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Performing Arts in the Community Research Task

 

Community
Theatre is a style of theatre used worldwide by many different theatre
companies. In this report, I will discuss three different community theatre’s/
projects that are happening around the Chesterfield area. Community theatre can
be used to teach and inform audiences of matters that are beneficial/ important
to know about. Such as events that they were involved in, and situations that
they have found themselves in or could in the future. Community theatre can
also be used to make social cohesion occur and bring (ethnic) minorities to
light – this is a typical aim for practitioner – Augusto Boal, who I will be
referring to throughout my report as well as Joan Littlewood – another drama
practitioner. Augusto Boal often used theatre to express his views and let
others also have the space and opportunity to do the same. For example, he used
the technique of the audience being a “spec-actor”. This is where they could
stop the drama at any moment and change it for the better. This makes it very
clear that Augusto Boal was trying to promote people standing up for what they
believe and also social cohesion.

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However,
community theatre can also be used for entertainment purposes – people may just
want to watch a community theatre piece for the enjoyment and entertainment
quality that they get out of it.

The
key features of community theatre include purpose – which is often social
cohesion or the education of audiences on certain topics/issues, themes such as
suicide, abortion, global warming, beauty in simplicity, capitalism and many
more. Also, another feature is venues: schools, community centres, hospitals,
town centres… Overall, when people perform a community theatre performance it
can be performed anywhere. Places that are filled with people and people that may
stop and watch the performance are the most ideal places.  It also important that those said people take
something from it – either they have learnt a lesson, it has motivated them to
do something good (for their community) or even just brought them closer to the
community and friends/family through social cohesion.

As
well as clients, this is who the piece of community theatre is aimed at, for
example this can be anything from pensioners, to toddlers to teenagers. The
target audience is dependent on the piece of drama itself and what the theme
is, so therefore who it’s applicable and suitable for. For example, for a topic
such as ‘Teen Pregnancy’ you wouldn’t show a piece of community theatre on this
theme to pensioners or toddlers, so therefore it is applicable to teenagers, or
just before.

Drama
practitioner Augusto Boal often covered topics that were quite big and
controversial, and he performed these pieces to hope for social cohesion and a
better understanding for the audience of these issues. However, many audience
members may feel uncomfortable through certain topics, however maybe Boal made
them feel this way so that a change would occur for the better. Boal connects
the audience to real life issues and turns negative issues positive throughout
the use of the “spec-actor”. This method makes the audience feel part of
something and gives them a voice.

He
did this through his six different techniques in ‘Theatre of Oppression’: Image
Theatre, Forum Theatre, Cop-in-the-head, Rainbow of Desire, Invisible Theatre
and Legislative Theatre. The most popular ones (from my perspective definitely)
are Image Theatre and Forum Theatre. These are two very commonly used ways to
show different things through the use of community theatre. Image Theatre is
used to the characters emotions through the use of making sculptures with the human
body. Forum Theatre is personally my favourite technique used by Boal – this
technique is where the audience get involved in the drama taking place – for
example they can shout “stop!” at any point and they can then change what the
actors are doing and the scenario that they are in. This is effective and
teaches audiences the importance of being kind and finding the good in every
situation and being able to turn a bad situation good by one small simple act
of kindness, which links to a theme in community theatre – the beauty of
simplicity.

On
the other hand, Joan Littlewood takes these same dark issues and topics but
makes them comedic, and guilt trips the audience into laughing throughout her
use of community theatre. This makes the audience think and remember these
topics through the use of a different mechanism. When watching a piece in a
Joan Littlewood style you are made to laugh through what is happening, realise
that you shouldn’t laugh as it’s serious and instantly feel guilty for doing
so.  Joan Littlewood is showing us that
we shouldn’t always be so serious in life and that some of these issues are
very bad but as a society we need to live and enjoy ourselves more and not just
live in fear. Joan Littlewood was a very politically driven drama practitioner
and often used songs and improvisation in her use of community theatre. The use
of song throughout her performances may have been another way to show or prove
something to an audience using a different art form.

 

            My first example of a Community
Performance in my area is a play called “Finding Nana” by Jane Upton, performed
by a community theatre company called ‘New Perspectives’. This purpose of this theatre
performance is to show the audience the unconditional love between a Nana and
her Grandchild and urgent need for us as an audience to cherish these moments
with our elders before it’s too late. This issue/theme is a very appropriate
and beneficial thing as many people go through the situation of losing a
grandparent. Going through this such experience can be very heart-breaking and
upsetting. ‘New Perspectives’ could be showing us that as long as we have respected
and not taken our grandparent(s) for granted, we will still feel sad when they
have passed but feel as if we have made the most of every moment with them.
‘New Perspectives’ could also be showing audiences that people are not alone
and that we should never fear that we are going to die alone or that no one is
going to love us when we leave, or that we are the only ones that feel pain
when a grandparent has passed. This performance may help many people who have
experienced this/experiencing this as it is sort of a guidance and light
through such a difficult time as you can see that many people go through this
experience.  For this performance, the
focus is the importance of respecting and loving our elders before it’s too
late. The venue for this performance is versatile, as you can contact the
theatre company and book them to perform this piece at your chosen venue. This
performance is running “February to March 2018, and the running time is 58
minutes.” (New Perspectives website – http://newperspectives.co.uk/?idno=1168&s=56). I believe that the target audience for this piece is
older teenagers and adults, as some scenes could be quite sensitive for younger
viewers, and making sure you cherish your elders is a common topic and
occurrence when you’re in your teenage and early adult years. The performance
type of this piece is a play, with a moral message throughout.

