Reflections

How did the project begin? What were your early thoughts? What part of the class (readings, lectures, other assignments, in-class workshops and preparation) helped you in your early stages of generating text and ideas? What were your concerns or worries and how did you address them? What did you learn or discover about yourself? About your family? About theatre and performance? What challenges did you face as a learner? As a creative collaborator? As a performer? What will you remember about the process? About the performance?

12 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Courtney writes:

    “As an individual who has always appreciated the art of theatre, but has also had many miserable experiences partaking in it, I was reluctant to registering for this course. I had assumed that it would consist of various in-class skits and dialogue, little did I know that I would be participating in a performance that was planned to take place in our University’s Recital Hall. When this was made clear to me within our first couple weeks of class my brain had processed every possible way I could escape this particular course requirement. I obviously failed miserably.

    I began to learn and understand the intricacies of devised theatre and it started to seem like a realistic way that I could become involved in something completely foreign to my prior experiences within theatre. The collaborative process was more than uncomfortable at first, but once I could see the way our in class activities could potentially inspire our main performance; it became captivating. The devised process allowed us all to approach the intimidating final performance in our own ways, which ultimately made it feel natural and less like “acting.”

    Although the reading was very interesting to me the whole way through our course discussions, I found myself faced with an unsurpassable obstacle for nearly one month of our course. We had been assigned the task of collecting old, family heirlooms and artifacts that would make our stories come to life. It would seems as though this was such a simple assignment, unless of course you’re from Minnesota (like myself) with no plans of visiting until fall break. I had so much hope that I would find the missing piece to my puzzle when I went home that when I’d realized I still had very little to contribute towards this project I became even more disheartened.

    It wasn’t until two weeks prior to our performance that Daniel suggested I focus on the mystery of my great-great-grandmother Ingaborg Aunan. I’d always known that she was cold and mean, but I never thought so much as to look into it. She’d been the intriguing family mystery that I’d overlooked time after time. By bringing my honest, discouragement to the table I offered Daniel, as well as my peers, a critical lens through which to view my stories in hope of showing me something I’d been scanning over the whole time; sure enough that was the case.

    Not only did this project allow me a reason to look deeper into my family’s history, but also I feel as though my classmates and I developed a very unique bond with one another. Not only because we came to know so much about each others families, we were all willing to be vulnerable in a setting unfamiliar to us – the stage. We embraced each other’s stories, mistakes, and accomplishments as we all overcame our stage fright together.

    I would be really interested to facilitate a devised performance myself. I really enjoyed learning of the devised projects within the prison system and I think that this technique could do great work in various fields of therapy to encourage personal growth. I know I felt empowered to have done something so far out of my comfort zone as to perform on stage, in an intimate setting, in front of so many strangers.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nick writes:

      When I signed up for COM 419 my expectations were few, I only hoped to branch out and experiment with another creative medium, theatre, through a class that would count for my Peace and Justice Studies Major. Now two months later, I can certainly say I did this and whole lot more.

      Origins was timely and it felt a little more like fate that I would be part of the class project Daniel Valdez was directing. Now in my fourth year at Regis I have experienced many things. I have traveled abroad, taken a diversity of class, volunteered, and completed internships. Beginning this semester I was becoming more sure of my identity as a student, explorer, and professional, however, my identity as an Italian-American was fading.

      Daniel, in one of our first meetings said, “Too often nowadays we become orphans to our own histories.” This resonated with me as I drifted to other more powerful poles and spheres of influence in my own development and formation. Both out of necessity and circumstance I was becoming the orphan he talked about. The gentrification of the neighborhoods where my family grew up in, and my pursuit of a career and job have both been factors that have put me at risk to lose this identity.

      My family have always been storytellers, but I have never very intentionally taken the time to learn and fully appreciate these stories. I have always known bits and pieces, but I had yet to investigate and explore them. Origins gave me this opportunity. And through it I have come to know both my family and myself better.

      I worked mainly with my Grandmother, who shared with me a wealth of oral and written histories, and many other documents and photos from the previous generations. I investigated the stories I was familiar with, which generated new questions and lead to new stories. I was amazed by what I discovered.

      This was not just the case for me. My classmates unearthed fascinating stories as well. This gave me a new appreciation for all our experiences, and illustrated the importance of viewing the community and its history as an incredible resource. None of us were professional writers or actors, and nobody had any particular fame, yet we all discovered and crafted unique, entertaining, and impactful narratives.

