Risking Innovation Day 1: Directing, Debuting and Intelligencing

Well, after my 24 hours of crazy hunger, elevator riding and luggage pulling, I finally made it back to the actual conference in one piece, registered and got me all settled.

I squeezed in two sessions which I will now mis-name because my huge conference booklet (it would be more apt to call it, instead, a medium-sized text book) is up in my dorm room and I’m not trudging all the way up to get it.  My photo uploader is there too so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for photos.  Oh, yes, I’m the geek with the huge camera who’s taking photos of random things.

Let’s see…

The Directer/Choreographer Relationship in a Non-Musical. I dropped in on this one unexpectedly since I skipped out on my original choice which I found it highly uninteresting.  This one, it turned out, was significantly more interesting.  Three Director/Choreographer pairs presented slides and videos of their work that used movement or dance in a non-musical and discussed how a Choreographer and Director relationship might work in such a situation.

The moderator and lead presenter was non-other than the woman I’ve been contacting via email about grad school next year!  Score!  I made sure to ask a couple questions (which was easy since it was a very interesting topic and they were genuine questions) and then said hello afterward.

All three pairs did a good job discussing their process and collaboration.  If you know my work, you know that I love incorporating movement and usually do so even when it’s not called for in the script.  I’ve never worked with a choreographer to create it, so now I’m inspired to do so in a future project.  I love to collaborate with designers so I imagine it can only be beneficial and exciting to have yet another artist with which to throw ideas around.

AATE New Guard Network Debut Panel. To be honest, I’m not sure why they’re called “New Guard” but they were all young professionals who have not presented at this conference before.  Four very interesting talks about their scholarly work:

  • the first uses video and sound media to work with children in a hospital who create their own stories about their lives.  This was really interesting and clearly beneficial but it was never made clear what his has to do with theatre.
  • the second discussed the uses of Facebook by middle and junior high students and how that intersects with theatre.  His general conclusion was that since there is no proof that social media is bad for students and there is proof that it actually increases real life social interactions within the community, then he figures he’ll go with the flow.  What he didn’t say, is how he actually uses facebook with the kids.  That’s what I was really interested in.
  • the third was a fantastically articulate and well-spoken young woman from Chicago who has been spear-heading, along with her colleague, a city-wide program to promote dialogue, integration and innovation among the disparate arts education groups in the city.  I’m envious of her ability to articulate her agenda; she has garnered dozens of high-profile advisory board members and is beginning to get actual funding, all in under a year.
  • the fourth speaker read her article concerning love in theatre: not the acting of love or telling of love, but the love from which stems the heart of a teacher who teaches applied theatre.  I will be reading up on P. Friere as a result; I’m unfamiliar with the author.

Keynote Speaker: Howard Gardner.  I have to admit, this is what initially drew me to this conference.  I grew up with his ideas of intelligence.  Many similar ideas were integrated into the curriculums of the alternative learning schools I grew up attending.  I became even more interested when directing Electra last year.  I, for the first time, realized that I had an actress who was far more cerebral than I and I needed to learn to work within her style of learning rather than shove mine on top of hers.  I started to experiment with new ways of communicating ideas so she could comprehend them more fully.  After a time, it worked.  I began to wonder if anyone had really experimented with using the Multiple Intelligences Theory to teach acting and if it might just make the inside/outside acting debate entirely obscure.  However, I have found his books hard to understand so getting to hear it straight from the source proved to be too much of a draw to stay away.

He was an excellent speaker and held my attention easily.  He gave us a quick run-down of the history of measuring intelligence (IQ and standardized testing),  and defined Intelligence:  A potential to process information a certain way that is of value to a certain culture.  Wow, far more open-ended than I thought.

He rain down the list of intelligences, with an example for each.  At the start of the list are linguistic and logical/mathical which is, Mr. Gardner says, what Western education and intelligence is measure on so “as long as you stay in school, you’ll think you’re smart.”  Did I mention that his excellent speaking also included a very fine sense of humor?

I think the hardest part for the audience to hear came with the heading Do Arts Make You Smarter?  Because the scientific answer is “no.”  It’s exactly what the Wallace Foundation published in 2006 (this reference is from me, not Mr. Gardner).  There a plenty of intrinsic values that we all can find through anecdotal evidence and see through simple observation, but the research clearly indicates that there is no evidence that doing music will make you better at math.  This is because the research itself is inherently flawed.  Mr. Gardner posits that they are measuring the wrong end-point.  Of course music won’t make you better at math, but it will make you more aware of listening, feeling, and finding rhythms which make you a whole person.  And then he gave us the good news, he has a colleague who is being published later this year who has done research into Theatre and Empathy in children ages 8 to teen.  And the evidence is in..doing theatre makes children understand empathy!  We will finally have some proof as to what we all know.  So, Mr. Gardner continued, the idea is not to attempt to apply the arts to subjects and measure their affect, but discover what it is that the arts actually do and then find applicable ways to use those findings to create whole people.

His final message, though, was the most important, “I could care less what intelligences you use as long as you get to do what you want to do.”

And, then, of course, he pitched his next book.  And, yes, I went and shook his hand.  I hate doing stuff like that but my mom would have been very disappointed since she likes to remind me that he came and observed us at our alternative-learning school and then gave a talk in which he used me as an example as a specific intelligence.  He was very uninterested in my childhood story even though he took a prominent part.  Alas.

And so ends day one.

Stay tuned for day two and some pics.

One thought on “Risking Innovation Day 1: Directing, Debuting and Intelligencing

  1. Thanks for the great summary of Gardner’s talk – I’m glad to hear he’s as interesting as ever. A line of his that I love and I use in my classes often is: It isn’t Are you Smart? it’s How are you Smart? I look forward to hearing about his new book – and reading it eventually — I wonder if it will be more accessible?

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