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換位思考與深耕社區的教育劇場:思樂樂劇場 | CLABO實驗波CLABO實驗波
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Review

Theater in Education for Community Development and Empathy Learning: Think Feel Move

The performance of Think Feel Move. Photo courtesy of Think Feel Move
Info
DATE2019.06.11
TEXT LO Chien
social issuesTheater in Educationplayful seniors

Think Feel Move Stationed on Campus

Inspired by the Sunflower Student Movement in 2014, people working in the fields of theater and civics education established Think Feel Move in the same year. Since there was little space in the existing educational system for the cultivation of citizenship and for dialogue, these people attempted to draw youth/students’ attention to the worldwide issues through the theatre approach, which contributed to the establishment of Think Feel Move. This troupe lays much stress on the discussion at the early stage, with scripts written collectively and the involving of the performance instructors in the periods of research and idea-generation. Using interactive strategies to encourage the public engagement, Think Feel Move started by discussing social issues, organizational relationships, and structural problems in their work and deliberately chose April 22, which is Earth Day, to establish their troupe, with the emphasis on happiness by their name Think Feel Move.

Theater in Education (TIE), which originated in Britain and has a twenty-year history of concurrent development in Taiwan, combines theatrical forms with educational goals and focuses on producing emotional experiences for participants to involve in the topics. Using the TIE method, Think Feel Move promotes the application of theater in civics education classes and emphasizes interaction between students and performance instructors. Instructors are all equipped with teaching and stagecraft experience, and the troupe uses interactive theater, simulated scenarios, and action plans to discuss social issues with high school and technical school students, who are allowed to participate in the plays and respond to the plot of the story by role-playing. Theater in Education gets rid of the traditional didactic teaching, and there is no judgement and single correct answers to the questions. Through active participation and discussion, students are encouraged to think by themselves and connect their personal and emotional experiences to the issues. Students safely express themselves in situations created with theater techniques and in activities that generate educational significance.

In May of 2018, Think Feel Move began its residency at Nangang District’s Xiude Elementary School as part of the program Art Together jointly managed by the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Education, Taipei City Government. Art Together leases rehearsal and office space to art groups, and the rent is regarded as an administrative fee. Through the stationing of art on campus in this program, dedicated art education is available for students, and the artists, due to their various skills, could provide students with the opportunity to appreciate art.

Theater in Education as Civics Classes: Revelations in the Oyster Field

The troupe CEO, TSENG Ling-Ling. Photo by HSU Ping

In the group’s first work, Revelations in the Oyster Field (2014), questions are raised about sustainability and conflicts between economic development and environmentalism. The plot focuses on a petrochemical factory in Taisi Township, which plans to expand to meet global competition. While the factory produces income for the local community, it also negatively impacts people’s health and the aquaculture industry. Three friends who grew up in the area come together at a town hall meeting regarding the expansion of the factory, and each has a different point of view regarding sustainability. In this interactive performance, students adopt different positions to consider and advance various policies. The performance includes an introductory phase with icebreaker games and information about the petrochemical industry; a learn by doing stage where the performers and students participate in an interactive question and answer session, role play, and policy vote; and a reflective stage in which the students discuss with one another and fill out questionnaires. Afterwards, the teacher can follow up with extension lessons and discussions on related topics.

As a TIE project, Revelations in the Oyster Field was put into use at National Hsinchu Senior High School, National Hsinchu Girls Senior High School, and National Experimental High School at Hsinchu Science Park in 2014. It was then performed ten more times in 2015 at National Hsinchu Senior High School, National Hsinchu Girls Senior High School, Taipei First Girls High School, Taipei Municipal Zhong-Zheng Senior High School, The Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University, and Taoyuan Municipal Nei-Li Senior High School. Also in 2015, TIE workshops for civics class teachers were held at National Hsinchu Girls Senior High School and National Changhua Girls’ Senior High School. In 2016, the same work was performed throughout Taiwan at high schools and community colleges, and the Global Citizenship Education Interactive Lesson Planning Workshop, which used Revelations in the Oyster Field for case study, was held to train civics class teachers and performance art teachers. Over those three years, the work was performed twenty times.

The Teenagers’ Dialogue of Looking for Self-identification: Wasted! Variations on Youth

The second work, Wasted! Variations on Youth (2016), originated at the Smashed Taiwan Project and focuses on issues typically encountered by adolescents, such as bullying, developing relationships with the opposite sex, smoking, alcohol, and other kinds of substance abuse, and in turn probes into the self-identification of the adolescents.

