Phefumla!

Tomorrow is the day! It’s been over a year since I first approached South African director Thando Doni with the idea to create a NO/SA production together, and finally, it is ready to meet the world at the amazing Cradle of Creativity festival in Cape Town, the largest African theatre festival for Children & Young People!

Phefumla (To Breathe) is developed through a devised process with four young men from the township areas surrounding Cape Town. All four have been involved or affected by the gang culture that rules the streets.

Through glimpses of their childhood, fragments of good and bad memories, we slowly puzzle the pieces of their young lives together. The performance reveals both fatal choices as well as well-hidden dreams and hopes for the future.

The play is built on the individual stories of the young performers. Their personal experiences is transformed into dramatic text, visual and physical imagery and choreographies, built from their own cultural language.

Director Thando describes the performance in these words:

In xhosa, the words for breath (phefumla ) and soul (umphefumlo) are connected.

My culture says that what creates a person, what makes a person alive, is the breath. As long as the breath is in the body, the soul is present. The moment the breath stops, the soul disappears. What makes a person for us, is the soul within the breath. Us, as we are, we are breath. And breathing is supposed to be easy, even unconscious. But growing up in the townships of South Africa, with the inheritage of Apartheid and racism, it rarely feels like that. In our lives, breathing are made difficult. The space and the environment we are in, suffocates us.

We often feel like we don’t really have the space for our souls to breathe, to live, to be free.

The world of Phefumla is reality as we know it, portraying the dust that we come from. The cast are telling their stories of everyday struggle. As director of Phefumla , I have tried to find stories of how the stains of history and poverty remains with us. The suffocation lies within the fear that no matter how hard we try to move away from our labels and history, parts of it always follows us.
The marks remain. And how do we then live? When do we get to move on?
Do we ever?

So incredibly proud and excited about this collaboration, and thankful for all the wonderful people that have taken part in the process. And above all; proud of performers Ntzikayomsi Tyalavane, Eric Menyo, Vuyani Matiwanae and Bongani Dyalivana, for their incredible commitment.

Hope to the hopeless

– What difference can a little theatre do, in a place where people no longer dream?

Two female Norwegian theatre makers with equally long experience in the industry, independently started to question their focus as professionals, as the refugee crisis in Europe began to escalate. Eventually they decided, separately, to change the directions of their careers. Katja Brita Lindeberg has now been working repeatedly as a clown in refugee- camps in Greece, and Mariken Lauvstad is currently working on a crime preventive theatre project in Pollsmoor Prison, South Africa. Today, they are both convinced that theatre can create societal change. But is theatre really the right way to help people in critical life situations?

Freelance clown, actress and director Katja Brita Lindeberg (32) has several times been on assignment for the Swedish organisation Clowns Without Borders. The organisation operates in 40 countries, and since June 2015, numerous projects have been active in refugee camps in Greece. In these camps, Katja has completed several missions, mainly in the areas around Athens and Thessaloniki.

Actress and director Mariken Lauvstad (33) has been working closely with convicts and ex- convicts in Pollsmoor Prison (South Africa) since the beginning of 2016. The work exchange program she’s on mission for, «Help, I’m Free!», is financed by Norwegian Fredskorpset, but run jointly by crime-preventive organisations Vardeteatret in Oslo, Norway and the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) in South Africa. The project was initiated in 2011 with the aim to rehabilitate inmates through the tools of applied theatre and the journey of an artistically ambitious theatre production performed at Artscape Theatre in Cape Town.

It is difficult to argue that theatre always reflects the society in which it is created. The purpose often changes according to the societal and political landscape. But how do we use theatrical tools when the goal is to create hope in places where dreams dwindle, and the future holds nothing but uncertainty?

In this article, Katja & Mariken discuss the purpose and function of theatre in the context of «art as aid». They share their doubts and reflect on the complicated position as white, female «do- gooders” from the first world, trying to make a difference.
Theatre in touch with the people

Mariken: You’ve been working as a hospital clown for several years, and produced plays where the clown figure plays a central part. Why did you want to bring your clown to refugee camps in Greece?

Katja: Working in Norway, I find that the art-world can be very shallow. I lose myself in the art discourse, context, form and theory.. But in the refugee camps, all of that becomes irrelevant. When we walk through the camps while we perform, sing and play instruments, children run towards us with the most open faces. Then it seems so simple, and at the same time, I believe it is the essence of what theatre can be. We create moments together. That is the essence of theatre, to me. What was your impetus to travel to South Africa?

Mariken: It was several things. I missed something in Norway that I still can’t put into words, but I guess it revolves around working closer to the ground, closer to life. Here in South Africa, the latest innovations within stage technology or interactive scenography seem insignificant. Theatre is about people, reconciliation, the eagerness to make societal change. I recognise myself a lot in what you are saying, but I wonder, how do you create these «moments» that occur between the clown and a child in a refugee camp?

