Sunday, 22 September 2013

Writing with a Purpose

Ned says ...
Sometimes being a playwright can be the most rewarding thing you could ever do.
Such was the case last week when a project I had been working came to it's conclusion.
I was working with students from Bendigo Senior Secondary College. Local kids and Karen refugees. The project, Finding Your Voice, was a partnership between Bendigo Senior Secondary College, Arts Victoria and the MTC. Chris Mead (MTC) and myself have been travelling to Bendigo every second  Tuesday since April. We have been imparting playwriting skills to 50 kids.
On Wednesday the kids performed their plays. 5 groups of local kids and 2 Karen groups. The locals' plays ranged from the black comedy in the shape of a teen nightmare where Carrie met The Exorcist to a very clever play set in a fridge to a couple of naturalistic pieces dealing with teen issues. The Karen kids pieces were about a prince trying to marry a village girl and the Karen journey from the Thai/Burmese border to Australia.
The whole project was about students using playwriting to tell their own stories. The emphasis was on the story telling rather than the performances.
That said, Wednesdays performance at the Fire Station in Bendigo was electric. The hall was full and you could have cut the air with a knife.
The two Karen pieces brought the house down.
On Friday they travelled to Melbourne to present the pieces at the Lawler Theatre. It was a very different but equally powerful series of performances.
We've all got these "feel good" stories to tell but this one had a different dimension. I've been on this trip for as many years as I can remember. Way back to when I taught in Tenterfield and at the EORA Centre in Redfern. I've been doing it ever since and it continues to blow me away. The level of empowerment that young people get when they are given the tools to tell their stories in their way is quite incredible.
Kids who might feel disengaged in the school are given an opportunity to feel their words and thoughts have value.  Kids for whom English is a second language and who, in this case, have never seen a theatre or a play found a way to tell their stories in a medium they had never encountered.
It was theatre that, forgive the cliche, made a difference.

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