Thursday 17 November 2011

Verbatim & Forum Theatre performance - research

Today, the production team for the show that the students will take to Malawi met for the first time. Sophie Scott [Assistant Director], Emma Schumacher[assistant producer], Ella Farley & Jade Nairne[script writers] met with Matthew Hahn, the director and lecturer on the Theatre for Development module.

The students have gathered interviews from Positive East [an HIV charity in East London] on the topic of 'Safer Sex' and 'Gender Equality.' The students are also gathering stories from their friends and families and their own lives on these topics.

From these interviews, the team will devise several forum pieces integrating the verbatim work into the plays. They will present the play around Malawi as part of a tour to the Teacher Training Colleges around Lilongwe. They will also gather stories whilst on their workplacement in Malawi to form a play that will be performed upon return to London in late May.

We discussed how the play will be put together and how they will have an impact on the audiences. One very important aspect of the students trip is to 'bring something' to the audiences in Malawi - to make it a true skills exchange rather than them taking and not giving. They are excited to present this work to a Malawian audience to show the similarities and differences in approaching the topics of 'Safer Sex' and 'Gender Equality.'

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Career opportunities with a Drama St. Mary's Applied Theatre degree

A degree in Drama and Applied Theatre will equip you with a range of transferable skills. As well as the wealth of opportunities within the theatre profession, students may wish to pursue a career within teaching, event management and promotion, diplomacy, politics, international development, youth work, arts therapy, workshop facilitation, social care, the health service or the criminal justice system.

“The Applied Theatre course has introduced me to possibilities beyond the traditional theatre environment. You get stuck into practical work with a full on training programme supporting placements in a range of different community settings. We have worked in historic buildings, created work for schools, designed transformative projects with community artists and are just about to set off to Malawi where we’re working with our partner company Theatre for a Change.”
Kadeem Dunning. Drama

We have just graduated our first students from the new programme which started in 2008, so it is too early to see what sort of job opportunities in the long run is available for graduates.

But there has already been great success for the graduates of the Applied Theatre programme:

We have former students who are acting in a tour with The Comedy School,
Students who are leading drama workshops for disabled children,
Students who are acting in Camden Fringe festival and other festivals around London, One student who is working at the Ugly Models Agency,
Another student who has acted in a film based on the verbatim play, 'Turning Poison into Medicine' This film, about living with HIV in the UK, is due to be picked up by MTV for their Staying Alive campaign as well as be marketed to various student film festivals.
And we have students who are working as teacher aides and applying for their PGCE next year.

This brief example of potential jobs that might be available to our graduates is certainly wide and encompasses much more than working 'within a theatre.'

We look for students who are driven, who have experience beyond their school and who lean forward with excitement when talking about theatre's potential for change. We teach transferable skills - written & oral communication skills, self motivation, leadership, citizenship, working within a group [teamwork], marketing, problem solving, liaising with outside agencies, and confidence in one's ability.

Topics for Discussion in Preparation for African Exchange:

Each student will produce a 20 minute presentation the following topics:

Human Rights: Children’s rights / Women’s Rights (UK & Africa)

Gender Equality / Balance in the UK. What are women’s experiences of equality & balance in the UK? (Including, amongst other topics, Safer Sex negotiation). This must involve primary research into your & your friends’ knowledge & experiences in the subject matter as well as secondary research.

TfaC’s target audiences, exercises, games & songs

The important political and sociological issues arising from ‘Westerners’ working in Africa

Drama in health education (history, UK, Africa, interactive theatre, radio programmes, etc...)

Behaviour Change

Bottom-up policy making & Top-down policy making – pros & cons of each

The effectiveness of specific development programmes in Africa (Does aid work?)

Overview on the country of Malawi (including language lesson in Chichewa)

Leadership & Social Change – what do _we_ (SMUC students & staff) need to ‘bring to the table’ to make our time with TfaC a true ‘exchange’ of practice rather than ‘Developmental Tourism’?