Katja: I join into the child’s play. I improvise music and dance with them. I can battle- dance with a little boy. I throw invisible balls to them and they throw back to me. It is when playing, I get the children with me. They are the experts, and we can create small moments of play together; jump over puddles, play hide-and-seek, create clapping- games. In Norway, my aim is to bring forth different themes, explore, prompt reflection. In the refugee camps, the material I bring with aims to support the children’s playfulness and imagination. The goal is the child’s play itself.

I once met an aid worker who told me that the children drew dead bodies floating in the ocean, bevelled arms and legs, dead people in barges. My task is not to trigger those traumas, but give all the love I can give and make the children feel seen. That is the most important thing for me. My experience is that the children in the refugee camps have a strong need to be seen, play, laugh. And forget.

White and privileged

Mariken: Do you ever doubt if the clown belongs in a refugee camp? Is clowning the right way to help?

Katja: I often ask myself if I, as a white, middle class woman from one of the richest countries in the world, really am in a good position to «help». The frame is pretty postcolonial. Which ideas am I bringing with me? How can I do the work with respect and equality? From a power perspective, there’s a lot working against both of us in our work. Have you ever been doubting your project in South Africa? Whether it’s working? Your method?

Mariken: Yes, absolutely. First of all, I feel very uncomfortable in the role as white and privileged, as well as with the characteristics I experience that many South Africans read into my person because of the colour of my skin. At the same time, my opinion is that the western world has an incredible arrogance towards Africa as a continent. If there is anything South Africa isn’t short of, its human resources. There are so many competent, local theatre practitioners within the field of devised and applied theatre here in Cape Town, people with a lot to contribute and who in addition, have much better knowledge than me when it comes to South African culture and history.

At the same time, the lack of infrastructure, burgeoning economy and organizational culture is a reality. Currently, we are the only applied theatre program running in Pollsmoor Prison. Even local subsidized organisations and volunteers struggle with the instability of the prison structure. We however, have not given up. I’ve therefore concluded that I as a theatre maker with ten years of experience, don’t have to excuse myself for wanting to be here and working hard to achieve results. The bottom line is the importance of the work being done, and that we try to do it with an approach that focuses on gradual empowerment and independence of the project, from a South African point of view.

We have initiated a collaboration with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Drama Department

and we are focused on bringing in local partners. I may very well have learned more than I’ve taught. It’s been a journey for the inmates we’ve been working with, but it has certainly been a journey for my colleagues and I.

The cultural exchange, however, is a value in itself. For your part, maybe the clown is a figure that removes some of the position as «white, privileged woman»?

Katja: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I wanted to come to the refugee- camps as a clown. And the answer is that the clown makes it much easier to meet the children as an equal: The people I meet in Greece, already have a relation to the clown/jester and as a result, I’m seen as a clown, not as the white person that automatically has a lot of cultural and economical power. That makes the work much easier. The clown is a character that has low social status, it has no given authority. I make both children and adults laugh when I fall off a chair; it’s physical comedy, humour that can be called universal, or in any case extend beyond national borders. I make a fool of myself, I’m clumsy, I’m vulnerable, I go into direct interaction with both children and their parents. And in return, I experience to be accepted. All the laughter and joy we are creating together becomes much more important than postcolonial discourses. To work on the outside the cultural institutions, in other societies and other contexts, gives me more perspective on the world.

Methodological challenges

Katja: For your part, since you don’t have a character you enter, how do you go forward methodologically, to create a respectful and equal process?

Mariken: My speciality is devised theatre, an approach where you don’t start from a script, but where you create material through discussion, guided writing workshops and improvisations. This approach supports a rehabilitation process. Devicing is a good choice when the creative process is also a process of reflection, trust and personal growth. When the performance is a mean to a greater goal, it is evident that the participants get relevant themes, experiences and emotions processed. A part of this processing, is the script writing. The text is jointly developed during the process.

The inmates write all the texts to the performance, but I am the one that considers if the texts are suitable for stage, as in not too personal and exposing. I pick out and mould the texts together to a dramaturgical whole. And as the rehabilitation process is gliding forward, the writing tasks become more profound, and demand more reflection. Consecutively, I have to consider what is appropriate to share amongst the inmates in the group, and what to keep private between the participant and myself. It is evident to me, that all of the participants should be able to go onstage with full integrity and ownership to the whole process, without being misrepresented as some kind of curiosity in an orange overall.

In our previous production, the texts became monologues, dialogues, choreography and action scenes. The play started off quite light, with bright glimpses into childhood and adolescence, but where even the happy moments revealed poverty and struggle.

