The First Scottish International Child
LISTINGS: THEATRE 62 CABARET 65 DANCE 66
ren’s Festival plus Oxygen House and AMICI
Cat among the Pigeons
Andrew Burnet has a transatlantic talk with Jim Mirrione, founder member of the hard-hitting Creative Arts Team, tackling teenage troubles in the theatre.
Among the impressive range of performance groups visiting Edinburgh for the first Scottish International Children‘s Festival is the Creative Arts Team from New York. With work geared to the over-twelves, the company is remarkable among American young people‘s companies for tackling serious issues in a direct and uncompromising way. The two shows they bring to Edinburgh are Home Court, which deals with drug abuse, and The Divider, about racism.
The author of both plays, CAT‘S co-fOunder and resident playwright Jim Mirrione, is convinced that they will appeal directly to a youthful Scottish audience. ‘Even I was surprised to find out that Edinburgh has a serious drugs problem,‘ he admits over the phone from Seattle, Washington, where he‘s risen at 6am to talk to me. ‘But the race problem is endemic to all societies. There won‘t be any changes at all made to the material — it‘ll translate very directly.‘
CAT‘S origins date back to 1974, when
Mirrione and Linda Zimmerman — now the I company‘s executive director — attended a course I
in Theatre In Education at Bretton Hall College in England. On their return, they set up a ‘student education company’ among graduate students at New York University, where CAT is still based.
‘Our work is designed to get beyond the usual fare that‘s thought ofwhen you have theatre for young people, which is usually escapist in the United States,‘ says Mirrione. ‘The idea is to use theatre as a view of socral change as well as an education and entertainment vehicle.‘ So how do they approach the task?
‘I spend a lot of time in schools, picking up the jargon, and I do research from papers, magazines and authorities on the subject. We have to present the material in such a way as to engage the students, which we do in two ways. The first is the nature ofthe content. which I think is compelling enough to keep them interested. The second part is that because we‘re a student education company we always have a workshops after the play is over, where the students get to challenge the characters about the choices they make. The actor/teachers remain in character,
' deals with a social issue or a harder issue they‘re pretty amazed too, I think because they find
serious problems at the same time, someone has to have worked out a pretty good formula.
; Creative Arts Team appear at the Scottish
‘ International Children ’3 Festival, Tue 29—Sat2.
and it‘s their job to provoke them back in a way. It‘s very much designed to stimulate discussion and have the students articulate their own views. If there is any moral to the story, they‘re going to provide it, not us. I think that‘s the important thing.’
According to Mirrione, the response is normally very positive, occasionally helping to unlock very serious problems. ‘We did a play a couple of years ago,‘ he recalls, ‘called [Never ToldAnybody, which dealt with child abuse. That was pretty hard-hitting, because students would stand up in the talkback session and reveal that they themselves were victims of child abuse. We always try to direct the student to someone who can help, but that‘s a pretty strong example of how the material does provoke different kinds of responses. In the case of Home Court yesterday, we had students who had gone through drug rehab programmes. We didn‘t know that, but they stood up and said that what they‘d seen onstage had reminded them ofwhat they‘d been through. It‘s very encouraging to see people making that connection.‘ .
The adult reaction is also healthy. ‘See, I don‘t think most adults understand this kind of material,’ explains Mirrione. ‘For them theatre is escapist as well, and when they see a play that
themselves engaged by the drama as well. I‘ve had some very good comments, especially from teachers.‘
When you‘re pleasing teenagers, their parents and their teachers all in one go, and dealing with
See K ids listings for further details.
Terrns such as ‘the disabled’ or ‘those eighties.
lived in London for many years, Stange was instrumental in starting and popularising the dance therapy movement in Britain. His first and most influential tutor was the Viennese dance artist Hilde Holger, one of the few survivors oi Central Europe’s Expressionist school and now in her
A somewhat lighter start to the evening is provided by Nigel Warraclr’s Memories, which looks at the mythology of the monkey in various cultures. Mercurius boats strong individual performances from some oi AMICI's most gifted dancers. to previous years, it has been Stange's Downs Syndrome students - Chris
with teaming ditticulties' are redundant to Wolfgang Stange in his ground-breaking wortr with the integrated dance theatre company, AMICI. ‘People possess different abilities,’ insists Stange, “whether or not they're blind, disabled, able-bodied or have learning difficulties.’
The first group of its kind, AMICI was tamed by dance therapist and teacher Stange in 1980. A Berliner who has
At Glasgow's Tramway Theatre, AMICI will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a double bill oi new works featuring the entire 35-strong company. Stange’s Passage to Sanity?, set to Haydn’s Drum Mass, is based on the experiences of Silvie Richardson, a 43 year-old manic depressive whose illness causes exreme mood swings. Although she is portrayed by Chrissie Kugele, a longstanding, blind member of AMICI,
Richardson has been closely involved in the creation of a dance theatre performance which explores both the mad ecstasy and despair other condition and the invaluable love and support offered by friends and family.
Collins and Kevin Pylre in particular— who have demonstrated exceptional talent. As Stange points out, ‘AMICI doesn't exist for the able-bodied performers to help those with disabilities, but society's acceptance and expectations of people who are in some way ‘difterent' continues to pose an enormous challenge for the Company'. (Sophie Constanti)
AMICI Dance Theatre Company, Tramway, Glasgow, Sun 27 May.
The List 18—31 May 199059