Tuesday, 27 October 2009
I've always been fascinated by Living Newspaper. A theatrical form presenting factual information on current events to a popular audience, made famous by the Federal Theatre project in the 1930's (amongst other incarnations). But more than that, Living Newspaper has historically urged social action, creating propaganda by using agit-prop theatre and multimedia.
The links to Brecht and his work are obvious and it's difficult to discuss this without alluding to his work and style of Epic Theatre. I remember sitting at University during my Applied Theatre degree like a sponge, drinking in all the information. As a practitioner I had long believed that Drama had powerful social influence. But Brecht was an example of a man who truly embodied these beliefs. Living Newspaper was an example of this idea in practise.
More than anything it is an example of Drama making ideas/thoughts/information accessible for all. An ides that is very common - conference after conference, workshop after workshop, class after class is concerned with using Drama to open up a topic, Drama in the classroom, Drama in the Community and using Drama as a tool for change. All the way back to pioneers like Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton who believed Drama could be used in any classroom, and on any subject.
Anyway, back to Living Newspaper. I've used my own version a lot recently. Taking the basic principles and incorporating a body of work by North East Theatre practitioner Sheila Stewart who works with children and adults with learning difficulties getting them to create their own environments using newspaper and masking tape.
The level 1 Theatre Arts students and Joint Hons students have been creating pieces of theatre using newspaper articles as stimulus, finding other supporting material, then creating props, costumes, set (and even giant parachutes) out of newspaper.
The topics were as diverse as Social networking and body image, to pressure, the Iraq war and paedophilia. But I was always amazed with the sensitivity these students showed about their chosen focus, and how much opinion they shared on each and every article.
It makes me pleased to be a Drama teacher, because the students in level one begin to question the world. And this is what makes their transition to Higher Education so exciting - so tangible. For me it's good to see that students are still being driven by their curiosity and belief in Drama and the huge body of work and knowledge that surrounds it.
'Living Newspaper' has been an interesting task and one which has seen the students be creative, inventive, focussed and involved. And I've been very pleased with the results.......