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Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

In the face of all the political and social challenges of 2017, is theatre the right thing to do?

Anna Schmitz - 15 January 2017

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Here is a summary of what we talked about:
- Audience echo chamber, how escape this? Is theatre a good medium to prompt discussion and debate, or is it just talking to itself?

- is there a hierarchy of needs? Do people need shelter, food, safety before they need a show? If so, where does that leave us as theatre makers?

- discussion of value of theatre as opposed to practical skills ie within a refugee camp. Within the terms of this session ‘welding’ became short hand for practical assistance.

- one speaker described himself as a welder of ideas, people, feelings. Other people can weld, theatre is the only thing I know how to do.

- importance of moving outside four walls of theatre, invite conversations, be ready to be surprised.

- importance also of making political work for our stages too

- is making a joyful beautiful piece of theatre enough? Entertainment is important too.

- importance of working with people rather than at them or for them or about them. Principles of empowerment, participation, ownership.

- The search for the rightwing play, is this a useful thing to do?

- How to programme outside the echo chamber, how to not let the leftist framework of theatre programmes negate the oppositional views being presented.

- being radically kind, and radically open. Do many small acts amass to become a significant personal impact?

- could there be offical or unofficial Equity deps raising carbon footprint as an issue? A kind of Sustainability Rep?

- could Improbable as NPO respond to environmental cost of heating DandD12?

- taking the long view, the world is slowly getting better, and Trump will go eventually.

- if answer to the session's title is YES, theatre is the right thing to be doing in the face of political and social challenge, then doesn't marketing and audience development and outreach become potentially the most radical political role in theatre?

Here are example projects that were mentioned (if anyone wants to give more details please do)

- Mercury Theatre in Colchester - more people through the doors than local football stadium

- Commonwealth Theatre project in working mens club in Merthyr Tydful

- Project with homeless people in Doncaster

- Good Chance Theatre in Calais

- Project that attempted to commission “right wing play”, but could not find the writers willing to accept commission, so asked writers to write against their own political leanings. Poss Sling-shot Theatre?

- Confirmation by Chris Thorpe about BNP views and confirmation bias

- Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, Made In Dagenham, £1 tix for new audiences

- Odd Job Men project in Doncaster, where theatre makers swapped DIY jobs for stories

- Fanshen / Julie's Bicycle for environmental issues and carbon footprint

- Rita Marcalo - Dancing with Strangers, pilloried by Daily Mail and Sun

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