Performing Arts in the Community Research Task CommunityTheatre is a style of theatre used worldwide by many different theatrecompanies.
In this report, I will discuss three different community theatre’s/projects that are happening around the Chesterfield area. Community theatre canbe used to teach and inform audiences of matters that are beneficial/ importantto know about. Such as events that they were involved in, and situations thatthey have found themselves in or could in the future. Community theatre canalso be used to make social cohesion occur and bring (ethnic) minorities tolight – this is a typical aim for practitioner – Augusto Boal, who I will bereferring to throughout my report as well as Joan Littlewood – another dramapractitioner. Augusto Boal often used theatre to express his views and letothers also have the space and opportunity to do the same. For example, he usedthe technique of the audience being a “spec-actor”. This is where they couldstop the drama at any moment and change it for the better. This makes it veryclear that Augusto Boal was trying to promote people standing up for what theybelieve and also social cohesion.
However,community theatre can also be used for entertainment purposes – people may justwant to watch a community theatre piece for the enjoyment and entertainmentquality that they get out of it.Thekey features of community theatre include purpose – which is often socialcohesion or the education of audiences on certain topics/issues, themes such assuicide, abortion, global warming, beauty in simplicity, capitalism and manymore. Also, another feature is venues: schools, community centres, hospitals,town centres… Overall, when people perform a community theatre performance itcan be performed anywhere. Places that are filled with people and people that maystop and watch the performance are the most ideal places.
It also important that those said people takesomething from it – either they have learnt a lesson, it has motivated them todo something good (for their community) or even just brought them closer to thecommunity and friends/family through social cohesion.Aswell as clients, this is who the piece of community theatre is aimed at, forexample this can be anything from pensioners, to toddlers to teenagers. Thetarget audience is dependent on the piece of drama itself and what the themeis, so therefore who it’s applicable and suitable for. For example, for a topicsuch as ‘Teen Pregnancy’ you wouldn’t show a piece of community theatre on thistheme to pensioners or toddlers, so therefore it is applicable to teenagers, orjust before. Dramapractitioner Augusto Boal often covered topics that were quite big andcontroversial, and he performed these pieces to hope for social cohesion and abetter understanding for the audience of these issues. However, many audiencemembers may feel uncomfortable through certain topics, however maybe Boal madethem feel this way so that a change would occur for the better. Boal connectsthe audience to real life issues and turns negative issues positive throughoutthe use of the “spec-actor”. This method makes the audience feel part ofsomething and gives them a voice.
Hedid this through his six different techniques in ‘Theatre of Oppression’: ImageTheatre, Forum Theatre, Cop-in-the-head, Rainbow of Desire, Invisible Theatreand Legislative Theatre. The most popular ones (from my perspective definitely)are Image Theatre and Forum Theatre. These are two very commonly used ways toshow different things through the use of community theatre. Image Theatre isused to the characters emotions through the use of making sculptures with the humanbody.
Forum Theatre is personally my favourite technique used by Boal – thistechnique is where the audience get involved in the drama taking place – forexample they can shout “stop!” at any point and they can then change what theactors are doing and the scenario that they are in. This is effective andteaches audiences the importance of being kind and finding the good in everysituation and being able to turn a bad situation good by one small simple actof kindness, which links to a theme in community theatre – the beauty ofsimplicity. Onthe other hand, Joan Littlewood takes these same dark issues and topics butmakes them comedic, and guilt trips the audience into laughing throughout heruse of community theatre. This makes the audience think and remember thesetopics through the use of a different mechanism. When watching a piece in aJoan Littlewood style you are made to laugh through what is happening, realisethat you shouldn’t laugh as it’s serious and instantly feel guilty for doingso. Joan Littlewood is showing us thatwe shouldn’t always be so serious in life and that some of these issues arevery bad but as a society we need to live and enjoy ourselves more and not justlive in fear. Joan Littlewood was a very politically driven drama practitionerand often used songs and improvisation in her use of community theatre.
The useof song throughout her performances may have been another way to show or provesomething to an audience using a different art form. My first example of a CommunityPerformance in my area is a play called “Finding Nana” by Jane Upton, performedby a community theatre company called ‘New Perspectives’. This purpose of this theatreperformance is to show the audience the unconditional love between a Nana andher Grandchild and urgent need for us as an audience to cherish these momentswith our elders before it’s too late. This issue/theme is a very appropriateand beneficial thing as many people go through the situation of losing agrandparent. Going through this such experience can be very heart-breaking andupsetting. ‘New Perspectives’ could be showing us that as long as we have respectedand not taken our grandparent(s) for granted, we will still feel sad when theyhave 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 aloneand that we should never fear that we are going to die alone or that no one isgoing to love us when we leave, or that we are the only ones that feel painwhen a grandparent has passed. This performance may help many people who haveexperienced this/experiencing this as it is sort of a guidance and lightthrough such a difficult time as you can see that many people go through thisexperience. For this performance, thefocus is the importance of respecting and loving our elders before it’s toolate. The venue for this performance is versatile, as you can contact thetheatre company and book them to perform this piece at your chosen venue. Thisperformance is running “February to March 2018, and the running time is 58minutes.” (New Perspectives website – http://newperspectives.co.
uk/?idno=1168&s=56). I believe that the target audience for this piece isolder teenagers and adults, as some scenes could be quite sensitive for youngerviewers, and making sure you cherish your elders is a common topic andoccurrence when you’re in your teenage and early adult years. The performancetype of this piece is a play, with a moral message throughout.
