This past weekend, IB Theatre students from ISB took part in the Theatre Arts Programme Symposium (or TAPS for short) in central London, to help accelerate their learning and prepare them for the IB. A weekend more packed than the stalls at The National Theatre, the organisers of the event once again provided our students with an unforgettable experience.
We began our trip on Sunday by watching two shows which we hoped would energise the students and ignite their creative drives for the upcoming event. Starting out with Cirque Eloize's Saloon was exactly what we needed. Gun-slingin' acrobatics, hilariously silly sketches and imaginative technical elements for an hour and half, and things certainly kicked off for us.
Then we headed over to the Arts Theatre, curious to find out if The Toxic Avenger would be any good. A rock-opera based on a notoriously dodgy 1984 film of the same name, we really hoped it wouldn't be a (toxic) waste of time.
Lucky for all, it was a huge success. We laughed so hard, sang along to the songs and reveled in the fun that the indie playhouse had put together. To top it all off, while getting ready to leave, we were surprised by an opportunity to meet the actors as they came outside. They signed shirts, answered questions and made the whole evening even better.
So day one had been amazing and now everyone was super psyched as the festival started in earnest. TAPS is essential to the success of our IB Theatre programme at ISB. It offers students an immersive event, acting as a fantastic resource for further explorations of the course back in school. Engaging each and every participant with the philosophy of the programme, its core components and the required assessment tasks, students mix with other schools and work alongside professional artists and directors on creative tasks and exercises. It provides our students with the tools and strategies required for managing their own learning in theatre, stuff they use throughout the rest of the course.
On top of all of that, ISTA handpicks two of the best shows London is presenting, providing us with a chance to see work collectively and then reflect on it critically. This year we saw two quite different, but definitely thought-provoking pieces in the form of Simon Stephens version of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, and Jane Eyre at The National Theatre.
The Seagull was a challenging three hours for our students overall, as the doomed characters painfully destroyed each others lives, but the piece offered us an abundance of ways to critically engage with it; from the actors' sometimes strange delivery, to questions about the directors intention, to the striking visuals of the set and staging.
Jane Eyre meanwhile was a bang-up-to-date portrayal of another timeless classic. "A picture of exultant feminism", the piece enthralled us all with gorgeous, unexpected visuals, modern music provided by cool, live band, and a powerful delivery from the ten deviser-performers.
Thus, in the evenings we sat back and opened our minds to some wonderful theatre, and in the day the students made it...
Our ISB students were divided up into mixed groups with students from fifteen other international schools from around the world, and each ensemble worked alongside an artist leader who guided them through the creative tasks. They made comedy inspired by Commedia dell'arte, site-specific immersive theatre, devised and directed, reflected and reviewed. On top of all of this they were incredibly fortunate to have two masterclasses, one with Will Kerley on the art of directing; and one delivered by Made Pujawati on the Balinese artform of Kecak theatre.
It's difficult to sum up all of the learning that takes place at an event like this. As well as the myriad of skills that students develop which relate to their course in the IB, there are huge leaps of personal development too; as the students take risks, explore new ideas, travel away from home, bond with strangers. The events that ISTA organise (both for our HS and MS students) fully embody the goals and pedagogy of ISB, and we are all incredibly lucky to have these kind of opportunities.
So, as the year goes on, the memories of our time spent at TAPS will keep us energised and inspired through those cold winter months and beyond.