Speak Out Tour – Wrap Up
It felt like the season went on forever, it was fantastic. I think it’s because we had such an intense two weeks in the country, the metro performances feel like they were just part of second nature. Like we completed the project after the first two weeks, and then have been having recurring dreams about it since.
In the last two weeks we did 14 performances for Woodville High School, Kapunda High School, Valley View Secondary School, Seaton High School, Secondary School of English, Cabra College, Seaview High School and a VIP performance at Carclew. Which is a pretty diverse range of schools in the metropolitan area, so it was a really interesting couple of weeks. In the final two weeks I think we had both the toughest and the ‘bestest’ shows so far.
One of the hardest things about working an admin role is that, especially in the case of ActNow, you can often be writing about or working on a show geographically removed. It’s been my lament during the tour that I’ve been unable to get out and see the shows regionally (and spend a few nights on the houseboat). In fact, despite being involved with the project since it’s conception in 2011, and then it’s reinvention earlier this year, it wasn’t until the metro shows in the last week of the tour I was actually able to see Speak Out as it has always been intended- with a school audience.
I found it fascinating to say the least. I’ve seen Speak Out performed at a conference for teachers, and in front of our VIP audience, but to see it with high school students (I watched 3 performances at Seaton High) was something else entirely.
I think the thing I became most aware of, and certainly became more aware of in myself, is the way policies and procedures become ingrained in us as we get older. Watching teachers and adult audiences respond to the scenarios presented in Speak Out is always incredibly verbal, theoretical and procedural. Obviously this is because teachers are guided and trained to work to a framework both within the education department and within each individual school, but even amongst the VIP audience with was clear.
With the schools audience, they were incredibly quick to identify what was wrong, but the solutions weren’t so quick to come. There was none of the ingrained procedure I had observed with older audiences, and think that’s both really fascinating and a wonderful example of how important Speak Out is. Quite often in life we are presented with scenarios that are difficult, like homophobia, and we’ll know the correct things to do, but might find it difficult. Even more difficult is seeing something we don’t know how to deal with, and Speak Out presents these scenarios in an environment where solutions can be worked out safely.
I also found myself in awe of the actors and of Eddie. Watching the show 3 times in one day was completely draining. The concentration alone wiped me out, and I wasn’t even on the floor moving. The three shows were dramatically different from group to group, but all of the responses were met by the actors with concentration, commitment and respect for the idea or solution presented by the student.
As hard as the team work, it’s the students that make this show what it is, and seeing what they get out of it is incredible. Seeing the project again only made me more keen to continue seeing it. I really hope this project; or at least projects like it; continue to have a life beyond 2013.
You can view more photos from out VIP performance here.
We’re starting to really flesh out some of the more complex elements of the interventions. I was so worried about it working in the regional areas, that I thought any kind of positive intervention was good. Since then, I’ve been challenging the audience to work harder. I’ve been particularly interested in one of the moments; when Michael (the gay protagonist) asks his old friend Ollie if he wants to go to a movie with him, and Ollie says he doesn’t because he doesn’t want to seen in public with Michael. We used to get a lot of interventions to change Ollie, and just accept the offer of the tickets. But I’ve been unpacking it with the audience more to discuss why Ollie doesn’t want to go to the movie (normally they say things like he doesn’t want to be seen as being gay / he’s worried Jack will bully him / he’s not sure if Michael is going to hit on him etc), and getting the audience to not forget those aspects, but try to come up with a solution to Ollie’s problems while still supporting Michael. We’ve had some really interesting interventions since. A lot of them have been around Ollie clarifying with Michael that it’s not a date, or Ollie asking for Ruby to come with them so that it’s a group of friends. But I think we had out best intervention at a VIP Performance on Thursday with a group of adults. When unpacking the moment, one of the audience members mentioned that maybe the reason Ollie didn’t want to go to the movies with Michael was that Ollie was hurt that his friend of so long had been hiding a secret from him and just was simply shocked when Michael came out. So one of the audience came up to replace Ollie and started the intervention with something like (I’m paraphrasing) “look man, I’m really dissapointed that you didn’t tell me about being gay earlier, I thought we were friends”. It was really interesting the dialogue that ensued and the conversation with the audience afterwards. I’ve really enjoyed being able to constantly find new things in the performance like that.
We’ve had overwhelming enthusiasm and positivity from the audiences and schools. A couple of students have contacted afterwards thanking us for the performance and saying it’s helped them in their journey in coming out. Many more have contacted us to say how important is is for the show to come to their school, and from initial look at the evaluation it’s had a widespread impact on students ability to identify and respond to homophobia. It feels like we’ve created an amazing “safe space”, and left a really positive imprint on our audiences. For some audience members it may be something that they remember for the rest of their lives. I’m pretty proud of the show. I’m pretty amazed by the audience, and in awe of the actors that I’ve been involved in. I’m really glad that ActNow is tackling challenging contemporary issues and presenting them in innovative and engaging ways. A big thanks to the 2,056 audience members, including 186 teachers, the hundreds of interventions and 26 students who played the character of Ollie, for coming along, getting involved and doing awesome things.