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Ages and Stages: Exploring a theatre archive to generate creativity across generations community impacts produced between Keele and Staffordshire Universities.

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Presentation on theme: "Ages and Stages: Exploring a theatre archive to generate creativity across generations community impacts produced between Keele and Staffordshire Universities."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ages and Stages: Exploring a theatre archive to generate creativity across generations community impacts produced between Keele and Staffordshire Universities and the New Victoria Theatre, North Staffordshire Jill Rezzano (New Vic Education) Romy Cheeseman (Victoria Theatre Archive) David Amigoni (Keele University)

2 Context Victoria Theatre Archive, North Staffordshire (‘New Vic’ from 1986) Uniqueness: records artistic output of Britain’s first purpose built theatre in the round; but it is also a rich social history archive of Peter Cheeseman’s vision of community involvement, a pioneer of community theatre from the 1960s-1990s. Lives and experiences of local people: carefully and systematically recorded as oral history (1000 recordings across eleven documentary plays), presenting local history, from key industries (coal, potteries, railways, steel), community campaigns and wartime experiences. When the archive was located to Staffordshire University in , the drama department designed a module on documentary theatre based on the archival resources and practices of research and theatre making.

3 The Social Documentaries* 11 documentaries produced between 1964 and 1994, focused on local history and contemporary events. Based on interviews and documentary research conducted by actors, resident playwright and director – often drawing from the narratives of older people. Inspired by Cheeseman’s desire to ‘bridge the cultural gap which separates the artist from the majority of the community’ and to produce a form of theatre ‘that springs from our contact with this community’. Influenced by Brecht, German and American documentary theatre, and Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. * Images from the Victoria Theatre Archive by permission of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire Theatre Trust Ltd

4 Stimulus resources from the Victoria Theatre Archive Transcript of interview with a source for The Knotty (1966) Former engine driver Harry Sharratt (c.) contributing to rehearsal of documentary play The Knotty with (l.) actor Edward Clayton and (r.) director Peter Cheeseman (1966)

5 How do we use the archive? (1) Ages and Stages, Keele University’s funded New Dynamics of Ageing project: to explore how ageing has been constructed culturally through representations. On stage, in documentaries and documentary sources about working lives, community relationships etc. To research and inspire the making of new work with the community using the practices that were crucial to the theatre’s original mission, as recorded in the archive What does this mean in practice? Our approach in discovering the impact that this body of work had on its community in the most informative and creative way by using it to make a new documentary about the relationship of local people to their theatre (example, interview practices, recruitment). The stories we heard in our interviews reflected experiences as audience members, volunteers, employees, sources for the original documentaries; and how these experiences intersected with people’s own lives. This explored ageing and attitudes to ageing, intergenerational relationships, as reflected in the recorded testimony of interviewees which were used in the final scripting.

6 How do we use the archive? (2) This not only gave us a rich variety of perspectives for theatre making, it also brought together the community, as was originally envisioned and archived in ways that only theatre and its rituals can; by uses of drama structures, games, repetitions, often based on methods and text from the original archive, created a shared experience of the work which the audience shared together. A founding principle of the theatre was continuity and in making this piece we were enabling the community to find and tell its own story; the methods that we used reflected this. The work, ‘Our Age, Our Stage’ was performed at the New Vic Theatre in July 2012 before a capacity audience of 600, comprising delegates attending the annual international conference of the British Society for Gerontology (Keele) and interviewees and members of the community; the play then went on tour to local schools, colleges and older people’s residential homes. In May-June 2012, the New Vic Theatre and Keele co-produced an exhibition, displayed in the theatre’s exhibition space, celebrating fifty years of the Vic Theatre ( ) based on the personal ‘archives’ of members of the community, collected at a ‘bringing in day’ and supplemented by material from the theatre archive.

7 ‘Our Age, Our Stage’, rehearsals Jill Rezzano (closest to the camera) leading rehearsals of the intergenerational drama work, ‘Our Age, Our Stage’ (Spring, 2012)

8 Contact and further details Jill Rezzano Head of Education, New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire Romy Cheeseman Honorary Archivisit, Victoria Theatre Collection, Staffordshire University David Amigoni Professor of Victorian Literature, Keele University, Co-I, ‘Ages and Stages’,


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