Gradually, the stories became darker and more desperate, but the play still ended with hope for the future.

Katja: How do you work to make the material accessible for many people? Isn’t there a danger that the performances become too private?

Mariken: Yes. But mastering that balance, is part of my job as theatre educator and director. From day one, my main focus has been to create a meeting point between performers and spectators, where the dehumanized becomes human again. And how to approach that? By reminding the audience of how much they actually have in common with the people on stage. That is why the glimpses of childhood, adolescence, hopes and dreams were important in the start of the performance, to build that bridge over to the audience. Then we witness how dreams burst, and the audience is moved because they have already identified with the performing inmates. A mom is sharing with the audience how much she misses the everyday life with her children; the small, trivial things that we easily take for granted. Not being able to follow your children through their adolescence is one of parents worst fears. The female inmates love for her children is just as strong as every other mom’s. The performance made this mom’s family members look at her in a new way. Today, her teenage son, who refused to visit her in prison for several years, has started to visit her again, after years of anger and bitterness. That too, has value to us.

But for you, by the end of the journey; It must have been emotionally very intense to work in refugee camps. What have the assignments with Clowns without Borders, meant to you as a human being?

Katja: I feel the injustice in this world much stronger. Now I have met the people behind the numbers, I have shared experiences with them, laughed with them, played with them. Coming back from Greece this time was incredibly difficult. The situation for the Syrian refugees is so horribly unfair, so unmanageable. On my previous tour, the people I met were in motion, they were on a journey. The border to Macedonia was closed, but there was hope that it would reopen. But this time, that hope had shrunk, and the refugees knew that their situation in the camps was more permanent. When people ask me where I come from, I try to avoid saying I’m from Norway, because they are so desperate to get to Norway or other European countries. I feel ashamed to be from Norway. I can return to my comfort, while they remain in the camps.

Mariken: I share your experience of feeling the injustice more intensely than before. At times, almost unbearable. Exactly as for you, our work so clearly reveals both what we spark, of new hope and courage, but just as much what we can not change, and that hurts. The prisoners in South Africa have no social safety net. Most return to townships with broken families, poverty, drugs, crime and often also members of competing gangs threatening to avenge crimes of the past. But I don’t thereby conclude that our project is pointless, rather the contrary. To invest in those who have nothing, that feels more meaningful to me than anything I have ever done before.

To not look away

Katja: What happens to the inmates you have worked with when they leave prison?

Mariken: Actually, some of the previous participants have tapped into the the film industry, or started other creative practices. Some have gotten jobs. But we see that people with more stable family situations, families that can help them, do best. In Norway, new friends and a new social network is often the only factor the welfare state can’t provide. In South Africa, the entire safety net is missing. These people come out to nothing. If you grew up in the streets and you’re not even registered with a birth certificate, what do you do? Our organization here, NICRO, is following up on the parolees, but challenges are huge and resources limited. What I know, is that we have discovered and developed talent and built self esteem. That we have created many happy moments in lives where happiness is scarce. That the process has resulted in healthy confrontations with their criminal past, and started psychological processes of healing. That we have played a part in reuniting families. But for a former inmate and drug addict, who picked up their habit from the circumstance of poverty, staying in townships overflowing with drugs and crime, life is probably harder than I will ever fully grasp.

Katja: Yes. And that is exactly why the work is important! For me, to return to the refugee camps is a way to show that I still care. People are so afraid of being forgotten. I try to share as much as possible when I’m home in Norway, tell the stories I’ve heard. Create societal awareness.

Mariken: My view on criminals will never be the same. We need to understand the origin of the gang culture. The modern criminal gangs of Cape Town exist within a broader historical context. It is the continuity of a criminalisation of ‘coloured’ and ‘black’ identity from colonial slavery through Apartheid and into contemporary carcerality. It is a consequence of poverty and inequality. Who are the real criminals of this world? The closer you look, the less black and white, the less good or bad, and the more grey and complex it all becomes.

So what do you think, Katja, can art really make any change in this world?

Katja: Yes, I am very confident it can. But I wish that artists in Norway and the rest of the first world, more often discuss the purpose of the arts in our society. My favourite saying about theatre is the well known, but very true «Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.» When on assignment for Clowns without Borders, I try to do the first. In first world countries and societies with a very stable political situation, I believe we need to focus much more on accomplishing the last.

Mariken: I agree. The common denominator between theatre work in both refugee camps and in prison, must be to re-humanize marginalized and oppressed groups and force people to remember that we are one, one humanity. Theatre is one way of creating a meeting point that encourages people to look again. To see the individual in the mass. In Zulu, the word for greeting also means “I see you”. Sawubona. I see you. And once you have really seen another human being, their unique, individual value, then it’s much harder to look away again. We’re not that different. We’re all just humans.

