ResidenciesWhen in residence at a university, the process of writing and producing history-based plays becomes a vehicle for an interdisciplinary educational experience. These residencies are a means for theater students to look beyond the footlights to the world from which their art emanates, whether it be the community where the school is based, or some country whose history and circumstance inspires art. Because the plays created are research driven, they provide opportunities for students from other areas of study to engage in the process of theater. More often than not, the plays created lead to even further intellectual pursuits such as oral history collections, seminars, guest artists, cultural exchanges, and study abroad opportunities. When the subject matter for the plays are in close proximity to the college or university, the residency can leave a lasting legacy in the community that promotes cultural tourism. Through the inherently public nature of theater, the plays help generate publicity for the school. Because their subject matter is most often recognizable and addresses specific interest groups, the plays tend to generate resources for the school as well. Residencies are often executed through World Communities Theater Company which brings a broader array of intellectual resources to the school. The following describes three such residencies that differ in scope, duration, and form: Ongoing Employment at Georgia Southwestern State University, Writer in Residence at the University of South Pacific, and Guest Artist at Fairmont State University.

Ongoing Employment at Georgia Southwestern State University

At Georgia Southwestern, the college that President Jimmy Carter first attended and from which Rosalynn Carter graduated, the eight-year residency produced two international and four regional plays, all fully produced to audiences beyond the university. The execution of the work brought in guest artists from Bulgaria, Cambodia, and Ghana, as well as noted theater professionals from Atlanta, New York, and Seattle. The residency generated more than $400,000 in grants and capital improvements for the school. The research for, and production of, the plays produced a series of related activities as described HERE.

Guest Artist at Fairmont State University

Fairmont State University in West Virginia, a one-semester guest artist program was implemented through two workshop periods. This residency included a full-semester course in playwriting and the development of an original play of regional significance. For related activities, click HERE.

Writer in Residence at the University of South Pacific

Located in Suva, Fiji, the residency was accomplished through two, three-week visits one year apart. This allowed for the creation and implementation of a series of plays performed at an area diabetes clinic, the viewings of which were clinically shown to help the country’s diabetes epidemic. The effort was funded by the International Diabetes Federation. A class in a unique form of playwriting was offered at the university, and work was begun on a play about the Girmit in Fiji. A series of lectures was offered to students and the public on the creation of non-fiction theater and how to use it as a tool for articulating a native form of cultural tourism. For a complete description of the residency, click HERE.

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Chaos Theory

Instruction in creative writing has gone viral with a proliferation of MFA programs. Workshops on the Chaos Theory of writing cut through all the discourse to get to the essence of what all creative writing is about: embracing and then managing the messiness of producing something from nothing.

Chaos TheoryMost non-professional attempts at writing make the same mistakes: they try to start at the ending, initially forcing prose or dialogue that they believe should be a finished product, only to be disappointed in the inevitable shortcomings of the work. Chaos Theory places a primary focus on the random collection of ideas, which are eventually organized and sculpted into drafts that are rewritten over and over again, using each manifestation of the work as a means toward the final one. It is analogous to clay sculpting, whereby prior to shaping anything, you must first have globs of moist mess to wrap your hands around and begin to give form.

If there is a line of demarcation between those who write and those who wish to, it is that writers can navigate the messiness of the process, which is largely an instinct developed through engagement. The other essential attribute of a successful writer is the ability to manage feedback to his or her advantage. Workshops in Chaos Theory focus on the development of both of these skills.