We’re often asked how we come up with our new projects, and, having just emerged from our busiest bid-writing period of the year, this seemed like a good time to reflect on that process.
I’d like to be able to say that we lock ourselves in a darkened room and let inspiration take its course but the reality is somewhat more protracted and perhaps less glamorous…
Many of our future projects, particularly our Language Alive! tours, start with small beginnings. A hurried conversation in a school staff room, a story we have enjoyed telling to our kids, a headline that has grabbed our attention or a building that we have driven past and always thought it would make a great location for a drama.
From here, the idea is fleshed out by visits to the library or museum, more conversations, some internet surfing, more staffroom chats and several cups of tea.
If the idea still has legs then it shifts up to the ‘serious contender’ category and we begin to consult in earnest, with our teachers’ group, other artists and educationalists and, where we can, children and young people. Schools get to let us know what they think about the various fledgling projects at this stage through our consultations. During this time the entire creative team at The Play House (a kingly group of 5) also come together and hold regular programme development meetings, and because we are tuned equally to the theatrical and educational potential, we pose questions about where the learning is, what kind of story we could tell and how we might tell it.
If the idea comes through this stage, then it graduates to being ‘a serious contender desperately seeking funding’…
Here begins the process of matching funders’ criteria to the artistic and educational aspirations we might have for a new project. If we are rewarded with a good fit, this results in myself and Gary spending days in a darkened room at a computer screen waiting for inspiration to help us through a 25 page funding bid (see, I told you it wasn’t glamorous).
A wait of anything between 6 weeks and 3 months usually ensues until we find out if our bid has been successful, which if it is, allows the real business of realising the project, to take place. Four tea-powered weeks are then given over to playing, improvising, shaping ideas, testing strategies in schools, reflecting, changing our minds, playing some more, creating the set and costumes and filling endless sheets of paper with notes, before a new project comes to fruition ready for presentation at the teacher’s preview. Following this and after some last minute tweaks we’re ready for schools.
The final and most important phase of a new project’s evolution is the bit where we get to ‘just add kids’ – this is where the real shaping of the work takes place. Children’s responses in all their inventiveness, joyfulness, humanity (and occasionally strangeness) is what keeps our work continually on its toes and different every day, it is also what keeps us perpetually at the creative drawing board and is what excites many of us about the work that we do.
Occasionally, if we’re really lucky the whole process of generating ideas is kick started by being thrown a golden opportunity – a change in curriculum, a burning issue that affects children’s lives or an idea that a teacher has used with their class that has really inspired learning… If you are sitting on such a golden opportunity then please feel free to get in touch and talk to us about it. You never know, you may even get a cup of tea for your efforts!