Theater Artist, Robert Wilson, said in documentary about his work, "The reason I work as an artist is to ask: what is it? For if we know what it is we are doing, there is no reason to do it. The reason to work is to say: what is it?"
Last Friday one of our new Artists-In-Residence, the Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, held their first play development workshop with three year olds from our Head Start Program. Trusty Side Kick is developing Shadow Play, an interactive show for 2-5 year olds that will premiere at University Settlement on March 3, 2012. Each workshop Trusty Side Kick leads with our early childhood programs gives the company members rich opportunities to ask themselves and their target audience, "What is it? What are we doing?"
Friday's workshop began with one company member pointing a flashlight at a chair to produce a shadow on a wall, and another company member asking the children, "What is it?" These two incredibly simple acts produced a swell of the most beautiful sounds in the universe. Within seconds the children were gasping with wonder and squealing with delight as a magical chain of possibilities began transforming right before our eyes. One child said it was a house and there before us we saw a house. Another child said, "A mountain," and there before us was a mountain. Every new suggestion produced laughter and awe because every shared idea became an exciting new way to experience the moment.
This year we have slightly revamped our Artist-In-Residence program. We decided to work with fewer artists over a longer period of time so that we could more deeply explore and more effectively articulate what it is that artist offer our settlement house programs and what it is our programs offer artists.
Last Friday, as I was observing the Trusty Sidekick workshop, I realized that when Artists pose the question "What is it?" they share with others the power to define what or how things should be. Artists introduce children or remind adults that transformations are possible and change can be brought about. When we engage in the practice of creating something (even something as simple as a shadow), and then we take the time to step back to wonder about it, we are taking charge as creators of our world.
Join US and Panoply Performance Lab on Oct 19th for a fun, free and fascinating opportunity to explore the question, "What do we think nature is?"
about the blogger:
Alison Fleminger is the program curator for The Performance Project @ University Settlement which brings local artists together with settlement staff and participants through a unique Artist-In-Residence program and public performance series. For the past four years, Alison has been designing and implementing arts curriculum at a range of University Settlement program sites. She is also the Artistic Director of the Play Tank, a performance ensemble comprised of University Settlement youth program staff. Click here to learn more about the arts at University Settlement.