In creating this infographic, I decided to have fun with it and branch away a little from Hamilton while using a relevant topic. I would argue that Hamilton is devised theater because it was a collaborative work done by multiple artists, involved thorough research, and included various workshops and projects such as ‘The Hamilton Mixtape’ that ultimately became the Broadway show we know and love today. Devised theatre was one of the first kinds of theatre I got involved in. At first I didn’t quite understand it until I went on to study theatre in my collegiate career. The UWM Theatre program uses devising every year in their theatre seasons and teaches it as per the curricula in Play Analysis class. I learned to appreciate devising by working with the theatre faculty. I was careful in my selection of the topic, and I think it worked in my favor.
First of all, every element of this infographic contains information I learned from studying theatre here over the last three years. For instance, over this past year I’ve been studying Theatre History. We’ve been exploring the emergence of theatre as part of the world’s culture. One of the most important things I learned in my Beginnings through Realism class was the Commedia Dell’arte. What was so revolutionary about the Commedia was it’s roots in Greek theatre, arguably its birthplace since theatre began as a celebration of the Greek god Dionysus. Commedia used elements of Greek theatre with the art of masks in performance. For the Greeks, masks were a way of distinguishing character. The Greeks weren’t the only ones to use masks either. Mask theatre has its roots in Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and African theatre from the same period. Commedia also used theatrical practices that are still celebrated in modern culture today, such as use of improv and street performance, which gave birth to traveling theatre troupes.
I also got to explore my experience with Orphan Train, a devised theatre production I was involved in where I don’t think I’ve been more devoted to my craft. I received actor training from theatre makers internationally that I may not have gotten anywhere else. Being involved in this project immersed me in the history of the Orphan Train movement, which really opened up a conversation about whether or not children are people. Our country and culture, in my opinion, tends to not humanize children. We tend to objectify children in various ways and treat them as disposable. This is a lesson I want to take back with me when I start teaching; to consider the needs of my students and their development. The devising processes of Orphan Train are still going on, as well. We were giving a grant after the successful run of our show and the Undergraduate Research program has been attending conferences all across the country, promoting the research that has gone into the project.
I made a lot discoveries about myself making this. I hope that a non-theatre maker sees this and it peaks their interest. Devised theater is an incredible medium that defies convention, and should always be kept this way.