Wasted! Variations on Youth was performed thirty times at 15 high schools in Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kaohsiung, and used at three teacher education workshops in 2016; it was also performed twenty times in 2017 and thirty times in 2018, and will be performed thirty times in 2019. Furthermore, related topics have been extended from the work in lesson plans created by different teachers. These lesson plans (including the ones developed from Revelations in the Oyster Field and Wasted! Variations on Youth) are publicly shared on Think Feel Move’s Facebook page to help educators apply these two works in a classroom setting.

Field Research and Participation in the Community Work: Bring Toad Hill History to Life

In addition to promoting TIE at schools, Think Feel Move members have been active participants in their communities for a long time. What can a theatrical troupe do to promote community development, and what can its impact be? As workers in the art field, Think Feel Move members explore these issues through continual reflection. Take the three-year-running Toad Hill Documentary Theater Project, Preliminary Stage as example. In September of 2016, the troupe participated in the Forgotten Stories, Documentary Theater Workshop at the Taipei Arts Festival. After a week of intensive training, the final results were presented in Inquiry: A Place to Live in Toad Hill, which discusses justice for residents living in the area. Also, the troupe’s eight-week class “Bring Toad Hill History to Life” allowed elderly residents of the village to share their life stories with students at the neighboring Taipei Municipal Mingchuan Elementary School. On November 7, 2016, students from the school went to Toad Hill Village to listen to stories, and then on November 14, the grandmothers of Toad Hill Village went to the school to tell their stories. In December 2017, Think Feel Move created and performed a Playback Theater piece in Toad Hill Village, which is titled Hillside Stories and based on material collected through interviews and workshops. The community involvement at Toad Hill Village was extended by converting this material into small works, which was performed at the Playful Seniors: the Field Research Seminar of Senior Theatre in C-LAB.

The member of Think Feel Move performed in the Playful Seniors: the Field Research Seminar of Senior Theatre. Photo by HSU Ping

Sharing Life Experiences of Moving: Playful Seniors

The forum in November 2018 was moderated by CHEN Hui-Hsuan, with each theater troupe performing an interactive 20-to-30-minute skit on a pageant wagon of medieval forms. The main idea lay in how each troupe develops performances based on field studies. Think Feel Move based theirs on stories told by two Toad Hill residents, Grandmother TSENG and Grandmother YEH, and the performance was moderated by the troupe CEO, TSENG Ling-Ling. The women’s stories concerned their experiences working as bus conductresses when they were young. The skit was performed in three locations around the forum venue: outside the entrance, just inside the entrance, and another place in the venue. As the skit began, the participants/audience members were given two bus tickets and then moved to the first location outside of the venue. The two conductresses introduced themselves and discussed how they had gotten their jobs as well as other important life events. Then the visitors moved into the venue and the two conductresses checked their tickets and directed them to board the bus. The older grandmother stood in the second location just inside the door and talked about how as a young Hakka girl she married a bus driver who came from Mainland China. The younger grandmother stood in the third location and talked about how she was taken into a family as a child bride, and how she ultimately chose to marry one of her co-workers, who was also a bus driver from Mainland China.

Members of Think Feel Move have worked with the public for a long time and much of their time has been spent on establishing trusting relationships with the community. In comprehensive discussions, questions were raised, such as when theater workers enter the community, for whom the work is significant. Is it for theater workers? For residents? Or is it for the community? Think Feel Move choose to let senior members of the community tell their own stories and talk about their life journeys, and then the work of the troupe is to tailor the story and capture its key points.

TSENG Ling-Ling said that everyone knows Grandmother YEH in Toad Hill Village, but when she came to C-LAB to perform, she was nervous. It was an unfamiliar place with different things, and so she naturally felt that everything was quite different. The Toad Hill Documentary Theater Project would be launched in 2019, through which Think Feel Move continues to work with the community. Now they are planning and discussing the performance format.

Info
DATE2019.06.11
TEXT LO Chien
social issuesTheater in Educationplayful seniors
Author
LO ChienAn art critic, editor and member of the International Association of Theatre Critics (Taiwan), , LO’s research covers the issues concerning contemporary images, space, performance, mobility and corporeal perception.
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