The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How do Theater artists transform and edit their initial ideas?
Theater artists transform, edit, and refine their initial ideas through rehearsal.
Unable to rehearse, due to COVID limitations, we were nonetheless able to address the essential question by focusing on processing feedback that inspires young artists to examine, clarify, and strengthen their work so it expresses and successfully communicates their voice, vision, and intention to both collaborators and audiences.
The ability to remain actively curious and open to feedback, while at the same time strengthening and refining one’s own unique voice and vision is critical to the art and craft of playwriting. Engaging a deeper the exploration of the work before going into a rehearsal and/or reading process helps artists better observe and understand how their work is being received, and where they can make adjustments that positively impact the artistic process.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
I had a blast working with my mentor; gaining a new window into what it takes to be a quality playwright, as well as the endless possibilities that the stage truly has to offer. – Parker Ames
My experience working with seven devils was amazing. Not only was I able to see my scene being performed by professionals, they also allowed me to truly experience the play writing world and gave me the confidence and advice to continue writing my play. – Josslyn Carnes
The two most unique, and most useful, outcomes of this project are that students 1) gain an immediate and very practical understanding of how they can use, and refine, their language and writing skills to better communicate with others; and 2) leave the program feeling inspired to continue working on their pieces, rather than feeling as if they have finished an assigned project. These are outcomes that stay with students long after the Conference and can be generalized across other facets of life regardless of their ultimate career choice.
One of the very compelling lessons we learned this year is how eager students we have worked with in the past are to return and support current students. While we often have a few former student playwrights return over several years to serve as actors for the current student plays, but this year we had a significant increase in interest from former student playwrights. Several years ago, we expanded the program to include more students. This overall increase in numbers as a sign that our investment in expanding the program is paying off and making a strong contribution to the arts life of the community.
As expected, starting the program earlier- even if not in person- had a significant positive impact on the process. We’d hoped to get mentors and students connected earlier as well, but were thwarted by combination of logistical, financial, and scheduling challenges that we will look to address in the coming year. We also would have preferred to have more rehearsal time, but in our continuing effort to move through ongoing COVID challenges, quickly shifting protocols, and public safety concerns we have found ways to keep our work with students engaged, lively and very productive. Perhaps the best recommendation we would have for others looking to take on a similar project would be to build strategic flexibility into their programming so they can shift as needed without having to compromise their core goals.