Capacity To Synthesize Creativity

I have been a firm believer in the idea that everyone has the capacity to be creative so I read a piece on The Conversation discussing how creativity doesn’t occur in a vacuum with great interest. In particular, the article discusses Edward P. Clapp, of Harvard University’s Project Zero reflections on a recent Beatles documentary which employed lengthy archival footage of the band’s work creating the Let It Be album. Clapp asserts that songs like “Get Back,” sprung forth from Paul McCartney’s mind in two minutes, as a result of years of social context and the artistic dynamics in the room.

But he also emphasizes principles highlighted by researchers who have examined the phenomena of creativity: in this solitary time, they draw on past collaborations. They also engage with the technologies or tools of predecessors and they “work in relation to an often complex polyphony of current and historical audiences.”

For example, there was a social movement in England at the time to have black immigrants from former colonies to go back to their countries.  Likewise there is a pervasive undercurrent of class distinctions in England which can lead to a sense of imposter syndrome.  Apparently, McCartney’s desire to get back to live touring is a frequent topic of discussion in the documentary.  And, of course, the band was going through a fair bit of conflict and tension during the recording of the album.

Similarly, during the “Let It Be,” recording sessions, the band played/jammed on over 400 tunes of all genres, all of which created a mood and informed how the members and participating musicians were thinking and processing the experience.

Try On Theatre, It May Fit Better Than You Think

American Theatre recently had a great piece about an interesting approach Princeton University is using as an alternative to auditions called “Try On Theatre Days.” They describe the program as “replacing high-intensity auditions with educational workshops as a means to cast performers and stagehands for the school’s seasonal productions.”

What I appreciate about this approach is the broad invitation to the campus community to come and check out the theatre program and experience mini-lessons in various functions. This is a departure from the practice at many non-conservatory theatre programs I have worked with and encountered where the invitation to the campus community starts and ends with the audition notice. The approach that Princeton is described as using seems to do a better job of giving people the confidence they have the ability to contribute to a production both by getting them to participate in various activities and raising awareness of roles beyond performing.

There is also a hope that the process will introduce greater diversity and reduce insular clique culture in the theatre program:

The first day of the three-day process is a community day, at which all Princeton students are invited to meet the theatre department and to experience introductory-level singing, dancing, and acting workshops…The next two days are designated for students to “try on” specific shows in the upcoming season, … not only in the acting sense but also, for example, stage management, in which prospective students get the opportunity to try calling cues. The purpose is to introduce and teach students to different facets of theatre rather than make judgments about what capabilities certain students walk in the door with, and in turn let students decide if theatre is something they want to pursue.

This new process aims to level the playing field for students who didn’t have traditional theatrical training prior to attending Princeton University. The goal is to transform the student theatre culture and attract a more diverse population, as well as to reduce the cliques and the student hierarchies that often result when theatre students consistently casting their friends in productions.

The “Try On Theatre Days” grew out of an initiative where the university administration paid students to conduct teach-ins about the challenges, biases, and other discouraging factors they faced when trying to participate in productions and classes. Students interviewed by American Theatre said the result has been an increased degree of authenticity in productions, a shift in power dynamics, a rethinking of the casting process, and an improved sense capacity to participate in the creative process.

Dance As A Gateway Drug To Coding

Via Artsjournal.com was a Chalkbeat story about DanceLogic, a program in Philadelphia “designed to educate, inspire, and cultivate girls of color in STEM.”

 

The premise: Both coding and dance use repetition and combination, so using dance as a hook to attract girls to the program could lead to an interest in coding.

[…]

Each Saturday, the girls participate in dance class from noon to 1:20 p.m., take a short break, and then go into coding class until 2:30 p.m. Sessions run from October through June, culminating with a performance at the annual West Park Arts Fest.

[…]

For example, she said, the class developed a dance score using coding language to note choreography. “In the future, I hope to expand on this with the girls and see how it progresses with their understanding of both worlds,” she said.

The program has had some indirect, though semi-predictable result such as participants finding their math classes easier understand. There were other beneficial outcomes which illustrate the value of arts based education, but don’t fit neatly into grant applications because they need to be the result of organic decisions by the participants.

Students have shown an eagerness to take charge of the choreography and exchange ideas about what the dances should be. Bridgers said she’s seen many of the girls who participate develop into strong leaders and mentors. “We make a space for these young women to expand their agency and autonomy in the field of STEM,” she said.

One danceLogic student even developed her own coding curriculum and taught younger children in her neighborhood library, said Lindley. DanceLogic also hired the student when the pandemic forced a switch to virtual learning, charging her with designing and implementing a virtual video-game design class for children, Lindley said.

A student taking the initiative to teach coding to younger kids is a powerful testament to the influence of the DanceLogic program in her life. But you couldn’t have written a grant saying that X students would be inspired to start their own programs. (Unless it was a grant to train people to teach others, of course.)

Man Those Backseat Entertainment Screens Are Getting Bigger And Bigger

I am always interested in seeing the novel approaches people employ to present performances. I happened to catch a story last week on Vice about a guy who is bringing pop up movie experiences to public spaces in India on the back of rickshaws.  The project is somewhat cheekily called Rick Show.  The concept was adapted from a Japanese storytelling form called Kamishibai which I was totally unfamiliar with.

Kamishibai, literally translating to “paper theatre,” was a Japanese art form popular before the advent of television, where a narrator popped up on street corners with sets of illustrated boards that were placed on a miniature stage on their bicycles, and then changed each board to communicate the storyline.

The artist, who goes by the name Le Gentil Garcon, worked with an architectural college to design a container to store the stage, lighting, projector, sound system and audience seating that would fit on the back of a long rickshaw. They ship their container to their target city and pop it on the back of a rented rickshaw. Then they go around and set up in public spaces like gardens and parks.

They show short, 10-20 minute films that allow passersby to pop in and out as they like. The total length of the program is about two hours.The overall goal is to bring art house films that are usually only shown in museums and specialty movie houses to the public square mixed with an element of delight at finding something unexpected.

“I liked the fact that many people who didn’t think they were going to see an art film on this particular day start to see something made by an international artist, and it’s kind of interesting,” said Le Gentil Garçon.