Songs for the Struggling Artist

The End of the Show Experience
April 3, 2016, 8:59 pm
Filed under: art, education, theatre | Tags: , , , ,

Imagine that you’ve just seen a show that moved you in some way. Let’s say you laughed really hard or felt like you were part of an energetic participating audience. Like a concert. Or a comedy show. Or a play. Let’s say you were at this show with a group of people you knew and all of you had an exciting experience at the theatre. You saw something you’d never seen before and your body is in a high state of excitement. Your heart is beating faster as you clap your hands at the end.

Then let’s say someone with authority over you – like a boss or something – comes out after your transformative experience at the theatre and tells you to be absolutely silent and not move a muscle. You are to stay in your seat and under no circumstances are you to discuss the performance. When you’re finally allowed to leave, you must file out in absolute silence .

This would probably would diminish your pleasure of the performance experience somewhat, I’d imagine. This is the experience the audience of one of our school performances had recently. During the show, they laughed and shouted. They were positively gleeful throughout. When it was over, we did our usual Q & A, which is also a little bit exciting, as the actors are un-masked in that moment and they get to see behind the curtain metaphorically.

But as soon as we’d waved them goodbye, the shouting from one of their teachers began. The students were stunned into silence, instructed to sit quietly in total stillness – for no other purpose than control, as far as I could tell. And it broke my heart a little bit.

It made me wonder what I could do as a theatre-maker to avoid that dissonance, at least while I’m there. I’ve worked as both a maker and a teacher of theatre and for the most part, those identities have been largely separate. I walked away from this experience wondering if I ought to be considering employing my educator tools in situations like this. There’s nothing I can do about a school that wants to yell at their students when I’m done with them – I know school culture and that’s not changing from one guest artist’s visit – but I want to build in some space for the students to have an experience like I have after a show that excites me. All my years in Arts in Education have shown me that there are great schools that will spend time after a performance unpacking it, enjoying it, discussing it. In schools that aren’t like that, perhaps I need to employ educational strategies when the show is over. My first thought was the “Turn and Talk” methodology – allowing students to actually talk to each other about the craziness we just showed them. And maybe I should do that before our Q & A. We might get interesting questions out of that strategy.

My ideas about how to handle this dismount sort of stop there, though. What would you do, my fellow educators? And for those of you who perform for schools, have you found ways to deal with this?  It’s a culture clash – the open door of art – followed by the yelling culture of some schools. Can we soften the harsh return to the yelling reality? Please send me your solutions.

Messenger Theater @ ps67 HR (7 of 60)

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2 Comments so far
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This is such a great question, and that transition sounds so heartbreaking. I think the turn n talk would be great for letting students reflect on what moved them or what they are thinking. I also wonder if you could take the reigns a bit about dismissal? The problem seems to be the transition. You obviousky can’t take the logistics, but I wonder if you could say farewell in a more loving and magical way and invite students to transition to quiet before you pass the mic back to admin/ school site? If one person, like you, has the their attention and focus at the final theatery moment maybe their schoolsite won’t feel the need to yell at to get them back to quiet? Sounds like you are doing some amazing work!

Comment by zimmesa

Brilliant idea. Thank you. Right! If I give them one last bit of quiet magic, then they’re already quiet, so… no yelling! Genius. I shall ponder what that could be.

Comment by erainbowd

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