Here’New Perspectives’ are showing us an important and beneficial life lesson that eachaudience member should remember and take on board and use in their lives, notjust for respecting and cherishing elders, but respecting and cherishing everyoneand everything in their lives as you never know when any of this could be takenaway from you. Augusto Boal often used delicate and sensitive issues such asthis to educate the audience and create social cohesion and diversity. Thissomehow differs from ‘New Perspectives’ aims and considerations, however, onone hand, you could argue that ‘New Perspectives’ are trying to create socialcohesion between each person and the people around them in making them nevertake anyone or anything for granted.Thispiece of drama really juxtaposes and contrasts with Joan Littlewood’s style ofcommunity theatre, as this piece of drama is very sensitive and sad and takesthat perspective on it, whereas if Joan Littlewood had taken on this piece itwould have been made comical, and from a completely different perspective. My second example of a CommunityPerformance is ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell performed by the PomegranateYouth Theatre. This play is about where animals live free from their humanmasters. It is a very political play and shows the events leading up to theRussian Revolution. It also follows Joseph Stalin’s betrayal of this.
In theproduction one of the characters (the pig) has a dream about where all animalslive free from their human masters. After this they begin a revolt and idea ofwhat they could do, they are then focused on what they should and need to do inorder to be free and live much happier lives. This is important and relevanttoday because it shows audiences how we should care for animals around us andnot treat them immorally, we should treat them and respect them like they’rehumans. Also, in this generation we are ruled by politics and religion, andthis is what tears the world apart and causes wars. Through the use ofcommunity theatre, and in this case the production is Animal Farm, it isshowing audiences that us a society should work together and live in peace andharmony with each other instead of letting politics tear the beautiful parts ofthe 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 thesmall things in life for granted and appreciate everyone and everything. Thisplay 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 towardsanimals, and empathize with them and realise what cruel things we do to them. Thefocus of this piece is to educate and inform audiences and hopefully changetheir views on treating animals cruelly, and overall anyone and anything. Thevenue of this performance is at the Pomegranate Theatre situated in the centreof 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 isa topic which everyone should think about, discuss and make a change on.
Theperformance type of this piece is a play.Ibelieve that the needs of the audience have been met as this play should becreated to engage the audience and make them question their beliefs andhopefully make a change in society for the better.Thispiece/style of drama I would say is more influenced by the works of AugustoBoal in that it is a serious topic, however audience interaction is notincluded in this piece. (Moreover, I do believe as an alternative it would be agood idea to include audience interaction so that they could really see whatsmall things they could do to help.
) This piece of drama is no what influencedby the works of Joan Littlewood, as it is not made comedic. My third and final example of a CommunityPerformance 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 afterwitnessing her husband killing one of his employees. She disguises herself as anun 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 BolsoverDrama Group is to entertain the audience through the use of this musical. Thevenue of this production is at the Assembly Rooms in Bolsover, and the targetaudience is any ages, as this musical is appropriate for anyone (this can befound 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 usedfor people to laugh at and enjoy. Throughout ‘Sister Act’ themes/issues such asdesire to escape, beauty in simplicity and metaphorical rebirth are explored.
Thisis true because the protagonist escapes from her husband as she is being chasedby the police, and personally I believe that she has been metaphorically rebornwhen she joins the choir with the nuns, as she finds that she has an incredibletalent and this simple little thing of singing shows the beauty in simplicityand also her making all these new friends. This shows that often it’s thelittle 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/fromthe big decisions and choices we make and life and start opening our eyes moreto see the beauty around us and never take anything for granted. I believe thisis what Bolsover Drama group are really trying to achieve, along with socialcohesion and diversity as for this to take place society needs to be a happierplace for people to learn to enjoy every moment. This really links to my firstchosen work – ‘Finding Nana’ by New Perspectives, as they have a similar moralmessage.
This production really shows that we should be much more laid back inlife and find happiness and pleasure in the little things and start to realisewhat is important and what is unnecessary. This links to the work of AugustoBoal as it shows a strong clear moral message that the audience should thentake on board in order to make a difference in their lives. However, this pieceof work does not link to the works of Joan Littlewood in any way. My three chosen examples show allthe different varieties of productions in community theatre. My three chosenexamples are all trying to create social cohesion and diversity throughouttheir 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 forgranted and to respect and appreciate the little things in life as these arewhat truly make you happy.
Overall, I believe that community theatre is a veryinteresting and beneficial style of drama. If it is either to educate,entertain or inform audiences, it has so much purpose and need in today’ssociety. Bibliographyhttp://newperspectives.
co.uk/?idno=1168&s=56Allthe information about the production – ‘Finding Nana’ can be found on here. http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.ukAllthe information about ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell can be found on ThePomegranate Theatre’s website. http://www.bolsoverdramagroup.
org/index.php/3261/events/productions/sister-act/Allthe information about ‘Sister Act’ the musical by Bolsover Drama Group can befound on their website.