Arts Activism

Political Engaged Practice is a year-long strand within level two of the Drama and Theatre programme, delivered for the first time this academic year. In semester 1 students are introduced to concepts and examples of political art and performance; after Christmas they form groups to work on their own politically engaged action.

‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.’ Bertolt Brecht.

The module is interested in how art can use aesthetic and dialogical qualities to intervene into political debates, to encourage people to pause and take notice, to make us view the world differently.

blog image two

For the module students initiated and carried out activist projects looking at themes such as lad culture on the university campus; body image; nuclear disarmament; homelessness; and equality of educational opportunities. Their projects included offering free cakes in the main university reception area; drawing people’s nuclear shadows; posing as mannequins in shop windows.

blog image 4

Students prompted their projects through social media, with the Be Your Own Mannequin project being picked up by Yahoo, who ran a story about project on the news section of their website.

blog image oneblog image 5

All the project involved staging interventions in public places, removing both art and politics from specialist or detached environment such as theatre, galleries or parliament and bringing them closer to everyday life. A number of the projects were framed as ‘dialogical’, in that they sought to construct opportunities for conversation about political issues. As one participant commented on the Nuclear Shadows project: ‘I think this piece has started a conversation that needs to be carried on’.

blog image 3

As one student observed, the module highlighted the particular strengths of theatre at York St John, which include a focus on creativity and a socially engaged ethos:

‘The first thing that springs to mind when thinking about arts activism is being actively involved with something that I care about whilst being as creative as possible, which is pretty much why I’m doing this degree. It is about thinking of ways that we can make a difference by using the strength of a social movement.’

DSC01521 (2)_JPG

 

 

 

 

Level 2 Students Perform, Write and Devise Playground Politics

Playground Politics, a performance produced by level 2 students on the Writing after Beckett module was a feature of the Drama Showcase at York St John University 2017.
IMG_2832
A delightfully refreshing performance consisting of 32 scripted vignettes; fleeting moments, comedy shorts, tiny sketches, dramaticules.  Written by the group as a scripted piece, all the little plays established a world of their own, varying in lengths and driven by different content as tiny little episodes.
IMG_2855
The general theme across all vignettes commented upon the ridiculousness and the failures encountered in current politics, in love, in competition and to some degree, it played upon and stretched, with absurdity, the mundane aspects of our lives.  Played through the performativity of the absurd, not too far away from Samuel Beckett’s Dramaticule Come and Go and close enough to Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, the performers applied a touch of wit created through a series of visual interruptions – custard pie goofs, Kaylee dance routines and farcical noises. Whilst the writing and the concepts were drawn from the work of Samuel Beckett and Caryl Churchill, the material in some vignettes was highly influenced by the conceptual dramaturgy of the TV series Inside Number 9, a dark comedy with each episode featuring an entirely new story in a conceptual space – behind a number ‘9’.
IMG_2887
 
Text and Photos by Claire Hind 

An example of our Third Year Contemporary Theatre Practice company projects

BARE by Cutting Clouds Company (James Harris, Alex Kaniewski, Imogen Sutherland). Cutting Clouds investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and its limits as well as its impact on our experience.
DSC_0912
Photo by Cutting Clouds
BARE  sweeps through nature, and aims to cut up the landscape by layering the life, death and work of the writer Virginia Woolf. On 28th March 1941 Virginia Woolf filled her overcoat with stones and entered the River Ouse, Sussex. She bared all to nature and it took her life. As part of our process for BARE we travelled to Horton-in-Ribblesdale in order to respond to its surrounding landscape– a landscape that is dominated by steep fells, and bubbling streams that feed the river Ribble.
DSC_1148
Photo by Cutting Clouds
For our performance we took our audience on a journey through Fulford Ings, a small patch of wild on the edge of York. BARE explored this environment in relation to walking, waiting and wading. Our endeavour was to better understand what it is to bare all to the environment we are in. BARE invites the audience to reconsider their relationship with the outside world, the public and the non-privately owned space. Throughout the day our environment changed affecting us personally as performers and the atmosphere of the experience. The performance aimed to connect to the environment on a very human level, giving the audience time to reflect and on their individual lives as they shared nature with a group.
JTCutting Clouds 114
Photo by Jen Todman
Text by James Harris and Alex Kaniewski

Storyknowing Festival and Symposium

“Storyknowing’ was a two-day event hosted in April 2016 by York St John University and York Theatre Royal that brought together practitioners, researcher and young people to explore, through performances, workshops and talks, the artform of storytelling with adolescents. Organised by Cath Heinemeyer (YSJU/York Theatre Royal), Matthew Reason (YSJU), Juliet Forster (York Theatre Royal) it incorporated rich and diverse perspectives from arts practice, mental health, education and youth work, as well as from young people themselves, and from socially engaged researchers.

We have made a 13-minute documentary film that tells the story and shares some of the learning of ‘Storyknowing’.

