Behind the Scenes

Curious about what it takes to make A PORTAL INTO THE INVISIBLE go from concept to stage with five teens? Read on for behind the scenes photos and a informal (g)chat marketing coordinator Naimonu James had with Director of Arts Education Helen Jaksch about vulnerability, stepping into the unknown, and showing up for youth. A PORTAL TO THE INVISIBLE will be performed February 3, 2017 at Gernon Brown Community Center 1001 Harrison Avenue at 7PM! Refreshments will be served. RSVP HERE!

-GChat Wednesday, January 25, 2017 1:07 PM-
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Helen Jaksch
 Ready whenever you are!
Naimonu James
 are u there?
Helen Jaksch
 I’ve got about 20-30 minutes. Will that be enough time?
Naimonu James
 yes for sure!
sorry to be tardy
Helen Jaksch
 No worries!
Naimonu James
okay, first things first how are you?
Helen Jaksch
 Feeling a little stressed and hectic today, tbh. Some days it all feels like everything piles up!
Naimonu James
omg ya 😕
ugh gchat emoticons
anyways this convo is about ur amazing work with NORDC/Our Stories/ #BadLlamaMilk ensemble
can you describe the program?
Helen Jaksch
 Sure! It’s a devising theatre workshop, which means we don’t start with a script. We create everything–characters, plot, story–from scratch!
We also incorporated documentary theatre techniques where participants interviewed their friends and family members about important trips and moments when they felt really scared. We used images, stories, and text from those interviews in the play.
We had lots of brainstorming and free-writing sessions too! The ensemble’s imagination is really the driving force of this workshop. We called it {Our Stories} because we wanted to make space for them to tell whatever story they wanted.
Naimonu James
 is it daunting to start a theatre workshop for teens with no script?
are they into it? or is it a little intimidating to them?
Helen Jaksch
I think it’s a little intimidating for everyone!
Naimonu James
 how do you work from that space of intimidation? do you have activities or?
Helen Jaksch
Stepping into the unknown (which often means embracing failure and looking silly and trying lots things before you find the right choice) can be really hard…
I do a few things…
(I’m also realizing I like ellipses lol)
I make sure to model the kind of bravery and boldness I’d like to see in the ensemble members. I give myself permission to be my goofiest self and I always own when I make a mistake and show them that it’s not a big deal.
We do warm-ups everyday that include making weird sounds with our voices and moving around the space as creatures made of water or bubble gum or melting ice cream
Naimonu James
 ohhhh
my immediate thought/question is ‘how do *you* get into that space as an educator?’
modeling fearlessness and vulnerability seems easier said than done you know?
Helen Jaksch
Totally! I think it helps that I never thought of myself as a ‘cool kid’ growing up. I was a total weirdo…like, I collected rocks and made up stories with whatever objects happened to be lying around (pens, salt and pepper shakers), and made (this is a true story) made powerpoints to the lyrics of musicals.
Naimonu James
lolllllll
Helen Jaksch
 I think the best way I get into the right headspace is to get out of my head actually
Naimonu James
 (and amazing!)
Helen Jaksch
 To be present with the students, to feed off of their energy and needs and wants
The more real I can be about who I am, the more they respond and share themselves
I don’t know if I answered the question lol

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Naimonu James
 wow, that’s really great to hear
being clear about your position/context and being forthright and honest…cool! thank you
okay time check, how are we doing?
you gotta go?
Helen Jaksch
Still good! James is picking me up so I can take the car to the meeting but no text yet!
Naimonu James
okay!
what have been some highlights of the workshop so far?
Helen Jaksch
There’s so many!
Um, that first day I asked the ensemble to bring their favorite story and I was blown away by their choices and their bravery and vulnerability in sharing them with people they didn’t know very well. It was a good sign for the rest of workshop
I also loved hearing their first interviews! If these ensemble members don’t go into theatre (which they totally should), they all have a future in journalism.
We started staging the play this week and there’s this slow-motion choreography moment that they are creating. It was a joy to watch them spitball ideas and support each other and come up with something that looks SUPER COOL
I could go on and on lol
Naimonu James
that’s a good sign! can you tell me more about the dynamic in the room? why is it going so well?
Helen Jaksch
They are a very energetic and enthusiastic bunch!
We share the space with a Zumba class on the other side of our theatre wall for the first 30 minutes of the class and they love singing and dancing along
They already do a good job of listening to each other, but I think a big part of my job as the Teaching Artist is to ensure everyone has an equal say. And I’m a natural includer, so I’m always asking someone who’s been quiet to share something or making sure we don’t talk over each other.
I think it’s going well too because “Having Fun” is one of agreed upon rules. Fun and joy have to be central. As my high-school theatre teacher said, “If you ain’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
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Naimonu James
 thanks for sharing! anything else you want to share? i always like to ask folks if there’s a question they’d like to answer?
Helen Jaksch
 I’ve had people ask me, do you think young people can be artists, as though there’s an age-limit or training threshold you have to pass before you can create or make or do. I’m excited to offer programs like this bc I really do believe that young people can be and are artists. I helped structure and guide the play you’ll see next week, but the characters, words, scenarios, and lots of the staging is all from ensemble. If these students can create this in a month, imagine what else they can make!
Naimonu James
 excellent!!
thanks helen!
Helen Jaksch
Thank YOU!
PS-tried like
to incorporate a GIF into this, but alas, I failed lol
Naimonu James
gifs 5ever!
this was great ty!