 

Producing a crime-preventive youth theatre piece in South-Africa

The original idea was to move to Cape Town for one year, to work in the applied theatre program and create a performance with inmates in Pollsmoor and Goodwood Prison. But as with all work entered with passion an commitment, more upportunities is sparked. Now I’m in my second year. Through my work, I got acquainted with the organisation Young in Prison, and was thereby introduced to South African director Thando Doni and his latest, magnificent piece of physical theatre, Ubuze Bam. The piece was actually performed by young and talented ex-offenders from township areas, and it affected me deeply.

These young men had never acted before, let alone witnessed a theatre production. Yet, their remarkable stage performance, presence and powerful personal stories, was like a punch in the gut. Their stories clearly reflected both South African political history as well as the present political and social situation. And it evoke my curiousity: These are stories so far from a Norwegian reality. How would a Norwegian audience from 14-18 years, experience a performance created with real stories, performed by young people grown up under these conditions? What would a young Norwegian audience learn about different living conditions, different opportunities and demands for survival in this world? To create a meeting between young skilled South-African performers, and a young Norwegian audience, might build bridges and open doors.

And so the artistic idea to create Phefumla was born.

I contacted Thando Doni with the idea to create a new performance with a target audience from 14-18 years as a Norwegian/South-African co-production. South-african director Thando Doni is a specialist in deviced physical theatre, and builds his work from the physical, vocal and musical qualities of his performers.

Thando Doni -director

That’s how the ball started rolling. Now we’ve just reached the funding target, and I am about to produce a SA/NO co-production to premiére at the Cradle of Creativity, the international ASSITEJ festival 2017 taking place here in Cape Town, South Africa. Excited? Yes!

From the left: Sikhumbule Nkonki, Lazola Sikhutswa, Ntsikayomzi Tyalana, Eric Menyo,Bongani Dyalivana

The making of the impossible

The PR design, by Robert Marufu, is inspired by the gang signs and cultural language and tattoos of the different gangs.
The PR design, by Robert Marufu, is inspired by the gang signs and cultural language and tattoos of the different gangs.

 

As the most violent city in Africa, Cape Town struggles with entrenched gang culture within the large townships surrounding the centre of the city. For kids and young people growing up in these townships (originally restricted «non-white» areas established during apartheid), it means to grow up in underprivileged surroundings, where crime and fear has become part of everyday life. Young men are recruited into criminal gangs that rule the streets. 70% of South-African convicts are in and out of prison. For some of them, prison are safer than the streets.

From Act 2, "Son of a Gun". Director: Yasin Gyltepe
From Act 2, «Son of a Gun». Director: Yasin Gyltepe

My friends in Norway have asked me many times: «Aren’t you afraid of the inmates you work with». And yes, I were in the beginning. Before I got to know them as individuals, I must admit I was. But quite quick, that went over, and now it seems completely absurd. Yes, there is occasionly aggression, attempted manipulation and non-constructive ways of dealing with emotions. These people has learned to speak the language of the streets. But I am never afraid.

The Making of a Criminal Act 1, directed by Mariken Lauvstad
The Making of a Criminal Act 1, directed by Mariken Lauvstad

The inmates are people. Resourceful people from underprivileged backgrounds, with beautiful lives going to waste behind bars. Growing up in a neo-liberalistic society still thraumatized from apartheid, a society that distributes it’s resources in a way that doesn’t provide any social safety-net for ex-convicts. These people are husbands and wifes, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons that want’s to provide for their families. Many of them come from utter poverty. What would you do, if society had turned it’s back on you, and you had such limited chances in life? Do you have any idea how desperate you would become, after day in and day out with struggle for pure survival?

14481967_1418971894798873_1243938624652265283_o
ACT 2, Director Yasin Gyltepe

Do not think that I for one single moment am defending the gang crime or the horrible offenses that some of our inmates has committed. But I do see devastating destinies, and I do see deep despair and desperation.

So what’s the point? What’s the point of coming as a privileged white person and think you can solve any of this? Believe me, I have asked myself that question over and over again. I has not been easy to gain trust, my appearance is in itself a provocation. But little by little, we succeded.

Act 1, Pollsmoor Prison. Director: Mariken Lauvstad
Act 1, Pollsmoor Prison. Director: Mariken Lauvstad

How did we succeed? I think it has something to do with awareness of the space in which we have the honour to be invited in. The decition to have the inmates’s own lifestories, dreams, hopes and fears as our main focus. Letting them write the texts and perform them onstage.

