Emerging Amateur Theatres

Art performances to help local inclusiveness

Georgia Efremova, former expert, UNDP

Can interactive theatre be a tool in breaking the overall passivity gripping disadvantaged communities? And how can art performances and emerging amateur theatre companies help social inclusion?

This story about interactive theatre demonstrates an important way of breaking the cycle of passivity, alienation, and blocked self-expression in poor villages in the region of Cserehát in north-eastern Hungary.  This is a story of many depressed local communities across the poor region waking up to the light inside them...and taking their life into their own hands.

Theatre for Everyone!

Spec.Street Creative Community is an association of theatre, dance and circus artists who specialize in exploring ‘new-old’ ways to address non-theatre-goers who are not able to benefit from the positive influence of live performing arts due to economic, social or geographical reasons. The region of Cserehát in north-eastern Hungary is one of their main focuses, where they have worked in the last four years as part of Theatre for Everyone. The main goal of this initiative is community development among the Roma minority of the Cserehát region, and empowering Roma youngsters involved in the programme — as well as teachers, minority leaders and community activists — to affect change in the community. Through their engagement in stage activities, participants acquire important individual and collective competences such as communication and problem-solving skills, entrepreneurial leadership, team building, intra-group cooperation and competition, and conflict management. As a result of the self-organization and passion for theatre inspired by this experience, six local amateur theatre companies were established in different settlements of Cserehát.

The big breakthrough for the Theatre for Everyone project came when it joined efforts with the innovative mobilization and capacity-building project for Roma empowerment called ‘Giving Wings to the Pigs’ (Szárnyakat adni a malacnak), implemented  between 2011 and 2013, in the spirit of continuing the legacy of the Cseerhat Programme. The project was supported by TAMOP (Social Innovation Operative Program of Hungary) and covered 21 villages of the Szikszo micro-region (with a population of 19,000 inhabitants) — arguably the most disadvantaged sub-region of Cserehát. It aimed to mitigate and reverse the region’s social exclusion and find ways to break out of the vicious circle of isolation by strengthening its social capital and capacity for self-help, enhancing local community initiatives and improving access to public services for those who live in extreme poverty.

From participation to active leadership: Becoming ‘real actors’

At the core of this interactive theatre project is the participatory approach — engaging members of passive communities, especially disadvantaged youth, in drama work and performance. A key feature of the over 130 performances which Spec.Street Creative Community staged over the past few years in the 21 villages of Cserehát is that each presented an interactive tale, with no fixed ending. It is up to the audience to choose and to contribute to a possible conclusion of the story. The aim is to animate and ‘awaken’ the audience, and infuse the spirit of interactive theatre in the life of the villagers by involving them in a live performance.

Drama classes follow every performance, and summer theatre camps are also organized in the villages. While building individual competencies in the process — which go beyond just performing skills to a much broader impact in a participating individual’s life — theatre is an excellent medium for nurturing collective competencies. The participants of the drama camps work in groups, each producing its own performance. On more than one occasion, a local theatre company was established in a village. The Theatre for Everyone project provides continuous support through mentoring and helping the professional, artistic and organizational development of these new amateur (unsegregated) companies that become a catalyst for social transformation in their communities.

Daily work and interaction across inter-ethnic boundaries and contexts help break the cycle of passivity, and enhance the social inclusion of the disadvantaged. And by choosing the issues and staging their own stories, community members publicly articulate social problems. Often, this helps significant accumulated tensions to be mediated, as problems of immediate local importance are ventilated. It helps build a stronger and healthier community, and new active community leaders emerge in an organic way. As participants become more self-aware and self-confident through engagement with their artistic mentors and through common work, they become more active and socially engaged. Success on the stage builds self-confidence and prepares them for autonomously chosen activities later on. These Roma and non-Roma youngsters learn how to organize their community for future agendas — and become real actors in their own lives.

To read about the fascinating process of community engagement and empowerment which Theatre for Everyone implements, visit this link.To read a personal account of the experience of engaging disadvantaged communities through interactive theatre in Cserehát by Simon Balázs, main artistic director and lead actor of Spec. Theatre Creative Community, click here.

