Barnstorm Theatre Company is delighted to present its new production of ‘Alice and the Wolf’ by Tom Swift.

Alice spends virtually all her time in Wolf Wood. You know, the world’s deepest, darkest online game. Why not? Her dad isn’t around, her mother’s gone to Canada to meet a lumberjack and her best friend’s dumped her for a YouTube star.

But what happens when the people you meet online come looking for you in real life? Who can you trust, and who is the Big Bad Wolf? This re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story is a digital fairy tale that’s deliciously funny and full of dangerously dark twists.

Workshop
For County Kilkenny schools attending the play, we offer two in-school workshops:

These sessions are optional and capacity is limited, therefore they will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

Teachers’ Resources
A resource pack will be provided to participating teachers. Linked to the SPHE syllabus, the pack will provide a focus for exploration and discussion of themes raised through the play.

Performances of ‘Alice and the Wolf’ will take place at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny.

Dates & Times

Wednesday 04 March at 11.30am
Thursday 05, Friday 06 and Monday 09 March 2020 at 10.00am & 12.30pm

School Group Rate €10, one teacher free with each booking of 12

For more information or to obtain a resource pack, please contact Barnstorm Theatre at admin@barnstorm.ie, or call us on 056 7751266

Tickets are available online at watergatetheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873615598

Tell us the story of your project – What was the impetus? What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?

In February 2018 Landmark Productions and Everyman Theatre Cork approached us to ask what ancillary activities would we be organizing around the production of ‘Asking For It’ they were planning to stage in June and which would subsequently transfer to the Abbey in November.

We all saw the necessity to involve young people in the story and so aside from the Abbey’s usual provision of post-show talks and podcasts we decided to take the work into schools as directly as possible. We planned a structure of pre and post show workshops to support any school who was going to see the play. We also committed to the creation of a teachers study pack which could appeal to many levels of ability.

After speaking about schools visits to Louise O’Neill, the author of the novel on which the play was based, it became clear that we needed specific training in dealing with this project. Louise’s disturbing experience had been that in nearly every school she had visited herself at least one young woman had disclosed she had experienced sexual assault.

On 24th July we hosted a workshop by Tender UK a theatre company that specializes in exploring issues of abuse with post primary students. On their advice we changed the original plan of having a sole female facilitator to having workshops run by both a male and female so they could model healthy gender relationships. That’s when I stopped just managing the project and stepped in as co-facilitator.

Based on her previous work with the Abbey we contacted actor and facilitator Aoibheann McCaul and she and I planned the post-show workshop together. Aoibheann also attended a training session at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

Aoibheann and Phil started visiting schools in October using applied drama to explore the students’ sense of the characters involved in the story and any links they had to students’ own sense of gender roles, friendship dynamics and sexual consent. These pre-show workshops were introductory and often didn’t go into the ethics of consent or even the plot of the play if the students’ weren’t already aware of the story. We wanted the students to experience it theatrically. For those that were aware of the book though, we found that for some the issues of assault were still unclear, “Well she took him into the room so she was asking for it, wasn’t she?”

The groups went to performances of ‘Asking For It’ at the Abbey Theatre and met a couple of the cast afterwards.  The actors had all volunteered to talk to the students and were eager to engage with their responses. These ranged from the shy and practical (“How do learn your lines?”) to more in depth enquiries “How do you play someone so nasty?” “Why did you choose to do this particular play?” “What’s it like having to play Emma over and over again?”. One all-girl’s school which had been skeptical about assault changed their view completely and demanded their teachers give them better sex education in future especially about consent.

Aiobheann and Phil then returned do the schools for a two hour long post show workshop that built on the previously introduced techniques of statues, tableaux and walking in character to explore how both the characters and the students themselves had changed over the course of the evening.

As with the pre-show workshops we used a basic drama technique to encourage recollection  of a lived moment e.g. “How did you feel at the interval of the play?” or “What moment do you remember most about the beginning of the show?” and then encouraged others to ‘read’ these and reflect upon them.  The majority of the workshop was taken up with creating tableaux of the most striking moments of play and then exploring what could have been going through the characters minds at the time. This meant we could explore many of the themes of the work –gender dynamics, peer pressure, sexual consent, family tension – from inside realistic illustrations of how these manifest in behavior. Some highlights of this were the complex dynamics of single gender friendship groups, what was going through the minds of the young men while they were assaulting Emma, how Emma’s father uses emotional blackmail to reinforce her decision to drop the charges.

We also looked at how characters’ lives were changed by the events of the play and again found quite a range of responses from those who thought e.g. Zoe would be 1/ glad that she could now “Take over Emma’s place as top girl.” to  “/ Zoe will be even more cowed by the knowledge her assailant, Dylan, has avoided prosecution for a second assault. It was in this section that the students really got to see the differences in their views.

There was quite a range of responses with the majority of students becoming more understanding and articulate about the circumstances that led to Emma’s choices and how she had been raped. Our touchstone was whether they saw Emma’s encounter with Paul at the party as consensual or not (Emma is plainly on drugs and asks him to wait which he ignores). Before the show this encounter separated out those who had considered the theme of consent in any depth from those who followed conventional option.

Generally the more depth of engagement with the story and characters resulted in a more sympathetic response to the play and more varied and satisfying discussion. One school was already putting on their own play about consent looking at an incident from different viewpoints and our work here became much more do do with teasing out the nuances of motivation in the subsidiary characters e.g. why the mother was drinking, or how the father was avoiding responsibility when asking Emma if she really wanted to drop the charges.  We were surprised to find in another school they still felt Emma had been “asking for it” because she had taken drugs and therefore implicitly consented. In this school there was less empathy for the characters and many of them talked about Emma as ‘a girl like that would’ indicating the distance they felt to her. The work here was harder because the students seemed entrenched in their positions and surprised and resistance to being asked to question them.

The most dramatic changed came with one all girls school who in the pre-show had felt Emma had encouraged Paul. By the end of the show and in the post show workshops they were clear that the sexual double standards evident in society and the lack of appropriate sex education in the field of content were unacceptable.

At the time of writing this we have two more schools to visit. One, a private male only boarding school, will offer the most challenging work as some of the pupils were already defensive and dismissive of the whole premise of the story, believing it to be unrealistic and diverting the debate with arguments that some women lie, men get raped too etc….we were specifically asked to work here by an existing teacher because they felt attitudes towards women needed to be challenged.

For follow on work we created a Study Pack with an analysis of the play and its themes but also extra ancillary material on the history of consent in Ireland, plans of the pre and post show workshops, blogs by students form Cork who’d seen the original production and an example of a homegrown consent workshops. We also asked the pack’s main author, critic and activist Saoirse Anton, to contribute an essay on the connection between consumer culture and rape culture.

What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?

Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

After speaking to Louise I had concerns about the work triggering traumatic experiences in the participants while remaining convinced it was essential young people be given a chance to engage with the issues directly; no amount of older generations talking about the topic of consent was going to make nearly as much difference as exploring it with their peers. I saw this clearly when attending a town hall meeting arranged by the Everyman Theatre and Land mark productions in Ballincollig where teacher Tim Burke arranged for his class to discuss the play with Louise O’Neil, Mary Crilly of the Cork Rape Crisis Centre. It was obvious the students previous discussions contributed to the depth and sympathy of their opinions as well as their intolerance of the lazy, self interested and vicious social forces that perpetuate rape culture.

So the visit of Tender UK was an eye opener about the depth of ignorance and indifference to young women’s agency they had encountered in schools already.  This prepared me for the casualness with which both young men and young women dismissed lead characters Emma’s behaviour as “asking for it”. It was still a challenge though especially when revisiting one inner city school after the play to find that many of the students opinions hadn’t changed and that “girls like that are half responsible”.

Methodologically all six schools proved so varied in responsiveness that we had to continually adapt our approach. This is more a highlight than a challenge because one of the pleasures of applied drama are those in-the-moment improvisations that help coax a non-responsive teenage into someone passionately arguing their point of view. It was also a pleasure to work closely with another facilitator, to be able to hand on to them and observe the different spin the took on what the young people were producing, to debrief and discuss afterwards and to have the space observe the students out of the main focus while your partner led.

All the groups became more responsive and engaged as the workshops went on, often prompting surprised teachers to exclaim how certain pupils were ‘coming out’ of themselves or asserting themselves more than usual. This may have been to do with the kinesthetic aspect of the work unlocking some student’s expressiveness ( a common enough result for applied drama) but also, especially with the young women, a reflection that the topic of gender inequality and consent was important enough to them to ‘raise their game’.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Seeing the play, which is very clear that the protagonist does not explicitly consent, wasn’t always enough to cut through the view that young women who take drugs, dress with sexual confidence and have sexual appetites must take responsibility if they are raped.

Every teacher we talked to was adamant their charges needed to be talking about this topic and as early in their school lives as possible.

There was one all boys schools that we were explicitly asked to visit because of the teachers’ concern about attitudes to women. The young men were indeed defensive and quick to offer counter examples of women lying about rape and we had to be clear the book and play of Asking For It are unequivocal in their depiction of an actual assault. The instinct to deflect the discussion then took an unusual route when they started to dismiss the story itself as unrealistic (“Those pictures would never have been left up there for so long”) and therefore not needing to be engaged with.

Despite having been worried, as mentioned previously, and prepared for the possibility that some participants might disclose that they had experienced assault the fast moving and generally fun nature of the workshops meant we never got to a space where this might have happened. We ensured that schools counsellors were aware of the work and many of them attended or kept in close communication. While the topics weren’t treated frivolously there was more a sense of the young people appreciated the respect shown by having them discuss them.

We were also worried that rules about reporting young people under 17 who revealed they had active sex lives would inhibit the discussion. This never happened and we managed to talk at length and in depth through the lens of the play and its characters without compromising any of the individuals involved.

Students Responses

‘The play had a huge effect on my awareness of my surroundings and really made me appreciate the life I have as the struggles portrayed in the play were devastating’. 

‘When the play was over it made me think how the word ‘rape’ is not being discussed as a problem. People are uneducated about the topic when they should’.

‘The play was very intense, the actors were very good at acting out their roles. By them doing this, it made the play very realistic’. 

Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?

A renewed enthusiasm to work with young people on ‘difficult’ topics.

A desire to continue to co-facilitate where resources allow.

A plan to use young people’s voice s more in the creation of study packs

Update from Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

Facilitator Johanna Webb and I returned to the all boys school and were told a third of the class were in Australia on a school trip and this meant our two workshops would be smaller.

This was a very different encounter with these privileged and, mainly, self-confident young men. Before, with larger groups of 20-25, the atmosphere had been alternately raucous and resistant with obvious leaders asserting their authority and more introverted personalities being muted by the sheer size and testosterone levels.

This time there wasn’t any possibility of hiding and Joanna and I chose to take a very candid approach in the hope it would create openness all round. We told them how concerned we had been at the previous workshops, how genuinely interested in their responses we were and how we appreciated the difficult position they were in (that they had little contact with young women and that they might feel attacked by the topics we were discussing). After moving through some responses obviously designed to give us what we wanted they started to actually say what they thought, prefaced with such remarks as ” I know this is an unpopular opinion but..” Once they saw they weren’t getting jumped on the whole workshop took off.

(My thanks here to Louise O’Neill who sent me an article about sex education in America which prompted us to focus more on these young men’s ignorance than their antagonism.)

We kept to our existing structure of exercises which explored the play ( walking around as different characters at different points in the story, making tableaux of significant moments) and the commitment was as mixed as any group but really these were just a springboard to keep discussing the themes of the play. Some preoccupations emerged – how culpable are you for your actions if you are drunk, how inhibited by convention the parents were, how over the top the lads were presented. The turning point was asking them, if were they Conor, would they take advantage of Emma’s offer to have sex in the second half of the play. Their outraged refusals introduced the idea of conscience and by the end of each workshop they had all agreed that really you always ‘know’ if you are overstepping the bounds of respect for another person’s autonomy regardless of how drunk you are.

The final exercise is choosing lines from the play (spread out on the floor in front of them) and talking about why they are significant. Several of these are from Emma when she is doubting her own position “e.g. Maybe I am a slut”. They were all clear this was an example of someone betraying themselves out of a desire to ‘get back to normal’. They also talked about their own fears of how to approach the whole area of sex and when two exchange students from France and Spain talked with obvious experience of having reflected on these topics you could see, past the odd embarrassed titter, that the Irish boys were impressed less at the achievement and more at the maturity. They all acknowledged the urge to brag about sexual conquests and how difficult it was to talk with the sensitivity they were displaying now when in the company of other young men. We did point out they were doing it there and then.

They came across as frightened, confused and tender-hearted, with no problem individually understanding Emma’s situation but also subject to a culture that made this empathy almost impossible to act upon. They seemed glad to have had the chance to talk openly and were noticeably more honest in the first workshop when we were left unsupervised for the last ten minutes.

Out of a possible 30 we only worked with 20 but these included the young man who’d previously called one of the characters ‘a pregnant bitch’ ( showing not only casual misogyny but a complete misunderstanding of the play) and another who’d been disruptively cynical. Both these behaviours disappeared quickly in the atmosphere of seriousness that the topics demanded. The teachers were amazed by how responsive some of the boys were but I wasn’t surprised that once they were listened to they re-discovered this sense of responsibility.

Before, after first visiting this school, I felt I’d seen the breeding ground for not only the rugby players in the Belfast rape trial but also the barristers who so calmly used their privileged education to spin the events to their clients’ advantage. Now I saw young men who could be advocates for more compassionate attitudes. So long as they resist the pack mentality.

Branar Téatar do Pháistí’s – Galway 2020

Dates: 2 – 29 March 2020

Sruth na Teanga: an adventure through the story of the Irish Language

As part of Galway 2020, Branar Téatar do Pháistí’s Sruth na Teanga is an epic and unique immersive theatre show that imaginatively tells the story of the evolution and life of the language. Branar will transform the terminal building of the old Galway Airport for a walk-through performance in which one class group of thirty pupils will enter at a time. Experience a true sense of adventure with cinematic levels of detail as you travel through four worlds experiencing live performance, puppetry, music, design and beautiful imagery. The children’s journey will culminate with an opportunity to explore a response room that will enhance and deepen their engagement with the show.

Branar’s world-class brand of storytelling will enchant audiences aged 8-plus and adults alike.

Tickets are €7 per child and teachers go free.

For further information and school bookings go to www.sruthnateanga.ie.

 

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children

Deadline: 4pm, Friday 12th July 2019  

Pathways to Production is an artist support programme led by Baboró, who has partnered with Druid, the Mick Lally Theatre, Branar Téatar do Phaistí, The Irish Theatre Institute (ITI) and Galway Theatre Festival, to support artists and young companies to develop their ideas with a view to presenting a full performance piece.

What GROW ‘Pathways to Production’ offers:

 

The exciting scheme involves workshops, sharing of works-in-progress with peers, as well as support in developing funding strategies. Baboró, Druid and the Mick Lally Theatre, Branar Téatar de Phaistí, The Irish Theatre Institute and Galway Theatre Festival will make our collective organisational experience and resources available to participants.

The Pathways to Production programme runs from October 2019 to October 2020.

Who is it for?

 

Deadline for submissions is 4pm, Friday 12th July 2019. 

For further information including the application guidelines and submission from go to www.baboro.ie/about/work/grow/pathways

 

 

The Ark

Dates: 5 & 6 July 2019

Enjoy participating in this joyful early years (ages 2-4) drama workshop about a beautiful imagined garden led by our The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence Joanna Parkes.

In this workshop, little ones will meet a king who loves spending time in his gorgeous garden surrounded by flowers, bees and butterflies.

One day he learns that other kings have wardrobes full of shiny cloaks and crowns so he buys himself a new cloak, and another, and another. Soon he has lots of dazzling cloaks of many colours but what about the garden? He has no money left to pay the gardeners and the garden is overgrown, the flowers are dying and the bees have gone.

Maybe you can make the King see sense and save his garden before it’s too late!

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together.

Dates & Times 

Friday 5 July at 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 6 July at 10.15am & 11.45am

For further information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-jul19

The Arts Education Research Group (TCD) and the Association for Drama in Education in Ireland (ADEI)

Dates: 9th & 10th March 2019

The School of Education in Trinity College will host an exciting international conference on drama and theatre in education on March 9th and 10th.
This is a timely event in today’s world, and explores the theme of the social and political in children’s and young people’s drama and theatre. This conference will be of interest to teachers, artists and anyone working at the cutting edge of drama, theatre, education, creative and cultural studies, arts education, sociology and social policy, political science and education, psychology, and related fields.

The conference features an impressive line-up of speakers who will explore the conference theme with reference to their own practices in different parts of the world. With subsidised rates available for attendees (€105,) and a bursary scheme available for full time students (€38 for the 2 day event).

For further information and booking go to www.tcd.ie/Education/Drama-Davis-Conference19/

Barnstorm Theatre Company

Dates: 6th – 9th of March 2019

School Shows: 10am & 12.30

Barnstorm Theatre Company is delighted to present its new production of ‘Boy with a Suitcase’ by Mike Kenny. Directed by Philip Hardy, the play deals with migration, focusing on the stories and cultural touchstones that sustain a young boy on his perilous journey to Ireland. The play has been written specifically for children aged 8-12 but is an interesting and thought-provoking piece that can be explored by all.

Like his hero, Sinbad the Sailor, who undertook many perilous voyages in search of his fortune, Naz must travel half-way around the world to reach the safety of his brother in Dublin. Naz teams up with Krysia, a young girl in similar circumstances, who helps him dodge soldiers and find safe passage over mountains, across seas and through the mire of a city slum.

A gripping tale of adventure and stories, Naz’s journey throws a spotlight on the real dangers faced by children in other parts of the world, and the lengths to which they must go to reach safety in the relative security of a country like Ireland.

A resource pack, developed in association with Ann Murtagh (Teacher/Tutor at Kilkenny Education Centre) , will be provided to participating teachers. The pack with provide a focus for exploration of the themes that arise throughout the play.

For more information or to obtain a resource pack, please contact Barnstorm Theatre at admin@barnstorm.ie, or call us on 056 7751266

Performances of Boy With a Suitcase will take place at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny from the 6th-9th of March.

Tickets are available online at watergatetheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873602052

 

The Ark

Dates: 28th February – 31st March

The Ark presents ‘PEAT’ the world premiere of a brand new theatre show for ages 8+ by Kate Heffernan. Directed by Tim Crouch.

Delivered with lightness and humour, this new play for children asks big questions about life, death, time and history. A conversation between two 11-year olds who find themselves standing on top of everything that has ever happened, it is a story of friendship, loss, and finding our place in the world. The production will be performed by Curtis Lee Ashqar and Kwaku Fortune. The creative team includes lighting by The Ark’s Franco Bistoni alongside set & costume design by Lian Bell and sound design by Slavek Kwi, two acclaimed artists making their debuts at The Ark. The Ark invited consultation with children at several junctures throughout the process. The childrens’ input, including input from The Ark’s Children’s Council, greatly influenced the direction of the piece and has been at the very heart of this production.

School Days
6th -29th March (Wednesday-Friday) @ 10.15am & 12.15pm. (No show Wednesday 20th March)

For more information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/peat

Imaginate

Deadline: 5pm 30th November

Valuing Young Audiences: Fully Funded PhD opportunity with Imaginate 

Imaginate is seeking prospective doctoral students to work with them on an AHRC-funded PHD exploring the value for children of experiencing live theatre and dance as audience members. This is an exciting new collaboration between Imaginate and the University of Aberdeen, as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities’s (SGSAH) Collaborative Doctoral Awards Programme. The PhD student will be supported to engage with children, parents and teachers on three Imaginate projects: Inspiring Schools, Theatre in Schools Scotland, and the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. The research will be supervised by Professor Amy Bryzgel (Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen), Dr Jo Vergunst (Anthropology, University of Aberdeen) and Imaginate’s Chief Exec Paul Fitzpatrick.

The successful applicant will work with the supervisory team to prepare a final proposal to SGSAH in February 2019, with notification in April. If successful the studentship will commence on 1 October 2019.

Imaginate warmly encourages applications from researchers with a background in the performing arts, arts-in-education or research on the value of the arts, but this is not a prerequisite.

For more details and to download the full details go to www.imaginate.org.uk/artists/opportunities/phd-opportunity-with-imaginate-fully-funded.

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.


Louis is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett make work for all ages and tour extensively both nationally and internationally. For Theatre Lovett he writes, composes and performs. Work includes They Called Her Vivaldi (Abbey Theatre, National tour, USA tour 2019), The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Dublin Theatre Festival 2015). Mr. Foley, The Radio Operator (national tour), A Feast of Bones (Dublin Theatre Festival, UK tour), The House that Jack Filled (Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish tour) and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly (Irish, US/AUSTRALIAN tours). Louis has also worked with The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Siren Productions, Performance Corporation, Barabbas and others.  Louis has also performed in and directed several productions at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children. Television & Film includes Moone Boy, Stella Days, Anseo, Killinascully, The Tudors, Showbands, Story Lane, The Morbegs and others.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.

 

Blog 4: FRNKNSTN

FRNKNSTN has come and gone, perhaps to return next year and tour. At Theatre Lovett, we were happy with our monstrous creation and relish the chance to play with its constituent parts again.  As with all shows, a future opportunity to remount a show will allow us to tweak and try improvements.

Most satisfying was the combination of the talents within our creative team. It was important to the project that our creative designers could meet and discuss the project on many occasions before rehearsals began with the director, writer and actor.

Preparation began a year previously with three weeks of development with director, writer, actor and lighting designer. This was followed by a further week and one public showing on the Peacock stage with the support of the Abbey Theatre.  This year, the full team had the opportunity to come together in the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray for two weeks of development in advance of rehearsals to explore our teams’ different specialities and approaches. Thank you to Niamh O Donnell and her team there.

Pay for preparation, for preparation pays.

Cajoling, coercing and corralling the creative team’s work alongside happily wrangling and wrestling with the writer and the solo actor required director Muireann Ahern to enter the arena and persevere for months. She held her nerve with some particularly tough calls along the way as she whittled this beast down to its beautiful, bony exterior.

Playing for your audience

Theatre Lovett’s Actor Training with a focus on playing for audiences Young and Older

Following on from FRNKNSTN, and now in its eighth year, Theatre Lovett have just completed another two weeks of our Actor Training course ‘Playing for your Audience.’ Working in the Gate Theatre Studio, the participating actors also had the experience of presenting aspects of the work to students from two local primary schools from the Gate Theatre stage.

This live experience is integral to the week. Here, on the fourth day of the week, the actors have a chance to put into practise, before that young audience, techniques newly acquired. Freshly minted. Hard to grasp and not yet understood.

The only stories, stimulated by the movement of several beings in a space aware of and silently responding to one another. (Plenty of story detail is provided by the individual imaginations of audience members). No script, no story but a structure and techniques, techniques centred around connection, clarity and simplicity.

Eyes (and ears) for each other and for your audience. Breathe. Make the person next to you shine. Thrown into the real experience of having no prescribed ‘material’ and yet ‘presenting’ themselves to an audience of expectant, eager children, the eye contact between these actors who met each other for the first time four days ago undergoes a resonant transformation. “I am here for you.” “I am as lost as you are.” “What happens next?” “Not sure. Let’s find it together.” Their connection deepens.

To negotiate the space with fifteen other actors, to maintain the engagement of this active audience, to search for the next moment, find it… together, allow it to live and then the next and the next and to continue to engage this audience and together bring it to a close… this requires us to slow down with calm, focused energy. Our energy is the audience’s energy. Not the other way around. Slowly, the actors approach clarity and the audience sees the pictures we make.

Sixteen or so actors sing together a song in a language newly learned. “What’s the next line?” “When do we breathe?” “Do we start now?” “Is this right?” “I think it’s completely wrong” “Keep going.” “Together.” The actors look at each other. Watch each other’s breathing, eyes and mouths, conduct each other through these signals. Not with gestures or hand signals, no pictures of anxiety, no unnecessary movement. Keep it simple. Do the simple thing. Breathe and sing. Together. The children are there for them.

