by Kimi Pichardo, Secondary Drama and Spanish teacher
Theatermakers are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary artists - jacks of all trades - who employ critical and creative thinking to innovate, communicate, and meet complex artistic challenges to make an impact on the world around them. This semester, high school Drama students explored the power of personal connection, story, and community in collaboration with Ryan Conarro of New York City-based theater group Ping Chong + Company. A Toronto-born Chinese-American, Ping Chong is a documentary theatermaker "with a mission to create works of theater and art that explore the intersections of race, culture, history, art, media and technology in the modern world." Ryan, a long-time friend of mine, is "an interdisciplinary artist & educator who devises performances informed by documentary materials" who "facilitates processes that engage diverse communities".
With Ryan's help, Grade 10 Drama and Grade 11 DP Theater students investigated documentary, interdisciplinary, and interview-based theatermaking with the goal of creating a community-based performance for this year's high school production, The Heart of a Dragon. In the developmental process, Ryan led workshops for the students entitled 'How to Interview Your Community' by videoconference. Students then applied their learning to interview over 100 YIS community members, from students in ELC to seniors, support staff, faculty, parents, and alumni. Students have learned how to 'activate text' from interviews using the scripting conventions of Ping Chong's Undesirable Elements series. Ryan also shared the devising process behind the company's production, ALAXSXA|ALASKA, allowing students to research YIS, Yokohama and YIS history to add an historical framework to the piece. Additionally, students learned how technology can enhance a performance by using an app called 'Otter Voice Notes' to record and transcribe interviews, by using QLAB video mapping software to create show projections, and by working with sound design to merge voice, environmental sounds, and music to create soundscapes of the Kanto region. They created 'studio experiments' of scenes in classes and rehearsals to explore and select different conventions to be used in the final performances.
During Ryan's visit from November 12 - 16, he led performance and creative writing workshops with each grade, empowering students to connect with and document their own stories and experiences. He also taught HS students new staging techniques to bring their interviews and scripts to life in the performance space. Ryan's visit culminated in his own artist's talk - Performance is Communion - to a YIS and community audience.
Come see how YIS students have applied their new skills at sharing community stories in The Heart of a Dragon, November 29 and 30 in the Tanner Auditorium.