      Now in my fourth at at Regis, which places great emphasis on working for social justice, I have learned many skills which can be used to improve communities and lives. After going through this process I feel I could, in the future, use theatre for other projects and issues by applying what I learned in this class.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Courtney it was a pleasure to work with you. I hope this experience aids you in your work in the future. You were honest and fearless with your research. I shall always remember all of you and wish you success in whatever your endeavors might be. You were a great class. Stay true to your dreams. And by all means..ACHIEVE, CREATE, and CONTRIBUTE

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Justice and Theater had originally interested me because I strongly believe in the power of story-telling, but I had never considered myself to be a story-teller. My experience with theater was very limited and it ranged drastically from participating in a community theater groups to seeing it as something abstract and distant on the big stage. I didn’t really know what I could expect from this experience, but I had high expectation for a director like Daniel Valdez who had been an inspiration for me since I was a teen. Daniel had shown me the power of art to voice the stories of the barrio and ignored migrant communities. His art made me feel affirmed in who I am and that like I had a place in the world, and I eager to see what I could learn from him and his work.

    The readings and activities that introduced the class, made me confident in the ability of devised theater to be an act of revolution and decentralizing hierarchy. It was interesting to learn about the challenges of decentralized leadership in devised theater and ways that companies have been working to deconstruct the traditional structures in theater. I also enjoyed learning about the importance in the actual process of creating a theater piece. The end result wasn’t as important as long as the process was meaningful for all those who were involved.

    When we were told that were to preform stories from our own family history of migration, I immediately felt nervous. From doing family history projects in other courses, I knew that it wasn’t easy to talk with my family in an academic context. My parents had immigrated to this country when they were younger than me, and I know that this subject is still not easy for them to talk about. In leaving our home, our place of origin, our family had also lost a lot of the stories that were contained in our small home town. At the same time, I felt that this is why it was even more important to collect stories from my hometown and my departed ancestors while their stories were still alive.

    I wanted to know more about my mother’s side of the family, but I was aware that there were many obstacles and dead ends in collecting these stories. When I talked to my mom about the project, she pulled stacks of family albums and she was excited to tell me what she knew. Recounting the stories that she had heard growing up, she realized that there were a lot of gaps in her stories that she had never bothered to fill. We decided to get my grandparents on the phone and talk with them together. Her stories provided the foundation to dig much deeper into our family history as my grandparents and my mother worked together to fill in the stories that had become faded over the years.

    To my surprise, my grandparents started remembering stories about their past faster than I could write them down. My mom and I were surprised that we had never heard these stories told before—maybe I had just never thought to ask. My grandfather told us what he knew about his grandfather’s assassination, and this was the first time that we had ever heard the story told directly from him. He tried to remember past from before the death of his grandfather to understand where we had come from and how we got to the little town where my grandfather still lives today. The project made him so curious that he even started visiting elders and other people in the town who might help him fill in his own story. He wasn’t able to come back with much, but this project had provided the motivation to at least start asking questions and looking for answers.

    Taking the time to patiently understand my story and ask questions allowed me to understand where I had come from and why I owed gratitude and humility to my ancestors who had come before me. I learned about the strength of my ancestors and our faults too. Keeping these stories alive has allowed me to understand who I am and what my place is in the world. It has also given me the opportunity to understand how to heal from generations of trauma and violence that exist within our family history. Learning about the stories of my ancestors allows me to live a more purposeful life that honors the sacrifices and struggles of those that have come before me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fatima I loved meeting and working you. Your story was amazing and powerful. And it was a pleasure and honor to see you evolve and contribute to a incredible experience. Stay true to yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Reflections | danlorussowordpresscom

  4. As someone who has never done any acting or had previous experience in the world of theater this entire process was new to me. At the beginning of this course I was uncertain of how this would be beneficial to my education here at Regis. To give myself a better understanding of how this process works I began read the book so that I could familiarize myself with what devising a performance is and all the steps theater companies take to generate work. The book helped me realize that these companies we read about were much different from the typical Broadway play. Growing up 40 minutes outside of New York City we occasionally saw plays on Broadway such as the Lion King and The Book of Mormon, which I highly recommend if you want to laugh until you cry! All my life I thought that plays such as the ones on Broadway was the only type of theater out there but this class showed me I was mistaken. The theater companies we read about were usually on a tight budget with limited resources but always found a way to create unique and meaningful performances.