I will not go into the techniques used here. That requires a little time and an audience. Underlying the week is the credo that we are playing for our audience. Take care of our audience, young and older. Do not cause them anxiety. Allow them fully relax in order to be fully engaged. They should sense that they’re in good hands. Easier said than done.

For more information www.theatrelovett.com/training

Copyright
Louis Lovett 2018

Jessica O’ Brien is a 16 year old student and aspiring writer from Cork. As part of the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre, she along with eight other young people wrote and staged plays in The Everyman as part of the Midsummer Festival in 2018. She is currently writing her first book and hopes to have a career in writing novels or journalism.

Why I Write – Blog 3

I write for a reason, though I know that most of it is just instinct. Since I was a kid I would fill these hardbacks with creative writing and acrostic poems and I would fill my suitcases with my favourite books for the summer holidays – to the despair of my Mom. (my case was always overweight)  I distinctly remember the first Young Adult novel I read, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, and immediately being hooked. I couldn’t get enough of these characters and worlds that were realistic, these people I wanted to be friends with. Within two years my room was unrecognisable, with massive shelves to facilitate my little library.

When I started studying for the Junior Cert I was taught to read and look at other forms of art critically. I am very grateful for the English class, classmates and teacher I had. Instead of just spewing out whatever Ithought was good, I took criticism from others. I listened to the other girls and realised I could be as good at writing answers as them if I tried. It was then I realised just how much I loved writing. I loved being able to start writing and forgetting about where I was and having that right word come to me. Suddenly I was in love with cinematography, the meaning behind words and I began to read and write differently. Now I couldn’t just read any YA book, I would scan the fonts and blurbs and as I read, I would add things to my mental list of what I liked or disliked. My journals became a source of comfort, and they still remain so.

But as I have gotten older and learned more about myself and the world, I realised that I had never truly been able to find myself in a book. There is such a lack of diversity, there are so many cliche stories with happy endings and straight romances and I got tired. One day I was walking home from the bookshop with my Dad and he asked me what the books I had bought were about. I explained, and I guess he was surprised because the books had strong themes in them. ‘I thought you read to escape reality,’ he said, with his bag of crime novels. ‘I guess I write to help change my reality,’ I thought.

I write because I can’t not write. I write to tell people what I can’t say or to get my feelings out on paper. My journals are almost like scrapbooks in a way. But most importantly, I now write because I have stories I need to tell. There are people in the LGBT community like me who’s story never gets told. People of colour. Different religion. Disabilities. Those love stories that don’t work out and real life teenager scenarios. We are all hot messes. It is so much nicer to read a book and relate to it rather than read a book and strive to be like it.

I write for myself, and everyone who ever deserved a voice. One day, maybe I’ll be scrutinising the YA section and I’ll see my own name there. That’s the dream I have for this reality.

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.


Louis is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett make work for all ages and tour extensively both nationally and internationally. For Theatre Lovett he writes, composes and performs. Work includes They Called Her Vivaldi (Abbey Theatre, National tour, USA tour 2019), The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Dublin Theatre Festival 2015). Mr. Foley, The Radio Operator (national tour), A Feast of Bones (Dublin Theatre Festival, UK tour), The House that Jack Filled (Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish tour) and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly (Irish, US/AUSTRALIAN tours). Louis has also worked with The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Siren Productions, Performance Corporation, Barabbas and others.  Louis has also performed in and directed several productions at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children. Television & Film includes Moone Boy, Stella Days, Anseo, Killinascully, The Tudors, Showbands, Story Lane, The Morbegs and others.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.

 

Blog 3: Theatre Lovett in the Rehearsal Room

Into week two proper of FRNKNSTN rehearsals. The focus in the creative space at present is on unlocking the gate way between the words of Michael West’s script and the actor’s physical, vocal and spiritual interpretation. Director Muireann Ahern, stage manager Clare Howe and actor Louis Lovett set up stall in a creative marketplace where ideas are unloaded, laid out, prodded for texture, freshness, flavour, tried out for size, weighed, assessed, refused, balked at, laughed at (in a bad way), laughed at (in good way), and once or twice a day, but usually just once, a string of ideas are spooled out in an order sufficient to please and perhaps, for a critical second, to impress. These ones are marked down for memory and promptly asked to take one more twirl around the room, and again and again. If they stand up to scrutiny and pass muster after repetition, then they are stamped for approval and requested to present for duty the next day to undergo the same drill again. Mr. Lovett accepts the challenge on their behalf. They will then be pushed for improvement. This string of ideas might comprise one short section of one scene whereby these firm, fresh ideas might be leaned upon to point the way forward and assess the way we have come so far.

These ideas are the precious gifts we intend laying at the precious feet of our fine audience. It is essential that they are the best we have to offer. Their providence is obscure in parts, clearly archived in others. Some are like midges on a summer’s evening that have become tangled in our hair for no reason but pure chance that we had decided to cycle in the park. But now we’re overdoing it…

Time hurtles towards tech week and first audiences. Our rehearsal time, our time strolling (racing!) the aisles of our ideas market is being whittled away. Always other demands pull us from the business of ideas.

Muireann Ahern directs and Louis Lovett performs in Theatre Lovett’s next production of FRNKNSTN by Michael West, a modern mutation of Mary  Shelley’s classic novel FRANKENSTEIN at The Abbey Theatre. This daring adaptation re-imagines Victor Frankenstein as a gene-splicing molecular biologist who creates human life from his own DNA with catastrophic results. Speaking from a holding cell, Frankenstein is desperate to set the record straight. A modern ghost story and psychological thriller, this version of Frankenstein aims to chill us with the darkness we hold within our DNA — and our hearts. Age Guidance: Not suitable for under 16s, www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/frankenstein/

Jessica O’ Brien is a 16 year old student and aspiring writer from Cork. As part of the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre, she along with eight other young people wrote and staged plays in The Everyman as part of the Midsummer Festival in 2018. She is currently writing her first book and hopes to have a career in writing novels or journalism.

Let Creativity STEM – Blog 1

All my life I have been aware of what subjects defined me as ‘intelligent’ and what made me ‘subordinate’ by the education system.

Since I made the jump from primary school to secondary school I have become increasingly aware of the differences between myself and the students who excel in STEM subjects. It’s pretty clear what careers are portrayed as sensible, high intelligence careers, as careers in the arts are simply never discussed. STEM subjects include science, technology, engineering and mathematics- and recently I have noticed what a huge effort is being made to promote careers in these subjects, especially as my school is all female. We have been visited by countless representatives encouraging us to begin a career in a STEM subject and we have had several different weeks in school dedicated to science and maths. I believe this is hugely positive and will inspire us girls with the message that we too can hold positions of power in careers dedicated to these subjects- but I do think that those who are genuinely not interested in these subjects are being tossed aside.

Despite science being a choice in my school, I am constantly made to feel like it was never my choice to drop it. There have never been weeks dedicated to the students that excel in the arts. Yes, there are classes available, but they were hard fought for and aren’t treated as important by those who don’t participate in them. I spoke to my art teacher at an open night once, and she told me that parents would approach her, and ask her if ‘art was really that hard.’  My music teachers have only recently been given time slots for practicing for our carol service that is one of the biggest events on our school calendar. This would never happen with any other subjects. I was at a meeting being on our school’s magazine team. Our teacher didn’t show up to the meeting, which was a regular occurrence, but we decided we were going to power through on our own and show the school what we could do. But that couldn’t happen now. We were told the school didn’t have the funding for the 6 extra pages we wanted to produce. Yet our school bank gets hundreds to rent in famous guests to hype up their work. Our school has an annual run to pay for a new running track for sport. Our science labs are always stocked for experiments and our art classrooms are used as supply cabinets whenever people need to make posters. If you want to work hard in schools in a subject to do with the arts, you are pretty much on your own. I feel that the way people who work hard in these creative subjects are treated is really offensive. Music, art, and all other creatively based subjects are also fulfilling and big earning careers. The world needs them just as much as it needs scientists and engineers. Would you turn around to a world famous actor and chastise them for not becoming a mathematician?

Jessica was a participant in the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre which was a recipient of the Arts in Education Portal 2018 Documentation Award.

 

 

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 4: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects to tell our story through the medium of a museum. Its subject is the lives of students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In my last blog post I detailed how I worked with a group of first year CSPE students and asked them to invest in the stories behind their rights – and learn about their rights in reality.

In our next session, I presented a simple everyday object to the group – I used a shoe. I like to gather the participants around the object in a circle. First I asked them to make objective observations: what can we say for certain just by looking at it? For example; “it’s a shoe”, “it’s got white laces”, “it’s black” “there’s dirt on it”. I kept this going, correcting them if they brought in any subjective observations (eg. “They look like they’ve been used to go running” or “They’re ugly”). Keep it to the facts that you can tell just by looking.

Once I’d just about exhausted this, I asked them to make subjective observations. I prompted them; who might have owned these shoes? What might they have used them for? Did they value them? And with each answer, I asked them to support their claim with evidence that they can see.

Then I placed the shoes on a raised platform (I used a bin but asked them to imagine it was a plinth in a museum!) and I asked them if that changed the way they saw it? Did it make it seem more important? Why? What could possibly be so important about this pair of shoes that they would be in a museum? I asked them to imagine that there was a label on it that said “Plastic and canvas shoes. Shoe size 5. 2017. Syria.” and then I asked them what they thought of them then. What would they think about the story of these shoes and who wore them?

I put the shoes away and then put another object on our “plinth”. This one was of personal importance to me – a pair of cufflinks displayed in their box. But I didn’t tell the participants anything about them yet. Again I asked them to make objective observations, then subjective observations (“is this important to the owner? Why do you say that?” “Are these expensive? Why do you say that?” “When were they made?” etc.) I then told them what they were, the story behind them and why they were important to me. Then I asked them all to bring in an object that was important to them, look at their UNHCR which we’d been working on, and relate what was important to them about the object back to an article in the charter.

Now we were facing the task of putting together an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. Our questions for this were; how do we represent the work and the participants’ learning in that space for members of the public to see? And how do we invite the public to actively engage with the ideas within it?

We decided to keep it simple; we photographed all the participants with their chosen object and asked them why it was important to them and what right(s) it related to. We then got Sarah Moloney, a graphic designer (although this could have been done by me or someone who had time to learn Photoshop) to lay out the photographs with quotations from the students laid over the image, along with the text from the UNCRC that were relevant. Each of these was printed on A2 card and was displayed on the walls of the exhibitions space. This allowed all of the students who had taken part to be represented in the exhibition.

There were three large windows in the space; the middle one we printed the text of the UNCRC and on the two sides windows we wrote “What would be in your Rights Museum?” and invited the public to write on the windows in liquid chalk pens which we provided. This allowed the public to actively engage in the ideas that the Right Museum was provoking.

The Museum kindly lent us a display case, for which I chose eight objects that were representative of the whole group, to be displayed for the duration of the exhibition. This was the centre piece of the Rights Museum and showed the seemingly everyday objects, contributed by young citizens, enjoying the prestige and equal importance that is given to the treasured objects in the National Museum’s collection.

The power of this statement seemed to resonate with those we told about it and we had an enthusiastic response to our invitation to the opening of the exhibition. The opening was attended by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Director of the National Museum Raghnall Ó Floinn and the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon, as well as national media including RTE news and the Irish Times. Two students from Larkin Community College, Ciarán Hayden and Isabella Anthony, spoke about their experience of the process at the podium, alongside the Minister, Director, and Ombudsman for Children. A number of students led guided interpretive tours of the exhibition for our guests.

I’d count among the Rights Museums successes; the way that it was able to facilitate learning about children’s rights in an active and personal way, that it succeeded in placing, on equal footing, the objects and stories of the young people alongside the artefacts of the National Museum, and the wide reach that the Rights Museum had to the public, through the media and from those who visited it.

The main challenges were in finding time and space with the young people to work in a way that was outside of the curriculum – although there are important curricular subjects being addressed. I am eternally grateful to the staff of Larkin, particularly Máire O’Higgins for facilitating that. Another challenge I found was a lack of understanding, of and buy-in to, the idea of human rights by the young people that I worked with. I picked up on a prevailing perception, before I started working with them, that human rights were a

My takeaways from this projects are many but the main ones that jump to mind

1. That artists have a different approach to working that the students can benefit from that perspective. The artists way is often a more circuitous, process and enquiry based approach than students are used to in mainstream education. It’s one that’s comfortable with the state of ambiguity you find yourself in while you’re working, one that allows one to say “I don’t know what this is yet” and for that not to be a bad thing. That’s not to say artists are the only people who can demonstrate that way of working, but it is something that artists can do because of the way many of us work.

2. That as an artist working in a school, it’s important that that’s what I remain – an artist. My job is to be an artist, not an Art or CSPE teacher or anything else. The job is artist and that has value.

3. That the framing of work by young people has a profound impact on how it’s perceived by people, but most importantly themselves. The way their work (whether it be a copy book, or a sculpture or a story told in class) is handled by the people in the world around them, subconsciously tells them something about it’s value. And my feeling is there is a huge artistic and social potential in subverting expectations of that value – as we did in small way by displaying “ordinary” objects in a museum.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has commissioned an education pack that features a guide on how to create your own rights museum in your school or community, and it will be available from their website in the autumn 2018 term.

If I may, I’d like to thank the Arts in Education portal for offering me this chance to share the process; Rebecca Mclaughlin and Niall Muldoon in the OCO for their support and vision in making this happen; Helen Beaumont and Lorraine Cormer in the National Museum’s Education Department for all that they did in hosting the exhibition, giving it a platform and providing expert facilitation on museum curation to the students; Richard Bruton for officially opening the exhibition; the students at Larkin Community College, and staff Siobhán Mckenzie, Declan Quinn, Emma O’Reilly, and Principal Thomas Usher. In particular I would like to thank Assistant Principal Máire O’Higgins, without whose drive, vision and passion for education and art, this wouldn’t have started and would have fallen at the first hurdle.

 

The Arts in Education Portal Documentation Award recipient project, the Young Playwright’s Programme, culminated on Friday, June 22nd in a presentation of staged readings involving professional actors and directors at the Everyman as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival and in association with Landmark Productions and The Everyman’s staging of Louise O’Neill’s award winning novel Asking For It.

Between January and June 2018, the nine young playwrights selected over a series of Saturday workshops, had the the opportunity to work with  professional playwright mentors John McCarthy and Katie Holly at Graffiti Theatre Company as part of Fighting Words Cork to help them create the short dramatic pieces that were staged last week.  In addition, the young playwrights were invited by The Everyman to attend selected performances throughout the programme, to inspire and inform their work.

Award-winning Cork author Louise O’Neill is a patron of Fighting Words Cork, and Asking For It has been described as “one of the most important books for young people ever written. Deeply moving, incredibly written.”

The Fighting Words programme was developed by Roddy Doyle and Séan Love in 2009 in Dublin to provide a space to support creative writing among children and young adults. In January 2017 the programme was launched at Graffiti Theatre Company.

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.

She will next direct Theatre Lovett’s production of FRNKNSTN at the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com

Blog 2: Muireann Ahern, Joint Artistic Director Theatre Lovett

As we hurtle towards another new production with a new creative team and endless days of rehearsing, ‘teching’, and sweating the small stuff (each and every grain of it), I ask myself again why do we do what we do? Why do we need theatre at all? Do we need to create meaning through stories? Whether a child or an adult? The oldest of societies have had theatre-like rituals where meaning has been communicated through story. I do believe theatre can give children an arena to stimulate creative paths within their growing brains, paths on which they might meet themselves coming and going, carrying new skillsets with which to enhance their understanding of the world. And perhaps change it too.

The live exchange of theatre is increasingly important as children are more and more ‘face down in screen mode’. However, let us not demand their attention. As audience members, they have the right to switch off and tune out if they so desire. Also, if they are engaged by the piece, let’s gift them the choice to be alone in their experience or to share it with fellow audience members and like wise with their connection with the onstage players.  As theatre-makers we hope our work will attract and hold their attention and win their engagement. Of course, we hope and work hard for this but again, let’s not force the issue. We concentrate on ensuring that what we create for the stage is different each time. And we hope – full of moments of wonder, skill and surprise. Our audiences might be wowed by the work asking themselves “How did they do that?” The “Why?” can come later but for now “How?” is good. It rhymes with “wow”.

Let us hope that children and young people, whether on an outing with their class or with their families, can come to think of the theatre space as a place separate from expected outcomes. Rather, let it be different to their norms. Different from the classroom or kitchen. Different possibilities emanating from the actions of the players up there on the stage. Different synapses firing in different parts of the brain. Different outlooks on a world that, once we leave the theatre, might look different.

Playing for your Audience

There are many fine theatre artists working today with a focus on children and young people. Younger theatre-makers are turning their heads towards work for children too. More people becoming involved is a good thing.  When we invite artists from the ‘adult theatre world’ to bring their craft to work for young audiences or introduce younger practitioners to this audience, we must ensure they are supported in the process. If misguided or misdirected both audience and artists can end up at sea or up the proverbial creek. Most important here is accuracy in terms of the age pitch of a theatre piece.

At Theatre Lovett, we run our actor training courses entitled Playing for your Audience. Our underpinning philosophy is to encourage actors to address where their egos are in this process. Walk hand in hand with your ego, bring it with you, leave it at the door, teach it to “Sit!”. Yes, like puppy training for the Ego. Give it a cuddle but remember who’s the boss.  In our training, we focus on ‘making the person next to you shine’ and strive to create work that will shine from the stage.

Happily, we have a healthy interest from artists, with all levels of experience, wishing to participate. There is definitely a growing desire to know more about this area. I love to see actors bridging the divide between playing for young audiences and playing for adults. It is, however, a particular joy to find actors who are at ease interacting with their audience and who are at ease with what children might offer them during performance. It concerns knowing when to engage and when not to, yet at all times with that lovely sense that every child’s offering is wholly, yet subtly, embraced. My Co-Artistic Director, Louis Lovett, is known for this kind of interaction. He has a real desire to upskill other actors in this area. He surfs his audience beautifully and his audiences are rarely left unheard or with their contribution left hanging in the air. This is a very skilful thing to be able to do effectively and as a director, this is a very satisfying component of the shows I direct (thanks to the actors’ skills). There is a whole methodology behind if or when an actor acknowledges or includes offers that come spontaneously from a young audience. To be able to do so, without putting the brakes on the momentum of the show, is what can really set theatre for children apart from the grown-up variety.

Muireann will direct Theatre Lovett’s next production of FRNKNSTN an adaptation of Mary  Shelley’s classic novel FRANKENSTEIN at The Abbey Theatre. Pitched at 16+ https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/frankenstein/

The Young Playwright’s Programme

Date: 2pm 22nd June, 2018

The Arts in Education Portal Documentation Award recipient project the Young Playwright’s Programme to showcase at The Everyman as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival.

The Young Playwrights’ Programme brought together nine aspiring young writers to develop and hone scriptwriting skills, supported by professional playwright mentors John McCarthy and Katie Holly at Graffiti Theatre Company as part of Fighting Words Cork.

The project culminates in a presentation of their work as staged readings at the Everyman for Cork Midsummer Festival. The process which these young people have engaged with was truly transformative, far more powerful than the simple assembly of words on pages. This enriching collaborative environment has acted as a catalyst for the unique voices of the Young Playwrights and led to the creation of these nine compelling pieces.

Graffiti/Fighting Words Cork are really proud to be working with these wonderful young people in collaboration with The Everyman, Landmark Productions and The Cork Midsummer Festival as part of a programme of events in connection with Asking For It funded through the Arts Councils Open Call Awards.

This event is free but ticketed.

To RSVP you can just call the Everyman box office at 021 450 1673 or emailing info@everymancork.com

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.

She will next direct Theatre Lovett’s production of FRNKNSTN at the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage.

Louis is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett make work for all ages and tour extensively both nationally and internationally. For Theatre Lovett he writes, composes and performs. Work includes They Called Her Vivaldi (Abbey Theatre, National tour, USA tour 2019), The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Dublin Theatre Festival 2015). Mr. Foley, The Radio Operator (national tour), A Feast of Bones (Dublin Theatre Festival, UK tour), The House that Jack Filled (Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish tour) and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly (Irish, US/AUSTRALIAN tours). Louis has also worked with The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Siren Productions, Performance Corporation, Barabbas and others.  Louis has also performed in and directed several productions at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children. Television & Film includes Moone BoyStella Days, Anseo, Killinascully, The Tudors, Showbands, Story Lane, The Morbegs and others.

He will next appear on the Peacock stage in Theatre Lovett’s production of FRNKNSTN.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.re Awards 2017.  If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.

The Theatre Lovett Process – Blog 1

At Theatre Lovett we are acutely aware of the tone of our own shows. All too often, in our opinion, the tragedy part for children is ignored. Our menu covers comedy and tragedy. But it is a skilful expedition to take children to darker places and then bring them back again unscathed and, hopefully, exhilarated. We hope that our chosen material and staging will stretch our audiences.  It need not be a replication of what they already know and have a handle on. We hope never to underestimate a child’s capacity.

Happily, we see less and less of the default, high-octane, kiddy-theatre actor with unbridled energy bounding onto the stage in brightly coloured clothing. This often misplaced energy is a bit like giving children a sugar overload before the main meal. Deep down, let’s be honest, we know it’s not terribly good for them.

If we had a penny for every time we’ve heard: ‘Oh, they’re a tough audience, they’re very honest, and they’ll tell you exactly what they think’. Contrary to popular belief, and what we have found is that children do not always tell you what they think. They are, for the most part, quite polite. After the show, they will also tell you what they think you want to hear. Especially, if you’re waving a feedback form under their nose and stand between them and the exit/lunch/playtime/home.

What should children get from theatre, we ask ourselves? What any adults strives to get – a good day out, hopefully. Or hour. And that experience might be funny, insightful, provocative, moving or challenging. However, there is often a belief that children must learn something. Muireann is with Brecht who says “all good theatre is educational” if it opens up some new understanding. Simply because the adults in their lives have gone to the trouble of taking them to the theatre does not mean that the children have to be wowed by the piece. Heavens to Murgatroyd, Batman! it might not be any good. As with adults, children have the right to discard a theatre experience from their memory as soon as they exit the auditorium. It might be the wisest move. Let’s not doorstep them as they leave with questionnaires about their ‘favourite parts’ or ‘the best bits’. Who is this kind of questioning for, really? For Theatre Lovett, those moments after we leave the theatre are some of the most important moments in the whole experience. Give it breathing space, allow it to land or not to land. Give the children space to process.

Sometimes in the latter stages of rehearsal we will invite an audience in to see the work in progress. A Questions and Answers session afterwards helps us measure our rates of success or failure in audience engagement.  Louis will often get things underway with:

“So, there were some really boring bits in that show, weren’t there? Can you remember any of the particularly boring parts?” And off we go. Try it. It can be enlightening.

Scarily enlightening.

University College Cork

Date: 25th May, 2018

Performative Pathways between Schools, Universities and the Wider Community

The invited speakers will offer their perspectives on why theatre should be introduced and established as a subject in primary and secondary schools, why universities should embrace performativity within and across academic disciplines, and why leading theatres should continue to embrace and increase their outreach activities and aspire to employ theatre education specialists. The symposium should be of special interest to those who aim to form stronger links between theatre and education, including teachers, lecturers, theatre students, directors of theatres and theatre companies, applied theatre practitioners and policy makers.

Symposium organisation: Manfred Schewe and Fionn Woodhouse, Department of Theatre, School of Music & Theatre, UCC

Venue: Creative Zone, Boole Library, Main Campus, University College Cork

Date & Time: 25th May 2018 (12 a.m. to 4.30 pm.) – attendance free of charge, please confirm by May 24th

For more information go to www.ucc.ie/en/music-theatre/drama/news/theatre-connects-symposium.html

 

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 3: Rights Museum

In my last blog post I detailed “Phase 1” of the process in which I facilitated drama and storytelling workshops with the 2nd year Art students at Larkin Community College, and the work-in-progress of the Rights Museum project which we presented in Croke Park for the OCO’s UNCRC25 Launch.

