Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Maggi Phillips

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Andrew Lewis

Abstract

My Worst Ever Night at the Best School Ball Ever (School Ball) is a new play for teenage audiences. The action takes place on the night of a ball for final year students. A prank with a goat goes horribly wrong, a photo of a girl pissing in a pot plant is widely circulated, and everyone finds out about the boy in a sexual relationship with a teacher. At the heart of the play are teenagers, armed with mobile phones, trying to find their way in a contradictory and confusing world.

The creative development of School Ball centred on practice-based artistic research into the field of theatre for young audiences (TYA) through my practice as a director. The research question was: how to produce taboo theatre for teenagers?

School Ball was conceived as a production that would tour to schools. The school ball concept was popular with teachers, parents and theatre company board members but I encountered strong resistance to the story of a male student in a sexual relationship with a female teacher. Even though such relationships were being reported weekly in the media, the content was perceived to be taboo for young audiences. Developing School Ball investigated the complex relationships between TYA and the education system, as well as artistic and production strategies to navigate School Ball past school gatekeepers and reach its target audience.

Young people are at the centre of the research practice, participating in workshops, collaborating with artists, and responding to the work. Their involvement helped make School Ball accurately reflect adolescent experiences, such as the centrality of text messaging – another taboo in the school environment.

Australian TYA is considered to be at the forefront of international practice: innovative in creative process and theatrical form, imaginative and daring in content. But TYA practice is neither homogenous nor self-contained. In artistic practice, means of production and competition for audiences, TYA intersects with Theatre in Education (TIE), Young People’s Theatre (YPT), drama education, adult and commercial theatre. Part of the research aimed to understand the TYA landscape and the place of School Ball within it.

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