End of ACT 1
End of ACT 1

In order to be able to work with rehabilitation through deviced theatre, and create any kind of authentic work, you have to be humble. The inmates were the important ones. We have merely, hopefully, after this process opened some closed hearts in both inmates and spectators of the performance. After the Q&A’s following the performances I dear to believe that theatre and art can be part of tearing down walls and build bridges, create new meetingpoints and new political conversation. But crime is a societal responsibility just as much as an individual. And we all wonder: What now, after?

 

 

History is a heavy burden

For en måned siden satt jeg i leiligheten min i Oslo og brant av rastløshet. På tross av at jobb i teaterfeltet har gjort livet mitt mer omskiftelig enn de fleste andres; alt i alt er tilværelsen trygg, forutsigbar… og en smule kjedelig? En norsk hverdag forløper uten dramatiske høydepunkt. Jeg har alltid vært plaget med et utålmodig hjerte. Så da jeg fikk muligheten til å jobbe med teater i et Sør-Afrikansk fengsel for et år, lød det mer spennende en skummelt, og jeg takket ja. Jeg visste det var risikofylt, men jeg visste ikke hvordan risikoen skulle føles på kroppen. Men når jeg nå nettopp skvatt i taket fordi en gekko kravlet over stuegulvet i det nye huset jeg bor i her i Cape Town, er det likevel ingenting mot de siste to ukenes inntrykk. Jeg lengtet etter et liv med sterkere kontraster. Jeg ante ikke på hvilken måte det ønsket skulle oppfylles.

Alle vinduene og dørene i huset her har tykke gitter. Det er helt nødvendig på grunn av kriminaliteten. Da vi kjørte fra flyplassen og inn mot sentrum, var synet av «townshipen», det langstrakte området av blikkskur jeg hittil kun har sett som nyhetsinnslag på tv, nok til at magen vrengte seg. Dette er på ordentlig. Det er så nært at du kjenner lukta av fattigdommen. Du ser mennesker i fillete klær som håpefullt venter i lyskryssene for å selge folk frukt og drikke inn gjennom bilvinduene. Med øyne rødsprengte av tretthet. Tynne kropper. Det handler om overlevelse.

nyanga

Og man skjønner at man har levd i en drøm. Norge er en boble. Det er et liv på innsiden av en glassklokke. Men likevel er den boblen ingenting imot glassklokken de rike i Sør-Afrika lever i. Det er som om å tre rett inn i en scene fra filmen «Hunger Games», hvor overklassen sprader rundt i futuristiske antrekk og fråtser med en selvfølgelighet man ikke skulle tro var mulig.

Få timer etter vi hadde kjørt gjennom slummen i går, satt vi på en restaurant i Longstreet som får Brasserie Paleo i Oslo til å framstå som en hvilken som helst matsjappe. Vi ble behandlet som royale, men jeg er bare ei vanlig jente som liker å gå i fjellet og lage hjemmebakt brød. Hvem er jeg her? Hva gjør dette landet og denne byen med meg? I Norge er jeg et menneske, her er jeg hvit. Tilfeldigvis betyr hudfargen min noe. Tilfeldig, som oljefunn i Nordsjøen, som slummen i Nyanga, som å bli født til et menneskeliv på denne sinnsyke planeten med alle eller ingen forutsetninger for å få et godt liv. Jeg trodde jeg visste hva lidelse var. Det gjorde jeg ikke.

Apartheidhistorien ligger som en råtten eim over Sør-Afrika. Den fyller hver krok, hver restaurant, hvor fargede afrikanere fortsatt heller drikke i de hvites glass. En liten økonomisk elite lever i nærmest grotesk overflod, med en selvfornektelse bare nedarvede privilegier kombinert med en for meg uforståelig dehumanisering av fattige, kan opprettholde.

image kopi
Tyvknipset på Apartheid-museet i Johannesburg. Kunne dessverre vært en situasjon fra i dag.

Hva får de privilegerte til å rettferdiggjøre dette systemet overfor seg selv? Hva får de undertrykte til å akseptere at dette er virkeligheten? Det er så ufattelig, så sykt, så giftig. Er det rart Cape Town regnes som en av verdens farligste byer? Er det rart at staten er ikke-fungerende på grunn av korrupsjon? Er det rart at vi må sove med gitter foran vinduene, og aldri kan gå ut alene?

Her i Cape Town er jeg blant de bemidlede. Jeg kan gå ut å spise seks ganger i uka hvis jeg vil, det koster ingenting her. Jeg er redd for kriminaliteten, for å kjøre på venstre side av veien og for jobben jeg snart skal begynne i. Men aller mest redd er jeg for å komme tilbake til Norge med et forgiftet sinn, for å bli smittet av kynismen her, for å bli et dårligere menneske, når stort sett alt jeg ønsker i livet, er å være et godt et.

