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Michael Chekhov's 'Theater of the Future' -- what does it have to do with you?

What is the role of the artist in giving back to the community that nurtures us?

Cathy Albers - 15 July 2012

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We had Christina Bryson, Liz Shipman, Llyandra Jones, Jared Bishop, and Cathy Albers. Stacey Jack joined us at the end of the session. Cathy recorded the notes for this report.

I introduced the idea behind the question and told the story of how I have taken an experience and turned it around so that I can reach out to my community. After doing the play WIT, I experienced a re-dedication to the power of the work we do as artists and how that can change lives. Since then, I have utilized the experience to reach out to various communities in my area, most specifically with the women of an ovarian cancer support group, interacting with them and with my students who now work with them. Christina Bryson shared her experiences with the show she created with a fellow student, called WHITE NOISE. It won an award at the Ottawa Fringe Festival and she wants to be able to take the show with its powerful message to high school and college students, to aid in understanding what leads someone to commit suicide. Llyandra Jones spoke to her experience with her company that has produced a show about the Occupy Movement.
What we all agreed upon was that we need to look outward to the community to see what it needs. How do we capture the spirit of our communities? Chekhov said that the greatest threat to the Theater of the Future is the lack of ensemble. By reaching out to our communities and the stories that they want to tell we can create community ensembles, working toward the ‘whole.’ Also, what stories do we need to hear? The ripple effect we talked about in Ulli's classes teaches us that what we put into the space will always have an effect on the space and those in it, and what it then sends back to us can be transforming.
We want to be a community of actors that educate ourselves in order to create an event, take the event out to the communities and then receive what is given back to us. We need to become an organic part of the community in order to be truthful in what we do and all in the community can participate. Everyone then is an artist and we can truly become one. Llyandra Jones' theater in Toronto, called the Docket Theatre, is changing their way to work with playwrights, because of this discussion. They will now have their playwrights become actively involved in the communities they are writing for and listen to the stories they want to tell. This becomes the work that is presented.
It was a wide-ranging discussion and all of us were activated and involved. It was so good to share ideas with one another and to find a way in order to begin to answer the question of how we can give back. Great day!





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COMMENTS: 2

Liz Shipman

17 July 2012

FYI: Liz's last name is Shipman, not Shipley…

This was a great session!
Max Hafler

15 August 2012

Hi Folks
I wanted to share an unusual project I did this year. I devised a piece of theatre with 4th year medical students here in Ireland. I had often felt as patient and carer that doctors were not emotionally equipped to deal with the matters of life and death with which they were confronted with daily, and I thought it would be interesting for them to explore their experience as patients and how they felt about their oncoming careers in a piece which they made themselves. Very often it seems to me , theatre is used for non actors as a way to develop skills rather than open up the participants and enable them to find their voices.. One participant said afterwards. “I had never realised the power of emotional honesty before”. It was a moving project as they revealed more and more about their experiences as patients and their hopes and frustrations of the idea of healing. What was also amazing was they presented it to an audience of their peers who were completely overwhelmed by the honesty of it. Whilst we did small pieces of Chekhov around communication with patients - radiating and receiving was a great concept for them, and lots of breath work, I feel that ultimately it was the honesty which I feel they will not forget. Max hafler

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