Aug
04

Elephants in the Room part 2

This evening, I participated in ATHE’s all-conference special forum addressing “elephants” in the traditional theatre curriculum.  Here are my opening remarks —

In his introduction to a series of project profiles in the April 2010 issue of American Theatre, Mark Blankenship writes of a kind of performance utopia:

Consider yourself lucky: You’ve just seen a piece of theatre that sprang from your own community – a show that had to be created here, where you live, because it says something authentic and essential about the place

The show you saw was especially powerful because it reframed the setting of your everyday life – it turned our neighbors, your neighborhood, and (you begin to feel) even aspects of you into art, opening your eyes to new possibilities, new connections.

Blankenship describes a performance ideal that is profoundly relevant to its audience, a performance that matters.  Are we teaching our students to create work that matters?  Are we teaching them to “create” at all, or merely passing on the techniques that we ourselves learned as graduate students? And, if our students are learning to create work that matters, are we teaching them the skills they need to sustain their work and their artistic life over time?

So my elephant is this: Its not so much an elephant as a hole or a crater in many curricula:  appreciation for and skills in creating new work and especially new work that speaks to the community and skills to maintain a personal infrastructure that enables the young theatre artist to take the risks necessary to create new work.

How can we do this:

  1. First, create an environment in which real creativity is supported (see “Its not about the Money” parts 1 and 2)
  2. Provide experiential learning opportunities
  3. Teach students to enter the ACTUAL marketplace, not the commercial and nonprofit theatre marketplace of the 1980s
  4. Teach students to diversify their skill set to respond quickly to opportunity
  5. Teach students to diversify their skill set to include opportunity creation
  6. Teach students to support their personal infrastructure
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