 

Poverty-Quotes-1

 

Så enkelt

Så enkelt som dette er det egentlig. Og så selvsagt for oss som jobber med teater med barn og unge, i og utenfor pedagogiske institusjoner.

Ja
Teater er forskning
Teater er matematikk
Teater er fremmedspråk
Teater er historie
Teater er fysisk 
Teater er språkforming
Teater er entrepenørskap
Teater er teknologi
Teater er økonomi

Teater undervises i skoler
Ikke fordi alle skal bli skuespillere
Ikke fordi du skal iscenesette deg selv hele livet
Ikke fordi du skal kunne slippe lett unna,
ikke fordi du skal ha det gøy,

Men
Slik at du skal kunne se skjønnhet
Slik at du skal kunne utvikle din sensitivitet
Slik at du skal komme nærmere noe større en våre små liv
Slik at du skal berøres
Slik at du skal utvikle din ømhet,
finne godhet,
i det hele tatt
leve mer.

Teater handler om å forstå livet og hva det vil si å være menneske.
Derfor skal teater være en del av skolen.

Fra forestillingen "Momo og Kampen om Tiden (Oslo Teatersenter 2011)

Angsten for det inderlige

til alle som skriver dramatikk for ungdom eller produserer ungdomsteater: IKKE PRØV Å GJØRE TING SÅ KULT BESTANDIG! DET poetiske, UMASKERTE OG INDERLIGE kan være LIKE SPENNENDE. TAKK TIL TORUN LIAN FOR ET NYDELIG, SÅRT OG DØDSENS ALVORLIG STYKKE forfattet TIL DUS 2015.

logo_dusDUS, Den unge scenen, er en nasjonal mønstring som ble opprettet i 2004 for å heve nivået på ungdomsteater i Norge. I år er sjette året festivalen finner sted, og fem profesjonelle dramatikere har skrevet nye tekster, i tillegg til to stykker skrevet av ungdommer.

2. klasse drama fra Gol VGS skulle delta dette året, men jeg ante ikke hvilket manus jeg skulle velge. Vi var nettopp ferdig med produksjon nummer to, og verken klassen eller læreren hadde egentlig rukket å trekke pusten.

Etter Charles Dickens «Scrooge» og Roald Dahls «Heksene» var vi klare for å ta skrittet ut av feelgood-eventyrfortellinger og begi oss inn i mørkere materie.

Det eneste stykket som virkelig appellerte til meg, og som kjentes som den rette utfordringen for klassen, var «Bønn for Anna» av Torun Lian. Det handler om å hanskes med et tap på størrelse med en total solformørkelse. Om å akseptere at et liv kan ta slutt, selv om det er et ungt menneskes liv.

10801721_10205607380085032_7796065276642270317_nDet handler om Anna, som kommer tilbake en kort stund, for å forvandle sorgen og savnet til de som elsket henne, til noe som det går an å leve med.

Det er et manus som insisterer på inderlighet. Det krever å bli tolket ordentlig, knadd, kjevlet og knadd på nytt.

Det er bare én mulighet, og det er å hoppe i det med begge beina. Gjøre forestillingen til et spørsmål om liv og død. Være to hundre prosent tilstede i fiksjonsverdenen. Tilnærme seg rollene på en usminket og naken måte. Stå på scenen i all sin sårbarhet, uten en millimeter distanse mellom seg selv og handlingen som skal spilles ut. Så langt det går an å komme fra det eplekjekke og selvtilfreds ironiske.

Sakte falt bitene på plass i Annas fragmenterte drømmeunivers. Sakte forstod elevene litt og litt av hva handlingen egentlig dreier seg om. Sakte ble de kjent med karakterene.

Det er kanskje ikke så rart. Er det noen som kan kjenne seg igjen i store følelser, så er det vel ungdom. Det er blant annet derfor jeg elsker å jobbe med unge: Livsintensiteten. Inderligheten.

Og den er ikke noe å være redd for. Alt må ikke alltid være så kult. For det er jo dét alt teater egentlig handler om: Livet, døden og kjærligheten.

Monika Engeseth og Yuri Thrulsen Vedå

Fritt spillerom

11031028_10205771844916550_8028335559816430276_n
Tre gamle damer hadde glemt hvordan eventyrene egentlig gikk… (2. klasse drama v. Gol VGS)

Det er lett å undervurdere sine elever, og holde for mye på kontrollen. Ikke minst har vi lærere ofte en agenda og en informasjonsmengde som kolliderer med elevenes naturlige behov for å utfolde seg, og for å fordøye og bearbeide fagstoff. Som teaterlærer er det viktig å gi elevene sine nok frihet, men det er ikke alltid lett å gjøre det. Hvilke kompetansemål skal man sette når man ikke har noen tydelig agenda? Hvordan skal man veie og måle en slik prosess?

