Thursday, 7 May 2009

Big Mac and Fries Please

There's a joke. It goes like this. What do you say to a Drama graduate?

I had to give a talk over lunch today to colleagues from across the University which made me unusually nervous, but it did me the chance to advocate Drama both as a discipline and a methodology. I even, towards the end, once the sandwiches had all been eaten, managed to coax people onto their feet to try a couple of non exposing exercises. Once the audience were up and engaged I felt myself hit my straps and sailed through the rest of the lecture. I did feel an enormous responsibility to give our discipline a sound educational context and rigour, but as always it was only once we were democratically sharing the space that I felt the bullshit slip away and was at ease with the work.

It's strange how the orthodoxy of the formal lecture throws me off course, though. I suppose as a teaching strategy it feels cold, pre-determined, over assured and ultimately unchallengeable - but I guess many in the audience are not judging your words, but measuring their own practice against the ideas offered.

As I spoke I became increasingly aware of how close the act of going to the theatre (or even being at a lecture) is to the act of rehearsing. Exploring a character or scene kinesthetically is just a physical realisation of the intellectual act of watching a story played out in front of you. Both are essentially about an imaginative projection into an alternative possibility.

The real job for any of us working in Drama education is to explain why and how these leaps of fancy enrich and benefit our lives, especially as none of us do it for money!

Recently Creativity has become a buzz word in the HE sector - almost as if it were a new invention - and many academics have rushed in to try and give the term definition (or at least demonstrate how and why it could be used as a criteria for funding.) I suspect, however, that creativity is almost a polar opposite to accountability and that the hunt for a fixed parameter will always and necessarily prove elusive. The written word certainly can't contain its three dimensionality. It's a fools gold to try and assess the value of creative acts in a purely quantifiable way - but I guess it's always nice to be noticed.

Ultimately I think our agenda must focus on confronting fear - of others, of ourselves, of fear itself. The arts give us ways to recognise the patterns and rhythms in our lives so that we can reject or endorse them. If we're open and ready a simple truth about our existence might come to us in a flash whilst watching a great actor play King Lear or it might occur as we try to cross stage right rather than stage left.

These are the genuine epiphanys that protect us from fast food atrophy.

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