How do you begin work on a new piece?: "Usually the first thing to appear is a character who is very blurry around the edges. I'll start by letting them speak and hearing what they say, what seems to be their mission or desire, and what might be impeding that. Then from this opening gambit, I try to recognize features of their landscape, of the world in which they live, and sketch that. Then if I now know that this person exists in this world, and with this drive for something, I’ll invent a person they might encounter (be they friend or foe) and slowly build a population out that way. Eventually I give them momentum and set them off on some adventure or other (it can be around a world, or a kitchen table, no matter), and then just try to problem-solve along the way."
Entries in Australia (6)
Playwright and Poet Afeif Ismail was born in Sudan and currently lives and writes in Australia. WLPG co-editors Deirdre Kelly Lavrakas and Kim Peter Kovac were fortunate to be able to have an extended conversation with him in Washington, DC, and we are grateful that he was able to find the time to answer some questions for the WLPG community.
WLPG: Was there something in particular that motivated you to start writing for young audiences?
AFEIF: I grew up beside my grandmother in a poor family and we didn’t have a T.V then. But my wealth is my grandmother’s precious tales. My Grandmother would tell me stories, performing them as if she was her own one-woman theatre: she was the designer, actor, director – everything. The pulse of her stories still beats in my mind and memory. I used to fly with her tales all the time, reincarnated as one of her characters. I traced step by step all the mazes and roads and rough paths, whistling with legendary animals
Every day I go to work to play. What am I?
I’m a theatre director for Patch Theatre Company in Adelaide, Australia. We create and produce theatre for 4-8 year olds. It’s a good as any job I can imagine.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Patch Theatre productions enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of children in places like Japan, Korea, Singapore, USA, New Zealand, Canada and all over Australia and I’m amazed at how universal children’s responses are to our shows. If ever anyone questions me on the future of theatre, I invite them to sit in an audience of 4-8 year olds and be amazed! Children respond to good theatre experiences with such immediacy, joy and exuberance, you can’t doubt its power and impact.
In his keynote speech to the National Early Childhood Australia Conference in 2010, Patch Theatre Company Artistic Director, Dave Brown discusses the collaborative, whimsically driven theatre-making processes used in the creation of their language lean, visually poetic, sonicaly rich theatre productions for 4-8 year old children. Focussing on the making of Emily Loves to Bounce!, a production being presented by the Kennedy Center in May 2012, Dave discusses the importance of whimsy in creating works which surpise not only audiences; but also the artists who colllaborate in making them.
“Creativity represents the miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy – the sense of order imposed by a disciplined adult intelligence.” Norman Podhoretz
Watch a video of the speech on YouTube.
Verbatim theatre is a modern form of documentary theatre in which the playwright uses the real words of interviewees to construct a play. Like its theatrical forebears, such as the 'Living Newspapers' produced by the Federal Theatre Project in the US in the 1930s, it is often associated with coverage of current events and controversial political issues. Black Watch, by Gregory Burke, portrayed British soldiers in Iraq in their own words, while David Hare's The Permanent Way documented the privatization of the UK railways.
But what about using verbatim theatre as a form to capture the lives of young people in their own words? David Megarrity is doing just that with students at the Queensland University of Technology, developing a play around the theme of ‘love, adrenaline and transitions’.