An inter-secondary school theatrical event
A cooperative, European project
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// CREATIVE TEACHING
Since its creation in 2005, U-structurenouvelle (contemporary theatre – Montpellier, France) has been in great demand to convey its art, favoured by the National Education, cultural structures, amateur companies and theatres.
Mathias Beyler and Stefan Delon (stage directors), convinced that dramatic art is inconceivable in practice without close and regular links with education, have developed their own practice, seeking to go beyond the usual framework of ‘artistic intervention’ to achieve authentic and creative work with the non-professional general public.
//////////////////////////////////////// THE STARTING POINT IS EASY : GET TOGETHER
The notion of group is key to U-structurenouvelle’s job to convey. Group awareness of any form is essential: relationships with others; individual and collective responsibility; autonomy; differentiation; cohesion; taking initiative.
It became clear that we could extend the notion of class group to several class groups: all it requires is that the pupils are working on the same project. So we are working with 3 secondary schools, Mathias Beyler had the idea of grouping them together to work on a joint text culminating in presenting a show to 60 pupils, in the different theatres partnering the project that we have called ‘La Mêlée.’
U-structurenouvelle’s initiative, the inter-secondary school project ‘La Mêlée,’ came to fruition in 2011-12 with Winter Funeral by Hanokh Levin. There was a second edition during the school year 2012-2013 (Peace by Aristophane) before definitively making the project biennial. We are currently working on the 3rd edition (2014/15) with Round Heads and Pointed Heads by Bertolt Brecht being staged by Stefan Delon.
The company works closely with Théâtre Jean Vilar – Ville de Montpellier’s education department, which organises the interface between the 3 secondary schools and the 3 theatres (Théâtre Jean Vilar – Ville de Montpellier, humainTROPhumain – Centre Dramatique National de Montpellier and Théâtre du Périscope in Nîmes).
The local authorities (the DRAC and the Languedoc-Roussillon region) support the project respectively through specific subsidies, and the City of Montpellier through providing services especially the education department of the Théâtre Jean Vilar.
The company appeals to other stage directors’ skills in drama teaching (i.e. Catherine Vasseur – 1057 Roses, or Denis Lanoy – Triptyk Théâtre).
————– AN INTER-SECONDARY SCHOOL THEATRICAL EVENT ————–
La Mêlée is produced both within and outside secondary school. Each group of pupils works on school hours in classrooms. Then all groups gather on a theatre stage for rehearsals in common during which parents accommodate, provide food for and support secondary school pupils from other towns, bringing a brotherly and friendly bond into being. This project needs to be supervised by professional artists and national education teachers. Stage directors Mathias Beyler & Stefan Delon provide the artistic coordination of the project in close collaboration with all partners (artists, teachers, theatres). La Mêlée has to be played in theatres, each the privileged partner of a secondary school.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// THE LEARNING OBJECTIVES
The learning objectives are incorporated in each of the secondary schools plans (optional subject and/or artistic workshop) enhanced by transversal objectives related to uniting the three groups around the same show:
– group cohesion, autonomy, taking initiative, openness to others and accepting differences
– noticeable learning from experience, trial and error, experimentation, humility when dealing with progressive instructions
Artistic objectives as a priority:
– stage adaptation of a text, constructing meaning through play, addressing the audience
– working together, working on individual and group stage presence without resorting to ‘theatrical resources’ (decor, costumes,…)
– to understand the specific features of theatrical language
– to discover a contemporary theatre script
– to discover and frequent cultural places, understand their missions and know their professions
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// A THEATRICAL EVENT
The notion ‘event’ is very appropriate when referring to ‘La Mêlée’ project. Indeed, the simple mystery surrounding the work of the other teams due to their geographical distance, the startling discovery of the work of the other pupils during the rehearsals in common, being forced to live together and managing strangers (those who « come from somewhere else », who are “different”, the “foreigners”), the shared use of the resources and time of all structures (artistic, cultural and educational), the artistic determination that all actors are on the stage all the time, despite not having a ‘main role,’ to share together and for the public, the togetherness, all this conveys the simple notion of « theatre play » and creates an intense artistic moment: a theatrical event. For the actors and all the protagonists, for the parents and the audience, that is how it happens. We have set our sights upon this event, for its foundational aspect, for the incredible joy that it procures. For what it says about theatre, once and for all.
————————– A COOPERATIVE, EUROPEAN PROJECT ——————–
Our project has been deemed as having a cooperative approach since the outset. The theatre company U-structurenouvelle is the designated operational cultural structure for the project ‘La Mêlée.’ It is also responsible for structuring and managing the financial package.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////// LA MELEE, A EUROPEAN PROJECT
Armed with experience, we are going to implement a Mêlée with a European dimension, in addition to the ‘regional’ Mêlée, with 3 secondary schools of different nationalities in 2017/18.
Based on a joint text putting European values or the notion of otherness into perspective and chosen by the company and the teachers (from each country), each of the 3 groups will work during regular sessions with an actor or a professional stage director from their country, then, at the end of the school year, all the secondary school pupils will meet for a week of sharing and to pull a show together with the U-structurenouvelle team. The resulting creation from this gathering will be the touring show presented in the 3 partner theatres.
After three creative events, we now know that this week together is a condition sine qua non of the project that introduces a spirit of competition and a more global understanding of the challenge for all those taking part. It is a time for attentiveness and modesty. This is a time to appreciate differences in approach and understanding the work, as well as the differences in age, education, culture, languages, ...
This is a key moment for the pupils because it engages them at the heart of a creative event involving many people and taking place in quasi-professional conditions. A European dimension is added here and the more pertinent question of otherness, that is, what differentiates us (separates us), but above all what brings us together!
The cooperative aspect, that is fundamental to the project, fulfils its meaning here by artistically and educationally laying the foundations of a unique human experience, not only through its international cultural dimension (languages/different histories, etc.), but also its collaborative aspect (organisation/cross-border management, etc.).
We strongly feel that this European dimension will benefit the pupils and structures alike, gaining added value from this project: educational resources; a reinforced European network; positive communication.