by Kevin R. Free · August 9, 2014
Kevin R. Free is part of the FringeU panel "Bringing Indie Theater to the Classroom" on Tuesday, August 19 at 1pm.
I've been bringing independent theatre into classrooms for a long time, and I just realized it when asked to write this post. When I was the Education Director at Queens Theatre in the Park, I administered a program for which I hired 50 indie theatre artists to facilitate after school workshops at public schools in playwriting and performance; at the end of 8 weeks, the students performed their original plays on stage for their families at Queens Theatre.
I always thought, as a teaching artist, that my job was to build bridges to understanding, whether the understanding was of complex-yet-universal issues in plays; or of communication-as-conflict resolution in life; or even of strictures imposed on teachers who are charged with getting more results with fewer resources. While all of that is true, I realize now that in the bulk of my work with young people, I have challenged them to make their own creative choices without - or in spite of, rather - the fear of negative results.
We all ask our young actors to be easily led: learn their lines, blocking, and choreography. As a director, I allow them - or force them, rather - to make their own choices as actors. No one in my rehearsals is allowed to ask me "May I cry in this scene? May I laugh when I say...?" When I hear those questions, I remind them not to ask me about their acting choices, but to make the choice, play it in the scene, and we can discuss whether it works later. And when we discuss it, I steer clear of the use of the word "wrong," even if I use the words "failure" and "success."
As indie theatre artists, we perform, we write - we wright - we make art, or Art, or ART, or "ART." We make choices before, during, and after our creations are born. Our plays live and breathe and change and evolve in our hands and in the hands of our colleagues, and we live with those changes, especially if the changes exist within the framework of the initial creation. The choices we make as artists are the places in which we can explore our passion for the work, and by modeling that behavior for my students, I hope that I am bringing my indie theatre aesthetic into the classroom.