For further information about ‘Storyknowing’ visit www.artsandnarrative.co.uk/storyknowing-symposium-festival/

York St John University / York Theatre Royal Graduate Prize

York St John University and York Theatre Royal are excited to announce the winners of the 2016 York Theatre Royal Graduate Prize:

Phoenix Theatre for Through the Gap

Phoenix Theatre Company / York St John Create Festival 2016

Phoenix Theatre Company / York St John Create Festival 2016

Phoenix are: Georgie Fishkin, Casey Fox, Jodie Glover, Kate Higgins and Jessica Robson.

The prize is awarded each year to a final year student or group of students studying theatre at York St John University. As well as recognising the excellence of work produced by YSJU theatre students, the prize also represents both organisations commitment to assisting creative individual in the post-graduation transition to professional arts practice.

The Prize is judged by a panel including the Artistic and Associate Directors of the Theatre Royal. The prize winners will receive a period of artistic mentoring at the York Theatre Royal and the opportunity to present work at a platform event hosted by the theatre in autumn 2016.

Through the Gap was a performance developed by the students following a year long process of accumulating resources and insights surrounding the experience of women within the criminal justice system. The performance drew on this material to show audiences what it means to be a woman in prison, from losing their identity to looking towards the future.

Juliet Forster, Associate Director of YTR, said of the award:

“The company demonstrated an extraordinary level of performance skill and sensitivity in adapting real women’s stories for the stage, creating an exciting, memorable and moving piece. We are delighted to be working with such a dynamic and passionate young company.”

Jessica Robson, said on behalf of all five students:

“We are so grateful for winning the prize and feel very humbled and overwhelmed with the great feedback. We are very excited to be working with the York Theatre Royal over the next year and to be given a chance to perform our show again at the theatre! Thank you to York St John and York Theatre Royal for selecting us for the prize and providing us with this opportunity.” 

 

 

End of Year Theatre Highlights

It has been a show-packed few months in the Drama & Theatre department at York St John University. We’ve had sold out performances, site-specific shows, new shows, odd plays, applied performances, stand-up comedy, physical theatre, dramatic monologues and even a “NED” Talk.

After so many wonderful shows and as we bid farewell to our third year students, we thought we would share a selection of images from the last few weeks of the semester! As always, our students continue to amaze us with their creativity, commitment and energy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

‘Billy is Writing’ YSJ MA Theatre & Performance

Billy is Writing (2016) Photos by Dr. Claire Hind
Billy is Writing (2016) Photos by Dr. Claire Hind

On Friday 15th January in Quad South Hall – MA Theatre and Performance students, Charlotte Goodlad, Simon Bedwell, Yanzhe Zhao and Jess Chaney, presented Billy is Writing as part of their Collaborations and Commissions module convened by Dr. Eirini Nedelkopoulou. The piece  developed through a series of  workshops which further explored issues of critical engagement, creative collaboration and audience participation.

Billy is Writing is a collaborative project, which experiments with  different modes of audience interaction.  Inspired by the story Macbeth, the four makers offer a post-dramatic retelling of the Shakespearean play.  The show utilised digital technologies to allow audiences to navigate through the performance narrative using a handheld device. Audience members could decide upon the sequence of the performance ‘acts’ and alter the overall shape of the production.

text by Simon Bedwell

Billy is Writing (2016) Photos by Dr. Claire Hind
Billy is Writing (2016) Photos by Dr. Claire Hind
Billy is Writing (2016) Photos by Dr. Claire Hind
Billy is Writing (2016) Photos by Dr. Claire Hind

A Letter from Study Abroad Student Imogen Sutherland

 

12143237_847715365326290_494741012470486205_nAll Drama & Theatre students have the opportunity to Study Abroad during the second year of their degree. We have relationships with world-class Universities in Europe, the USA and Canada. We asked current second year Theatre student Imogen Sutherland to write to us from her semester of study at Keene State College in New Hampshire:

Dear York St John,

So, to be completely honest I’m not too sure where to start. I have now been in the states for just over 2 months, with 6 weeks to go and the time has flown by far too fast.

12108186_847713635326463_1330735879466675775_nFirst of all, I have become a coffee-drinking-Starbucks lover, something I never thought I’d say! The caramel Macchiato has become a vital part of my week, and I now have my own Starbucks reward card!! (I am actually sat in Starbucks, with a caramel macchiato as I write this) I have also become a vegetarian, however with Thanksgiving just round the corner, turkey and stuffing may be too much of a temptation.

FullSizeRender (2)University life in the US is very different to my UK student life. For starters drinking alcohol is highly illegal until 21, and seeing as some students become freshman at the age of 17, student parties are a police fest. All accommodation is also catered for, meaning that food is unlimited, whenever you want it. Which is actually really dangerous because the food is amazing!!