Although the presentation in Croke Park was supposed to be a “work-in-progress”, any readers who have done works-in-progress themselves will know there’s an inevitable sense of completion that sets in afterwards. Our challenge for “Phase 2” of the Rights Museum project was finding something new in executing the same idea. At the same time, the Art teachers Declan Quinn and Siobhán Mackenzie (who had been an essential energetic and creative force through the process from the beginning) started to feel the gravitational pull of the curriculum on their time, and thought that to continue with the process would be consume more time than they could afford to give. So, it was with some difficulty that we decided to draw a line under the phase 1 with the second year art students. This, I’m sure is a challenge and a decision many educators reading this will understand.

In order to continue, Máire O’Higgins, Deputy Principal and coordinator of artistic partnerships, needed to find an enthusiastic teacher and a group students who could benefit from the work. This she found in abundance in Emma O’Reilly and her first year CSPE class.

The task now was to recreate the process of phase one with a new group. This time, given that they were a CSPE class, we decided to find our way in through the UNCRC. Emma O’Reilly gave an introduction class to the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, supported by me and Máire O’Higgins. Human Rights is one of the core pillar concepts of their CSPE course which they would normally cover in second year, so there was a curricular link there.

In our next session we asked the students to pick what they considered to be the most essential article in the UNCRC and to say why. We found their answers tended to cluster around the articles relating to family (and this was a theme we saw bare out in the objects they chose for the museum later). As the students told us which articles they thought were essential , my job as facilitator was to foment debate and dissent.

I used an exercise called “The Continuum” in which we cleared away the tables and chairs, nominated one end of the room to be “strongly agree” and the other side to be “strongly disagree” with “unsure” in the middle. When I said a statement, the students had to place themselves in the room, depending on how they felt about the statement. So, for example I might say “’Article 24; you have the right to healthcare’ is the most essential right” and the students would place themselves in the room depending on whether they agreed or strongly disagreed or somewhere in the middle. Then I would call on people who had taken the most extreme positions to say why. As they listened to the conversation and opposing points, students were encouraged to change their positions in the room as they changed their minds.

In this way, the students learned, from each other, the importance of their rights through the personal anecdotes they shared; they learned about their rights in reality. Choosing extreme statements to polarise opinion at the start and then allowing them to tease out the nuances among themselves.

In my next, and final, blog post I’ll describe how we applied this knowledge to museum curation; how one can tell stories and create meaning through selecting  and placing objects. I’ll describe the process of working with the National Museum of Ireland, the launch of our completed Rights Museum exhibition in the National Museum at Collins Barracks and the Education Pack being commissioned by the OCO based on the Rights Museum.

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 2: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In the last post I described the beginnings of the project idea and the partners who came together to make in happen; Larkin Community College, The Ombudsman for Children’s Office and the National Museum of Ireland.

I began work on “Phase 1” of the project in September 2017 with two second-year Art classes, along with teachers Siobhán McKenzie and Declan Quinn. I facilitated four weekly hour-long workshops  on Wednesday afternoons outside of class time. I also worked with the students in their art classes with their teachers.

The workshops used drama and storytelling techniques to three main aims; to surprise and entertain, to get them cooperating as a group, not just individuals; and to introduce new forms of self-expression. That work included a simple ball throwing and catching exercise (acknowledging the stress that it causes, allowing ourselves to drop the ball, and focussing on the thing that mattered; that we were all working together calmly to the get the ball around the circle). We also stood in a circle and played what I call “Kung Foo” (of which there’s many variations including “zip, zap, boing”) We also played a game in which 5 participants sit in a row, and then take turns standing up and saying “My name is X” followed by something that’s true. The aim is to always have someone standing and sating something, to act on the impulse to fill a gap where it occurs and to say anything that’s true, however mundane, that come into your head. This exercise allows for back-and-forth conversations to emerge, (eg. “My name is Dan and I have two brothers” followed by “My name is Stacy and I also have two brothers”) and for the participants to get to know each other better and have a way of expressing themselves through the exercise.

In two Art classes a week, I focussed more directly on the task of creating a Rights Museum. That time was devoted to introducing the concepts of the UNCRC (supported by a workshop delivered by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office) and a focus on objects and what story they can tell (supported by a “If Objects Can Talk” workshop in National Museum of Ireland).

The students were asked to pick an object that was meaningful to them and to bring it in to class.

They were asked to “free-write” about it.

They were asked to stand up and share why it was meaningful to them and what articles in the UNCRC it referred to.

This process lead the students to share among the following objects with their class:

In their other session each week, Ms McKenzie’s class divided into 4 groups. Each group took a theme of the UNCRC and created a large mind-map illustrating that theme and the rights that it represented. Mr Quinn’s class also divided into 4 groups and created interactive paper fortune tellers which illustrated the four themes.

The culmination of phase 1 was a work-in-progress presentation of the Rights Museum took place in Croke Park as part of the OCO’s launch of the UNCRC25 celebrations in September 2017. It featured :

The participants reported their surprise and delight at how their objects and artwork were displayed just like in a professional museum. They also reported experiencing a thrill at seeing other people coming to view their objects and read their writing, and a great sense of achievement in what they’d produced.

The work-in-progress was intended to mark the end of phase 1 and the beginning of another, but we were soon to discover that it had the sense of an ending in and of itself. For phase 2 of the work, we would be starting again with a new set of students and finding a way to join the work that both groups had done.
 

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 1: Rights Museum

Can our objects tell us about the state of our rights?

Can they show our rights upheld? The rights we’re denied?

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

The project is led by me, in my capacity as Director of Collapsing Horse. I am an artist, a producer, director and writer for theatre. Collapsing Horse is a theatre and festival production company that makes work that arises out of collaboration and purposeful play. Sometimes the work we make is for and with young people.

It originated when I was approached by Máire O’Higgins, Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College and asked if I would be interested in working with the students there, if I had an idea of what I would do. She described examples of some of the remarkable work that had been created by the students with professional artists. I was familiar with Larkin from work I had done there with the Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department and had admired the school’s commitment to the arts as a key part of the holistic development of their students. This commitment is upheld in the face of frequent adversity. Máire made no bones about it – Larkin is a school that is on the front lines of a community that has experienced generations of lack of opportunity and neglect.

Around about the same time Rebecca McLaughlin, from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), approached me with the idea of collaborating on something for the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the UNCRC. It seemed serendipitous! It was obvious to put the two ideas together – I would lead the Rights Museum project in Larkin Community College, which would also serve as pilot programme that could be written about in an education pack and replicated in other schools and communities for the OCO’s 25th Anniversary celebrations. Later, the National Museum of Ireland came on board as enthusiastic supporters, making it clear they would help in whatever way we could.

The goal from the outset was clear. We would empower a group of young people to create an exhibition illustrating their experience of their rights enshrined in the UNCRC. What wasn’t clear, was how we were going to do it.

The Ark

Date: Saturday 10th March

Teachers are invited to enjoy a morning exploring a range of simple and accessible drama processes for the classroom using the Irish language. Using The Ark’s season theme of Me & the City and aspects of the primary curriculum as a bouncing off point, you will have the chance to develop confidence and skills in working thematically through drama in Irish. The workshop will focus on activities suitable for 2nd-6th class. It will be presented bilingually and is suitable for teachers at all levels of confidence in working through Irish.

Saturday 10 March @ 10:30 am to 1.30pm

For more information go to www.ark.ie/events/view/cpd-for-teachers-drama-sa-seomra-ranga-drama-in-the-classroom

The Civic Theatre, Tallaght

Schools Performances – Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Original plays, written by 15/16 year old playwrights, provide a unique glimpse into the world of our young people; articulating their experience and their reality.

TENDERFOOT, meaning neophyte, newbie, greenhorn, is The Civic Theatre’s apprentice theatre programme for transition year students.  Now in its eleventh year the programme provides students from eight different schools in the South County Dublin region the opportunity to create and perform original work for the stage. From January 25th to 27th this work can be seen in The Civic Theatre.  Plays written by young people, telling their stories, presenting the world as they see it.  These diverse and exciting plays, the work of young theatre makers, include –

The End of the Beginning by Tadhg Slye, an exploration of male friendship in a world of exams and first girlfriends and exploding toasters.

Plastic by Jordan Lee, a supernatural chiller guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat.

Seaside Story by Aidan Kelly, a comedy about families, holidays and global warming.

And Just for the Cracked by Chloe O’Flaherty which takes a fly on the wall look at a group of young people who find their friend unconscious and unresponsive at a party.

Tenderfoot Performances 2018

Schools Performances Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Admission €10 / €5 concession

Booking 01 4627477  www.civictheatre.ie/ whats-on/tenderfoot-new- writing-showcase-2018/

Roscommon Arts Centre 

This spring the Roscommon Arts Centre have planned a host of children’s events for families, schools and crèches to enjoy. We hope you will come along and join us in some fun!

Roadworks 

In 2016 theatre maker Paul Curley was awarded Roscommon Arts Centre’s “First Edition Commission” to create new work for young audiences as part of the Bookworms Festival and “Roadworks” was conceived. Since then, the production has enjoyed further periods of development with the support of Theatre Lovett and Irish Theatre Institute and this season, we are delighted to welcome it back home as a fully fledged show.

From the team that brought you BAKE! a brand new show is coming to town…and you’re invited to be amongst the first to see it. Designer Ger Clancy and performer Paul Curley present a work-in-progress of their innovative new theatre show for young audiences called ROADWORKS. In collaboration with theatre artist and director Andy Manley, with music by Jack Cawley and movement by Emma O’Kane, ROADWORKS digs up an exciting new telling of a very old tale. Mac the road engineer is digging at the crossroads until unexpectedly he finds a rare and beautiful artifact. Will he turn it in or will he keep it all for himself? A visual feast with road-signs, music and…..a wolf!

THURSDAY 18TH JANUARY | 10am & 12pm | Free Admission | Suitable for ages 4 – 7

The House of Oedipus – Roscommon County Youth Theatre

An epic Greek Tragedy following the story of one man’s family who are doomed from the beginning. Are pride and stubbornness the cause of Oedipus’ downfall or did he commit some unknown sin against the Gods? He committed a crime but did not know it was a crime, was he guilty? Bringing four Greek tragedies together, this full-length play brings us three generations, two countries, five kings, two plagues and one war.

THURSDAY 19th & FRIDAY 20th  | 11am | €6  & FRIDAY 20th & SATURDAY 21st APRIL | 8pm | €12/€10

U00, Mee, Weee – Baboró International Arts Festival for Children & Branar Téatar do Pháistí

Uoo and Mee walk the same, talk the same, do everything the same…until one day one of them decides to do something different!! This playful show explores what happens when things change in a humorous tale of finding your feet and having the courage to be different. This non verbal show is directed by Lali Morris & Marc Mac Lochlainn with original music score by Michael Chang.

WEDNESDAY 7th FEBRUARY | 10am & 12pm | €5 I Ages 3 – 6

White by Andy Manley – Catherine Wheels Theatre Company – Early Years Event     

Welcome to the beautifully strange world of White.  Full of birdsong and birdhouses, it gleams and dazzles and shines in the night.  Two friends look after the birds and make sure the eggs stay safe. We watch, we help.  The world is bright, ordered and white.  But high up in the trees, all is not white.  Colour appears.  First red… then yellow… then blue…White is a playful, highly visual show for little ones – a perfect first time theatre experience.

TUESDAY 27th FEBRUARY | 10am & 12pm | €5 I Ages 2 – 4 year olds

For more information and bookings go to www.roscommonartscentre.ie

Barnstorm Theatre Company

Wed 21st – Fri 23rd February 

Rooting through an old trunk, Barney and his dad find more than they bargained for and a few things that set them wondering. Who makes the rules? What happens if you break the rules? And who is the lady with the beard?

Join them as they spread their wings in this comic tale of forgotten memories and future possibilities.

Written by award-winning children’s writer Brendan Murray and directed by Martin Drury, founder of The Ark – A Cultural Centre for Children.

‘Barney Carey Gets His Wings’ is a world-premiere of a new play for children in 1st to 4th classes, their teachers and families.

2 teachers free per class.

For bookings contact Watergate Theatre at www.watergatetheatre.com

For further information go to www.barnstorm.ie

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children

1 – 4 February, 2018

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will host an exciting and imaginative programme of theatre and dance shows for babies and children aged 0 – 6 years, presented by Irish and international artists. Wide Eyes is a one-off four-day European celebration of Performing Arts for very young children that will take place in Galway from 1 – 4 February, 2018.

As well as an extensive workshop and performance programme for schools and early years groups, Wide Eyes will feature a range of talks and workshops for early years professionals, including a talk for early years educators and artists, Celebrating the Creative Arts in Early Years Setting, presented in collaboration with Early Childhood Ireland. There are also a limited number of delegate packages available for the event.

Wide Eyes is the culmination of a four-year ‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ project with European partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK and Ireland.

Wide Eyes will see 140 arts professionals from 17 organisations and 15 countries gather in Galway to present an extravaganza of new dance and theatre shows for 0-6 year olds developed specifically under the project’s overarching theme of ‘Wide Eyes’. The concept for Wide Eyes, developed by Project Leader, Roberto Frabetti of La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi in Italy, is rooted in the belief that children are never too young to quite literally have their eyes opened wide in amazement while they experience the performing arts. The programme will feature performances for schools, crèches and families, produced by some of Europe’s finest creators of Early Years work, as well as professional development workshops and industry symposia.

For more information and to view the full programme of events go to www.baboro.ie/wide-eyes

Schools performances will take place on Thursday, 1 February and Friday, 2 February. We welcome bookings from early years groups such as; preschools, crèche and Montessori, junior and senior infants and those with additional needs.

Graffiti Theatre Company

Touring: November – December 2017

‘The world may be in miniature but the story is universal …’

Walking Man tells the tale of a man who has spent his whole life in pursuit of success.  He has always rushed headlong through life, determined to follow in his father’s footsteps to the best job on the top floor of the tallest building in the whole city. And when he has done all that, with Walking Woman and little Walking Baby at his side, something doesn’t feel quite right …

So, Walking Man must go on an entirely new journey, which takes him far from home.

Walking Man is a charming allegory, which will captivate its audience. With the help of an original live music score, the actor brings us into the miniature world of the Walking Man, a tiny wooden figure.

Walking Man is designed for 1st, 2nd & 3rd classes and performs to one class at a time (up to a maximum of 35 students). The accompanying Teacher Resource Book (available online) links carefully with the curriculum across a range of subject areas.

Please note: Graffiti Theatre can give your school the exciting opportunity to attend a performance in their fully equipped Theatre on Assumption Road. If the performance is booked to take place in your school please contact Graffiti for space requirements.

Cost: Thanks to their funders, Graffiti Theatre Company can offer this production for just €150 per performance (and €100 for a second performance on the same day).

For more information & booking: tel. 021 4397111,  email:bookings@graffiti.ie

www.graffiti.ie

Barnstorm Theatre Company & Watergate Theatre

Wed 29 November to Sat 2 December

Post-primary schools in the south-east are in for a theatrical treat this November and December!

Due to the success of last year’s first Curriculum Play Live co-production with the Watergate Theatre: Brian Friel’s Translations, Barnstorm Theatre Company’s second Curriculum Play is Seán O’Casey’s ‘The Plough and the Stars’.

These productions are in response to requests over the years from post-primary schools to produce a curriculum play and to give students the opportunity to see the play that they are studying as live theatre, and not solely as a text to be studied in the classroom.
The Plough and the Stars is one of the greatest in the Irish canon and one that Barnstorm and the Watergate are proud to present as the second Curriculum Play. (Barnstorm values input from teachers about our next curriculum play.)

Watergate Theatre:
Wed 29 November to Sat 2 December; performances nightly at 8pm.

School performances:
Thursday 29 November – 10.30am
Friday 1 December – 10.30am

Tickets :

€10 –  student groups of 10+

€18 / €15 concession

Watergate Box Office:  056 7761674

For more www.watergatetheatre.com

 

The month of October at Roscommon Arts Centre means it’s Lollipops Children’s Festival time! We’ve planned a host of children’s events here at the arts centre for families, schools and crèches to enjoy. From theatre performances, music events, workshops, and exhibitions, the month of October is all about our youngest audience members! We hope you will come along and join us in some Lollipops fun!

Four Go Wild In Wellies –  A whimsical adventure featuring bobble hats, scarves, tents that have a life of their own and, of course, lots of fun in wellies! FRIDAY 6th OCTOBER 10am, €5, Ages 3 – 5

The Locksmiths Song – Set in the dusty world of an old locksmith’s shop in this tale is full of action and adventure. TUESDAY 17th OCTOBER, 10am, €5 Ages: 7+

They Called Her Vivaldi – Family favourites Theatre Lovett return with this upbeat comedy-adventure. WEDNESDAY 25th OCTOBER, 10am & 12pm, €5, Ages: 7+ and Adults of All Ages

And coming up in November!

The Ugly Duckling – In a nest at the edge of a pond a flock of baby ducklings find an enormous egg in their midst and here our story begins…. of the most unusual duckling the pond has ever seen. TUESDAY 28th NOVEMBER, 10am & 11.45am, €5, Ages 3+

For more information on shows, click here 

 

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children is delighted to announce details of its GROW programme, which aims to support Irish-based artists who are currently active in making work for children and young audiences, or who have an interest in doing so. Now in its 21st year, Baboró already has a long history of mentoring and supporting artists and educators who are committed to placing the creative development of children and young people at the heart of their work.

The GROW programme will continue to build on Baboró’s existing supports, and this October will also introduce two new strands; Pathways to Production and Festival Mentoring. Applications are now open for these new initiatives. The GROW programme hopes to solidify and support the development of artists and the TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) sector in Galway and throughout the country. Baboró is delighted that the Irish Theatre Institute (ITI) will partner on GROW in an advisory capacity on the Pathways to Productionand Festival Mentoring strands.

The GROW programme includes a number of strands which interested candidates can apply for. Two of the recently introduced strands are Pathways to Production and Festival Mentoring.

1. Pathways to Production: Pathways to Production is a new initiative led by Baboró, which will commence in October 2017 and is funded by the Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development Scheme. This scheme will see Baboró partner with Druid and the Mick Lally Theatre, Branar Téatar de Phaistí and Galway Theatre Festival to support artists and young companies to develop their ideas with a view to presenting a full performance piece. The scheme will involve workshops, sharings of works-in-progress as well as support in developing funding strategies.

The Pathways to Production programme will run from October 2017 to October 2018.  This is a pilot programme and will be reviewed on an annual basis. Closing date for receipt of applications is 21 September 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by 29 September. For more details and to apply please see www.baboro.ie/grow

2. Festival Mentoring: Another new initiative from Baboró is the Festival Mentoring programme aimed at artists and creatives at any stage of their career, including those with an established career, who have never before made work for children. As part of the programme, participants will receive mentoring from two highly experienced individuals from the sector; Phil Kingston, Community and Education Manager at the Abbey Theatre and Maria Fleming, Chair of Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland (TYAI) and Freelance Producer. The four successful candidates will have an opportunity to attend shows during this year’s Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, which runs from 16 – 22 October in Galway, and will also attend industry and networking events.

The Festival Mentoring programme will run for three days during this year’s Baboró International Arts Festival for Children from 16– 22 October. Exact dates to be confirmed. Closing date for receipt of applications is 21 September 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by 29 September. For more details and to apply please see www.baboro.ie/grow

The GROW programme is open to artists at any stage of their career throughout Ireland. For more information about these exciting new initiatives see www.baboro.ie/grow or call 091 562 667.

Baboró would like to acknowledge the support of The Arts Council for funding the GROW programme through The Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development scheme.

 Blog 2

Peat began as an impulse to explore a story and a history for a specific audience, and an impulse to rigorously develop my writing for young audiences.

After an initial workshop focus on story, storytelling and myth, I returned to Third Class in Sacred Heart Portlaoise to ask them to think about stories for the stage. The conversations that emerged from sharing, re-sharing and changing stories had sparked discussion around memory, history, shared stories, becoming a character, and who in society has permission to speak on behalf of another.

Here, these opened into a discussion on theatre – beginning with a discussion about the roles, responsibilities and skills of writers, directors, actors, designers. We talked: about how playwright meant playmaker; about beginnings, middles and endings; about storytelling versus drama; about dialogue versus monologue, narration versus conversation; about sets, costumes, props; about audience interaction and fourth walls.

Towards the end of that workshop, groups had debated and settled on one personal story that would become the story of their group. Focusing on collaboration, armed with script samples prepared by teacher Jennifer Buggie, groups were tasked with transforming this text into a story for the stage.

Working effectively in the classroom was a learning curve. I was finding my feet, and the support, expertise and enthusiasm of collaborating teacher Jennifer Buggie was invaluable. At the end of the series of workshops, in thinking about my practice, Jennifer and I have discussed building on this relationship, discussing future projects, interrogating the approach in order to refine and improve the quality of engagement.

Experiences in the classroom greatly informed the next stage of development – ideas around agency, voice, engagement, emotion, depth. In June 2016, with the support of The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children, I spent a week developing the text with director Maisie Lee and performers Nyree Yergainharsian and Lloyd Cooney. As development progressed and continues to progress, through working directly with young audiences, the elk itself started to take a back seat. The bigger questions about life and death that had lingered below the surface were grounded by experiences in the classroom at Sacred Heart.

The text which began to emerge is a sort of metaphysical conversation rooted in the world and perspective of two 12 year olds. On a peatland plain on the edge of an island, a boy and girl meet to bury a cat in its preserving earth. As they sit and dig the boggy grave, what follows is a conversation about life, fate, extinction, migration, mortality.

After four days, we shared a 15-minute piece with The Ark’s Children’s Council, in what was their first experience of a work-in-progress presentation. The responses of these 11-year old Council members were frank – they told us exactly what from their point of view worked and didn’t, what was engaging, what was funny, what was moving.

They responded enthusiastically to the characters use of the Would You Rather? game, answering the questions the characters posed to each other for themselves (some silently, some aloud, some later that day). From the beginning, and throughout the work in the classroom, I wanted Peat to try and equalise the relationship between stage and audience, to create in its audience the urge to enter the space, to engage in conversation with the characters, to find out more. Following the Council’s feedback, Would you Rather? remains a key structuring device.

The following month, we presented this work-in-progress showing of Peat at On the Edge World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences in Birmingham to an audience of artists, producers and presenters.

Development continues in 2017.

Initial development was enabled by the Arts Council’s Young People Children and Education Bursary. Development in 2016 was supported by The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children. With the support of The Ark, Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland and Culture Ireland, a work-in-progress showing was presented at On the Edge Birmingham, the World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences (directed by Maisie Lee, performed by Lloyd Cooney and Nyree Yergainharsian)

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

 

Blog 1

On the east coast, right on the edge of Ireland, there is a bog known as The Elk Graveyard. Here, hundreds and hundreds of ancient elk skeletons were dug from the peat.

Megaloceros Giganteus. Giant Irish Deer. The last megafauna on an island of, well, non–megafauna. Twelve feet tall from tip of toe to top of antler, the giant deer disappeared from Ireland about 10,500 years ago, the reasons uncertain: it or its antlers became too big; it was over-hunted; its food sources disappeared as the world grew colder. The Great Irish Elk lived across Europe and Asia, its continental cousins drifting eastward, sunward, in search of a better life. As the Ice Age descended, the ones who lived on this island were the first to disappear. Trapped, with nowhere to go as the snow stopped melting.

In 2015, I set out to rigorously explore and develop my writing for young audiences. After an initial year spent in solo research, exploring the real history of this elk in order to find the possibilities of story, I began a phase of research in collaboration with Third Class at Sacred Heart Portlaoise, and teacher Jennifer Buggie.

