On the 2nd of March 2018, from 9AM to 12NN on a Saturday, I facilitated a devised theatre workshop with college students (between the ages of 18 to 21 years old) of Ateneo de Manila University. While not all the participants were theatre majors, everyone was a member of at least one of the theatre-related organizations on campus: Tanghalang Ateneo (the “home” organization of the university’s theatre arts program), Ateneo Blue Repertory (the musical theatre organization of Ateneo), and Entablado (an intentionally politically-oriented theatre organization).
The session I designed was a combination of all the devising classes I have taken thus far, from City University of New York (CUNY) to New York University (NYU). We first determined a theme through the game “Grandma’s Footsteps.” The group decided to create around the theme of danger. We started with images and continued to build on our ideas through different ways of devising. Below is a copy of the session plan.
Beyond just creating exciting pieces of theatre, we took the time to discuss facilitation—which is an important skill when devising with an ensemble—and reflect on the content of the work we were creating. One of the most striking lessons I learned during my MA was, while one could devise a sensually thrilling piece of theatre, if it doesn’t have anything to say or ask, it won’t go very far. With the piece featured below, we entered a conversation about misogyny in the Philippines. One of the students queried about the final line the victim cried, “Tama na! That’s enough!” The devising group wanted to emphasize their view that victims of misogyny, psychologically and/or physically, aren’t just victims to be pitied, they still have the capacity to protect others.
The capacity of devising to build ensemble resonated with the participants. In a survey I sent after the workshop, one of them wrote:
I think it’s a very collaborative process that allows you to bounce off of the ideas shared by the ensemble you are with. It is a continuous process of growth and decision-making, as well as a safe space to create without having to worry about unnecessary judgment.
Another wrote about Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process, which I introduced:
Making time for critique, going through it stage by stage, made me realize how important proper criticism is in devising. From what it seemed like, no devised piece reaches a final version without expanding its possibilities based on the criticism of others.
Finally, one sent me a list of questions:
How do I find people to work with? What can I use devised work for? Where can I learn and develop this further? How do I hone my “pakikiramdam” (empathy) skills? Is there a more organized process for creation? What is something new we can do? What has not been done before?
My dissertation project, at least in its current conception, revolves around a community-based devising course I will teach for Ateneo de Manila University. While the fine details of the project still aren’t settled, this workshop was a pilot to see if there is interest among the students in making theatre through collective devising and, through it, reflecting on society together. The reactions were positive overall and the Ateneo Fine Arts Department is more than happy to collaborate with me.