Theatre As a Social Dialogue: A Youth Summer Workshop In Mianyang, China
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The preliminary goals of this project were to provide 24 Chinese secondary school students aged 16-18 with an experiential summer environmental education/theatre workshop. We chose to focus on two topics not readily a part of the average Chinese education: theatre arts and environmental science. Specifically, the workshop was to explore the current environmental situation in China, with a special focus on the students' immediate environment: the city of Mianyang. Students were also to examine the role of art in their own lives, and with improvisational theatre as a framework, discuss their environmental findings with each other and their community. This project was not intended to create brilliant actors or improvisors. It was not designed to train scientists, but in order to teach students the tools necessary to examine the world around them. We did not want to urge the students to assimilate to a Western theatrical or environmental aesthetic. Rather, we hoped that this project would allow them to enhance creativity and learn problem-solving skills through doing. Simultaneously, we hoped they would be developing strong speaking skills in both the English and Chinese languages. These traits, not generally the focus of Chinese education, were to be nurtured and/or reinforced through the use of skits and stories spontaneously created by the students. Instead of convincing students that easy answers exist to the complex environmental problems plaguing the globe, we desired for them use theatre to explore a variety of solutions they discovered for themselves. The workshop would run for a total of three weeks, with classes held every morning, Monday through Saturday, SAM until 12PM (July 15-August 4). Participating students would be required to attend all workshop sessions. Two hours a day would be spent on environmental activities, lessons, or field trips. The remaining time was to be set aside for improvisational theatre games. In order to attract participants, all activities would be conducted in English. The workshop would culminate in a performance for the community on an environmental topic chosen by the students to be held on Saturday, August 4. The performance would be held in English, its format and content created by the students with minimal outside assistance.