I was drawn to the subject matter of Peat for this age group for their ability to deal with complex ideas and the reality of the oftentimes dark world we live in. Peat’s spiderwebby resonances were broad and weighty: climate change, carbon footprints, death, extinction, migration: adult ideas that children of this age group encounter daily. And closer to home: what it means to belong; what it feels like to be living in a body and a world that is changing faster than you’d like.

I focused on a series of classroom workshops on writing for theatre rather than the subject matter itself, and developed the approach around a number of initial questions: in terms of story, how might a piece of theatre recognise and respect the sophisticated thought processes and complex emotions of its audience?; how might it provoke an open and frank conversation about the vast world we live in, while at the same time offering a steady and sympathetic guide to navigating that vastness?; how might the theatrical form suggest a different way to think visually – to provoke the audience to see their world not just as something which contains them, but as something that can be influenced, manipulated, created?

As a writer, I am preoccupied with the complexity of culture, society, history – in how story and history is told, recalled, contained, in how things form the deep past very often seem so close to us. I can’t help but poke holes in history to see what leaks through.

An initial workshop thus focused on the nature of stories, storytelling and myth. I began by reading a piece of theatrical storytelling to the eyes-closed class – an excerpt from Complicite’s The Encounter in which the main character remembers the moment he became completely lost in the jungle. We discussed the images it conjured and the senses it sparked. We talked about memory, about how it was a key tool in a writer’s toolbox.

Students were provoked to think of a time when something in their own world changed. In pairs, they shared this memory with their partner, and we talked about how memory is transformed when we tell it as a story to someone else. Each was then asked to share their partner’s story with their table-group, prompted to be true to the details they heard but permitted embellishment in form and content that would make it a good story for an audience. From this, we talked about how stories are changed in their retelling, and how myths are born.

The stories the students shared and re-shared grappled with life, death, loss, love, joy and sadness in ways that showed an enormous variance in emotional maturity. Their responses to being asked to take responsibility for telling the story of another ranged from sensitive respect, to mischievous joy, to indignation and protest that they would rather share their own. This itself raised interesting discussion on a table-by-table basis about collective memory, shared stories, narration, becoming a character, and who in society has permission to speak on behalf of another.

The final provocation was based on a question that emerged from these discussions: how do we choose the stories we tell? Each table thus entered into a debate, in order to choose one story that would become the story of their group.

I returned several weeks later to work with the students on transforming their story into a piece of theatre.

Initial development was enabled by the Arts Council’s Young People Children and Education Bursary. Development in 2016 was supported by The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children. With the support of The Ark, Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland and Culture Ireland, a work-in-progress showing was presented at On the Edge Birmingham, the World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences (directed by Maisie Lee, performed by Lloyd Cooney and Nyree Yergainharsian)

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

Briefly tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did it get started?

Veronica:

Tenderfoot originated, with the support of South Dublin County Council, in The Civic Theatre in Tallaght ten years ago. Bríd Dukes, the Artistic Director of The Civic, wanted to develop a programme to involve transition year students in the art of theatre. Tenderfoot @ The Civic, the parent programme, annually provides forty five students from eight different schools the opportunity to learn about theatre in a hands on way. Tenderfoot operates on a model of apprenticeship. Students learn by doing. They learn about theatre by making theatre under the guidance of working theatre professionals. Each year a number of the students, usually sixteen, write original plays for the stage. A selection of these plays are then produced and students can opt to act, do costume design, take part in the film for theatre module or they can be part of the stage management team. The final productions are seen by two distinct audiences. A general theatre audience and an audience of the students’ peers. Over the years the reaction of the peer audience to the work, work made by people their own age, has been remarkable. It has resulted in a profound level of engagement. Tenderfoot @ The Civic is entering its tenth year.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, is the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage serves schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region. Five schools participated in the inaugural year with a focus on writing. Twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I was lucky enough to be teaching in Rathcoole when the Tenderfoot programme was first set up. My school was one of the South Dounty Dublin schools chosen to partake.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I was delighted that our school was accepted onto the Tenderfoot programme following our application through the Garage Theatre. The project had appeal due to its emphasis on creativity, and integration with others, coupled with learning about teamwork and skills required for writing and performing outside of the school timetable. I was also excited about our students being guided, nourished and encouraged by theatre professionals and out of school drama facilitators. Veronica was encouraging and her visit to our school whetted the students’ appetite.

How did the ideas develop? How did the children, artist and teacher work together?

Veronica:

Apprenticeship is the model upon which Tenderfoot runs. The students learn alongside experts in their field so, for instance, professional writers facilitate the students’ learning about writing for the stage. Students are provided with a structure within which they can give voice and form to their own creative ideas. Students are not censored. They can write about any topic. They can utilise any form. The guiding principle for Tenderfoot mentors is to enable students realise the best version of their work.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Very simply, many of our students blossomed. They learned new skills, and many uncovered hidden talents in writing and acting. All of them gained confidence and a greater sense of self-assurance. They made fantastic friends and even better memories. They were a part of something special and very few will ever forget the Tenderfoot experience.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noticed a remarkable growth in confidence and self-assurance in the five selected students who quickly adapted to the project and to the process of meeting deadlines and submitting required pieces when asked. The rehearsed readings on the day of performance were absorbing and entertaining.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Veronica:

The young people make me smile. Their enthusiasm, their engagement and their work. The work they produce is very often surprising. It can be sobering. It can be eye opening. It is really interesting to see the world through their eyes. And I feel that something important is happening in that space where young people encounter the theatrical work of their peers. This is a unique space. Also, the willingness and enthusiasm of the countless teachers I deal with restores my faith in the education system. Year after year I deal with teachers who care only for the best interests of their students. The only major challenge I can think of is the ongoing battle to maintain funding.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I love the annual January trip to see the plays created by the students. Their peers and I, always come away from the theatre impressed and awestruck about what their classmates have achieved. I don’t find any aspect of the process challenging.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I smiled at the independence of my students strolling out onstage to take their seats and perform in different roles in different plays. Yes, some themes were challenging and clearly revelatory of their needs and focus in this period of their young lives. Sex, freedom of behaviour and speech, rejection of social norms that seem to apply pressure on teenagers were among the challenging themes addressed in their short plays.

What insights from the project are worth sharing?

Veronica:

It is really valuable for young people to have opportunities to learn in contexts outside of school and in ways different to how they learn in school. An important feature of Tenderfoot is that each group is taken from a number of schools and the work environment is a professional arts environment – The Civic Theatre in Tallaght and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan. The value of such an experience is immeasurable. It provides those students lucky enough to take part an opportunity to see themselves in a new light.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Tenderfoot offers students a more relaxed environment to express themselves. This can sometimes contrast to the school environment where as teachers, we have to place restrictions on bad language or on adult subject matter. This can be a liberating experience for a lot of students and can help greatly in their development of self-confidence.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

Overall, most worthwhile as evidenced by the close attention paid by the attentive and engrossed teenage audience who sat through one and a half hours of readings without asking for a break!

Response from Robert Barrett/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot was easily the highlight of transition year. There was never a dull day; they ranged from doing improvisations in the little theatre upstairs, to building a full sized guillotine. It was a unique experience to see plays, some of which were my own, go from their most conceptual stage in the writers minds, to first drafts and then go through production.”

Response from Seoid Ní Laoire/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Writing A Piece Of Me developed me as a writer, but it was watching the director shape my words into something new, something physical and outside of myself that I learnt the most. My writing’s weak points were suddenly glaringly obvious, as were its strengths. I remember peeking out from backstage and seeing the audience respond to words I had written and experiencing a connection that is impossible to achieve from a page. It is difficult for me to adequately describe the impact of my few weeks with Tenderfoot. It was one of those experiences that, when I look back on my life so far, carves out a milestone.

Sarah Hannon/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot made me come out of my comfort zone and most of all have confidence in my writing. It was one of the most fun and rewarding things I did throughout my secondary school experience and I’m very glad I got the opportunity to do it, and I greatly appreciate and am thankful to the people of Tenderfoot for seeing potential in me when I did not, both then and still to this day.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, was the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage served schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region in 2015. Five schools participated and twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Levana Courtney/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Thanks a lot for the wonderful experience you’ve given me and helping me along the way. It’s been a brilliant couple of weeks and I think I speak for everyone when I say I’ve learnt a lot of new things, had so much fun and made a lot of new friends who I won’t forget. Before tenderfoot I would have never spoken in front of a crowd, so I really appreciate the confidence it has given me.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

You can really tell a lot about a person based on what they write about: their experience, their beliefs, their thoughts, their opinions, their dreams … it’s extremely insightful. When you’re writing, even if you have the clearest idea of what you’re going to say, your words take on their own mind and you can end up writing something that is totally different than what you intended to. Knowing how to accept criticism is important, but so is knowing how to accept praise.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Veronica

Each year the students who take part in Tenderfoot are changed by their experience. Some find new interests. Many find new levels of confidence. In a number of cases some even find their future professions.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Many of them grow in confidence. In terms of their education, a better understanding of drama helps with their study of drama at senior cycle. For the budding writers and actors, there is almost always a greater desire to be involved in their chosen field after completion of the Tenderfoot project. They will often go on to engage in drama or writing outside school.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noted a growing maturity in my five participants. It was good for them to be pushed beyond their usual boundaries.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Taking part in Tenderfoot has developed my social skills: I realised while taking part how truly complex everyone is, how everyone has their own individual thoughts and experience and beliefs and this has helped me to connect with people and make friends.

Tell us the story of your project – What was it about?

The Abbey Theatre provides opportunities for young citizens to express feelings about their world and their State using the theatre arts. We want the students to feel a civic ownership of their National Theatre. To achieve this aim, we strive to raise awareness among young people of the rich civic, cultural, social and creative connections that emerge through engagement with theatre and theatre making. This course was developed by Sarah FitzGibbon, in collaboration with Maire O’Higgins, Larkin Community College under the auspices of The Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department. The course was piloted in Larkin College from September 2013 until May 2015 with class 103. Over the two years and 100 hours, the students develop their competence in six key skills, 16 of the 24 statements of learning with clear literacy, oracy (Oral Literacy) and numeracy strategies.

There are three strands:In Strand 1, the young people get to grips with the 4 Key Concepts in CSPE; Human Dignity, Interdependence, Rights and Responsibilities and Democracy; an introduction to theatre making; review a piece of theatre and make a speech on ‘Theatre is an important tool for citizens to be able to express themselves.’ In Strand 2, we use the story of Romeo and Juliet as a vehicle through which we explore the effect of a feud on a community. This is then developed into a performance piece where we seek to exploit the learning potential of the production process as a ‘real life work’ simulation with designated roles, responsibilities, deadlines, teamwork and collaboration. In Strand 3, students developed their own piece of theatre to raise awareness of a social issue that affects their community. The students direct a lot of their own learning with self-motivated research tasks that form the basis of their script. It is this model of script development that you will be taken through today. In the Pilot, the students chose the issue of homelessness (which exemplifies the concept of Human Dignity). This was a recurring theme in our citzenship discussions since the students had seen Silent by Pat Kinevane in Strand 1. Homelessness was an issue they felt passionate about as it directly affected their inner city school community. The students researched the causes of homelessness; the State’s response to those experiencing homelessness; the community response to the issue; its coverage in the media and who they wished to express their message to. The students interviewed political theatre makers who had dealt with the issue of homelessness with the homeless community. They also interviewed a Simon Community Key Worker. They visited the Pebbledash exhibition in The National Museum and assisted the school’s First Year and Transition Year students in creating and distributing care parcels to the homeless in their area. When the group wrote their own play out of their research and discussions in class, they then created a list of policy makers and groups they wished to invite to attend their awareness raising performance. This list included invitations to the clients of homeless services and policy makers to attend the performance in The Abbey Theatre, their National Theatre. While researching an issue in preparation for a performance, the students are set the challenge of developing a speech or performance piece based on a character that they create who is directly affected by the issue. The performance piece is created from these characters. It is based on any interactions, monologues, or songs inspired by the students indepth research. Facts and data discovered can be included too. The structuring of the performance script is quite straight forward.

Who was involved? How did you begin?

Participants: The Abbey Theatre Education Department and a First Year CSPE class in Larkin Community College. In 2011 we began in conversations with our local secondary school which is Larkin Community College. Throughout 2012, we had a year of discussion and planning between the artist and the teacher.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

While we had a structure designed we were constantly reviewing it with the young people. We also constantly asked them for feedback on how they felt they were progressing in the course. When it came to the creation of the artwork it was a very collaborative approach, with the teacher and artist as the final arbiters on the text to be performed. That said the young people had to give an agreement to perform it and tweaks were made.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Observing those “aha” moments when concepts were understood and tasks achieved. It was also a pleasure watching the students grow in confidence in their ability to have an opinion and express it.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? (These may seem small, but are significant to you)

Young people are sophisticated thinkers. Young people can affect change in their communities. Teacher can grow as an artist working alongside an artist teacher in the classroom. The work of an artist is strengthened when she has an arts organization to support her in the delivery of the programme.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

The National Theatre has committed to actively engaging in Theatre Making in Secondary Schools and support the inclusion of Theatre Arts in the Curriculum.

Students have made a difference in the lives of vulnerable groups in their community by raising awareness of issues and by fundraising.

Máire:

• Students have developed a strong sense of connectedness with each other and an increased level of self-esteem.
• The Abbey Theatre has transformed the lives of young people in their local community.
• Young people have developed an appreciation for Theatre.
• Students’ creative writing skills have been deepened and expanded.
• There has been a substantial improvement in students’ oral literacy skills with an increase in vocabulary and more developed sentence structures (eg longer sentences, clearer narratives …).
• Presentation skills are of a higher standard as a result of rehearsals and regular debates and presentations in class. Higher order questioning formed the basis of interaction and interrogation with guest speakers. The sophistication of the questioning emerged from rigorous research and enquiry.


!!!! Blog 4 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

And Now….?

The unforeseen adventures that were created by being forced to re-invent, re-imagine, to find ways to re-connect with our audiences at this time of distance and disconnection had a profound impact on me.

It became clear that, for some of our audience, taking shows directly to where they are, taking the flexibility of the shows to a whole new level was what really worked for them.

So this year, inspired by that adventure and that discovery, I’m making a new show called SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS that can play anywhere. A garden, around a hospital bed, outside a school, in a hospice – wherever makes most sense of our audience. It’ll be a tiny intimate show with just two performers, a gentle magical soundtrack and two gorgeous costumes created by leading Irish fashion designer, Rebecca Marsden who works with responsive wearable tech fashion – costumes that light up with the connection we make with our audience, costumes that transform an ordinary space into an extraordinary moment. The development is funded by Wicklow Arts Office and will happen this July and September in creative consultation with St Catherine’s School, County Wicklow families and with St Catherine’s Hospice, hopefully leading to a longer tour next year to my national Network For Extraordinary Audiences.

And right now, we’re on week 3 of an 8 week tour of GROOVE – a chilled out 70’s inspired happening for children and young people with complex needs, full of immersive video and live harmony singing. In masks of course.

It’s a wonderful co-incidence that for GROOVE (conceived in 2019 so well pre-pandemic) that there’s such an overwhelming visual element – even with one side of the tent missing in order to allow sufficient ventilation – the combination of the immersive video art and the live singing to a hypnotic soundtrack is so rich and all around that it has an energy and a presence that, whilst not replacing the usual tactile offers that we might make, has a welcome viscerality.

I’ve been describing GROOVE as a happening – I remember reading the definition of a 60’s/70’s happening – in broad terms it’s about an environment being created and then what happens is totally dependent on who comes and what they bring.  That’s the space and the adventure that I wanted to create with my audience for GROOVE.

I hardly dare hope that we’ll make it through all of the 8 weeks all over the country.  I’m grateful for each day and for the incredible welcome that the schools have given and are continuing to give us in what must be the hardest year they’ve ever had.    They truly are extraordinary audiences.

Throughout these last 18 months, the power of human connection has continued to be my lodestar and it, and my audiences, keeps me putting one foot in front of the other as we move forward as best we can.

!!!! Blog 3 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

Respond. Re-Imagine. Re-Connect.

The next chapter of my theatre adventures last summer was a re-imagining (or in fact three different re-imaginings) of my show SING ME TO THE SEA – created in 2018, SING ME TO THE SEA is a blissful watery adventure for children & young people with complex needs full of harmony singing, tiny waterfalls, shiny globes and rainbow fish that was created to be performed in hydropools with 3 performers and three audience members, each with an adult companion – with everyone in the water! [https://www.annanewell.ie/work/sing-me-to-the-sea/}

I’ve always said that the heart of my work is that it is flexible, that it is responsive, that it is nuanced moment by moment by our audience.  And in Summer 2020, I had to really walk the walk with that one and take that flexibility and responsiveness to a whole new level.

So, with huge support (and flexibility!) from our funders and venue partners, we created a dry-land at-home version of the show.  And we hired a campervan.  For three weeks in August 2020, we drove around Dublin, Meath, Carlow and Wicklow, taking the show directly to families in their own gardens and driveways.  We sang in the rain, we were stared at by milkmen, curious neighbour children gathered – and we were given the extraordinary opportunity to connect with our audiences where they were.

Later in the summer, we took this dry-land version to Baboró International Festival and performed the show in the magical setting of the gardens of the Ardilaun Hotel.  And although they were only a few weeks into what must have been the hardest term of their lives, the special schools came in their droves – not only did we sell out the schools’ performances but we had to add more!

And, then, astonishingly, the wonderful pool staff at St Gabriel’s School & Centre called us up and said they’d like to give it a go.  So, singing in masks and visors and working within AquaPhysio Guidelines, we were back in the water.

The unforseen adventures that were created by being forced to re-invent, re-imagine, to find ways to re-connect with our audiences at this time of distance and disconnection had a profound impact on me.

And it inspired a whole new show for 2021.  More of that in my final blog…

!!!! The Everyman & Graffiti Theatre Company Present: This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing

The Everyman & Graffiti Theatre Company

Dates: 1 – 31 May On Demand

On demand audio stream theatre for young audiences 8+ for families or schools.

This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing by Finegan Kruckemeyer, is presented by The Everyman and Graffiti Theatre Company as part of Play It by Ear, a programme of shows performed on The Everyman stage, and available as an audio stream.

Triplet sisters are left in the forest by their woodcutter father. From this fairytale beginning, three resolutions are made – one sister will walk one way, one the other, and the third will stay right where she is. Twenty years later, having circumnavigated the globe, and fought Vikings, and crossed oceans, and tamed wilds, and achieved greatness, the three meet again, as women.

Fun and accessible resources will be available on Graffiti’s website for teachers and parents to support children’s enjoyment of the episodes.  These resources – which will be available for the audio stream live date – will include creative prompts and activities to give children a deeper engagement with the piece.

Price: On Demand Audio Stream Family €12 | Schools €65

Age recommendation: 8+, recommended for young audiences and their families

Running Time: 5 X 10mins

For further details go to everymancork.com/events/this-girl-laughs-this-girl-cries-this-girl-does-nothing/

!!!! Opportunity: Creative Schools Regional Co-Ordination Panel

Creative Schools
Deadline: 2 April, 2021

Creative Schools is forming a panel of Creative Associate Regional Coordinators across the country. It is envisaged that the Arts Council will engage the services of 8 Regional Coordinators. Both individuals and organisations (who nominate a particular representative) may apply to provide these services.

The main tasks of the Creative Associate regional coordinators are:

– Work closely with the Arts Council’s Creative Schools’ team to support and assist in coordinating the work of the Creative Associates at a regional level.

– Liaise with and support up to twenty Creative Associates and their assigned schools across each region.

– Be required to carry out services for around seventy days per annum, with a minimum of one day per week between the months of September to June.

Deadline for applications: Friday 2nd April, 2021

For more information, see www.etenders.gov.ie/ (select Arts Council in ‘authority’ field of an advanced search on etenders).

!!!! Blog 2 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

How Spiderman Inspired Me Last Summer

In 2019 (which now feels like a decade ago), I made a new show for early years audiences called BigKidLittleKid.  It’s a wordless physical theatre piece for ages 3-6 years about the complicated world of sibling rivalry.  It opened at The Ark for Dublin Theatre Festival and toured to the Mermaid, the Civic and Draiocht.

Through the summer of 2020, I grew surer and surer about my commitment to finding a way to keep a live connection with my very particular audiences.

During what had become my weekly check-in with my wee brother, he was talking about some guy somewhere in England who’d dressed up as Spiderman and spidey-ed his way through his local streets to the utter delight of the children forced to stay at home in these first shut-in weeks of the first lockdown.

I’ve always been interested in making the ordinary extraordinary and believe that if you can literally change the landscape, you make visible the possibility of change and of hope.

So I hatched a plan.

Thanks to the Ready Steady Show programme run by my main producing partner the Civic, a wee pot of money was found to create a PopUp Play version of BigKidLittleKid which we played on a tennis court outside a summer camp, in a massive hall inside another summer camp and outside a nursery.

My favourite picture of the whole summer was the picture of the one pod sitting watching the extraordinary adventure that unfolded in their tiny playground with the second pod who weren’t allowed to share the same space as them, determinedly pressing their noses against the window intently watching the entire show.

For us as artists, being out there with our audiences again, hearing that very particular laughter of children delighted with a new story, a new connection, was extraordinary.  Our hearts soared and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t shed a tear or two of hard-won joy and hope.

 

!!!! Blog 1 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

What. How. Why.

I remember really vividly where I was on 12th March 2020. I was visiting the cast at the end of their 3rd week of a 10 week tour of my show for babies ‘I AM BABA’ and our tiny gorgeous tent was set up in a rather grand hotel ballroom in Trim. We came out of the third show to the news of the announcement of lockdown. We threw the set and costumes back in my storage facility without masses of care – as we knew it was only going to be a couple of weeks.

I know.

For the next 2 months, I was lost, desperately trying to think what to do and how to do it.

And then I worked out that it wasn’t about the what or the how but rather about the why.

When creating ‘BLISS’, the first show I made specifically for audiences of children with complex needs, I was doing some creative consultation in a classroom and over the course of these few days these children revealed to me what I think theatre is – one human being connecting with another. That’s it. And that my job is to create the optimum conditions for that connection.

And for my audiences, the optimum conditions overwhelmingly are that it’s a live experience.

The work has always had at its very heart the live responsive connection and an inherent and crucial ability to nuance and change from moment to moment.  And I realised what I had to do was to take this built-in flexibility to a whole new level…

Thanks to the incredible support of funders, venues, audiences and artists and more than a little bit of luck, I managed to tour work live for 8 weeks in the summer, autumn and winter of 2020.

And in my next couple of blogs, I’ll tell you the how and the what.

 

!!!! Opportunity for Artists: ‘You, Fin and the Play Between’ Playwriting Programme for Young Audiences

Baboró International Arts Festival, Graffiti Theatre and TYA Ireland

Deadline: Monday 8 February 2021

Callout for a 6-month playwriting programme led by Finegan Kruckemeyer for established and emerging playwrights based in Ireland who are interested in writing for young audiences.

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, Graffiti Theatre and TYA Ireland are excited to collaborate with International TYA Playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer to host a new playwriting programme for writers and theatre makers in Ireland who are interested in writing plays for young audiences.

At a time when the world and its distances are both larger and smaller than ever before, a collaboration will occur, spanning half a globe, and half a year, and driven by that most exciting of provocations – to forge something from nothing.

Beginning with a blank page, eight Irish authors will respond to writing aids and impositions both as they explore theatre for young audiences – what makes a TYA play, and what TYA play they wish to make.

But more important than the audience, shall be the idea. And in writing work solemn and silly, foreign and known, as vast as an ocean and as small as a boat which may rock upon it, eight individual voices shall be celebrated, and their plays play out to their ends.

Who is this for?
This opportunity is open to both established and emerging playwrights, residing in Ireland, interested in writing plays for young audiences. Applications are encouraged from artists with a disability, those from minority ethnic communities and those who feel their voices are not commonly represented. There are eight places available on the programme.

Irish language writers are welcome to participate in this project through the medium of Irish.  Support and translation will be provided to facilitate a bilingual writing journey with Fin. Samples of writing in Irish can be included in the application.

