This past week I collaborated on a devised performance with The Creative Thinking Project and The Geffen Museum of Contemporary Art in LA. This was a four-day residency in which we devised a human-installation piece of theatre over three days with performers from Skid Row–members of The Urban Voices Project, The Los Angeles Poverty Department, My Friend’s Place, and Skid Row Housing Trust. The project was directed by Dr. Peter O’Connor, music directed by Craig Christie, and choreographed by me.
This residency taught me a great deal about creating theatre in a non-traditional space, working with performers as an outsider to the community, and devising theatre with “alternative” populations. This series of posts details my experiences and take-aways after four days in Los Angeles.
Meet My Collaborators:
Dr. Peter O’Connor: Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognized expert in making and researching applied theatre and drama education. He has made theatre in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, earthquake zones and with the homeless. He is the Academic Director of the Creative Thinking Project, a multi and cross-disciplinary research program that investigates the nature and application of creativity in everyday life. His work in Christchurch schools following the series of earthquakes led to UNESCO funded research and program development and the development of the Teaspoon of Light Theatre Company. In 2012 he was named the Griffith University School of Education and Professional Studies Alumnus of the Year. Peter’s most recent research includes multi and interdisciplinary studies on the creative pedagogies and the arts, the nature of embodied learning and the pedagogy of surprise. In 2019 the play he directed with the Hobson Street Theatre Company, New Zealand’s only theatre company for people who are or have been homeless, won the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Community Arts Award. He has continued his theatre-making with the homeless at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in conjunction with the Skid Row Housing Trust. (https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/p-oconnor)
Craig Christie: For the past twenty-five years, Craig Christie has been at the helm of No Mates Productions creating original plays and musicals in educational, community and commercial settings. These innovative productions have toured extensively throughout Australia and internationally and place Craig in the unique position of being the only Australian who makes his full time living as a writer of musical theatre. Craig’s work as a playwright and songwriter has spanned a number of fields. He has a passionate interest in the use of storytelling and songwriting in a positive social context and has employed his writing skills to a number of groundbreaking community projects such as WATER INTO WINE (2000) and RIGHT WHERE WE ARE (2002). His musical HEY FLORENCE! which was developed with the nurses at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee premiered in September 2009 to standing ovations at every performance followed by acclaimed performances in New York. It has enjoyed standing ovations in Singapore in July 2011 and a return season in Nashville November 2011. Most recently he has explored the theme of cyberbullying and relationships within social media with MY FRIENDS DOT COM (2009) which has already enjoyed an excited response in schools throughout Australia and New Zealand. These themes are explored in greater depth and for a more mature audience in his most recent musical CONNECTED which premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe festival and will be touring Australia in 2015. (http://www.nomatesproductions.com/people.html)
Justin Brown: Justin Brown is a bestselling author and creative director (list of titles below). For the past 15 years, he hosted a top rating music radio show in Auckland. He has published 31 books for adults and children. Bowling Through India and Kiwi Speak were two of three bestsellers he had in a single year. In 2012 he won a notable books award for his junior novel Shot, Boom, Score! In 2010 North and South named him Businessman of the Year. Justin is currently writing a book series for young adults, is a contributor to Newsroom, and is the founder of Good Stories Travel, a company that helps companies unlock their narrative. (http://justinbrownbooks.com/bio/)