Workshops and creation around the globe.
The Imagination Project: Reflections, Thoughts, and Perspectives. To learn more about Amoeba Teaching Artists Ross and Amy click here.
Working with Amy is always a joy, so, of course, to be teamed with her for Theatre Amoeba’s “Imagination Project” was really exciting. I knew her insightfulness, passion, and openness would bring to bear a great experience for us and the participants of the project. Also, her Yankee enthusiasm would help compensate for my stiff British value of understatement. Her high fives are far more energizing than my firm hand shakes.
At first, we talked about what we should possibly expect from our groups. This is why we decided to concentrate on the first three of Lecoq’s levels of tension to help the students develop physical presence. This was to be followed by the introduction of some choral techniques to support ensemble storytelling to have the participants thinking beyond naturalistic theatre making. It was also in our mind that developing these skills allowed us to support the participants in developing their editorial eye, exploring the space of the stage, and maintaining physical energy and breath.
After a good night’s sleep (prompted by bellies bursting from a great meal), we started our work with the ensembles. Each ensemble was made up of around three students of each participating school. As expected, the ensembles seemed to come more alive as familiarity between their participants increased during the day, which, in turn, bred confidence and a collaborative ethos. What was unexpected was the pace in which this familiarity grew. The jump-in group energy between our first and second groups was spectacular (showing the power of shared experience) giving us confidence for the devising work over the next couple of days.
On the evidence of day one, we knew that enthusiasm for collaboration would not be an issue. However, how to channel that enthusiasm away from cyclical conversation of ideas and move everyone towards sharing and trying, without the extended periods required to create a collaborative environment, would be problematic. Who knew that by rewarding students who said “let’s try it” with a high five would be so effective? This simple tool was an effective shortcut towards promoting action. Amy’s natural energy and incredulousness at my discomfort of this West- Atlantic oddity really helped energize and prompt the participants into action, and they gradually needed less and less prompting.
It was great to get the ensemble up and running in the creation of ideas, but perhaps where we didn’t hit the mark was in supporting them to let some of those ideas go. In short, they were fantastic at committing to each other’s suggestions, and would instantly try to adapt it into their piece, but they found it difficult to see it as an idea that wouldn’t necessarily be used for performance. This was as valuable a lesson for Amy as it was for me, and it is something to take account of for future work. However, the ensemble really did focus on developing ideas between each other, and they showed a commitment to the collaborative process in this regard. We also understood that ideas (perhaps) seemed extra precious as the participants hadn’t worked under such time pressures before: therefore, they were unable to gauge the time they had to create a performance.
In the end, the ensemble’s performance was engaging, expressive, collaborative, and, most importantly, their own work. They reaped the rewards of their efforts, and they demonstrated that they had learned, applied, and synthesized the work we had done with them. It was fantastic to support them on this journey of creative discovery, and Amy and I are very proud of each participant.
Theatre Amoeba’s IMAGINATION PROJECT was part of APAC Theatre: an annual festival that brings together students from international schools in the Pacific region. This year, the Taejeon Christian International School hosted five other schools from China and Korea at the APAC Theatre Festival! Theatre Amoeba was invited and sent two teaching teams (Amy & Ross, Robin & Seul) to APAC to introduce the participating students to physical theatre and devising! To read about Seul and Robin’s experience click here.
Last but not least to learn more about the origin of the high five- Listen to this episode of Radiolab!