Cuirimid fáilte roimh scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge páirt a ghlacadh sa togra seo as Gaeilge. Cuirfear tacaíocht agus aistriúcháin ar fáil chun an turas scríbhneoireachta dátheangach le Fin a éascú. Is féidir samplaí Gaeilge a bheith mar chuid den iarratas.

Deadline for Applications is Monday 8 February 2021

For further information and application details go to https://www.baboro.ie/news-events/you-fin-and-the-play-between

!!!! Early Years Video Workshop: Shy Mouse & Show-Off Lion with The Ark

The Ark

Available until 31 December

Explore the importance of all creatures small and large in this video drama workshop from The Ark for ages 2-4 with their grown-ups led by Early Years Artist in Residency Joanna Parkes.

Mouse may be small and shy, but does that mean he can’t help the lion? Let’s see!

Using the Aesop’s Fable of The Mouse and The Lion as a starting point, pack your make-believe backpacks, set off to find the proud lion and see where your imaginations can take you.

If you like, you can bring a few things with you:

A cushion
A small bag or backpack
A soft toy (any favourite cuddly animal will do)
Wear an adventurer’s hat of any kind if you want!

Combining drama, story and play, this video workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, join in with a 2 to 4 year old to discover, explore and create together in this delightful workshop adventure.

Recommended:

Watch Free Online – ark.ie/events/view/video-workshop-lion-mouse

For ages 2-4 and their grown-ups
Video duration: Approx. 15 mins, plus pauses for you to pretend and play in your own time at home

 

!!!! Youth Youth Theatre Ireland Announces 2 Supporting Grants

Youth Theatre Ireland

Deadline: 5pm, 14 September 2020

Youth Theatre Ireland is pleased to announce two grant schemes to offer assistance to Youth Theatres in these challenging times, with the generous support of the Creative Ireland Programme. The first, “Include YT – COVID Relief Inclusion Grant”, is available to affiliated theatres and the second “Join In – Youth Theatre Inclusion Grant” is available to developing Youth Theatres.

The Include YT grant will provide a maximum of €3,000 to help affiliated theatres to increase young people’s access to youth theatre and address exclusion on social or disability grounds. Emerging from Covid-19, youth theatres’ capacity to include new members may be severely challenged as they face additional costs and extended workshop programmes in order to comply with public health measures and social distancing guidelines. This grant is designed to help youth theatres keep social inclusion at the heart of their practice by resourcing approximately 6 youth theatres to engage with young people who have difficulty accessing youth theatre on social or disability grounds.

During these extraordinary times, this once-off grant is designed to support youth theatre inclusion initiatives in the Sept – Dec term 2020 and will assist with many measures including bursaries to cover membership fees for young people whose families are facing challenging circumstances, resources or additional staff to support the participation of members with disabilities or additional needs. The total fund available to youth theatres through this scheme is €18,000.

The “Join In – Youth Theatre Inclusion Grant” will provide a maximum of €3,000 to  developing youth theatres operating in areas of social deprivation, to help increase young people’s access to youth theatre. During these extraordinary times, this once-off grant is designed to support the development of new youth theatres that are addressing social exclusion and that aim to affiliate in 2020. The total fund available to youth theatres through this scheme is €15,000.

Rhona Dunnett, Acting Director of Youth Theatre Ireland said, “Youth Theatre Ireland is delighted to be working with the Creative Ireland Programme to offer these once-off grants to youth theatres. Like many sectors, youth theatre is facing difficult financial circumstances in 2020 and these grants will support youth theatres to keep inclusion at the heart of their practice and increase young people’s access to youth theatre in socially disadvantaged areas. In these challenging times, young people need youth theatre more than ever to help them feel connected and give them a safe, creative space to express themselves and their ideas.”.

Deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday, September 14th 2020.

For further information and application details go to www.youththeatre.ie/news/press/youth-theatre-ireland-announces-2-supporting-grants.

 

!!!! SING ME TO THE SEA – the ‘at-home’ version

Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic & Riverbank Arts Centre

August 2020

Due to tour to hydropools this July and September, this magical watery adventure is now scheduled to tour in August in collaboration with Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic and Riverbank Arts Centre. Rather than cancel the tour, Anna Newell Theatre Adventures and the partner venues were determined to bring high quality live art experiences to this very particular audience and so the ‘dry land’ ‘at-home’ version was invented. The “at-home” version is specifically for children/young people with PMLD.

Taking the responsiveness of the show to a whole new level, this re-imagined ‘dry land’ version will be performed in the gardens/drives/outside the windows of homes of families of children with complex needs. Still full of ethereal live harmony singing and gorgeous costumes (created by award-winning composer David Goodall and renowned costume designer Susan Scott), reflective silver balls, rainbow fish and water moving through colanders like waterfalls will all happen at an appropriate distance from our audience members, with their accompanying adults mirroring the action to add the up-close sensory element.

A process of a virtual pre-visit will take place to ensure that each different private ‘at-home’ adventure is magical, calm and, of course, safe.

Anna Newell is a Bray-based theatremaker who has been making theatre adventures for many different audiences since 1989. She was the first Irish-based theatremaker to create theatre designed especially for children and young people with PMLD and her work for Early Years audiences has been seen on 6 continents and off-Broadway.

Contact your nearest partner venue for booking details – click on the relevant link below:

SING ME TO THE SEA is co-produced by The Civic, Tallaght and funded by the venues, Wicklow County Council and Sunbeam Trust with additional funding from Arts Council of Ireland

!!!! Opportunity for Artists: Teddy Talks Clinics for Theatre Practitioners with Theatre Lovett

Theatre Lovett

Dates: Late June/July 2020

Theatre Lovett are delighted to announce Teddy Talks; a series of clinics for theatre practitioners with a focus on Theatre for Young Audiences.

Led by Muireann Ahern, Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett, along with invited guests, these sessions will cover:

To Apply: 
Please send your C.V. or biog with a note outlining why you are interested in registering for Teddy Talks to muireann@theatrelovett.com.

Next Course Dates:
Late June/July 2020 (exact dates and times TBC depending on slots available due to demand). These clinics will be conducted online due to COVID-19.

For further information go to www.theatrelovett.com/workshops/httpswwwtheatrelovettcomworkshopsteddy-talks-advice-clinics

 

!!!! Opportunity for Artists: Branar Tiny Show/Seóanna Bídeachs Residency Open for Applications

Branar Téatar do Pháistí

Deadline: 5pm, 1 may 2020

Do you have an idea for a show for young audiences?
Would you like to explore that idea?
Do you want to work with new art forms?

Branar’s Tiny Shows/Seóanna Bídeach initiative offers artists & theatre makers time and space to explore & develop new skills, new roles and new work in a developmental context.

This weekend long residency will facilitate the early stage development of ideas for new shows for young audiences.

The residency provides artists with the opportunity to:

Expected outcomes of this initiative include:

Previous applicants are welcome to apply again, with the same or new idea.

For further information or questions about Tiny Shows, please contact Niamh on info@branar.ie or go to www.branar.ie/tiny-shows.

 

!!!! Barnstorm Theatre presents ‘Alice and the Wolf’ – a new production for primary school students

Barnstorm Theatre Company

Dates: 4th, 5th, 6th – 9th of March 2020

Barnstorm Theatre Company is delighted to present its new production of ‘Alice and the Wolf’ by Tom Swift.

Alice spends virtually all her time in Wolf Wood. You know, the world’s deepest, darkest online game. Why not? Her dad isn’t around, her mother’s gone to Canada to meet a lumberjack and her best friend’s dumped her for a YouTube star.

But what happens when the people you meet online come looking for you in real life? Who can you trust, and who is the Big Bad Wolf? This re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story is a digital fairy tale that’s deliciously funny and full of dangerously dark twists.

Workshop
For County Kilkenny schools attending the play, we offer two in-school workshops:

These sessions are optional and capacity is limited, therefore they will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

Teachers’ Resources
A resource pack will be provided to participating teachers. Linked to the SPHE syllabus, the pack will provide a focus for exploration and discussion of themes raised through the play.

Performances of ‘Alice and the Wolf’ will take place at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny.

Dates & Times

Wednesday 04 March at 11.30am
Thursday 05, Friday 06 and Monday 09 March 2020 at 10.00am & 12.30pm

School Group Rate €10, one teacher free with each booking of 12

For more information or to obtain a resource pack, please contact Barnstorm Theatre at admin@barnstorm.ie, or call us on 056 7751266

Tickets are available online at watergatetheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873615598

!!!! ‘Asking For It’

Tell us the story of your project – What was the impetus? What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?

In February 2018 Landmark Productions and Everyman Theatre Cork approached us to ask what ancillary activities would we be organizing around the production of ‘Asking For It’ they were planning to stage in June and which would subsequently transfer to the Abbey in November.

We all saw the necessity to involve young people in the story and so aside from the Abbey’s usual provision of post-show talks and podcasts we decided to take the work into schools as directly as possible. We planned a structure of pre and post show workshops to support any school who was going to see the play. We also committed to the creation of a teachers study pack which could appeal to many levels of ability.

After speaking about schools visits to Louise O’Neill, the author of the novel on which the play was based, it became clear that we needed specific training in dealing with this project. Louise’s disturbing experience had been that in nearly every school she had visited herself at least one young woman had disclosed she had experienced sexual assault.

On 24th July we hosted a workshop by Tender UK a theatre company that specializes in exploring issues of abuse with post primary students. On their advice we changed the original plan of having a sole female facilitator to having workshops run by both a male and female so they could model healthy gender relationships. That’s when I stopped just managing the project and stepped in as co-facilitator.

Based on her previous work with the Abbey we contacted actor and facilitator Aoibheann McCaul and she and I planned the post-show workshop together. Aoibheann also attended a training session at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

Aoibheann and Phil started visiting schools in October using applied drama to explore the students’ sense of the characters involved in the story and any links they had to students’ own sense of gender roles, friendship dynamics and sexual consent. These pre-show workshops were introductory and often didn’t go into the ethics of consent or even the plot of the play if the students’ weren’t already aware of the story. We wanted the students to experience it theatrically. For those that were aware of the book though, we found that for some the issues of assault were still unclear, “Well she took him into the room so she was asking for it, wasn’t she?”

The groups went to performances of ‘Asking For It’ at the Abbey Theatre and met a couple of the cast afterwards.  The actors had all volunteered to talk to the students and were eager to engage with their responses. These ranged from the shy and practical (“How do learn your lines?”) to more in depth enquiries “How do you play someone so nasty?” “Why did you choose to do this particular play?” “What’s it like having to play Emma over and over again?”. One all-girl’s school which had been skeptical about assault changed their view completely and demanded their teachers give them better sex education in future especially about consent.

Aiobheann and Phil then returned do the schools for a two hour long post show workshop that built on the previously introduced techniques of statues, tableaux and walking in character to explore how both the characters and the students themselves had changed over the course of the evening.

As with the pre-show workshops we used a basic drama technique to encourage recollection  of a lived moment e.g. “How did you feel at the interval of the play?” or “What moment do you remember most about the beginning of the show?” and then encouraged others to ‘read’ these and reflect upon them.  The majority of the workshop was taken up with creating tableaux of the most striking moments of play and then exploring what could have been going through the characters minds at the time. This meant we could explore many of the themes of the work –gender dynamics, peer pressure, sexual consent, family tension – from inside realistic illustrations of how these manifest in behavior. Some highlights of this were the complex dynamics of single gender friendship groups, what was going through the minds of the young men while they were assaulting Emma, how Emma’s father uses emotional blackmail to reinforce her decision to drop the charges.

We also looked at how characters’ lives were changed by the events of the play and again found quite a range of responses from those who thought e.g. Zoe would be 1/ glad that she could now “Take over Emma’s place as top girl.” to  “/ Zoe will be even more cowed by the knowledge her assailant, Dylan, has avoided prosecution for a second assault. It was in this section that the students really got to see the differences in their views.

There was quite a range of responses with the majority of students becoming more understanding and articulate about the circumstances that led to Emma’s choices and how she had been raped. Our touchstone was whether they saw Emma’s encounter with Paul at the party as consensual or not (Emma is plainly on drugs and asks him to wait which he ignores). Before the show this encounter separated out those who had considered the theme of consent in any depth from those who followed conventional option.

Generally the more depth of engagement with the story and characters resulted in a more sympathetic response to the play and more varied and satisfying discussion. One school was already putting on their own play about consent looking at an incident from different viewpoints and our work here became much more do do with teasing out the nuances of motivation in the subsidiary characters e.g. why the mother was drinking, or how the father was avoiding responsibility when asking Emma if she really wanted to drop the charges.  We were surprised to find in another school they still felt Emma had been “asking for it” because she had taken drugs and therefore implicitly consented. In this school there was less empathy for the characters and many of them talked about Emma as ‘a girl like that would’ indicating the distance they felt to her. The work here was harder because the students seemed entrenched in their positions and surprised and resistance to being asked to question them.

The most dramatic changed came with one all girls school who in the pre-show had felt Emma had encouraged Paul. By the end of the show and in the post show workshops they were clear that the sexual double standards evident in society and the lack of appropriate sex education in the field of content were unacceptable.

At the time of writing this we have two more schools to visit. One, a private male only boarding school, will offer the most challenging work as some of the pupils were already defensive and dismissive of the whole premise of the story, believing it to be unrealistic and diverting the debate with arguments that some women lie, men get raped too etc….we were specifically asked to work here by an existing teacher because they felt attitudes towards women needed to be challenged.

For follow on work we created a Study Pack with an analysis of the play and its themes but also extra ancillary material on the history of consent in Ireland, plans of the pre and post show workshops, blogs by students form Cork who’d seen the original production and an example of a homegrown consent workshops. We also asked the pack’s main author, critic and activist Saoirse Anton, to contribute an essay on the connection between consumer culture and rape culture.

What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?

Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

After speaking to Louise I had concerns about the work triggering traumatic experiences in the participants while remaining convinced it was essential young people be given a chance to engage with the issues directly; no amount of older generations talking about the topic of consent was going to make nearly as much difference as exploring it with their peers. I saw this clearly when attending a town hall meeting arranged by the Everyman Theatre and Land mark productions in Ballincollig where teacher Tim Burke arranged for his class to discuss the play with Louise O’Neil, Mary Crilly of the Cork Rape Crisis Centre. It was obvious the students previous discussions contributed to the depth and sympathy of their opinions as well as their intolerance of the lazy, self interested and vicious social forces that perpetuate rape culture.

So the visit of Tender UK was an eye opener about the depth of ignorance and indifference to young women’s agency they had encountered in schools already.  This prepared me for the casualness with which both young men and young women dismissed lead characters Emma’s behaviour as “asking for it”. It was still a challenge though especially when revisiting one inner city school after the play to find that many of the students opinions hadn’t changed and that “girls like that are half responsible”.

Methodologically all six schools proved so varied in responsiveness that we had to continually adapt our approach. This is more a highlight than a challenge because one of the pleasures of applied drama are those in-the-moment improvisations that help coax a non-responsive teenage into someone passionately arguing their point of view. It was also a pleasure to work closely with another facilitator, to be able to hand on to them and observe the different spin the took on what the young people were producing, to debrief and discuss afterwards and to have the space observe the students out of the main focus while your partner led.

All the groups became more responsive and engaged as the workshops went on, often prompting surprised teachers to exclaim how certain pupils were ‘coming out’ of themselves or asserting themselves more than usual. This may have been to do with the kinesthetic aspect of the work unlocking some student’s expressiveness ( a common enough result for applied drama) but also, especially with the young women, a reflection that the topic of gender inequality and consent was important enough to them to ‘raise their game’.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Seeing the play, which is very clear that the protagonist does not explicitly consent, wasn’t always enough to cut through the view that young women who take drugs, dress with sexual confidence and have sexual appetites must take responsibility if they are raped.

Every teacher we talked to was adamant their charges needed to be talking about this topic and as early in their school lives as possible.

There was one all boys schools that we were explicitly asked to visit because of the teachers’ concern about attitudes to women. The young men were indeed defensive and quick to offer counter examples of women lying about rape and we had to be clear the book and play of Asking For It are unequivocal in their depiction of an actual assault. The instinct to deflect the discussion then took an unusual route when they started to dismiss the story itself as unrealistic (“Those pictures would never have been left up there for so long”) and therefore not needing to be engaged with.

Despite having been worried, as mentioned previously, and prepared for the possibility that some participants might disclose that they had experienced assault the fast moving and generally fun nature of the workshops meant we never got to a space where this might have happened. We ensured that schools counsellors were aware of the work and many of them attended or kept in close communication. While the topics weren’t treated frivolously there was more a sense of the young people appreciated the respect shown by having them discuss them.

We were also worried that rules about reporting young people under 17 who revealed they had active sex lives would inhibit the discussion. This never happened and we managed to talk at length and in depth through the lens of the play and its characters without compromising any of the individuals involved.

Students Responses

‘The play had a huge effect on my awareness of my surroundings and really made me appreciate the life I have as the struggles portrayed in the play were devastating’. 

‘When the play was over it made me think how the word ‘rape’ is not being discussed as a problem. People are uneducated about the topic when they should’.

‘The play was very intense, the actors were very good at acting out their roles. By them doing this, it made the play very realistic’. 

Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?

A renewed enthusiasm to work with young people on ‘difficult’ topics.

A desire to continue to co-facilitate where resources allow.

A plan to use young people’s voice s more in the creation of study packs

Update from Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

Facilitator Johanna Webb and I returned to the all boys school and were told a third of the class were in Australia on a school trip and this meant our two workshops would be smaller.

This was a very different encounter with these privileged and, mainly, self-confident young men. Before, with larger groups of 20-25, the atmosphere had been alternately raucous and resistant with obvious leaders asserting their authority and more introverted personalities being muted by the sheer size and testosterone levels.

This time there wasn’t any possibility of hiding and Joanna and I chose to take a very candid approach in the hope it would create openness all round. We told them how concerned we had been at the previous workshops, how genuinely interested in their responses we were and how we appreciated the difficult position they were in (that they had little contact with young women and that they might feel attacked by the topics we were discussing). After moving through some responses obviously designed to give us what we wanted they started to actually say what they thought, prefaced with such remarks as ” I know this is an unpopular opinion but..” Once they saw they weren’t getting jumped on the whole workshop took off.

(My thanks here to Louise O’Neill who sent me an article about sex education in America which prompted us to focus more on these young men’s ignorance than their antagonism.)

We kept to our existing structure of exercises which explored the play ( walking around as different characters at different points in the story, making tableaux of significant moments) and the commitment was as mixed as any group but really these were just a springboard to keep discussing the themes of the play. Some preoccupations emerged – how culpable are you for your actions if you are drunk, how inhibited by convention the parents were, how over the top the lads were presented. The turning point was asking them, if were they Conor, would they take advantage of Emma’s offer to have sex in the second half of the play. Their outraged refusals introduced the idea of conscience and by the end of each workshop they had all agreed that really you always ‘know’ if you are overstepping the bounds of respect for another person’s autonomy regardless of how drunk you are.

The final exercise is choosing lines from the play (spread out on the floor in front of them) and talking about why they are significant. Several of these are from Emma when she is doubting her own position “e.g. Maybe I am a slut”. They were all clear this was an example of someone betraying themselves out of a desire to ‘get back to normal’. They also talked about their own fears of how to approach the whole area of sex and when two exchange students from France and Spain talked with obvious experience of having reflected on these topics you could see, past the odd embarrassed titter, that the Irish boys were impressed less at the achievement and more at the maturity. They all acknowledged the urge to brag about sexual conquests and how difficult it was to talk with the sensitivity they were displaying now when in the company of other young men. We did point out they were doing it there and then.

They came across as frightened, confused and tender-hearted, with no problem individually understanding Emma’s situation but also subject to a culture that made this empathy almost impossible to act upon. They seemed glad to have had the chance to talk openly and were noticeably more honest in the first workshop when we were left unsupervised for the last ten minutes.

Out of a possible 30 we only worked with 20 but these included the young man who’d previously called one of the characters ‘a pregnant bitch’ ( showing not only casual misogyny but a complete misunderstanding of the play) and another who’d been disruptively cynical. Both these behaviours disappeared quickly in the atmosphere of seriousness that the topics demanded. The teachers were amazed by how responsive some of the boys were but I wasn’t surprised that once they were listened to they re-discovered this sense of responsibility.

Before, after first visiting this school, I felt I’d seen the breeding ground for not only the rugby players in the Belfast rape trial but also the barristers who so calmly used their privileged education to spin the events to their clients’ advantage. Now I saw young men who could be advocates for more compassionate attitudes. So long as they resist the pack mentality.

!!!! Schools are invited to Branar Téatar do Pháistí’s Sruth na Teanga

Branar Téatar do Pháistí’s – Galway 2020

Dates: 2 – 29 March 2020

Sruth na Teanga: an adventure through the story of the Irish Language

As part of Galway 2020, Branar Téatar do Pháistí’s Sruth na Teanga is an epic and unique immersive theatre show that imaginatively tells the story of the evolution and life of the language. Branar will transform the terminal building of the old Galway Airport for a walk-through performance in which one class group of thirty pupils will enter at a time. Experience a true sense of adventure with cinematic levels of detail as you travel through four worlds experiencing live performance, puppetry, music, design and beautiful imagery. The children’s journey will culminate with an opportunity to explore a response room that will enhance and deepen their engagement with the show.

Branar’s world-class brand of storytelling will enchant audiences aged 8-plus and adults alike.

Tickets are €7 per child and teachers go free.

For further information and school bookings go to www.sruthnateanga.ie.

 

!!!! Applications are now open for the – Baboró GROW 2019 Pathways to Production Programme

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children

Deadline: 4pm, Friday 12th July 2019  

Pathways to Production is an artist support programme led by Baboró, who has partnered with Druid, the Mick Lally Theatre, Branar Téatar do Phaistí, The Irish Theatre Institute (ITI) and Galway Theatre Festival, to support artists and young companies to develop their ideas with a view to presenting a full performance piece.

What GROW ‘Pathways to Production’ offers:

 

The exciting scheme involves workshops, sharing of works-in-progress with peers, as well as support in developing funding strategies. Baboró, Druid and the Mick Lally Theatre, Branar Téatar de Phaistí, The Irish Theatre Institute and Galway Theatre Festival will make our collective organisational experience and resources available to participants.

The Pathways to Production programme runs from October 2019 to October 2020.

Who is it for?

 

Deadline for submissions is 4pm, Friday 12th July 2019. 

For further information including the application guidelines and submission from go to www.baboro.ie/about/work/grow/pathways

 

 

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark: The King’s Beautiful Garden

The Ark

Dates: 5 & 6 July 2019

Enjoy participating in this joyful early years (ages 2-4) drama workshop about a beautiful imagined garden led by our The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence Joanna Parkes.

In this workshop, little ones will meet a king who loves spending time in his gorgeous garden surrounded by flowers, bees and butterflies.

One day he learns that other kings have wardrobes full of shiny cloaks and crowns so he buys himself a new cloak, and another, and another. Soon he has lots of dazzling cloaks of many colours but what about the garden? He has no money left to pay the gardeners and the garden is overgrown, the flowers are dying and the bees have gone.

Maybe you can make the King see sense and save his garden before it’s too late!

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together.

Dates & Times 

Friday 5 July at 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 6 July at 10.15am & 11.45am

For further information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-jul19

!!!! Conference on Drama & Theatre in Education at Trinity College

The Arts Education Research Group (TCD) and the Association for Drama in Education in Ireland (ADEI)

Dates: 9th & 10th March 2019

The School of Education in Trinity College will host an exciting international conference on drama and theatre in education on March 9th and 10th.
This is a timely event in today’s world, and explores the theme of the social and political in children’s and young people’s drama and theatre. This conference will be of interest to teachers, artists and anyone working at the cutting edge of drama, theatre, education, creative and cultural studies, arts education, sociology and social policy, political science and education, psychology, and related fields.

The conference features an impressive line-up of speakers who will explore the conference theme with reference to their own practices in different parts of the world. With subsidised rates available for attendees (€105,) and a bursary scheme available for full time students (€38 for the 2 day event).