Here
‘New Perspectives’ are showing us an important and beneficial life lesson that each
audience member should remember and take on board and use in their lives, not
just for respecting and cherishing elders, but respecting and cherishing everyone
and everything in their lives as you never know when any of this could be taken
away from you. Augusto Boal often used delicate and sensitive issues such as
this to educate the audience and create social cohesion and diversity. This
somehow differs from ‘New Perspectives’ aims and considerations, however, on
one hand, you could argue that ‘New Perspectives’ are trying to create social
cohesion between each person and the people around them in making them never
take anyone or anything for granted.

This
piece of drama really juxtaposes and contrasts with Joan Littlewood’s style of
community theatre, as this piece of drama is very sensitive and sad and takes
that perspective on it, whereas if Joan Littlewood had taken on this piece it
would have been made comical, and from a completely different perspective.

 

            My second example of a Community
Performance is ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell performed by the Pomegranate
Youth Theatre. This play is about where animals live free from their human
masters. It is a very political play and shows the events leading up to the
Russian Revolution. It also follows Joseph Stalin’s betrayal of this. In the
production one of the characters (the pig) has a dream about where all animals
live free from their human masters. After this they begin a revolt and idea of
what they could do, they are then focused on what they should and need to do in
order to be free and live much happier lives. This is important and relevant
today because it shows audiences how we should care for animals around us and
not treat them immorally, we should treat them and respect them like they’re
humans. Also, in this generation we are ruled by politics and religion, and
this is what tears the world apart and causes wars. Through the use of
community theatre, and in this case the production is Animal Farm, it is
showing audiences that us a society should work together and live in peace and
harmony with each other instead of letting politics tear the beautiful parts of
the world apart, like politics was tearing the beautiful animal world apart in
‘Animal Farm’. This production is also showing us how we should never take the
small things in life for granted and appreciate everyone and everything. This
play aims to promote social and cultural diversity and perform social cohesion,
so that as a unit society we are more stronger and act more morally towards
animals, and empathize with them and realise what cruel things we do to them. The
focus of this piece is to educate and inform audiences and hopefully change
their views on treating animals cruelly, and overall anyone and anything. The
venue of this performance is at the Pomegranate Theatre situated in the centre
of the town of Chesterfield (this can be found on Pomegranate Theatre’s website
– http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk). This play can be viewed by people of any age as this is
a topic which everyone should think about, discuss and make a change on. The
performance type of this piece is a play.

I
believe that the needs of the audience have been met as this play should be
created to engage the audience and make them question their beliefs and
hopefully make a change in society for the better.

This
piece/style of drama I would say is more influenced by the works of Augusto
Boal in that it is a serious topic, however audience interaction is not
included in this piece. (Moreover, I do believe as an alternative it would be a
good idea to include audience interaction so that they could really see what
small things they could do to help.) This piece of drama is no what influenced
by the works of Joan Littlewood, as it is not made comedic.

 

 

            My third and final example of a Community
Performance is ‘Sister Act’ performed by Bolsover Drama Group. ‘Sister Act’
follows a woman on her journey after she goes on the run from the Police after
witnessing her husband killing one of his employees. She disguises herself as a
nun in a convent in California, she then becomes better than she first thought
– which causes a lot of attention. The focus of this production at Bolsover
Drama Group is to entertain the audience through the use of this musical. The
venue of this production is at the Assembly Rooms in Bolsover, and the target
audience is any ages, as this musical is appropriate for anyone (this can be
found on Bolsover Drama Group’s website – http://www.bolsoverdramagroup.org/index.php/3261/events/productions/sister-act/ ). The type of performance is a musical which is used
for people to laugh at and enjoy. Throughout ‘Sister Act’ themes/issues such as
desire to escape, beauty in simplicity and metaphorical rebirth are explored. This
is true because the protagonist escapes from her husband as she is being chased
by the police, and personally I believe that she has been metaphorically reborn
when she joins the choir with the nuns, as she finds that she has an incredible
talent and this simple little thing of singing shows the beauty in simplicity
and also her making all these new friends. This shows that often it’s the
little things in life that make you happy. This is the moral message for
‘Sister Act’ – that we should stop forcing ourselves to feel happy with/from
the big decisions and choices we make and life and start opening our eyes more
to see the beauty around us and never take anything for granted. I believe this
is what Bolsover Drama group are really trying to achieve, along with social
cohesion and diversity as for this to take place society needs to be a happier
place for people to learn to enjoy every moment. This really links to my first
chosen work – ‘Finding Nana’ by New Perspectives, as they have a similar moral
message. This production really shows that we should be much more laid back in
life and find happiness and pleasure in the little things and start to realise
what is important and what is unnecessary. This links to the work of Augusto
Boal as it shows a strong clear moral message that the audience should then
take on board in order to make a difference in their lives. However, this piece
of work does not link to the works of Joan Littlewood in any way.

 

            My three chosen examples show all
the different varieties of productions in community theatre. My three chosen
examples are all trying to create social cohesion and diversity throughout
their work, in order to make the world a much happier and enjoyable place.
Also, all three show the real importance of never taking anyone or anything for
granted and to respect and appreciate the little things in life as these are
what truly make you happy. Overall, I believe that community theatre is a very
interesting and beneficial style of drama. If it is either to educate,
entertain or inform audiences, it has so much purpose and need in today’s
society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

http://newperspectives.co.uk/?idno=1168&s=56

All
the information about the production – ‘Finding Nana’ can be found on here.

 

http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk

All
the information about ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell can be found on The
Pomegranate Theatre’s website.

 

http://www.bolsoverdramagroup.org/index.php/3261/events/productions/sister-act/

All
the information about ‘Sister Act’ the musical by Bolsover Drama Group can be
found on their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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