Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Open Space 5 - How do we encourage young people to write for theatre?

Convenor: Danny Braverman

Some strands of conversation

Barriers to young people writing

Lack of aspiration and role models
Seeing inspiring stuff
Curriculum / school
Emphasis on devising
The word “theatre”
Not seen as a collaborative thing
Lack of confidence
Dumbing down – young people appreciate quality

Where Its happening

When framed as event, not theatre
Good programmes with clear offers
When its collaborative
Spoken word
Places like Royal Court Young Writers Scheme
Contrast between Theatre Is “Its Our Theatre”, which allows writing / theatre making to emerge for the process and Theatre Is joint venture with University of Hertfordshire which followed a very traditional model of a playwriting competition and yielded a very non-diverse take-up

Other remarks

Young people need places and spaces to congregate
We need to create the space for young people’s engagement
Drama students are remarkably unradical these days
The cult of the individual has promoted the individual over the collective
Where is the language of youth culture
Where is the punk aesthetic?
In the 60s and 70s there was a context for supporting dissenting voices
40 years ago there was a certainty you could change the world and now there is a certainty you cant.

Also from Edward Bond’s keynote address at the Birmingham 2002 ACE symposium on theatre for young people

“They collected this group of young people from a particular school and from a local young people’s resource centre and said ‘we’re going to do this play’. The young people didn’t even know what a play was or what it could do. They had 16 or 17 young people in a room. It was the first time they had been together in a room like that to do a play. I think they dealt with one of two scenes. The young people suddenly realised, oh yes, they could get involved, they could say this, they could have an opinion about that, not always get something wrong, but really have an opinion ‘well, I think this’ and ‘I think the other’, which mattered because they thought it. They not only said it, they showed it – which is a profound way of saying. I am told (I wasn’t there) it was extraordinary. Suddenly the young people were excited, committed, very partisan among themselves – that is right, this is right and that is wrong, I like that. So it went very well. And then it was over. The rehearsal was finished and the kids went out, and the person in charge said ‘phew, I wouldn’t have believed it! They actually knew what this complicated play is talking about’. I said to him later ‘well yes, but young people do, it’s the adults who often have the problem’. Well, immediately after the rehearsal he went outside. Standing out on the street was one of the young people who’d been in the group and in fact, had been the most engaged, creative, intelligent, intense – well, one of them anyway – and he was standing out in the street and he had a stone in his hand. He was trying to break the windows of the house in which he had rehearsed.”

Final thought

Will the Obama factor and the digital age create circumstances for a renewed , young voice?

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