For further information and booking go to www.tcd.ie/Education/Drama-Davis-Conference19/

!!!! Barnstorm Theatre presents ‘Boy with a Suitcase’ – a new production for primary school students

Barnstorm Theatre Company

Dates: 6th – 9th of March 2019

School Shows: 10am & 12.30

Barnstorm Theatre Company is delighted to present its new production of ‘Boy with a Suitcase’ by Mike Kenny. Directed by Philip Hardy, the play deals with migration, focusing on the stories and cultural touchstones that sustain a young boy on his perilous journey to Ireland. The play has been written specifically for children aged 8-12 but is an interesting and thought-provoking piece that can be explored by all.

Like his hero, Sinbad the Sailor, who undertook many perilous voyages in search of his fortune, Naz must travel half-way around the world to reach the safety of his brother in Dublin. Naz teams up with Krysia, a young girl in similar circumstances, who helps him dodge soldiers and find safe passage over mountains, across seas and through the mire of a city slum.

A gripping tale of adventure and stories, Naz’s journey throws a spotlight on the real dangers faced by children in other parts of the world, and the lengths to which they must go to reach safety in the relative security of a country like Ireland.

A resource pack, developed in association with Ann Murtagh (Teacher/Tutor at Kilkenny Education Centre) , will be provided to participating teachers. The pack with provide a focus for exploration of the themes that arise throughout the play.

For more information or to obtain a resource pack, please contact Barnstorm Theatre at admin@barnstorm.ie, or call us on 056 7751266

Performances of Boy With a Suitcase will take place at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny from the 6th-9th of March.

Tickets are available online at watergatetheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873602052

 

!!!! Schools are invited to ‘PEAT’ – a new theatre show for children at The Ark

The Ark

Dates: 28th February – 31st March

The Ark presents ‘PEAT’ the world premiere of a brand new theatre show for ages 8+ by Kate Heffernan. Directed by Tim Crouch.

Delivered with lightness and humour, this new play for children asks big questions about life, death, time and history. A conversation between two 11-year olds who find themselves standing on top of everything that has ever happened, it is a story of friendship, loss, and finding our place in the world. The production will be performed by Curtis Lee Ashqar and Kwaku Fortune. The creative team includes lighting by The Ark’s Franco Bistoni alongside set & costume design by Lian Bell and sound design by Slavek Kwi, two acclaimed artists making their debuts at The Ark. The Ark invited consultation with children at several junctures throughout the process. The childrens’ input, including input from The Ark’s Children’s Council, greatly influenced the direction of the piece and has been at the very heart of this production.

School Days
6th -29th March (Wednesday-Friday) @ 10.15am & 12.15pm. (No show Wednesday 20th March)

For more information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/peat

!!!! Opportunity: PhD Opportunity with Imaginate – Valuing Young Audiences

Imaginate

Deadline: 5pm 30th November

Valuing Young Audiences: Fully Funded PhD opportunity with Imaginate 

Imaginate is seeking prospective doctoral students to work with them on an AHRC-funded PHD exploring the value for children of experiencing live theatre and dance as audience members. This is an exciting new collaboration between Imaginate and the University of Aberdeen, as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities’s (SGSAH) Collaborative Doctoral Awards Programme. The PhD student will be supported to engage with children, parents and teachers on three Imaginate projects: Inspiring Schools, Theatre in Schools Scotland, and the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. The research will be supervised by Professor Amy Bryzgel (Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen), Dr Jo Vergunst (Anthropology, University of Aberdeen) and Imaginate’s Chief Exec Paul Fitzpatrick.

The successful applicant will work with the supervisory team to prepare a final proposal to SGSAH in February 2019, with notification in April. If successful the studentship will commence on 1 October 2019.

Imaginate warmly encourages applications from researchers with a background in the performing arts, arts-in-education or research on the value of the arts, but this is not a prerequisite.

For more details and to download the full details go to www.imaginate.org.uk/artists/opportunities/phd-opportunity-with-imaginate-fully-funded.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Muireann Ahern & Louis Lovett, Theatre Lovett – Blog No. 4

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.


Louis is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett make work for all ages and tour extensively both nationally and internationally. For Theatre Lovett he writes, composes and performs. Work includes They Called Her Vivaldi (Abbey Theatre, National tour, USA tour 2019), The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Dublin Theatre Festival 2015). Mr. Foley, The Radio Operator (national tour), A Feast of Bones (Dublin Theatre Festival, UK tour), The House that Jack Filled (Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish tour) and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly (Irish, US/AUSTRALIAN tours). Louis has also worked with The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Siren Productions, Performance Corporation, Barabbas and others.  Louis has also performed in and directed several productions at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children. Television & Film includes Moone Boy, Stella Days, Anseo, Killinascully, The Tudors, Showbands, Story Lane, The Morbegs and others.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.

 

Blog 4: FRNKNSTN

FRNKNSTN has come and gone, perhaps to return next year and tour. At Theatre Lovett, we were happy with our monstrous creation and relish the chance to play with its constituent parts again.  As with all shows, a future opportunity to remount a show will allow us to tweak and try improvements.

Most satisfying was the combination of the talents within our creative team. It was important to the project that our creative designers could meet and discuss the project on many occasions before rehearsals began with the director, writer and actor.

Preparation began a year previously with three weeks of development with director, writer, actor and lighting designer. This was followed by a further week and one public showing on the Peacock stage with the support of the Abbey Theatre.  This year, the full team had the opportunity to come together in the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray for two weeks of development in advance of rehearsals to explore our teams’ different specialities and approaches. Thank you to Niamh O Donnell and her team there.

Pay for preparation, for preparation pays.

Cajoling, coercing and corralling the creative team’s work alongside happily wrangling and wrestling with the writer and the solo actor required director Muireann Ahern to enter the arena and persevere for months. She held her nerve with some particularly tough calls along the way as she whittled this beast down to its beautiful, bony exterior.

Playing for your audience

Theatre Lovett’s Actor Training with a focus on playing for audiences Young and Older

Following on from FRNKNSTN, and now in its eighth year, Theatre Lovett have just completed another two weeks of our Actor Training course ‘Playing for your Audience.’ Working in the Gate Theatre Studio, the participating actors also had the experience of presenting aspects of the work to students from two local primary schools from the Gate Theatre stage.

This live experience is integral to the week. Here, on the fourth day of the week, the actors have a chance to put into practise, before that young audience, techniques newly acquired. Freshly minted. Hard to grasp and not yet understood.

The only stories, stimulated by the movement of several beings in a space aware of and silently responding to one another. (Plenty of story detail is provided by the individual imaginations of audience members). No script, no story but a structure and techniques, techniques centred around connection, clarity and simplicity.

Eyes (and ears) for each other and for your audience. Breathe. Make the person next to you shine. Thrown into the real experience of having no prescribed ‘material’ and yet ‘presenting’ themselves to an audience of expectant, eager children, the eye contact between these actors who met each other for the first time four days ago undergoes a resonant transformation. “I am here for you.” “I am as lost as you are.” “What happens next?” “Not sure. Let’s find it together.” Their connection deepens.

To negotiate the space with fifteen other actors, to maintain the engagement of this active audience, to search for the next moment, find it… together, allow it to live and then the next and the next and to continue to engage this audience and together bring it to a close… this requires us to slow down with calm, focused energy. Our energy is the audience’s energy. Not the other way around. Slowly, the actors approach clarity and the audience sees the pictures we make.

Sixteen or so actors sing together a song in a language newly learned. “What’s the next line?” “When do we breathe?” “Do we start now?” “Is this right?” “I think it’s completely wrong” “Keep going.” “Together.” The actors look at each other. Watch each other’s breathing, eyes and mouths, conduct each other through these signals. Not with gestures or hand signals, no pictures of anxiety, no unnecessary movement. Keep it simple. Do the simple thing. Breathe and sing. Together. The children are there for them.

I will not go into the techniques used here. That requires a little time and an audience. Underlying the week is the credo that we are playing for our audience. Take care of our audience, young and older. Do not cause them anxiety. Allow them fully relax in order to be fully engaged. They should sense that they’re in good hands. Easier said than done.

For more information www.theatrelovett.com/training

Copyright
Louis Lovett 2018

!!!! Guest Blogger: Jessica O’Brien, Young Playwright Programme – Blog No. 3

Jessica O’ Brien is a 16 year old student and aspiring writer from Cork. As part of the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre, she along with eight other young people wrote and staged plays in The Everyman as part of the Midsummer Festival in 2018. She is currently writing her first book and hopes to have a career in writing novels or journalism.

Why I Write – Blog 3

I write for a reason, though I know that most of it is just instinct. Since I was a kid I would fill these hardbacks with creative writing and acrostic poems and I would fill my suitcases with my favourite books for the summer holidays – to the despair of my Mom. (my case was always overweight)  I distinctly remember the first Young Adult novel I read, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, and immediately being hooked. I couldn’t get enough of these characters and worlds that were realistic, these people I wanted to be friends with. Within two years my room was unrecognisable, with massive shelves to facilitate my little library.

When I started studying for the Junior Cert I was taught to read and look at other forms of art critically. I am very grateful for the English class, classmates and teacher I had. Instead of just spewing out whatever Ithought was good, I took criticism from others. I listened to the other girls and realised I could be as good at writing answers as them if I tried. It was then I realised just how much I loved writing. I loved being able to start writing and forgetting about where I was and having that right word come to me. Suddenly I was in love with cinematography, the meaning behind words and I began to read and write differently. Now I couldn’t just read any YA book, I would scan the fonts and blurbs and as I read, I would add things to my mental list of what I liked or disliked. My journals became a source of comfort, and they still remain so.

But as I have gotten older and learned more about myself and the world, I realised that I had never truly been able to find myself in a book. There is such a lack of diversity, there are so many cliche stories with happy endings and straight romances and I got tired. One day I was walking home from the bookshop with my Dad and he asked me what the books I had bought were about. I explained, and I guess he was surprised because the books had strong themes in them. ‘I thought you read to escape reality,’ he said, with his bag of crime novels. ‘I guess I write to help change my reality,’ I thought.

I write because I can’t not write. I write to tell people what I can’t say or to get my feelings out on paper. My journals are almost like scrapbooks in a way. But most importantly, I now write because I have stories I need to tell. There are people in the LGBT community like me who’s story never gets told. People of colour. Different religion. Disabilities. Those love stories that don’t work out and real life teenager scenarios. We are all hot messes. It is so much nicer to read a book and relate to it rather than read a book and strive to be like it.

I write for myself, and everyone who ever deserved a voice. One day, maybe I’ll be scrutinising the YA section and I’ll see my own name there. That’s the dream I have for this reality.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Muireann Ahern & Louis Lovett, Theatre Lovett – Blog No. 3

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.


Louis is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett make work for all ages and tour extensively both nationally and internationally. For Theatre Lovett he writes, composes and performs. Work includes They Called Her Vivaldi (Abbey Theatre, National tour, USA tour 2019), The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Dublin Theatre Festival 2015). Mr. Foley, The Radio Operator (national tour), A Feast of Bones (Dublin Theatre Festival, UK tour), The House that Jack Filled (Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish tour) and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly (Irish, US/AUSTRALIAN tours). Louis has also worked with The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Siren Productions, Performance Corporation, Barabbas and others.  Louis has also performed in and directed several productions at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children. Television & Film includes Moone Boy, Stella Days, Anseo, Killinascully, The Tudors, Showbands, Story Lane, The Morbegs and others.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.

 

Blog 3: Theatre Lovett in the Rehearsal Room

Into week two proper of FRNKNSTN rehearsals. The focus in the creative space at present is on unlocking the gate way between the words of Michael West’s script and the actor’s physical, vocal and spiritual interpretation. Director Muireann Ahern, stage manager Clare Howe and actor Louis Lovett set up stall in a creative marketplace where ideas are unloaded, laid out, prodded for texture, freshness, flavour, tried out for size, weighed, assessed, refused, balked at, laughed at (in a bad way), laughed at (in good way), and once or twice a day, but usually just once, a string of ideas are spooled out in an order sufficient to please and perhaps, for a critical second, to impress. These ones are marked down for memory and promptly asked to take one more twirl around the room, and again and again. If they stand up to scrutiny and pass muster after repetition, then they are stamped for approval and requested to present for duty the next day to undergo the same drill again. Mr. Lovett accepts the challenge on their behalf. They will then be pushed for improvement. This string of ideas might comprise one short section of one scene whereby these firm, fresh ideas might be leaned upon to point the way forward and assess the way we have come so far.

These ideas are the precious gifts we intend laying at the precious feet of our fine audience. It is essential that they are the best we have to offer. Their providence is obscure in parts, clearly archived in others. Some are like midges on a summer’s evening that have become tangled in our hair for no reason but pure chance that we had decided to cycle in the park. But now we’re overdoing it…

Time hurtles towards tech week and first audiences. Our rehearsal time, our time strolling (racing!) the aisles of our ideas market is being whittled away. Always other demands pull us from the business of ideas.

Muireann Ahern directs and Louis Lovett performs in Theatre Lovett’s next production of FRNKNSTN by Michael West, a modern mutation of Mary  Shelley’s classic novel FRANKENSTEIN at The Abbey Theatre. This daring adaptation re-imagines Victor Frankenstein as a gene-splicing molecular biologist who creates human life from his own DNA with catastrophic results. Speaking from a holding cell, Frankenstein is desperate to set the record straight. A modern ghost story and psychological thriller, this version of Frankenstein aims to chill us with the darkness we hold within our DNA — and our hearts. Age Guidance: Not suitable for under 16s, www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/frankenstein/

!!!! Guest Blogger: Jessica O’Brien, Young Playwright Programme – Blog No. 1

Jessica O’ Brien is a 16 year old student and aspiring writer from Cork. As part of the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre, she along with eight other young people wrote and staged plays in The Everyman as part of the Midsummer Festival in 2018. She is currently writing her first book and hopes to have a career in writing novels or journalism.

Let Creativity STEM – Blog 1

All my life I have been aware of what subjects defined me as ‘intelligent’ and what made me ‘subordinate’ by the education system.

Since I made the jump from primary school to secondary school I have become increasingly aware of the differences between myself and the students who excel in STEM subjects. It’s pretty clear what careers are portrayed as sensible, high intelligence careers, as careers in the arts are simply never discussed. STEM subjects include science, technology, engineering and mathematics- and recently I have noticed what a huge effort is being made to promote careers in these subjects, especially as my school is all female. We have been visited by countless representatives encouraging us to begin a career in a STEM subject and we have had several different weeks in school dedicated to science and maths. I believe this is hugely positive and will inspire us girls with the message that we too can hold positions of power in careers dedicated to these subjects- but I do think that those who are genuinely not interested in these subjects are being tossed aside.

Despite science being a choice in my school, I am constantly made to feel like it was never my choice to drop it. There have never been weeks dedicated to the students that excel in the arts. Yes, there are classes available, but they were hard fought for and aren’t treated as important by those who don’t participate in them. I spoke to my art teacher at an open night once, and she told me that parents would approach her, and ask her if ‘art was really that hard.’  My music teachers have only recently been given time slots for practicing for our carol service that is one of the biggest events on our school calendar. This would never happen with any other subjects. I was at a meeting being on our school’s magazine team. Our teacher didn’t show up to the meeting, which was a regular occurrence, but we decided we were going to power through on our own and show the school what we could do. But that couldn’t happen now. We were told the school didn’t have the funding for the 6 extra pages we wanted to produce. Yet our school bank gets hundreds to rent in famous guests to hype up their work. Our school has an annual run to pay for a new running track for sport. Our science labs are always stocked for experiments and our art classrooms are used as supply cabinets whenever people need to make posters. If you want to work hard in schools in a subject to do with the arts, you are pretty much on your own. I feel that the way people who work hard in these creative subjects are treated is really offensive. Music, art, and all other creatively based subjects are also fulfilling and big earning careers. The world needs them just as much as it needs scientists and engineers. Would you turn around to a world famous actor and chastise them for not becoming a mathematician?

Jessica was a participant in the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre which was a recipient of the Arts in Education Portal 2018 Documentation Award.

 

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.4

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 4: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects to tell our story through the medium of a museum. Its subject is the lives of students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In my last blog post I detailed how I worked with a group of first year CSPE students and asked them to invest in the stories behind their rights – and learn about their rights in reality.

In our next session, I presented a simple everyday object to the group – I used a shoe. I like to gather the participants around the object in a circle. First I asked them to make objective observations: what can we say for certain just by looking at it? For example; “it’s a shoe”, “it’s got white laces”, “it’s black” “there’s dirt on it”. I kept this going, correcting them if they brought in any subjective observations (eg. “They look like they’ve been used to go running” or “They’re ugly”). Keep it to the facts that you can tell just by looking.

Once I’d just about exhausted this, I asked them to make subjective observations. I prompted them; who might have owned these shoes? What might they have used them for? Did they value them? And with each answer, I asked them to support their claim with evidence that they can see.

Then I placed the shoes on a raised platform (I used a bin but asked them to imagine it was a plinth in a museum!) and I asked them if that changed the way they saw it? Did it make it seem more important? Why? What could possibly be so important about this pair of shoes that they would be in a museum? I asked them to imagine that there was a label on it that said “Plastic and canvas shoes. Shoe size 5. 2017. Syria.” and then I asked them what they thought of them then. What would they think about the story of these shoes and who wore them?

I put the shoes away and then put another object on our “plinth”. This one was of personal importance to me – a pair of cufflinks displayed in their box. But I didn’t tell the participants anything about them yet. Again I asked them to make objective observations, then subjective observations (“is this important to the owner? Why do you say that?” “Are these expensive? Why do you say that?” “When were they made?” etc.) I then told them what they were, the story behind them and why they were important to me. Then I asked them all to bring in an object that was important to them, look at their UNHCR which we’d been working on, and relate what was important to them about the object back to an article in the charter.

Now we were facing the task of putting together an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. Our questions for this were; how do we represent the work and the participants’ learning in that space for members of the public to see? And how do we invite the public to actively engage with the ideas within it?

We decided to keep it simple; we photographed all the participants with their chosen object and asked them why it was important to them and what right(s) it related to. We then got Sarah Moloney, a graphic designer (although this could have been done by me or someone who had time to learn Photoshop) to lay out the photographs with quotations from the students laid over the image, along with the text from the UNCRC that were relevant. Each of these was printed on A2 card and was displayed on the walls of the exhibitions space. This allowed all of the students who had taken part to be represented in the exhibition.

There were three large windows in the space; the middle one we printed the text of the UNCRC and on the two sides windows we wrote “What would be in your Rights Museum?” and invited the public to write on the windows in liquid chalk pens which we provided. This allowed the public to actively engage in the ideas that the Right Museum was provoking.

The Museum kindly lent us a display case, for which I chose eight objects that were representative of the whole group, to be displayed for the duration of the exhibition. This was the centre piece of the Rights Museum and showed the seemingly everyday objects, contributed by young citizens, enjoying the prestige and equal importance that is given to the treasured objects in the National Museum’s collection.

The power of this statement seemed to resonate with those we told about it and we had an enthusiastic response to our invitation to the opening of the exhibition. The opening was attended by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Director of the National Museum Raghnall Ó Floinn and the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon, as well as national media including RTE news and the Irish Times. Two students from Larkin Community College, Ciarán Hayden and Isabella Anthony, spoke about their experience of the process at the podium, alongside the Minister, Director, and Ombudsman for Children. A number of students led guided interpretive tours of the exhibition for our guests.

I’d count among the Rights Museums successes; the way that it was able to facilitate learning about children’s rights in an active and personal way, that it succeeded in placing, on equal footing, the objects and stories of the young people alongside the artefacts of the National Museum, and the wide reach that the Rights Museum had to the public, through the media and from those who visited it.

The main challenges were in finding time and space with the young people to work in a way that was outside of the curriculum – although there are important curricular subjects being addressed. I am eternally grateful to the staff of Larkin, particularly Máire O’Higgins for facilitating that. Another challenge I found was a lack of understanding, of and buy-in to, the idea of human rights by the young people that I worked with. I picked up on a prevailing perception, before I started working with them, that human rights were a

My takeaways from this projects are many but the main ones that jump to mind

1. That artists have a different approach to working that the students can benefit from that perspective. The artists way is often a more circuitous, process and enquiry based approach than students are used to in mainstream education. It’s one that’s comfortable with the state of ambiguity you find yourself in while you’re working, one that allows one to say “I don’t know what this is yet” and for that not to be a bad thing. That’s not to say artists are the only people who can demonstrate that way of working, but it is something that artists can do because of the way many of us work.

2. That as an artist working in a school, it’s important that that’s what I remain – an artist. My job is to be an artist, not an Art or CSPE teacher or anything else. The job is artist and that has value.

3. That the framing of work by young people has a profound impact on how it’s perceived by people, but most importantly themselves. The way their work (whether it be a copy book, or a sculpture or a story told in class) is handled by the people in the world around them, subconsciously tells them something about it’s value. And my feeling is there is a huge artistic and social potential in subverting expectations of that value – as we did in small way by displaying “ordinary” objects in a museum.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has commissioned an education pack that features a guide on how to create your own rights museum in your school or community, and it will be available from their website in the autumn 2018 term.

If I may, I’d like to thank the Arts in Education portal for offering me this chance to share the process; Rebecca Mclaughlin and Niall Muldoon in the OCO for their support and vision in making this happen; Helen Beaumont and Lorraine Cormer in the National Museum’s Education Department for all that they did in hosting the exhibition, giving it a platform and providing expert facilitation on museum curation to the students; Richard Bruton for officially opening the exhibition; the students at Larkin Community College, and staff Siobhán Mckenzie, Declan Quinn, Emma O’Reilly, and Principal Thomas Usher. In particular I would like to thank Assistant Principal Máire O’Higgins, without whose drive, vision and passion for education and art, this wouldn’t have started and would have fallen at the first hurdle.

 

!!!! Documentation Award Update – Playwright & Actor John McCarthy & The Young Playwrights Programme

The Arts in Education Portal Documentation Award recipient project, the Young Playwright’s Programme, culminated on Friday, June 22nd in a presentation of staged readings involving professional actors and directors at the Everyman as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival and in association with Landmark Productions and The Everyman’s staging of Louise O’Neill’s award winning novel Asking For It.

Between January and June 2018, the nine young playwrights selected over a series of Saturday workshops, had the the opportunity to work with  professional playwright mentors John McCarthy and Katie Holly at Graffiti Theatre Company as part of Fighting Words Cork to help them create the short dramatic pieces that were staged last week.  In addition, the young playwrights were invited by The Everyman to attend selected performances throughout the programme, to inspire and inform their work.

Award-winning Cork author Louise O’Neill is a patron of Fighting Words Cork, and Asking For It has been described as “one of the most important books for young people ever written. Deeply moving, incredibly written.”

The Fighting Words programme was developed by Roddy Doyle and Séan Love in 2009 in Dublin to provide a space to support creative writing among children and young adults. In January 2017 the programme was launched at Graffiti Theatre Company.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Muireann Ahern, Joint Artistic Director Theatre Lovett – Blog No. 2

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.

She will next direct Theatre Lovett’s production of FRNKNSTN at the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com

Blog 2: Muireann Ahern, Joint Artistic Director Theatre Lovett

As we hurtle towards another new production with a new creative team and endless days of rehearsing, ‘teching’, and sweating the small stuff (each and every grain of it), I ask myself again why do we do what we do? Why do we need theatre at all? Do we need to create meaning through stories? Whether a child or an adult? The oldest of societies have had theatre-like rituals where meaning has been communicated through story. I do believe theatre can give children an arena to stimulate creative paths within their growing brains, paths on which they might meet themselves coming and going, carrying new skillsets with which to enhance their understanding of the world. And perhaps change it too.

