Creating theatre with and for young audiences
After the show, the podcast and the performance, Karine Sauvé’s work Chansons pour le musée is now available as a multifaceted experience for students and teachers. A video recording of the show, a teaching guide and a spontaneous writing workshop will allow French-speaking students ages 10 to 14 from across the country to explore the workings of the creative process behind the show. Developed in partnership with the National Arts Centre (NAC) French Theatre and the Mammifères theatre company as part of the NAC’s Arts Alive program, this new formula will offer young people far from major urban centres an opportunity to learn about theatre and contemporary art.
* * *
Q.: Where did the idea for the multifaceted experience come from?
Karine Sauvé: We performed the show last year at the NAC. It was during the pandemic, so we developed the workshop and the podcast to complement it. That increased the number of supports for the play. And French Theatre suggested we do a more extensive recording of the show. We gave ourselves more time to film, about 10 hours, without an audience, to get closer shots and allow the students to have a more immediate theatrical experience.
Q.: What’s new for teachers and their students in the multifaceted experience?
Anne-Marie Guilmaine: This year, teachers will receive the video recording and a teaching guide. Watching the play is a prerequisite for the students’ participation in the virtual workshop, which lasts about an hour. The main novelty is that all the students will have seen the video, so they’ll all have the same reference points.
K. S.: We think it’s important that it be a group experience, that it not be something the students watch alone at home, but rather together in the classroom, each on their own tablet. And for the workshop, we opted for a wide zoom, which allows us to see the students’ faces and encourages them to speak up.
Q.: The pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we present theatre. Does that make it more accessible to young people?
A.-M. G.: The portable nature of these media allows us to meet the students in their environment. Video is great, but it doesn’t replace the experience of sitting in a theatre and watching a live performance, of being drawn in by the actors. The idea is to capture their interest, but we tell them that they have to go out in order to get the authentic experience.
Q.: What benefits do the young people get from the multifaceted experience?
A.-M. G.: Thanks to the various tools available to them, including the teaching guide, they have more support. For example, we incorporated the notions of listening, observing, seeking and finding, so they’ll be more engaged by those experiences. We also invite them to put themselves in the shoes of the creator, Karine Sauvé, who did residencies in three Canadian contemporary artists’ studios.
It’s also a multi-initiation, because the show includes a whole introduction to electro music and contemporary art. With works that are not necessarily pretty, that can be somewhat grotesque or frightening, and provoke reactions of laughter, of strangeness.
Q.: What are the workshop objectives?
K. S.: Listening to a story and getting young people to be creative and write spontaneously. We really tap into their creative spirit, and when they share their writing, it’s a burst of imagination, lots of really exciting images come up. It’s also an opportunity for the students to interact in a new way.
Q.: Is it also a way to help them find some kind of outlet to share feelings that aren’t always easy to handle?
K.S.: I hope so. The sessions are so special. Sometimes we concentrate on the works of art, on their form and what they express; sometimes we go deeper, into how they make us feel. Of course, one can lead to the other. Some groups of students are more inclined to talk about their experiences.
Q.: It’s mainly you, Anne-Marie Guilmaine, who will lead these workshops. What are the essential tools for getting young people to create?
A.-M. G.: With Karine as the workshop facilitator, she quickly established a relationship of trust with the students. I hope to connect with them in a different way. I’ll tell them lots of secrets about Karine to boost their confidence (laughs). I think it’s important if I’m going to succeed in getting them to dive into the material and to create. It’s not always easy for students to relax, to move from a more academic mode to a more spontaneous writing style, closer to their imagination.
* * *
Chansons pour le musée was nominated for the Louise Lahaye Prize in the category Young Audience Play of the Year, and for the 2021 Critics’ Prize for best production for young audiences from the Association des critiques de théâtre du Québec.