Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards

Platform Activities | 2010, February 20 – 2010, February 24

Playwrights’ Meeting February 2010 Oulu - Finland

Oulu City Theatre, situated high up in northern Europe, was host for three days to the playwrights who’d been commissioned by the theatres. After the meeting in Berlin in June 2009 and Budapest in September 2009, they came together for the third time in order to swop experiences about the national plays and productions and to carry on the process of co-writing with the involved partners.

Working process on ‘National Plays’

The authors spent almost one and a half days talking about the work that had taken place on the national plays in the recent months. The meeting was com- pered by Odette Bereska. The participants spoke in great detail and often with the help of photos and videos, about the search for ideas, about the writing process and about their research with young people as well as the implementation of the scripts in the plays. Despite the shared starting point of all the authors, which is determined by the sub-title of Platform 11+: ‘Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards’, it was surprising to learn just how different the ways of working and the results are. A central interest of the authors implied-as was emphasized in the concept of the project-the direct contact with young people, direct discussions with them and confrontation with their life-styles. It can’t be taken for granted that authors who write for young people will expose themselves to the direct confrontation with their future audience. For this reason it was an unusual and sometimes arduous step. But without going into how detailed or how extensive the research phase was, all the authors agreed that the process of meeting the target group was inspiring.
The partner school of the Bragteatret from Drammen / Norway is a school with a very high percentage of students who have a migrant background. The
author Liv Heløe made contact with the young people both on an individual and group level. She was shocked. She felt that the young people were under enormous pressure. Daily tension for more than ten years: what influence does such an indelibly marked feeling have on young peoples’ development?
On the other hand, Akos Nemeth, the Hungarian theatre author, experienced his research as wonderfully creative and original: Based on the principal idea of his play “The Webshop”, (two girls organise the trade of a drug-like medicine in the internet) the young people involved made an aesthetically very innovative short film. They took over the responsibility for the whole film. They stood both in front of the camera and behind it.
The work process of Peter Horvath, also from Hungary, was without doubt very unusual. In the first authors’ meeting in Berlin, he didn’t believe it would be possible to fulfil the expectation of the project. He didn’t think it would be possible to develop new plays for the 11-15 year old target group based on research in the schoolyard. However, soon after his work as an author for Kolibri Theatre began, he went to a lot of trouble to make contact with a school group from his home city of Szeged. An ongoing exchange developed out of this. Both the author and the young people were involved in very intense discussions about all sort of questions about life. The approach to the basic conflict, in which a Rumanian boy was the victim of a racist attack by young people, didn’t find acceptance amongst the school students. The play was meant to be light rather than weighed down by problems and drama. Peter Horvath followed the advice of the young people. For the time being, he ceased working on that project and started instead to work on a contemporary version of the famous German children’s book ‘Emil and the Detectives’. The presentation of this play went down extremely well with the young audience. This was a controversial decision, which not all of the colleagues could understand.
Jukka Heinanen, from the host theatre in Oulu, was used to this sort of reaction from young people. Students gave very clear answers to his question “What do you want to see in the theatre?” They said “Not, what you adults think are young people’s problems. Please, no more racism, no more excessive violence, no more bulimia and anorexia, no more sexual abuse…! We want to see ourselves, normal young people with normal problems.” Consequently the author let the young people, their parents and their schoolmates describe the normal problems before sitting down at his desk and writing a highly authentic scenic collage.
Four examples from thirteen cases: all of the scripts that have grown out of the schoolyard research are up to date and authentic. The authors take the feelings and themes of the young people seriously. They have different ways of presenting these themes, both aesthetically and in content.
The scripts which arose out of the South American ‘Schoolyard Stories’ project are based on intense research and are very close to the young people in both content and style of language.
The majority of the plays have now been performed in a longer series of plays. The performances are often accompanied by theatre pedagogical workshops and discussions. The partner theatres are unanimous that the target group find the plays highly acceptable.

After the phase of individual work, the subject of the second phase is to develop a text in the process of co-writing with one or more European colleagues. Not an easy job, as hardly any of the authors have any experience with working processes of that kind. Nevertheless, for some it seemed quite natural to come together for such work, for others it became a longer process to engage with a co-writer from somewhere else who didn’t share the same language. But after the frosty cold days in Oulu, everyone finally found their partner. Now the journeys to a unknown field are about to start and decisions are to be made, concerning the issues and languages, structure of plays and agreements on the working process.
The commissioning theatres followed the sympathies of their authors with open mindedness and are consequently now concerned with complex and complicated negotiations of cooperation. The idea is, that the plays which have been co-written, are to be staged. This is a huge challenge for the theatres involved.

Oulu Playwrights
Oulu Playwrights 2
Oulu Playwrights 3

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