The live exchange of theatre is increasingly important as children are more and more ‘face down in screen mode’. However, let us not demand their attention. As audience members, they have the right to switch off and tune out if they so desire. Also, if they are engaged by the piece, let’s gift them the choice to be alone in their experience or to share it with fellow audience members and like wise with their connection with the onstage players.  As theatre-makers we hope our work will attract and hold their attention and win their engagement. Of course, we hope and work hard for this but again, let’s not force the issue. We concentrate on ensuring that what we create for the stage is different each time. And we hope – full of moments of wonder, skill and surprise. Our audiences might be wowed by the work asking themselves “How did they do that?” The “Why?” can come later but for now “How?” is good. It rhymes with “wow”.

Let us hope that children and young people, whether on an outing with their class or with their families, can come to think of the theatre space as a place separate from expected outcomes. Rather, let it be different to their norms. Different from the classroom or kitchen. Different possibilities emanating from the actions of the players up there on the stage. Different synapses firing in different parts of the brain. Different outlooks on a world that, once we leave the theatre, might look different.

Playing for your Audience

There are many fine theatre artists working today with a focus on children and young people. Younger theatre-makers are turning their heads towards work for children too. More people becoming involved is a good thing.  When we invite artists from the ‘adult theatre world’ to bring their craft to work for young audiences or introduce younger practitioners to this audience, we must ensure they are supported in the process. If misguided or misdirected both audience and artists can end up at sea or up the proverbial creek. Most important here is accuracy in terms of the age pitch of a theatre piece.

At Theatre Lovett, we run our actor training courses entitled Playing for your Audience. Our underpinning philosophy is to encourage actors to address where their egos are in this process. Walk hand in hand with your ego, bring it with you, leave it at the door, teach it to “Sit!”. Yes, like puppy training for the Ego. Give it a cuddle but remember who’s the boss.  In our training, we focus on ‘making the person next to you shine’ and strive to create work that will shine from the stage.

Happily, we have a healthy interest from artists, with all levels of experience, wishing to participate. There is definitely a growing desire to know more about this area. I love to see actors bridging the divide between playing for young audiences and playing for adults. It is, however, a particular joy to find actors who are at ease interacting with their audience and who are at ease with what children might offer them during performance. It concerns knowing when to engage and when not to, yet at all times with that lovely sense that every child’s offering is wholly, yet subtly, embraced. My Co-Artistic Director, Louis Lovett, is known for this kind of interaction. He has a real desire to upskill other actors in this area. He surfs his audience beautifully and his audiences are rarely left unheard or with their contribution left hanging in the air. This is a very skilful thing to be able to do effectively and as a director, this is a very satisfying component of the shows I direct (thanks to the actors’ skills). There is a whole methodology behind if or when an actor acknowledges or includes offers that come spontaneously from a young audience. To be able to do so, without putting the brakes on the momentum of the show, is what can really set theatre for children apart from the grown-up variety.

Muireann will direct Theatre Lovett’s next production of FRNKNSTN an adaptation of Mary  Shelley’s classic novel FRANKENSTEIN at The Abbey Theatre. Pitched at 16+ https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/frankenstein/

!!!! Documentation Award Update – Young Playwrights’ Programme Showcase at the Cork Midsummer Festival

The Young Playwright’s Programme

Date: 2pm 22nd June, 2018

The Arts in Education Portal Documentation Award recipient project the Young Playwright’s Programme to showcase at The Everyman as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival.

The Young Playwrights’ Programme brought together nine aspiring young writers to develop and hone scriptwriting skills, supported by professional playwright mentors John McCarthy and Katie Holly at Graffiti Theatre Company as part of Fighting Words Cork.

The project culminates in a presentation of their work as staged readings at the Everyman for Cork Midsummer Festival. The process which these young people have engaged with was truly transformative, far more powerful than the simple assembly of words on pages. This enriching collaborative environment has acted as a catalyst for the unique voices of the Young Playwrights and led to the creation of these nine compelling pieces.

Graffiti/Fighting Words Cork are really proud to be working with these wonderful young people in collaboration with The Everyman, Landmark Productions and The Cork Midsummer Festival as part of a programme of events in connection with Asking For It funded through the Arts Councils Open Call Awards.

This event is free but ticketed.

To RSVP you can just call the Everyman box office at 021 450 1673 or emailing info@everymancork.com

!!!! Guest Blogger: Muireann Ahern & Louis Lovett – Blog No. 1

Muireann Ahern is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. For Theatre Lovett she has directed and designed multiple shows. Muireann has over twenty years’ experience working in theatre for young audiences. Previously, she was Theatre Programmer and Producer at The Ark. She programmed the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival and The Dublin Dance Festival. Muireann has worked with The Abbey Theatre’s Outreach Department, TEAM, part time lecturer at St Patrick’s teacher training college, and is a regular guest speaker on theatre for children at other third level colleges. She has led several Professional Development courses and was a member of the core working group on the published Artists~Schools Guidelines: ‘Towards Best Practice in Ireland’. She has been guest speaker at national and international conference focusing on ‘quality’ in theatre for young audiences. She is a graduate of the Samuel Beckett Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin and also holds a HDip Education from TCD.

She will next direct Theatre Lovett’s production of FRNKNSTN at the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage.

Louis is Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett make work for all ages and tour extensively both nationally and internationally. For Theatre Lovett he writes, composes and performs. Work includes They Called Her Vivaldi (Abbey Theatre, National tour, USA tour 2019), The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Dublin Theatre Festival 2015). Mr. Foley, The Radio Operator (national tour), A Feast of Bones (Dublin Theatre Festival, UK tour), The House that Jack Filled (Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish tour) and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly (Irish, US/AUSTRALIAN tours). Louis has also worked with The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Siren Productions, Performance Corporation, Barabbas and others.  Louis has also performed in and directed several productions at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children. Television & Film includes Moone BoyStella Days, Anseo, Killinascully, The Tudors, Showbands, Story Lane, The Morbegs and others.

He will next appear on the Peacock stage in Theatre Lovett’s production of FRNKNSTN.

Theatre Lovett make theatre for all ages, child and adult, young and old, chicken and egg. They were nominated for a Judges Special Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017. If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.re Awards 2017.  If you seek theatre that can amuse, involve and sometimes scare, we offer you theatre as adventure www.theatrelovett.com.

The Theatre Lovett Process – Blog 1

At Theatre Lovett we are acutely aware of the tone of our own shows. All too often, in our opinion, the tragedy part for children is ignored. Our menu covers comedy and tragedy. But it is a skilful expedition to take children to darker places and then bring them back again unscathed and, hopefully, exhilarated. We hope that our chosen material and staging will stretch our audiences.  It need not be a replication of what they already know and have a handle on. We hope never to underestimate a child’s capacity.

Happily, we see less and less of the default, high-octane, kiddy-theatre actor with unbridled energy bounding onto the stage in brightly coloured clothing. This often misplaced energy is a bit like giving children a sugar overload before the main meal. Deep down, let’s be honest, we know it’s not terribly good for them.

If we had a penny for every time we’ve heard: ‘Oh, they’re a tough audience, they’re very honest, and they’ll tell you exactly what they think’. Contrary to popular belief, and what we have found is that children do not always tell you what they think. They are, for the most part, quite polite. After the show, they will also tell you what they think you want to hear. Especially, if you’re waving a feedback form under their nose and stand between them and the exit/lunch/playtime/home.

What should children get from theatre, we ask ourselves? What any adults strives to get – a good day out, hopefully. Or hour. And that experience might be funny, insightful, provocative, moving or challenging. However, there is often a belief that children must learn something. Muireann is with Brecht who says “all good theatre is educational” if it opens up some new understanding. Simply because the adults in their lives have gone to the trouble of taking them to the theatre does not mean that the children have to be wowed by the piece. Heavens to Murgatroyd, Batman! it might not be any good. As with adults, children have the right to discard a theatre experience from their memory as soon as they exit the auditorium. It might be the wisest move. Let’s not doorstep them as they leave with questionnaires about their ‘favourite parts’ or ‘the best bits’. Who is this kind of questioning for, really? For Theatre Lovett, those moments after we leave the theatre are some of the most important moments in the whole experience. Give it breathing space, allow it to land or not to land. Give the children space to process.

Sometimes in the latter stages of rehearsal we will invite an audience in to see the work in progress. A Questions and Answers session afterwards helps us measure our rates of success or failure in audience engagement.  Louis will often get things underway with:

“So, there were some really boring bits in that show, weren’t there? Can you remember any of the particularly boring parts?” And off we go. Try it. It can be enlightening.

Scarily enlightening.

!!!! Invitation to teachers & practitioners to attend the Theatre Connects Symposium

University College Cork

Date: 25th May, 2018

Performative Pathways between Schools, Universities and the Wider Community

The invited speakers will offer their perspectives on why theatre should be introduced and established as a subject in primary and secondary schools, why universities should embrace performativity within and across academic disciplines, and why leading theatres should continue to embrace and increase their outreach activities and aspire to employ theatre education specialists. The symposium should be of special interest to those who aim to form stronger links between theatre and education, including teachers, lecturers, theatre students, directors of theatres and theatre companies, applied theatre practitioners and policy makers.

Symposium organisation: Manfred Schewe and Fionn Woodhouse, Department of Theatre, School of Music & Theatre, UCC

Venue: Creative Zone, Boole Library, Main Campus, University College Cork

Date & Time: 25th May 2018 (12 a.m. to 4.30 pm.) – attendance free of charge, please confirm by May 24th

For more information go to www.ucc.ie/en/music-theatre/drama/news/theatre-connects-symposium.html

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.3

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 3: Rights Museum

In my last blog post I detailed “Phase 1” of the process in which I facilitated drama and storytelling workshops with the 2nd year Art students at Larkin Community College, and the work-in-progress of the Rights Museum project which we presented in Croke Park for the OCO’s UNCRC25 Launch.

Although the presentation in Croke Park was supposed to be a “work-in-progress”, any readers who have done works-in-progress themselves will know there’s an inevitable sense of completion that sets in afterwards. Our challenge for “Phase 2” of the Rights Museum project was finding something new in executing the same idea. At the same time, the Art teachers Declan Quinn and Siobhán Mackenzie (who had been an essential energetic and creative force through the process from the beginning) started to feel the gravitational pull of the curriculum on their time, and thought that to continue with the process would be consume more time than they could afford to give. So, it was with some difficulty that we decided to draw a line under the phase 1 with the second year art students. This, I’m sure is a challenge and a decision many educators reading this will understand.

In order to continue, Máire O’Higgins, Deputy Principal and coordinator of artistic partnerships, needed to find an enthusiastic teacher and a group students who could benefit from the work. This she found in abundance in Emma O’Reilly and her first year CSPE class.

The task now was to recreate the process of phase one with a new group. This time, given that they were a CSPE class, we decided to find our way in through the UNCRC. Emma O’Reilly gave an introduction class to the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, supported by me and Máire O’Higgins. Human Rights is one of the core pillar concepts of their CSPE course which they would normally cover in second year, so there was a curricular link there.

In our next session we asked the students to pick what they considered to be the most essential article in the UNCRC and to say why. We found their answers tended to cluster around the articles relating to family (and this was a theme we saw bare out in the objects they chose for the museum later). As the students told us which articles they thought were essential , my job as facilitator was to foment debate and dissent.

I used an exercise called “The Continuum” in which we cleared away the tables and chairs, nominated one end of the room to be “strongly agree” and the other side to be “strongly disagree” with “unsure” in the middle. When I said a statement, the students had to place themselves in the room, depending on how they felt about the statement. So, for example I might say “’Article 24; you have the right to healthcare’ is the most essential right” and the students would place themselves in the room depending on whether they agreed or strongly disagreed or somewhere in the middle. Then I would call on people who had taken the most extreme positions to say why. As they listened to the conversation and opposing points, students were encouraged to change their positions in the room as they changed their minds.

In this way, the students learned, from each other, the importance of their rights through the personal anecdotes they shared; they learned about their rights in reality. Choosing extreme statements to polarise opinion at the start and then allowing them to tease out the nuances among themselves.

In my next, and final, blog post I’ll describe how we applied this knowledge to museum curation; how one can tell stories and create meaning through selecting  and placing objects. I’ll describe the process of working with the National Museum of Ireland, the launch of our completed Rights Museum exhibition in the National Museum at Collins Barracks and the Education Pack being commissioned by the OCO based on the Rights Museum.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.2

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 2: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In the last post I described the beginnings of the project idea and the partners who came together to make in happen; Larkin Community College, The Ombudsman for Children’s Office and the National Museum of Ireland.

I began work on “Phase 1” of the project in September 2017 with two second-year Art classes, along with teachers Siobhán McKenzie and Declan Quinn. I facilitated four weekly hour-long workshops  on Wednesday afternoons outside of class time. I also worked with the students in their art classes with their teachers.

The workshops used drama and storytelling techniques to three main aims; to surprise and entertain, to get them cooperating as a group, not just individuals; and to introduce new forms of self-expression. That work included a simple ball throwing and catching exercise (acknowledging the stress that it causes, allowing ourselves to drop the ball, and focussing on the thing that mattered; that we were all working together calmly to the get the ball around the circle). We also stood in a circle and played what I call “Kung Foo” (of which there’s many variations including “zip, zap, boing”) We also played a game in which 5 participants sit in a row, and then take turns standing up and saying “My name is X” followed by something that’s true. The aim is to always have someone standing and sating something, to act on the impulse to fill a gap where it occurs and to say anything that’s true, however mundane, that come into your head. This exercise allows for back-and-forth conversations to emerge, (eg. “My name is Dan and I have two brothers” followed by “My name is Stacy and I also have two brothers”) and for the participants to get to know each other better and have a way of expressing themselves through the exercise.

In two Art classes a week, I focussed more directly on the task of creating a Rights Museum. That time was devoted to introducing the concepts of the UNCRC (supported by a workshop delivered by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office) and a focus on objects and what story they can tell (supported by a “If Objects Can Talk” workshop in National Museum of Ireland).

The students were asked to pick an object that was meaningful to them and to bring it in to class.

They were asked to “free-write” about it.

They were asked to stand up and share why it was meaningful to them and what articles in the UNCRC it referred to.

This process lead the students to share among the following objects with their class:

In their other session each week, Ms McKenzie’s class divided into 4 groups. Each group took a theme of the UNCRC and created a large mind-map illustrating that theme and the rights that it represented. Mr Quinn’s class also divided into 4 groups and created interactive paper fortune tellers which illustrated the four themes.

The culmination of phase 1 was a work-in-progress presentation of the Rights Museum took place in Croke Park as part of the OCO’s launch of the UNCRC25 celebrations in September 2017. It featured :

The participants reported their surprise and delight at how their objects and artwork were displayed just like in a professional museum. They also reported experiencing a thrill at seeing other people coming to view their objects and read their writing, and a great sense of achievement in what they’d produced.

The work-in-progress was intended to mark the end of phase 1 and the beginning of another, but we were soon to discover that it had the sense of an ending in and of itself. For phase 2 of the work, we would be starting again with a new set of students and finding a way to join the work that both groups had done.
 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.1

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 1: Rights Museum

Can our objects tell us about the state of our rights?

Can they show our rights upheld? The rights we’re denied?

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

The project is led by me, in my capacity as Director of Collapsing Horse. I am an artist, a producer, director and writer for theatre. Collapsing Horse is a theatre and festival production company that makes work that arises out of collaboration and purposeful play. Sometimes the work we make is for and with young people.

It originated when I was approached by Máire O’Higgins, Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College and asked if I would be interested in working with the students there, if I had an idea of what I would do. She described examples of some of the remarkable work that had been created by the students with professional artists. I was familiar with Larkin from work I had done there with the Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department and had admired the school’s commitment to the arts as a key part of the holistic development of their students. This commitment is upheld in the face of frequent adversity. Máire made no bones about it – Larkin is a school that is on the front lines of a community that has experienced generations of lack of opportunity and neglect.

Around about the same time Rebecca McLaughlin, from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), approached me with the idea of collaborating on something for the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the UNCRC. It seemed serendipitous! It was obvious to put the two ideas together – I would lead the Rights Museum project in Larkin Community College, which would also serve as pilot programme that could be written about in an education pack and replicated in other schools and communities for the OCO’s 25th Anniversary celebrations. Later, the National Museum of Ireland came on board as enthusiastic supporters, making it clear they would help in whatever way we could.

The goal from the outset was clear. We would empower a group of young people to create an exhibition illustrating their experience of their rights enshrined in the UNCRC. What wasn’t clear, was how we were going to do it.

!!!! CPD for Teachers at The Ark: An Drámaíocht sa Seomra Ranga

The Ark

Date: Saturday 10th March

Teachers are invited to enjoy a morning exploring a range of simple and accessible drama processes for the classroom using the Irish language. Using The Ark’s season theme of Me & the City and aspects of the primary curriculum as a bouncing off point, you will have the chance to develop confidence and skills in working thematically through drama in Irish. The workshop will focus on activities suitable for 2nd-6th class. It will be presented bilingually and is suitable for teachers at all levels of confidence in working through Irish.

Saturday 10 March @ 10:30 am to 1.30pm

For more information go to www.ark.ie/events/view/cpd-for-teachers-drama-sa-seomra-ranga-drama-in-the-classroom

!!!! The Civic Theatre – Tenderfoot performances for schools

The Civic Theatre, Tallaght

Schools Performances – Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Original plays, written by 15/16 year old playwrights, provide a unique glimpse into the world of our young people; articulating their experience and their reality.

TENDERFOOT, meaning neophyte, newbie, greenhorn, is The Civic Theatre’s apprentice theatre programme for transition year students.  Now in its eleventh year the programme provides students from eight different schools in the South County Dublin region the opportunity to create and perform original work for the stage. From January 25th to 27th this work can be seen in The Civic Theatre.  Plays written by young people, telling their stories, presenting the world as they see it.  These diverse and exciting plays, the work of young theatre makers, include –

The End of the Beginning by Tadhg Slye, an exploration of male friendship in a world of exams and first girlfriends and exploding toasters.

Plastic by Jordan Lee, a supernatural chiller guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat.

Seaside Story by Aidan Kelly, a comedy about families, holidays and global warming.

And Just for the Cracked by Chloe O’Flaherty which takes a fly on the wall look at a group of young people who find their friend unconscious and unresponsive at a party.

Tenderfoot Performances 2018

Schools Performances Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Admission €10 / €5 concession

Booking 01 4627477  www.civictheatre.ie/ whats-on/tenderfoot-new- writing-showcase-2018/

!!!! Theatre for schools and early years at Roscommon Arts Centre

Roscommon Arts Centre 

This spring the Roscommon Arts Centre have planned a host of children’s events for families, schools and crèches to enjoy. We hope you will come along and join us in some fun!

Roadworks 

In 2016 theatre maker Paul Curley was awarded Roscommon Arts Centre’s “First Edition Commission” to create new work for young audiences as part of the Bookworms Festival and “Roadworks” was conceived. Since then, the production has enjoyed further periods of development with the support of Theatre Lovett and Irish Theatre Institute and this season, we are delighted to welcome it back home as a fully fledged show.

From the team that brought you BAKE! a brand new show is coming to town…and you’re invited to be amongst the first to see it. Designer Ger Clancy and performer Paul Curley present a work-in-progress of their innovative new theatre show for young audiences called ROADWORKS. In collaboration with theatre artist and director Andy Manley, with music by Jack Cawley and movement by Emma O’Kane, ROADWORKS digs up an exciting new telling of a very old tale. Mac the road engineer is digging at the crossroads until unexpectedly he finds a rare and beautiful artifact. Will he turn it in or will he keep it all for himself? A visual feast with road-signs, music and…..a wolf!

THURSDAY 18TH JANUARY | 10am & 12pm | Free Admission | Suitable for ages 4 – 7

The House of Oedipus – Roscommon County Youth Theatre

An epic Greek Tragedy following the story of one man’s family who are doomed from the beginning. Are pride and stubbornness the cause of Oedipus’ downfall or did he commit some unknown sin against the Gods? He committed a crime but did not know it was a crime, was he guilty? Bringing four Greek tragedies together, this full-length play brings us three generations, two countries, five kings, two plagues and one war.

THURSDAY 19th & FRIDAY 20th  | 11am | €6  & FRIDAY 20th & SATURDAY 21st APRIL | 8pm | €12/€10

U00, Mee, Weee – Baboró International Arts Festival for Children & Branar Téatar do Pháistí

Uoo and Mee walk the same, talk the same, do everything the same…until one day one of them decides to do something different!! This playful show explores what happens when things change in a humorous tale of finding your feet and having the courage to be different. This non verbal show is directed by Lali Morris & Marc Mac Lochlainn with original music score by Michael Chang.

WEDNESDAY 7th FEBRUARY | 10am & 12pm | €5 I Ages 3 – 6

White by Andy Manley – Catherine Wheels Theatre Company – Early Years Event     

Welcome to the beautifully strange world of White.  Full of birdsong and birdhouses, it gleams and dazzles and shines in the night.  Two friends look after the birds and make sure the eggs stay safe. We watch, we help.  The world is bright, ordered and white.  But high up in the trees, all is not white.  Colour appears.  First red… then yellow… then blue…White is a playful, highly visual show for little ones – a perfect first time theatre experience.

TUESDAY 27th FEBRUARY | 10am & 12pm | €5 I Ages 2 – 4 year olds

For more information and bookings go to www.roscommonartscentre.ie

!!!! Barnstorm presents Barney Carey Gets His Wings – a new production for primary school students

Barnstorm Theatre Company

Wed 21st – Fri 23rd February 

Rooting through an old trunk, Barney and his dad find more than they bargained for and a few things that set them wondering. Who makes the rules? What happens if you break the rules? And who is the lady with the beard?

Join them as they spread their wings in this comic tale of forgotten memories and future possibilities.

Written by award-winning children’s writer Brendan Murray and directed by Martin Drury, founder of The Ark – A Cultural Centre for Children.

‘Barney Carey Gets His Wings’ is a world-premiere of a new play for children in 1st to 4th classes, their teachers and families.

2 teachers free per class.

For bookings contact Watergate Theatre at www.watergatetheatre.com

For further information go to www.barnstorm.ie

!!!! ‘Wide Eyes’ European Celebration of Performing Arts for the very young

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children

1 – 4 February, 2018

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will host an exciting and imaginative programme of theatre and dance shows for babies and children aged 0 – 6 years, presented by Irish and international artists. Wide Eyes is a one-off four-day European celebration of Performing Arts for very young children that will take place in Galway from 1 – 4 February, 2018.

As well as an extensive workshop and performance programme for schools and early years groups, Wide Eyes will feature a range of talks and workshops for early years professionals, including a talk for early years educators and artists, Celebrating the Creative Arts in Early Years Setting, presented in collaboration with Early Childhood Ireland. There are also a limited number of delegate packages available for the event.

Wide Eyes is the culmination of a four-year ‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ project with European partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK and Ireland.

Wide Eyes will see 140 arts professionals from 17 organisations and 15 countries gather in Galway to present an extravaganza of new dance and theatre shows for 0-6 year olds developed specifically under the project’s overarching theme of ‘Wide Eyes’. The concept for Wide Eyes, developed by Project Leader, Roberto Frabetti of La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi in Italy, is rooted in the belief that children are never too young to quite literally have their eyes opened wide in amazement while they experience the performing arts. The programme will feature performances for schools, crèches and families, produced by some of Europe’s finest creators of Early Years work, as well as professional development workshops and industry symposia.

For more information and to view the full programme of events go to www.baboro.ie/wide-eyes

Schools performances will take place on Thursday, 1 February and Friday, 2 February. We welcome bookings from early years groups such as; preschools, crèche and Montessori, junior and senior infants and those with additional needs.

!!!! Graffiti Theatre present ‘Walking Man’ by Jody O’Neill

Graffiti Theatre Company

Touring: November – December 2017

‘The world may be in miniature but the story is universal …’

Walking Man tells the tale of a man who has spent his whole life in pursuit of success.  He has always rushed headlong through life, determined to follow in his father’s footsteps to the best job on the top floor of the tallest building in the whole city. And when he has done all that, with Walking Woman and little Walking Baby at his side, something doesn’t feel quite right …

So, Walking Man must go on an entirely new journey, which takes him far from home.