HIV / Aids (history including myths / spread / etc...)

HIV / Aids (prevention (ABC’s) / treatment / cure? – including testing)

HIV / Aids (societal effects – including women’s rights / gay rights / etc...)

HIV / Aids (UK v. Malawi)

The relationship between Gender and HIV (UK & Africa)#

Participatory approaches to Development

Safer sex/ Gender Equality Questions to be asked at Interview

Sex education/education
• How are young people educated about sex education, what are your experiences of it and who gives it?
• How are young people educated about gender equality what are your experiences of it and who gives it?
• Do you think it is important to be educated in safer sex? If so why?
• Do you think it is important to be educated in gender equality, if so why?
• What would you wish to see further developed in sex education?
• What would you wish to see further developed in gender equality?
• Do you think that in the UK HIV isn’t made as prevalent as pregnancy and STI’s? What is your opinion on this?
Society and community
• What are you and your friend’s personal preferences towards gender equality?
• What are you and your friend’s personal preferences towards safer sex?
• If women dress provocatively, are they ‘asking for it’?
• What are your cultural attitudes towards women who have a voice and speak out about safer sex?
• What are your cultural attitudes towards women who have a voice and speak out about gender equality?
• Whose responsibility is it to carry a condom? Is there more pressure on men or women to do this?
• Are there still gender stereotypes (i.e. women raise a family, men go to work)?
• What are your views on gender equality in society?
• What is the balance in a relationship/marriage?
• What is your personal practice around safer sex and what are your views on contraception?
• What would you do/have you done if; in the heat of the moment you didn’t have a condom?
• In regards to gender equality, what factors have influenced your opinion? (cultural, political, personal, social)
• In regards to safer sex, what factors have influenced your opinion? (cultural, political, personal, social)
Follow on questions
• Why do you think these attitudes exist, can they be changed, how and why?
• Do you think performance can change people’s perceptions of contraception, why?

Theatre for Development Verbatim Play - Gender Balance & Safer Sex

The Third Year St. Mary’s University College Applied Theatre students are gathering stories for a play in Malawi in May 2012 as a part of their workplacement with the charity Theatre for a Change.

Verbatim theatre is a form where the words of the people represented on stage are faithfully recorded and structured into a narrative which is presented to an audience in the form of a play.

The students are interviewing men & women and seeking their opinion on gender equality and safer sex. The students are working in partnership with Positiveeast, an East London's HIV charity that offers support for individuals and communities affected by HIV and other UK charities that deal with HIV.

This is a continuation of the relationship that started last year between PositiveEast and Drama St. Mary’s. PositiveEast was thrilled at the outcome of last year’s performance of the play, Turning Poison into Medicine (original title, Living with HIV in the UK). Several of those interviewed were in the audience in February at St. Mary’s and participated in the post-show feedback session. The play was performed outside of a school in Lilongwe, Malawi to a captive audience and was very well received by both Theatre for a Change and their learners. The play was later filmed at Nickelodeon studios in central London to be distributed by MTV as a part of the HIV awareness programme. There are also plans to distribute it in student film festivals.

Applied Theatre students in Lilongwe, Malawi May 2012

Plans are well on the way for the Applied Theatre students to venture to Lilongwe, Malawi in May 2012 for their Theatre for Development module and the culmination of their training on their course at St. Mary's.

This year, we are planning staying longer and participate in more activities. Our main point of contact will still be the work with Theatre for a Change including working in schools, teacher training colleges and in the community with sex workers.

This year, we also plan to tour our show [working title, 'Gender Equality and Safer Sex'] which is based on stories from our students as well as interviews conducted with women from Positive East. We will tour to several teacher training colleges in and around Malawi.

We will be staying in the excellent backpackers, Mabuya Camp, the same place we stayed last year. It was a wonderful place for our students complete with a swimming pool, big screen television and swimming pool. Highly recommended for all visitors to Lilongwe.