It has taken me a couple of weeks to get my reflections together on this. But to start, big thanks to everyone who gave of their time for this exercise, to Trinity Centre for providing the space and Debs Weinreb for taking photographs.
Rather than copy and paste my session plan I’ll summarise the core components and indicate the potential alternatives I’d try in the future.
First up, and after all-round introductions, and a summary of my aims, I gave out post-it notes and pens. I cited the quote: “When I shut my eyes I can be any age I want” and asked participants to do the same. Then to jot down that age. I collected these in an envelope. They then did the same with things they really loved and things that made them angry. I put these aside. Regrettably no time left at the end of the session to take these out and discuss them.
I then introduced the group to recent perceptions on ageing: the notion of “Age Queer” and “Post-Age” (principally taken from Ashton Applewhite’s “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto against Ageism”.
(Alternative 1: use these three “data sets” in the main drama situation. Alternative 2: More discussion!)
I then set up a “Mapping a Life course” exercise, splitting people off into pairs. They were to chose an imaginary person and, using the surfaces and spaces in the hall, to take it in turns to describe key places, events and life course transitions in their chosen persons’s life. This took up too much time – as it did the previous evening when I’d trialled this with South West Players Company. Getting the group back together I asked for brief summaries from everyone.
(Alternatives: Put a 15 minute time limit on this or 5+ minutes for each person. Ask for volunteer demonstration. Swap partners and ‘hot seat’ each other. Then ask the whole group to ‘hot seat’ volunteer individuals).
I then put a number of random artefacts in the middle of the circle of our circle and asked participants to chose one that had an automatic appeal. Some eloquent and deeply felt responses but participants reverted back to their real selves.
(Alternative: the artefact needs to be introduced before mapping the life course exercise, bolted on to the character they have created and woven into their narrative).
The remainder of the participants would be the personnel of an international pharmaceutical company, meeting with and interviewing each participant to find the right volunteers. The prospect of a week’s stay in a luxury health spa for the duration of the trial was added as a further inducement. This team were acquainted with the purpose of the potential drug: to cut off long-term memory but to afford a few weeks short-term memory with the day-to-day stability it might offer in later life.
I gave the potential volunteers different attitudes to their own age to adopt, these including “Age Queer” and “Post Age”.
(Alternative: Totally wrong stage of the workshop to introduce these. Should have been established and shared amongst participants during the initial discussion.)
Inevitably this scenario over ran! Much integrity from most of the participants in terms of sustaining their characters throughout. When we had literally run out of time the potential volunteers were informed about the nature of the drug to be trialled. More than frustrating as participants responded vociferously just as we had to vacate the hall.
To refine and develop this workshop and trial it with drama / theatre students. One option is for a keen student to facilitate given adequate briefing. Plans to approach the university drama / theatre departments, interns at Bristol’s theatres, local colleges and drama groups.