I dag har vi hatt Åpen Dag på Dramalinja ved Gol Videregående. Det betyr at niendeklasse-elever fra hele Hallingdal var invitert til å besøke dramalinja vår. En slik dag gir også oss lærere en sjelden mulighet til å la kompetansemål og faglig agenda ligge, og la dramaelevene få prøve seg på avviklingen på egen hånd, mens vi trer til side, og tar styringen først dersom noen kommer skjevt ut. Elevene har fått fritt spillerom til å planlegge dagen, og beslutningene ble tatt gjennom elevdemokrati.

En smakebit på Snehvit
En smakebit på Snehvit

2. klasse bestemte selv at de ville lage en eventyrskog, en site-specific hvor de besøkende ungdomsskoleklassene fikk gå gjennom skogen og møte ulike klassiske eventyrfigurer. Figurene ble levende ved at ungdomsskoleelevene trykket på røde knapper hver karakter hadde festet til kostymet sitt. Dramaklassen satte lys selv, rigget til selv, fordelte karakterer og tekst selv og gjennomførte visningene på egen hånd.

De har fått bestemme selv. Den friheten trengs iblant. Å bare få fritt spillerom.

Rødhette
Rødhette

 

 

Kreativitet i skolen: Norge på jumboplass

– Hvorfor kunstfagenes instrumentelle effekt i skolen ikke lenger kan overses.education_01_temp-1339924105-4fdd9e89-620x348

Norge ligger på siste plass av 65 land i rangeringen over kreative aktiviteter på skolen. Jepp, sisteplass. Av 65 land! Dette har du sannsynligvis ikke fått med deg. For mens mediene og nasjonen forøvrig går av skaftet når norske elever gjør det for dårlig på pisaundersøkelser i matte, er det ikke så farlig med denne kreative utfoldelsen. Vi kan jo likevel ikke bygge en fremtidig teknologinasjon bestående av drømske kunstnere på NAV-stønad.

Men vent nå litt: Hvorfor gjør egentlig norske elever det for dårlig på pisaundersøkelser i matte og andre realfag? Hvorfor ser det ikke ut til å hjelpe med mer matte, mer realfag, mer lekser og mer kontroll, av både lærere og elever? Hvorfor er det eneste som går opp, antallet elever som ikke fullfører videregående? Hvorfor fungerer ikke politikernes tiltak?Dear-students Joda, det går jo greit. Det humper og går. Det er kanskje ingen grunn til å krisemaksimere.  Elevene kommer seg gjennom på tilnærmet normert tid. De jobber med skolen som aldri før. Men de er også mer utmattet, demotiverte og deprimerte enn noen gang tidligere. Folk vil ikke lenger jobbe i skolen. Og mange elever vil ikke gå på den.

Jeg skal ikke snakke i høytflyvende metaforer, jeg skal forsøke å forklare på vitenskapens premisser, jeg skal prøve å være konkret og holde meg til fakta, til det målbare: Kreativitet er ikke kun sentralt innenfor utøvelse av estetiske fag. Det er like viktig innenfor vitenskap, forskning og teknologi. Men gjennom de estetiske fagene kan elever øve opp evnen til å tenke kreativt.

For å skape noe, må man kunne noe. Og for å kunne noe, må man lære noe. For å lære noe, må man erfare noe. For å erfare noe, må man føle noe. Å føle, eller å sanse, er en vesentlig del av de kognitive prosesser som oppstår i et menneske som lærer.

Her summerer lektor i mediefag ved Laksevåg VGS, Grethe Melby, opp essensen av hvorfor kreativ undervisning og kunstfag er så viktig i skolen.

Å utvikle hele mennesket

changing-education-paradigms-boring-stufDet er fint å ha tydelige ambisjoner for norske elevers realfagskompetanse, ettersom den teknologiske utviklingen bare vil aksellerere. Men unge mennesker trenger også noe annet. Å bare pøse på med stadig mer av det samme, skaper ubalanse i vektskålen. Som kontinuerlige konsumenter av informasjon og underholdning både på skolen og fritiden, trenger unge mennesker et rom for å bearbeide tanker og inntrykk, sortere og reflektere. De estetiske fagene representerer et slikt refleksjonsrom. Unge mennesker er fra naturens side kreative og idérike. Dette kan stimuleres, eller undertrykkes. Ved å stimulere kreativiteten, oppnår eleven større kompetanse i å anvende kunnskapen de lærer på ulike måter, noe som har overføringsverdi til andre fag.

Bare fordi det er gøy?

