In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Changing How We Make: Research-Creation as Methodology in Changemakers
  • Markus Potter (bio), Darci Jens Fulcher (bio), and Jane Barnette (bio)

In the Before Times, we took so many things for granted: attendance, for example. By “we” here, we mean the white, able- and cis-bodied coauthors of this piece: Markus Potter, Changemakers co-director and lead teacher for the connected class; Darci Jens Fulcher, co-director; and Jane Barnette, head of dramaturgy, all from the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Kansas. In retrospect, it seems obvious that we took the physical attendance of audiences for granted, especially in an educational setting where attendance to the season’s shows is habitually required for coursework.

In the After Times, we were forced to embrace precarity and contingency plans; we hoped to return to live performances with audiences attending in person, but we had to be realistic and plan for digital viewing at the same time. We also had to reconsider rehearsals and look for ways to limit the number of students together indoors, without ignoring our collective need to commune and create together. As an ensemble, student-actors and professor-directors, we were all working within the unknown. We did not know when mask mandates would end, just like we did not know how the play would end. We only knew that we had to make theatre differently, and that we wanted to create opportunities for inclusion and offer unique opportunities for students, while following public health protocols.

Our response to this dilemma was to embrace research-creation as a methodology for solo performances within an ensemble. We envisioned a production built with social distancing, featuring a world of commissioned monologues that used an ensemble to weave them together with commissioned music and choreography, resulting in a full-length original work for both digital and in-person attendees. We called this piece Changemakers, and in what follows, we share the process and product of creating it, in the hopes that this approach might appeal to fellow theatre-makers who find themselves in similar straits, seeking navigation for building monologue-based ensemble productions.

Several students were understandably reticent to commit to performing in a show that had not yet been written, much less one that they were expected to help create. Ultimately these students embraced the fear and vulnerability of the unknown and committed to a process that was new to all of us. The research phase for Changemakers began on Zoom with a series of freewriting exercises that were meant to help the ensemble members explore their artistic voices.1 This initial work gained crucial dramaturgical context during the next steps, when actors collected pieces of text from social activists, community leaders, front-line workers, politicians, or any individual who had fought for change. From this found text, students began to craft documentary-style monologues. Each actor was then paired with a professional playwright and had the opportunity to discuss their research and initial writing with these writers, who then crafted a new monologue in conversation with or in response to the student’s documentary monologue.

We asked the playwrights to create a one- to two-minute “play” with a central character supported by a large ensemble. When the actors began the in-person part of the rehearsal process, we sought their creative reflections by assigning a mood board, asking them to build a playlist, and to [End Page E-1] continue free-association writing.2 Soon thereafter, the students began meeting individually with Fulcher, in anticipation of exploring the physical space. We wanted them to dream about the tangible world of their play and to deepen their personal connections to the material. In her book-length manifesto How to Make Art at the End of the World, artist and art historian Natalie Loveless argues that “to do research—of any kind—is not simply to ask questions; it is to let our curiosities drive us and allow them to ethically bind us; it is to tell stories and to pay attention not only to which stories we are telling and how we are telling them, but how they, through their very forms, are telling us” (24...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3346
Print ISSN
1054-8378
Pages
pp. e-1-e-7
Launched on MUSE
2022-03-11
Open Access
No
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