    At the beginning of October I was beginning to wonder how we will create a performance in such a short amount of time, especially because we were new to this process. But the examples of theater companies in the book taught me to trust the process. Every Wednesday we would chip away into our family’s histories hoping to find stories about our ancestors that would become material for the play. This part of the process was quite difficult for me because my parents knew absolutely nothing about their ancestors. On my father’s side of the family his aunt knew everything about our Italian ancestors but sadly she passed away five years ago which brought me to a dead end. My mother, a descendent of Irish immigrants also had very limited info since most of her family members passed away. So when my mom sent me what she had on her families past I became intrigued with one particular character that I could relate to in so many ways, my great uncle Jim. Uncle Jim passed away when I was around 6 years old so I have always had very vague memories of him in my life, and those memories were pure laughter. This man loved to make people happy and as I dug deeper into his past I became inspired. Learning about him through this process taught me a lot. He was a role model, a star athlete, and saw everyone as equal even during times of segregation in the 1950’s. Uncle Jim also happens to be the person whom I acquired my red hair from! How could I not want to explore the life of such an influential person?

    I must say after everything we have done I am thankful for this process. I was able to learn about not just my great uncle but also many other ancestors who worked hard and struggled to survive in this country. Although I had limited information on people such as my great grandfather, the stories I did find on him were incredible! Some of those stories made me realize how lucky I am and that without their courage and sacrifice I might not be where I am today. So overall I would say this class was highly beneficial to my learning experience here at Regis. As a business student who is used to learning similar concepts in all my classes I got the opportunity to do something totally different. I didn’t think I would be able to come up with a good story for the performance but with the helpful and creative mind of Daniel Valdez we turned a story from Uncle Jim’s past into a powerful and inspiring performance. Although this will probably be the end to my acting career I truly enjoyed the process we went through to develop these stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan it would wonderful to meet you and work with you. And I was proud that you came through in end. Your story was moving and special. May you achieve great success in the future. It my pleasure to have a hand in your personal discovery of family. Stay true to yourself

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Before the course started I had assumed we would be tackling social justice issues in the wider community outside of the classroom. I had no idea our big project would turn the mirror on us and our families. While unsure at first, the process brought me understanding of a new kind of inquiry. And, as was oft heard throughout our work together and certainly after our performance, I have come to appreciate the process of collaborative theatre that we all put blind ‘faith’ in.

    During our first meeting I remember Nick sharing his passion for social justice, advocacy, and activism as we tried to get to know one another. He said it was work he loved but it was hard work, and he was looking forward to approaching similar work with a process that seemed to hold more rejuvinating promise through creative work rather than oppositional work. Sharing a similar passion for community I was left perplexed at the thought of our work together on Origins. Indeed this devising theatre process has been a radically different approach to community building and academics than I have experienced before.

    Reading about the history of devising performance and the under-resourced yet elaborate shows that community theatre groups pulled off was inspiring. Although I wasn’t sure at first how this would relate to us I came to see it was connected with our workshops in class and creative strategies suggested by other authors and Janna Goodwin. I remember being at a loss for family material to work with when Janna told us that one could sit down and just start writing poetry and see where it takes our stories.

    At 2am one night, after perusing over my notes and trying to connect dots for an epic family story, I decided to just start writing about my grandpa based on a conversation with my mother. He passed before I was born and I don’t know much about his life so I started to create my vision of him. As Courtney talked about the discouragement she experienced in her process and working from the mystery surrounding her great grandma, I worked from a similar feeling and determined to uncloud the mystery I had created in my own head around people in my family.

    After this spark I have told many of my friends about my Grandpa Bill and his accomplishments along with his struggles. Moving forward I will continue to learn more about my ancestors and roots in Ireland and Germany where I feel there are many stories I need to unearth, just as this project has inspired classmates and their family members to seek out more stories. Not to mention I have grown closer to my fellow students in this class and hope to share more memories with them and create stories we can call our own.

    While I don’t believe in many objective truths, this project solidified a belief that to tell stories is to honor the past. And by not forgetting the past, we serve justice to all those before and after us. As well we learn in community and forge stronger ties to those we share stories with. My individual process, as I as filled in gaps in my mother’s story to create more vivid imagery for the audience, reminds me of a qoute from The Things They Carried, a wartime novel by Tim O’Brien. It surely relates to others creative process and our overall performance of intertwined stories as well. He said “story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.” The process of devised theatre brought me to a more concrete understanding of this notion. When we fill in gaps in a story we were told, when we create totally new events whether by creative agency or a flawed memory, when we imagine someone we never knew or knew very well, all these ideas can be as true as the real-time events in a day. Maybe they are not true for the individual at that time. But they can be as real as yesterday in our minds, they can move an audience to authentic emotion, spark a memory for someone else to tell a story, inspire action in a community and build relationships in a class.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jack it was wonderful to meet you and get to know you through your story. It was an incredible experience to get to know you all. Go forth and change the world. Stay focused!

    Liked by 1 person

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