Walking Man is a charming allegory, which will captivate its audience. With the help of an original live music score, the actor brings us into the miniature world of the Walking Man, a tiny wooden figure.

Walking Man is designed for 1st, 2nd & 3rd classes and performs to one class at a time (up to a maximum of 35 students). The accompanying Teacher Resource Book (available online) links carefully with the curriculum across a range of subject areas.

Please note: Graffiti Theatre can give your school the exciting opportunity to attend a performance in their fully equipped Theatre on Assumption Road. If the performance is booked to take place in your school please contact Graffiti for space requirements.

Cost: Thanks to their funders, Graffiti Theatre Company can offer this production for just €150 per performance (and €100 for a second performance on the same day).

For more information & booking: tel. 021 4397111,  email:bookings@graffiti.ie

www.graffiti.ie

!!!! The Plough and the Stars – Curriculum co-production by Barnstorm Theatre Company with Watergate Theatre

Barnstorm Theatre Company & Watergate Theatre

Wed 29 November to Sat 2 December

Post-primary schools in the south-east are in for a theatrical treat this November and December!

Due to the success of last year’s first Curriculum Play Live co-production with the Watergate Theatre: Brian Friel’s Translations, Barnstorm Theatre Company’s second Curriculum Play is Seán O’Casey’s ‘The Plough and the Stars’.

These productions are in response to requests over the years from post-primary schools to produce a curriculum play and to give students the opportunity to see the play that they are studying as live theatre, and not solely as a text to be studied in the classroom.
The Plough and the Stars is one of the greatest in the Irish canon and one that Barnstorm and the Watergate are proud to present as the second Curriculum Play. (Barnstorm values input from teachers about our next curriculum play.)

Watergate Theatre:
Wed 29 November to Sat 2 December; performances nightly at 8pm.

School performances:
Thursday 29 November – 10.30am
Friday 1 December – 10.30am

Tickets :

€10 –  student groups of 10+

€18 / €15 concession

Watergate Box Office:  056 7761674

For more www.watergatetheatre.com

 

!!!! Theatre for schools this term at Roscommon Arts Centre

The month of October at Roscommon Arts Centre means it’s Lollipops Children’s Festival time! We’ve planned a host of children’s events here at the arts centre for families, schools and crèches to enjoy. From theatre performances, music events, workshops, and exhibitions, the month of October is all about our youngest audience members! We hope you will come along and join us in some Lollipops fun!

Four Go Wild In Wellies –  A whimsical adventure featuring bobble hats, scarves, tents that have a life of their own and, of course, lots of fun in wellies! FRIDAY 6th OCTOBER 10am, €5, Ages 3 – 5

The Locksmiths Song – Set in the dusty world of an old locksmith’s shop in this tale is full of action and adventure. TUESDAY 17th OCTOBER, 10am, €5 Ages: 7+

They Called Her Vivaldi – Family favourites Theatre Lovett return with this upbeat comedy-adventure. WEDNESDAY 25th OCTOBER, 10am & 12pm, €5, Ages: 7+ and Adults of All Ages

And coming up in November!

The Ugly Duckling – In a nest at the edge of a pond a flock of baby ducklings find an enormous egg in their midst and here our story begins…. of the most unusual duckling the pond has ever seen. TUESDAY 28th NOVEMBER, 10am & 11.45am, €5, Ages 3+

For more information on shows, click here 

 

!!!! Baboró announces GROW programme to support artists in making work for children and young audiences

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children is delighted to announce details of its GROW programme, which aims to support Irish-based artists who are currently active in making work for children and young audiences, or who have an interest in doing so. Now in its 21st year, Baboró already has a long history of mentoring and supporting artists and educators who are committed to placing the creative development of children and young people at the heart of their work.

The GROW programme will continue to build on Baboró’s existing supports, and this October will also introduce two new strands; Pathways to Production and Festival Mentoring. Applications are now open for these new initiatives. The GROW programme hopes to solidify and support the development of artists and the TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) sector in Galway and throughout the country. Baboró is delighted that the Irish Theatre Institute (ITI) will partner on GROW in an advisory capacity on the Pathways to Productionand Festival Mentoring strands.

The GROW programme includes a number of strands which interested candidates can apply for. Two of the recently introduced strands are Pathways to Production and Festival Mentoring.

1. Pathways to Production: Pathways to Production is a new initiative led by Baboró, which will commence in October 2017 and is funded by the Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development Scheme. This scheme will see Baboró partner with Druid and the Mick Lally Theatre, Branar Téatar de Phaistí and Galway Theatre Festival to support artists and young companies to develop their ideas with a view to presenting a full performance piece. The scheme will involve workshops, sharings of works-in-progress as well as support in developing funding strategies.

The Pathways to Production programme will run from October 2017 to October 2018.  This is a pilot programme and will be reviewed on an annual basis. Closing date for receipt of applications is 21 September 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by 29 September. For more details and to apply please see www.baboro.ie/grow

2. Festival Mentoring: Another new initiative from Baboró is the Festival Mentoring programme aimed at artists and creatives at any stage of their career, including those with an established career, who have never before made work for children. As part of the programme, participants will receive mentoring from two highly experienced individuals from the sector; Phil Kingston, Community and Education Manager at the Abbey Theatre and Maria Fleming, Chair of Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland (TYAI) and Freelance Producer. The four successful candidates will have an opportunity to attend shows during this year’s Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, which runs from 16 – 22 October in Galway, and will also attend industry and networking events.

The Festival Mentoring programme will run for three days during this year’s Baboró International Arts Festival for Children from 16– 22 October. Exact dates to be confirmed. Closing date for receipt of applications is 21 September 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by 29 September. For more details and to apply please see www.baboro.ie/grow

The GROW programme is open to artists at any stage of their career throughout Ireland. For more information about these exciting new initiatives see www.baboro.ie/grow or call 091 562 667.

Baboró would like to acknowledge the support of The Arts Council for funding the GROW programme through The Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development scheme.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Kate Heffernan – Writer – Blog no 2

 Blog 2

Peat began as an impulse to explore a story and a history for a specific audience, and an impulse to rigorously develop my writing for young audiences.

After an initial workshop focus on story, storytelling and myth, I returned to Third Class in Sacred Heart Portlaoise to ask them to think about stories for the stage. The conversations that emerged from sharing, re-sharing and changing stories had sparked discussion around memory, history, shared stories, becoming a character, and who in society has permission to speak on behalf of another.

Here, these opened into a discussion on theatre – beginning with a discussion about the roles, responsibilities and skills of writers, directors, actors, designers. We talked: about how playwright meant playmaker; about beginnings, middles and endings; about storytelling versus drama; about dialogue versus monologue, narration versus conversation; about sets, costumes, props; about audience interaction and fourth walls.

Towards the end of that workshop, groups had debated and settled on one personal story that would become the story of their group. Focusing on collaboration, armed with script samples prepared by teacher Jennifer Buggie, groups were tasked with transforming this text into a story for the stage.

Working effectively in the classroom was a learning curve. I was finding my feet, and the support, expertise and enthusiasm of collaborating teacher Jennifer Buggie was invaluable. At the end of the series of workshops, in thinking about my practice, Jennifer and I have discussed building on this relationship, discussing future projects, interrogating the approach in order to refine and improve the quality of engagement.

Experiences in the classroom greatly informed the next stage of development – ideas around agency, voice, engagement, emotion, depth. In June 2016, with the support of The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children, I spent a week developing the text with director Maisie Lee and performers Nyree Yergainharsian and Lloyd Cooney. As development progressed and continues to progress, through working directly with young audiences, the elk itself started to take a back seat. The bigger questions about life and death that had lingered below the surface were grounded by experiences in the classroom at Sacred Heart.

The text which began to emerge is a sort of metaphysical conversation rooted in the world and perspective of two 12 year olds. On a peatland plain on the edge of an island, a boy and girl meet to bury a cat in its preserving earth. As they sit and dig the boggy grave, what follows is a conversation about life, fate, extinction, migration, mortality.

After four days, we shared a 15-minute piece with The Ark’s Children’s Council, in what was their first experience of a work-in-progress presentation. The responses of these 11-year old Council members were frank – they told us exactly what from their point of view worked and didn’t, what was engaging, what was funny, what was moving.

They responded enthusiastically to the characters use of the Would You Rather? game, answering the questions the characters posed to each other for themselves (some silently, some aloud, some later that day). From the beginning, and throughout the work in the classroom, I wanted Peat to try and equalise the relationship between stage and audience, to create in its audience the urge to enter the space, to engage in conversation with the characters, to find out more. Following the Council’s feedback, Would you Rather? remains a key structuring device.

The following month, we presented this work-in-progress showing of Peat at On the Edge World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences in Birmingham to an audience of artists, producers and presenters.

Development continues in 2017.

Initial development was enabled by the Arts Council’s Young People Children and Education Bursary. Development in 2016 was supported by The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children. With the support of The Ark, Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland and Culture Ireland, a work-in-progress showing was presented at On the Edge Birmingham, the World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences (directed by Maisie Lee, performed by Lloyd Cooney and Nyree Yergainharsian)

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Kate Heffernan – Writer – Blog no 1

Blog 1

On the east coast, right on the edge of Ireland, there is a bog known as The Elk Graveyard. Here, hundreds and hundreds of ancient elk skeletons were dug from the peat.

Megaloceros Giganteus. Giant Irish Deer. The last megafauna on an island of, well, non–megafauna. Twelve feet tall from tip of toe to top of antler, the giant deer disappeared from Ireland about 10,500 years ago, the reasons uncertain: it or its antlers became too big; it was over-hunted; its food sources disappeared as the world grew colder. The Great Irish Elk lived across Europe and Asia, its continental cousins drifting eastward, sunward, in search of a better life. As the Ice Age descended, the ones who lived on this island were the first to disappear. Trapped, with nowhere to go as the snow stopped melting.

In 2015, I set out to rigorously explore and develop my writing for young audiences. After an initial year spent in solo research, exploring the real history of this elk in order to find the possibilities of story, I began a phase of research in collaboration with Third Class at Sacred Heart Portlaoise, and teacher Jennifer Buggie.

I was drawn to the subject matter of Peat for this age group for their ability to deal with complex ideas and the reality of the oftentimes dark world we live in. Peat’s spiderwebby resonances were broad and weighty: climate change, carbon footprints, death, extinction, migration: adult ideas that children of this age group encounter daily. And closer to home: what it means to belong; what it feels like to be living in a body and a world that is changing faster than you’d like.

I focused on a series of classroom workshops on writing for theatre rather than the subject matter itself, and developed the approach around a number of initial questions: in terms of story, how might a piece of theatre recognise and respect the sophisticated thought processes and complex emotions of its audience?; how might it provoke an open and frank conversation about the vast world we live in, while at the same time offering a steady and sympathetic guide to navigating that vastness?; how might the theatrical form suggest a different way to think visually – to provoke the audience to see their world not just as something which contains them, but as something that can be influenced, manipulated, created?

As a writer, I am preoccupied with the complexity of culture, society, history – in how story and history is told, recalled, contained, in how things form the deep past very often seem so close to us. I can’t help but poke holes in history to see what leaks through.

An initial workshop thus focused on the nature of stories, storytelling and myth. I began by reading a piece of theatrical storytelling to the eyes-closed class – an excerpt from Complicite’s The Encounter in which the main character remembers the moment he became completely lost in the jungle. We discussed the images it conjured and the senses it sparked. We talked about memory, about how it was a key tool in a writer’s toolbox.

Students were provoked to think of a time when something in their own world changed. In pairs, they shared this memory with their partner, and we talked about how memory is transformed when we tell it as a story to someone else. Each was then asked to share their partner’s story with their table-group, prompted to be true to the details they heard but permitted embellishment in form and content that would make it a good story for an audience. From this, we talked about how stories are changed in their retelling, and how myths are born.

The stories the students shared and re-shared grappled with life, death, loss, love, joy and sadness in ways that showed an enormous variance in emotional maturity. Their responses to being asked to take responsibility for telling the story of another ranged from sensitive respect, to mischievous joy, to indignation and protest that they would rather share their own. This itself raised interesting discussion on a table-by-table basis about collective memory, shared stories, narration, becoming a character, and who in society has permission to speak on behalf of another.

The final provocation was based on a question that emerged from these discussions: how do we choose the stories we tell? Each table thus entered into a debate, in order to choose one story that would become the story of their group.

I returned several weeks later to work with the students on transforming their story into a piece of theatre.

Initial development was enabled by the Arts Council’s Young People Children and Education Bursary. Development in 2016 was supported by The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children. With the support of The Ark, Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland and Culture Ireland, a work-in-progress showing was presented at On the Edge Birmingham, the World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences (directed by Maisie Lee, performed by Lloyd Cooney and Nyree Yergainharsian)

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

Elk skeleton at the Dead Zoo, Dublin

!!!! Tenderfoot

Briefly tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did it get started?

Veronica:

Tenderfoot originated, with the support of South Dublin County Council, in The Civic Theatre in Tallaght ten years ago. Bríd Dukes, the Artistic Director of The Civic, wanted to develop a programme to involve transition year students in the art of theatre. Tenderfoot @ The Civic, the parent programme, annually provides forty five students from eight different schools the opportunity to learn about theatre in a hands on way. Tenderfoot operates on a model of apprenticeship. Students learn by doing. They learn about theatre by making theatre under the guidance of working theatre professionals. Each year a number of the students, usually sixteen, write original plays for the stage. A selection of these plays are then produced and students can opt to act, do costume design, take part in the film for theatre module or they can be part of the stage management team. The final productions are seen by two distinct audiences. A general theatre audience and an audience of the students’ peers. Over the years the reaction of the peer audience to the work, work made by people their own age, has been remarkable. It has resulted in a profound level of engagement. Tenderfoot @ The Civic is entering its tenth year.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, is the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage serves schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region. Five schools participated in the inaugural year with a focus on writing. Twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I was lucky enough to be teaching in Rathcoole when the Tenderfoot programme was first set up. My school was one of the South Dounty Dublin schools chosen to partake.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I was delighted that our school was accepted onto the Tenderfoot programme following our application through the Garage Theatre. The project had appeal due to its emphasis on creativity, and integration with others, coupled with learning about teamwork and skills required for writing and performing outside of the school timetable. I was also excited about our students being guided, nourished and encouraged by theatre professionals and out of school drama facilitators. Veronica was encouraging and her visit to our school whetted the students’ appetite.

How did the ideas develop? How did the children, artist and teacher work together?

Veronica:

Apprenticeship is the model upon which Tenderfoot runs. The students learn alongside experts in their field so, for instance, professional writers facilitate the students’ learning about writing for the stage. Students are provided with a structure within which they can give voice and form to their own creative ideas. Students are not censored. They can write about any topic. They can utilise any form. The guiding principle for Tenderfoot mentors is to enable students realise the best version of their work.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Very simply, many of our students blossomed. They learned new skills, and many uncovered hidden talents in writing and acting. All of them gained confidence and a greater sense of self-assurance. They made fantastic friends and even better memories. They were a part of something special and very few will ever forget the Tenderfoot experience.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noticed a remarkable growth in confidence and self-assurance in the five selected students who quickly adapted to the project and to the process of meeting deadlines and submitting required pieces when asked. The rehearsed readings on the day of performance were absorbing and entertaining.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Veronica:

The young people make me smile. Their enthusiasm, their engagement and their work. The work they produce is very often surprising. It can be sobering. It can be eye opening. It is really interesting to see the world through their eyes. And I feel that something important is happening in that space where young people encounter the theatrical work of their peers. This is a unique space. Also, the willingness and enthusiasm of the countless teachers I deal with restores my faith in the education system. Year after year I deal with teachers who care only for the best interests of their students. The only major challenge I can think of is the ongoing battle to maintain funding.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I love the annual January trip to see the plays created by the students. Their peers and I, always come away from the theatre impressed and awestruck about what their classmates have achieved. I don’t find any aspect of the process challenging.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I smiled at the independence of my students strolling out onstage to take their seats and perform in different roles in different plays. Yes, some themes were challenging and clearly revelatory of their needs and focus in this period of their young lives. Sex, freedom of behaviour and speech, rejection of social norms that seem to apply pressure on teenagers were among the challenging themes addressed in their short plays.

What insights from the project are worth sharing?

Veronica:

It is really valuable for young people to have opportunities to learn in contexts outside of school and in ways different to how they learn in school. An important feature of Tenderfoot is that each group is taken from a number of schools and the work environment is a professional arts environment – The Civic Theatre in Tallaght and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan. The value of such an experience is immeasurable. It provides those students lucky enough to take part an opportunity to see themselves in a new light.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Tenderfoot offers students a more relaxed environment to express themselves. This can sometimes contrast to the school environment where as teachers, we have to place restrictions on bad language or on adult subject matter. This can be a liberating experience for a lot of students and can help greatly in their development of self-confidence.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

Overall, most worthwhile as evidenced by the close attention paid by the attentive and engrossed teenage audience who sat through one and a half hours of readings without asking for a break!

Response from Robert Barrett/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot was easily the highlight of transition year. There was never a dull day; they ranged from doing improvisations in the little theatre upstairs, to building a full sized guillotine. It was a unique experience to see plays, some of which were my own, go from their most conceptual stage in the writers minds, to first drafts and then go through production.”

Response from Seoid Ní Laoire/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Writing A Piece Of Me developed me as a writer, but it was watching the director shape my words into something new, something physical and outside of myself that I learnt the most. My writing’s weak points were suddenly glaringly obvious, as were its strengths. I remember peeking out from backstage and seeing the audience respond to words I had written and experiencing a connection that is impossible to achieve from a page. It is difficult for me to adequately describe the impact of my few weeks with Tenderfoot. It was one of those experiences that, when I look back on my life so far, carves out a milestone.

Sarah Hannon/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot made me come out of my comfort zone and most of all have confidence in my writing. It was one of the most fun and rewarding things I did throughout my secondary school experience and I’m very glad I got the opportunity to do it, and I greatly appreciate and am thankful to the people of Tenderfoot for seeing potential in me when I did not, both then and still to this day.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, was the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage served schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region in 2015. Five schools participated and twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Levana Courtney/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Thanks a lot for the wonderful experience you’ve given me and helping me along the way. It’s been a brilliant couple of weeks and I think I speak for everyone when I say I’ve learnt a lot of new things, had so much fun and made a lot of new friends who I won’t forget. Before tenderfoot I would have never spoken in front of a crowd, so I really appreciate the confidence it has given me.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

You can really tell a lot about a person based on what they write about: their experience, their beliefs, their thoughts, their opinions, their dreams … it’s extremely insightful. When you’re writing, even if you have the clearest idea of what you’re going to say, your words take on their own mind and you can end up writing something that is totally different than what you intended to. Knowing how to accept criticism is important, but so is knowing how to accept praise.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Veronica

Each year the students who take part in Tenderfoot are changed by their experience. Some find new interests. Many find new levels of confidence. In a number of cases some even find their future professions.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Many of them grow in confidence. In terms of their education, a better understanding of drama helps with their study of drama at senior cycle. For the budding writers and actors, there is almost always a greater desire to be involved in their chosen field after completion of the Tenderfoot project. They will often go on to engage in drama or writing outside school.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noted a growing maturity in my five participants. It was good for them to be pushed beyond their usual boundaries.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Taking part in Tenderfoot has developed my social skills: I realised while taking part how truly complex everyone is, how everyone has their own individual thoughts and experience and beliefs and this has helped me to connect with people and make friends.

!!!! Theatre Making and Citizenship

Tell us the story of your project – What was it about?

The Abbey Theatre provides opportunities for young citizens to express feelings about their world and their State using the theatre arts. We want the students to feel a civic ownership of their National Theatre. To achieve this aim, we strive to raise awareness among young people of the rich civic, cultural, social and creative connections that emerge through engagement with theatre and theatre making. This course was developed by Sarah FitzGibbon, in collaboration with Maire O’Higgins, Larkin Community College under the auspices of The Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department. The course was piloted in Larkin College from September 2013 until May 2015 with class 103. Over the two years and 100 hours, the students develop their competence in six key skills, 16 of the 24 statements of learning with clear literacy, oracy (Oral Literacy) and numeracy strategies.

There are three strands:In Strand 1, the young people get to grips with the 4 Key Concepts in CSPE; Human Dignity, Interdependence, Rights and Responsibilities and Democracy; an introduction to theatre making; review a piece of theatre and make a speech on ‘Theatre is an important tool for citizens to be able to express themselves.’ In Strand 2, we use the story of Romeo and Juliet as a vehicle through which we explore the effect of a feud on a community. This is then developed into a performance piece where we seek to exploit the learning potential of the production process as a ‘real life work’ simulation with designated roles, responsibilities, deadlines, teamwork and collaboration. In Strand 3, students developed their own piece of theatre to raise awareness of a social issue that affects their community. The students direct a lot of their own learning with self-motivated research tasks that form the basis of their script. It is this model of script development that you will be taken through today. In the Pilot, the students chose the issue of homelessness (which exemplifies the concept of Human Dignity). This was a recurring theme in our citzenship discussions since the students had seen Silent by Pat Kinevane in Strand 1. Homelessness was an issue they felt passionate about as it directly affected their inner city school community. The students researched the causes of homelessness; the State’s response to those experiencing homelessness; the community response to the issue; its coverage in the media and who they wished to express their message to. The students interviewed political theatre makers who had dealt with the issue of homelessness with the homeless community. They also interviewed a Simon Community Key Worker. They visited the Pebbledash exhibition in The National Museum and assisted the school’s First Year and Transition Year students in creating and distributing care parcels to the homeless in their area. When the group wrote their own play out of their research and discussions in class, they then created a list of policy makers and groups they wished to invite to attend their awareness raising performance. This list included invitations to the clients of homeless services and policy makers to attend the performance in The Abbey Theatre, their National Theatre. While researching an issue in preparation for a performance, the students are set the challenge of developing a speech or performance piece based on a character that they create who is directly affected by the issue. The performance piece is created from these characters. It is based on any interactions, monologues, or songs inspired by the students indepth research. Facts and data discovered can be included too. The structuring of the performance script is quite straight forward.

Who was involved? How did you begin?

Participants: The Abbey Theatre Education Department and a First Year CSPE class in Larkin Community College. In 2011 we began in conversations with our local secondary school which is Larkin Community College. Throughout 2012, we had a year of discussion and planning between the artist and the teacher.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

While we had a structure designed we were constantly reviewing it with the young people. We also constantly asked them for feedback on how they felt they were progressing in the course. When it came to the creation of the artwork it was a very collaborative approach, with the teacher and artist as the final arbiters on the text to be performed. That said the young people had to give an agreement to perform it and tweaks were made.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Observing those “aha” moments when concepts were understood and tasks achieved. It was also a pleasure watching the students grow in confidence in their ability to have an opinion and express it.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? (These may seem small, but are significant to you)

Young people are sophisticated thinkers. Young people can affect change in their communities. Teacher can grow as an artist working alongside an artist teacher in the classroom. The work of an artist is strengthened when she has an arts organization to support her in the delivery of the programme.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

The National Theatre has committed to actively engaging in Theatre Making in Secondary Schools and support the inclusion of Theatre Arts in the Curriculum.

Students have made a difference in the lives of vulnerable groups in their community by raising awareness of issues and by fundraising.

Máire:

• Students have developed a strong sense of connectedness with each other and an increased level of self-esteem.
• The Abbey Theatre has transformed the lives of young people in their local community.
• Young people have developed an appreciation for Theatre.
• Students’ creative writing skills have been deepened and expanded.
• There has been a substantial improvement in students’ oral literacy skills with an increase in vocabulary and more developed sentence structures (eg longer sentences, clearer narratives …).
• Presentation skills are of a higher standard as a result of rehearsals and regular debates and presentations in class. Higher order questioning formed the basis of interaction and interrogation with guest speakers. The sophistication of the questioning emerged from rigorous research and enquiry.