Playbuilding, Adolescent, Facilitator, Playwriting, Theatre
During the Fall 2007 semester, I facilitated the devising of a new play with students from a school located in St. Louis, Missouri. As an employee of a mid-America prominent regional theatre company, the organization partnering with the school on this project, I was hired as the teaching artist who oversaw the students' playwriting. Both the school and the regional theatre company hoped my being there would assist the girls in writing a play that connected to their Top 20 Teens curriculum as well as demonstrate the high standards that are expected of them by their school's administration. This is the second year that the school and the regional theatre company partnered on this project, and they discovered last year that the play's use of language and character development suffered due to hands off directing. Neither organization wanted this to happen again and decided that a facilitator needed to work with the girls throughout the entire playwriting process rather than allow the students free reign in hopes that they were challenged to make different decisions from last year's play. The school's student population stems from communities deemed economically disadvantaged, and my role in this project proved challenging due to the fact that I am not from the same population as the students. As a white, middle class female working in an inner city environment, I seem to be endowed with a modicum of perceived power, whether or not I agree with it or want it. In my experience, I have noticed a dynamic permeated by uneasiness due to past, and current, tensions between whites and other races. As a Caucasian entering an inner city environment, I felt like the obvious minority. Resulting from these situations, I assume the role of "other" when entering populations that differ from my own. In the case of the school, I felt my role as "other" increased due to working in an all-female environment with participants drawn from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. My role as "other" sparked the following questions for me: How do I facilitate this project as an "other," and how does this crucial, racial and socio-economic role affect the construction of my sessions with the participants? I was interested in documenting how I perceived this role relative to my participants and the partnering organization during my facilitation and in my conclusions after the project was completed. During my facilitation, I kept a journal that served as a self-action study during all of my sessions with the girls. The "in the moment" writings allowed me to capture those times when my role as "other" directly affected my approach to the facilitating of the playbuilding and the choices I made during the project. Afterward, I developed a conclusion section that was written a few months after the project had ended. I wanted to determine how my perception of "other" shifted, if at all, while I facilitated the project and after I had the time to reflect on the project. I discovered that my perception of "other" did change as I went through this project. During the study, I found myself aware of this shift, but noticed my awareness of power and privilege increased when I had time to reflect on the project months after it had ended. I discovered that I can be "other" in some instances while this role may not be apparent to my participants. My thesis documents how being "other" guided my choices as a facilitator, as well as when it did not seem to be the basis of my decision-making. From this study, I concluded that my being different racially and socio-economically led me to place an unnecessary filter over my work with the playbuilding project which caused me to have many challenges as a white teaching artist working in an inner city setting.
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Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Melnik, Laurie, "The Role Of Other:an Exploration Of A Facilitator's Role In Playbuilding With Economically Disadvantaged Adolescent Women" (2008). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3808.