Som teaterlærer blir jeg stadig konfrontert med skepsis til mitt fag. Teater, er det virkelig noe man skal drive med på videregående? Hva lærer egentlig elevene? Er det riktig å ha dramalinjer bare fordi elever synes teater er gøy? Ja, teater er morsomt og sosialt. Men det er også fryktelig mye mer enn det. La oss se på hva kvalitetsundervisning i teater gjør med elever:

Et omfattende internasjonalt forskningsprosjekt, den EU-støttede DICE-undersøkelsen, viser at drama og teater i skolen hever nivået på en rekke såkalte nøkkelkompetanser hos elever:

  1. Karakterene går opp i andre fag, også de ikke-estetiske
  2. Elevene får bedre selvtillit når det gjelder å lese og forstå oppgaver
  3. De får bedre selvtillit når det gjelder kommunikasjon
  4. De får tro på egen kreativitet
  5. Fraværet går ned og de trives bedre på skolen
  6. De blir bedre på problemløsning
  7. De blir bedre til å takle stress-situasjoner
  8. De blir markant mer tolerante overfor minoriteter og innvandrere
  9. De blir mer aktive, og deltar mer i kulturelle aktiviteter også utenom skoletiden
  10. De blir mer interessert i politikk og bruker stemmeretten i større grad
  11. De blir mer empatiske
  12. De blir i større grad i stand til å endre egne standpunkt
  13. De blir mer aktive på skolen, med lekser og hjemmearbeid, og bruker tilsvarende mindre tid foran tv- og videospill
  14. De utvikler sin sans for humor
  15. De opplever en større grad av tilhørighet

Viktig å understreke her er at det kun var drama- og teaterundervisning hvor både den kunstneriske og pedagogiske kvaliteten var på plass, som ga denne instrumentelle effekten. Å se på estetiske fag som «kosefag», og ikke stille høye nok krav til kvaliteten på undervisningen, gir altså ingen mening.

Det er kanskje ikke skolens oppgave å hjelpe elever til å få bedre humor, lære å takle stress eller får større toleranse for innvandrere. Men skolen skal også være et sted for dannelse.

Jeg har en elev som ikke bare har hatt det lett, og som bor på hybel og må klare seg selv. Hun fortalte meg at det å holde styr på regninger, er nytt for henne. «Det er derfor jeg mener at økonomi skulle vært et fag i skolen, alle unge trenger å lære om økonomi,” sa jeg da. Hun svarte: “Jeg skulle ønske det var et fag som het livsfaget, hvor vi hadde litt om økonomi, men også lærte om hva man skal gjøre når man har kjærlighetssorg og er så lei seg at man bare vil dø, eller når man føler seg helt alene, eller når man ikke vet hva man skal bli.”

support-art-in-schoolDet blir nok ikke noe «Livsfaget» i norsk skole. Men hvis ikke skolen hjelper  elever til å håndtere livet i det samfunnet vi har, har den feilet. Matte og naturfag hjelper et stykke på veien, men for å bli et kompetent menneske og en samfunnsressurs, trenger man også kreativitet, tro på egne evner, toleranse og empati. Og undervurdert for en god psykisk helse:  Opplevelser av samhold, fellesskap og tilhørighet. Det siste er ikke noen selvfølge i vårt individorienterte samfunn.

 

 

En drømmefabrikk

14430169236_c109d3cd26_bHva er det som har gått galt, når noe av det mest tilfredsstillende man kan tenke seg i livet er å tilbringe time etter time i en mørk blackbox? Når det er dér, i et rom uten lys, uten vinduer, i et firkantet hull, at man kjenner den største frihetsfølelsen?

Det starter alltid i en tom, sort boks. Man har kapitalen av sine egne idéer i kombinasjon med kreativiteten til menneskene man jobber med. Det kan bli alt eller ingenting. Alt står og faller med forståelse for og aksept av den felles kontrakten: fiksjonsverdenen. Teater er magi. Eller galskap. Eller idioti. Eller litt av alt. Teater er grenseløst og fullt av hindringer, det er samarbeid og konflikt, det er fellesskap og autonomi, det er musikalitet, lytting og psykologi. Teateret kan romme sterke møter eller dyp kjedsomhet og irritasjon. Det er øyeblikkets kunst, det er forgjengelig, som livet. Det setter våre liv i ramme, skaper perspektiv, utfordrer.

Det er alltid så mye mer å lære, så mange uutforskede aspekter, så mye å strekke seg mot. Jeg elsker teater i alle dets former og fra alle vinkler; som publikummer, som analytiker, som instruktør, som skuespiller og som lærer.

Her vil jeg dele mine tanker, idéer og oppfatninger om teater, politikk og pedagogikk, og forholdet mellom disse tre. Jeg vil forhåpentligvis inspirere noen, og spesielt håper jeg å bidra til å heve ambisjonsnivået når det gjelder scenekunst for og med barn og unge i Norge.