An important part of my time here is the academic side. The structure of the week is very different, with much more set lecture times and classes repeated in the week. An 8am start on a Monday and Wednesday is a bit early for me.  Midterms and pop quizzes are also very real, very scary things. Essays are also based on amount of pages rather than words, having handed in an 8-page midterm and an 11-page midterm already this semester I am now dreading finals. The work is fun, my recent research paper looked into the role of the British suffragette movement on the 21st Century feminist movement. 3 out of the of my 4 classes are acting/theatre based with the fourth being a sculpture class, which has actually become a bit more of a visual arts module which is good fun (and possibly worth the 8am beginning). My favourite module overall is my ‘Gender and sexuality within the Theatre’ (which my feminism paper was part of), it’s take me slightly out of my comfort zone but incredibly interesting.

12187733_858071210957372_7110667515228594508_nCulturally I immersed myself fully into American life. Having a roommate has been a major part of that, of which I have been incredibly lucky. I have climbed a local mountain, been to Walmart, attended a pumpkin festival and Halloween in Salem (as in witchy Salem), apple picking, tried pumpkin flavoured everything, visited an actual thrift store, had the chance 12193569_859062230858270_120998154457670370_nto go to Boston on many occasions (and experience Americans driving in Boston, I am definitely thankful for my life)and am heading to NYC next weekend. Then i’ll go to the Ben and Jerrys factory, have Thanksgiving, shop on Black Friday, go to an Ice hockey game, i’m busy and happy.

Overall, I am having an amazing time here and it’s sad to think I only have 6 weeks left. I am, obviously, missing my YSJ family a lot though (Skype and facetime are wonderful things).

I hope you are all doing amazingly, and I look forward to seeing you all for our Poland Field Trip in January!!

Imogen xx

 

Gary Winters & Claire Hind exhibit at York City Art Gallery

Gillygate York is a beautiful old street with an evolving attitude and is just outside the city walls. It’s not a well-documented or archived street but it has a catalogue of modern threats of closure and an eccentric artisan past. Once home to a medieval landscape, a small hold farm, stables, 18th century housing, St Giles Church, a skating rink, tramlines and a fully working mechanical garage. Gillygate now homes an eclectic mix of independent trading shops, cafes, pubs, music stores, vintage clothes shops, fancy dress, craft shops, an adult shop, hair salons (among many other independently ran business) and residential homes as well as the Salvation Army (as at the date of writing). Gillygate, bizarre and so homemade.

When York City Art Gallery reopened its doors this Summer as part of a massive re-development project, a new work was exhibited alongside historic paintings and drawings of York. This work, a video and neon text installation is a new contemporary work by artists Gary Winters and Associate Professor of Theatre Claire Hind entitled ‘We Made Something of This’.

'We Made Something of This' Gary Winters & Claire Hind at York City Art Gallery. Photo: G Winters
‘We Made Something of This’ Gary Winters & Claire Hind at York City Art Gallery. Photo: G Winters

We Made Something of This is a portrait of Gillygate as it was during summer 2014 captured on Super 8mm film and using stories, anecdotes and facts gathered from its residents and proprietors.  The film also includes footage of an inaugural feast day performance by the artists held on September 1st celebrating the street’s namesake, Giles – the patron saint of hermits and nocturnal terrors. Gary and Claire have said that “being on the edge of the city, we feel Gillygate still lives up to its patron’s name.” Gillygate named after Giles, the kind and noble quiet one who was nurtured by a hind then, away from it all, saved its life – took an arrow for it and lived on as a Saint.

Our neon light represents the spirit, creativity and determination of those who live and work on Gillygate and those who have risen above the threats of commercialism and the struggles of modern day trading. Our neon light also represents our work, our relationship to the street, the materials we use and the way in which we find serendipity in our projects with and the stories that unfold.

Gillygate for Nina and her garden’s hidden treasures.

Gillygate for Ken and his pie in the oven.

Gillygate for Phil who bakes bread ‘till late.

Gillygate for Paul who wears an arrow through his head whilst listening to Frank Sinatra.

Gillygate for Hamish and his cat.

 

We Made Something of This is on view at York Art Gallery until March 2016. For more information about Gary and Claire’s projects visit www.garyandclaire.com.

Visiting Director Avra Sidiropoulou

FullSizeRender1 The theatre director Avra Sidiropoulou* ran a 4hr workshop on Directing Basics with our BA Theatre Students on Tuesday 10th November. The workshop explored fundamental aspects that permeate the work of the stage director in relation to strategies of text analysis, directorial interpretation and point-of-view, as well as of conceiving, designing and orchestrating performance. The students devised work in response to Syrian Refugee Crisis. The workshop examined some of the reasons, means, processes and relationships that are involved in staging a play, especially FullSizeRender2in terms of concept, composition and focus.

 

*Avra Sidiropoulou is a theatre director and a lecturer at the M.A. Programme in Theater Studies (Open University of Cyprus). Her monograph Authoring Performance. The Director in Contemporary Theatre was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011.