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Emerging Amateur Theatres

Art performances to help local inclusiveness

Can interactive theatre be a tool in breaking the overall passivity gripping disadvantaged communities? And how can art performances and emerging amateur theatre companies help social inclusion?

This story about interactive theatre demonstrates an important way of breaking the cycle of passivity, alienation, and blocked self-expression in poor villages in the region of Cserehát in north-eastern Hungary.  This is a story of many depressed local communities across the poor region waking up to the light inside them...and taking their life into their own hands.

Theatre for Everyone!

Spec.Street Creative Community is an association of theatre, dance and circus artists who specialize in exploring ‘new-old’ ways to address non-theatre-goers who are not able to benefit from the positive influence of live performing arts due to economic, social or geographical reasons. The region of Cserehát in north-eastern Hungary is one of their main focuses, where they have worked in the last four years as part of Theatre for Everyone. The main goal of this initiative is community development among the Roma minority of the Cserehát region, and empowering Roma youngsters involved in the programme — as well as teachers, minority leaders and community activists — to affect change in the community. Through their engagement in stage activities, participants acquire important individual and collective competences such as communication and problem-solving skills, entrepreneurial leadership, team building, intra-group cooperation and competition, and conflict management. As a result of the self-organization and passion for theatre inspired by this experience, six local amateur theatre companies were established in different settlements of Cserehát.

The big breakthrough for the Theatre for Everyone project came when it joined efforts with the innovative mobilization and capacity-building project for Roma empowerment called ‘Giving Wings to the Pigs’ (Szárnyakat adni a malacnak), implemented  between 2011 and 2013, in the spirit of continuing the legacy of the Cseerhat Programme. The project was supported by TAMOP (Social Innovation Operative Program of Hungary) and covered 21 villages of the Szikszo micro-region (with a population of 19,000 inhabitants) — arguably the most disadvantaged sub-region of Cserehát. It aimed to mitigate and reverse the region’s social exclusion and find ways to break out of the vicious circle of isolation by strengthening its social capital and capacity for self-help, enhancing local community initiatives and improving access to public services for those who live in extreme poverty.

From participation to active leadership: Becoming ‘real actors’

At the core of this interactive theatre project is the participatory approach — engaging members of passive communities, especially disadvantaged youth, in drama work and performance. A key feature of the over 130 performances which Spec.Street Creative Community staged over the past few years in the 21 villages of Cserehát is that each presented an interactive tale, with no fixed ending. It is up to the audience to choose and to contribute to a possible conclusion of the story. The aim is to animate and ‘awaken’ the audience, and infuse the spirit of interactive theatre in the life of the villagers by involving them in a live performance.

Drama classes follow every performance, and summer theatre camps are also organized in the villages. While building individual competencies in the process — which go beyond just performing skills to a much broader impact in a participating individual’s life — theatre is an excellent medium for nurturing collective competencies. The participants of the drama camps work in groups, each producing its own performance. On more than one occasion, a local theatre company was established in a village. The Theatre for Everyone project provides continuous support through mentoring and helping the professional, artistic and organizational development of these new amateur (unsegregated) companies that become a catalyst for social transformation in their communities.

Daily work and interaction across inter-ethnic boundaries and contexts help break the cycle of passivity, and enhance the social inclusion of the disadvantaged. And by choosing the issues and staging their own stories, community members publicly articulate social problems. Often, this helps significant accumulated tensions to be mediated, as problems of immediate local importance are ventilated. It helps build a stronger and healthier community, and new active community leaders emerge in an organic way. As participants become more self-aware and self-confident through engagement with their artistic mentors and through common work, they become more active and socially engaged. Success on the stage builds self-confidence and prepares them for autonomously chosen activities later on. These Roma and non-Roma youngsters learn how to organize their community for future agendas — and become real actors in their own lives.

––––––––––

To read about the fascinating process of community engagement and empowerment which Theatre for Everyone implements, visit this link.

To read a personal account of the experience of engaging disadvantaged communities through interactive theatre in Cserehát by Simon Balázs, main artistic director and lead actor of Spec. Theatre Creative Community, click here.