A few early feedback quotes from the Separate Doors 3 forum at RADA
It was such a fantastic event. I learnt a huge amount and it made me go away and think about my own practise in great detail.
I feel like the best way in for future progress is to do with writing – new work is always financially risky for theatres, but new work written with this in mind is going to offer the best opportunities for incorporating actors with learning disabilities in “mainstream” work.
As a practitioner I feel that it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to do a practitioner workshop on the Silent Approach with you.
I reflected that stories shared generation to generation, culture to culture, person to person, have the power to challenge our prejudices – the heroes of those stories challenging our understanding of the individuals telling them.
The platform for integrated theatre needs to find its own voice to connect with the wider public by finding the right projects in which to champion its importance.
I feel as though the industry is in danger of hamstringing risk and imagination by creating a climate of fear around misappropriation, so to hear the playwrights speak so candidly about it was refreshing and required.
70 people from UK theatre will come together to explore integrated theatre, discussing the will and the way, and most importantly the how of making general audience theatre that includes actors with learning disabilities.
Geoff Bullen, Emeritus Director of Acting at RADA will welcome us all and reflect on the Separate Doors 2 project on which we collaborated.
I’ll talk to the room about my thoughts on identity, writing, integrated theatre and the silent approach and then…
A panel of leading actors with learning disabilities will discuss ambition, training and the kind of theatre they want to be part of.
A panel of writers will discuss writing for and with actors with learning disabilities and a panel of Artistic and Executive Directors will discuss including exceptional talent with learning disabilities in general audience work.
We then go into dynamic forum.
Provocations, in between the chatter, will come from three theatre makers who attended Separate Doors 3 silent approach master classes.
We’ll all reflect.
And then everyone in the space will have 60 seconds to feedback.
And if something doesn’t shift as a consequence of that…I’ll eat my hat!
Last week as part of the Separate Doors 3 project I shared my silent approach methodology with directors, theatre makers and playwrights.
Up to 30 theatre professionals with and without learning disabilities came together for a day of intensive no speech rehearsal process in each master class.
This is what I did and this is what I was thinking…
Activity:Opening. (Starting soundtrack, setting up the space, watching actors do their personal warm up, opening the rehearsal room door to guests).
I’m thinking:Do I know anything at all about anything? Do not run away. Breathe. Why am I doing this? What am I trying to do? What are my objectives? What happens next?
Activity: Flocking. (Bringing people together without speech. Establishing an ensemble).
I’m thinking:Please please please come with me. Will you trust me and go with it? Do you want to connect and be? Can you come along with me through key movement patterns. Can 25 people become 1? Can we all relish the common condition of being human and move together in space?
Activity: Greeting. (Handshakes and emotional connection).
I’m thinking:Is the pacing right? Is anyone dropping out, are there any lapses in focus? When shall I risk a shift in activity, guide the next stage of movement/breath. Offer eyes, take what comes back, accept.
Activity: Sounding. (Ensemble working through breath and onto voice with feeling).
I’m thinking:Be bold. Do it. Keep it interesting, keep changing it up, improvise. Push energy out and bring it back to quiet, to silence, to being. Does everyone want this? Are we all in this together? Can we experience air, energy and be in the same moment together?
Activity: Making (On text, directing actors in character within given circumstances).
I’m thinking:Do the video and audio cues show where we are? Do we all feel and know where we are? Can the actors feed off each others emotional states and move?Can we endow objects, silently? Can I add some dialogue- without it ruining things? Can we keep the physical shape, the action and reaction within the activity and not care about the lines? Am I serving the play? Am I serving the actors? Are we serving the audience? Is everyone authentically being in this space. Right now. Am I holding the rest of the room to the work? Is this drama? Does it make people feel? Do we care? Does it work? Does it matter?
Activity: Ending (Moving out of scene and character dynamics).
I’m thinking:We’re all back in the circle and breathing, have we all come back to neutral, do I need to extend? How long can I hold this silence for? How long do people want and need? Have I got it right? How do I quantify this method? How do I explain it? How do I share this philosophy, this technique and its application?
The final Separate Doors 3 silent approach master class focuses on playwriting, building roles and stage drama for actors and characters with learning disabilities.
To spend a whole day in the rehearsal room with six exceptional writers (who work in all kinds of other media too) is a spectacular treat and there’ll be great learnings attached to the forum at the end of the day.
Many have already written roles for actors with learning disabilities and all are committed to exploring the craft and process in order to encourage greater representation for actors and people with learning disabilities in general audience work.
We’ll be focusing on scene building, collaborative story development and writing roles for actors with moderate learning disabilities- looking at the creative potential of placing non verbal characters in the centre of the action.
The discoveries we make will be widely shared; with the aim of igniting new text based plays for general audiences which include the lived experience of people with learning disabilities.
Theatre maker (noun): A creator of live performance, sometimes across art forms and, often, challenging established theatre formats.
Theatre makers are changing the landscape and shaking up the standard practices of a known kind of venue theatre, bringing hidden lived experiences into view and onto stages.
Recent work from theatre maker Bryony Kimmings confronted mental illness and cancer and has inspired a new wave of voices who craft performance from biographical material, challenging the ‘sit back and watch’ status quo and the sometimes distancing effect of the established form.
Theatre makers also include devisers and devising companies like Told By An Idiot, bringing a distinct physical style to stories which pack a punch.
And increasingly actors with learning disabilities who want and are able to make build and manage their own theatre projects are theatre makers. Mind the Gap has supported the theatre making of playwright Daniel Foulds and actor Alan Clay.
The Silent Approach offers theatre makers a window into a different way of working and creating.
Separate Doors is hosting a day long master class specific to artists who are theatre makers at the Lawrence Batley theatre in February with project allies Dark Horse.
We’ll be working with an ensemble of actors with and without learning disabilities, exploring non-verbal ensemble building exercises, story-building and performance style.
At the end of the day there’ll be a forum to look at the different ways we all work and the applications and the change that’s possible when words are left out of the equation and this kind of revolutionary inclusive practice becomes part of everyone’s toolkit.
Theatre director (noun); A creative collaborator, guide and conduit between a writer*, production team and performers and an audience.
*or not if the work is devised.
Who the director is informs the outcome to an extent, just as any other creative and production team member influences a show.
How the director works, who they cast, how they communicate, how they brief, manage people, run rehearsals, steer marketing and shape the final production for people is perhaps more important than who.
The role is as important as the person.
There’s a highly positive drive for change in UK theatre to recruit theatre directors from under-represented demographics.
Disability-led work is thriving but actors with moderate learning disabilities struggle to lead and manage projects- and many trained actors don’t want to, they want to focus on acting as the hard-learned theatre craft it is- and this is where integrated theatre (= casts and companies of creatives with and without learning disabilities) offers genuine equality for these performers.
People with moderate learning disabilities without literacy or verbal skills are barred from leadership roles in theatre.
Actors with moderate learning disabilities aren’t barred from playing leading roles in general audience facing work when working in integrated casts with the Silent Approach.
The Silent Approach is a non-verbal rehearsal room method which supports actors with and without learning disabilities, in integrated general audience facing productions. Its proven, tried and tested in national touring, TV and film and its being shared widely via the Separate Doors project.
Separate Doors 3 aims to encourage theatre directors to increase the representation of people with learning disabilities in general audience, text based and venue theatre.
The project offers key tools for directors to make working with actors with learning disabilities as desirable and creatively expanding as it can be including casting/working with creative enablers and supporters/financial considerations, rehearsal room processes/ ensemble development/communication tips, management during the run and language and targets for marketing and promotion.