After a busy start to this month with the premiere of Cerita Anak (Child’s Story), we’ve spent April busily planning for some very exciting projects and tours heading out across Australia and the world next month. We’re diving straight into the second stage of our Voice Lab pilot project – Voices of Children on Transition. As one of our newest projects, we spoke to Polyglot artist and Voice Lab’s project director, Lachlan, about how it works and the exciting future for Voice Lab!
We’ll be heading out in all directions to meet wonderful kids and their families in Adelaide and Pittsburgh in the USA for some amazing festivals. If you’re in one of these great cities, make sure you come along to say hello and create a planet of paper or build the city of your dreams with us!
Listening-in to Voice Lab
One of Polyglot’s newest projects, Voice Lab, is currently halfway through the first cycle of its pilot project Voices of Children on Transition with children in the Frankston North area, generously supported by Gandel Philanthropy.
In November 2016, Voice Lab talked to children from Banyan Fields Kinder, and the Grade 6’s at Mahogany Rise Primary School about their thoughts and feelings on transitioning to Primary and High School. Among the Kinder kids the general consensus was that they really enjoy Kinder and are looking forward to Primary School, with a few children concerned about not being able to read and write, and the potential lack of toys at Primary School. The Grade 6 kids enjoy Primary School because they like hanging out with their friends, however bullying was a key concern. The majority are looking forward to High School because of how much bigger it is and for the variety of subjects on offer.
Voice Lab is heading back to Frankston North in May to talk to the Banyan Fields Primary School Pre-Primary children, and the Monterey Secondary College Year 7’s, now that both groups have transitioned to ‘Big School’. Once this stage is complete the findings from the children’s thoughts on transition will be presented to the project partners, including Monash University, and used to inform the transition process for the next year and beyond.
We spoke with Polyglot artist and the Voice Lab Project Director, Lachlan MacLeod about his role on Voice Lab and where this exciting project is headed into the future.
What was your background on the Voice Lab project?
I started working on Voice Lab when Polyglot’s Artistic Director, Sue, brought me in to work on a creative development day with the PIPS (Polyglot Inspiring People’s Society). We spent the day playing and trying out lots of great new ideas. I was tasked with developing a space where kids could come in and answer some questions about life’s big topics. It was really rudimentary — just a normal camping tent that had a box inside it with a funnel covered in coloured ears that we had from a previous project. I sat outside the tent and ran the experience in full view. But golly did it work! We got some amazing responses from the kids during those first sessions; responses that we still use today when showing people what Voice Lab is all about. It has been incredible to see Voice Lab evolve from that box in a tent, to the magical space that it is now.
How does it work as a performer to ‘be’ Voice Lab? What are some of the challenges and highlights?
The role of the performer in Voice Lab is a really strange one. Unlike most other performative roles where you are in full view of the audience, in Voice Lab you are hidden away and may never actually see the person inside. Instead of connecting with your audience through eye contact and physical presence, you are connecting through your ability to listen, and to guide the journey of a conversation between Voice Lab and the participant. It can be challenging as a performer to not have that physical contact and not be able to read your audience’s physical cues. The space itself is also a tight squeeze for my tall frame so my main battle during the sessions is stopping my legs from falling asleep and not yelping when I get some crazy pins and needles! The highlights far outweigh any of the challenges though. Being able to facilitate a space where children can truly express themselves without judgement or mediation is a wonderful thing. Some of the things that you hear in that space can make you laugh, make you cry, and make you reaffirm your faith in the human race. Kids are truly amazing if you take the time to really listen to them. Some other highlights are just hearing the kids’ amazed reactions to the space itself, hearing them rolling around inside the soft interior, and hearing them crawling around exploring every inch of the space and hoping they don’t pop through the wall and discover me!
What do you hope that Voice Lab achieves and what are the dreams or ideas for Voice Lab in the future?
We have some really interesting and ambitious plans for Voice Lab in the future. It is already proving to us time and time again what an amazing tool it is for giving children a safe space where their opinions are heard and valued. Ideally I hope that Voice Lab can give a real voice to the children in our communities. A voice that can be heard and valued like its adult counterparts, and a voice that can affect real change in the world around it. I also hope that Voice Lab can not only cause adults to re-think the way that they ‘hear’ children, but also give children an amazing one-of-a-kind empowering experience that will stay for them forever. We are also looking at creating a more theatrical version of Voice Lab that can take children on an improvised sensory theatrical journey that they control. It is beyond exciting where we could go with this. We’ve come so far already and I can’t wait to see where we go next!
On tour with Polyglot
The Polyglot team is hitting the road again over the next couple of months for some exciting national and international performances! First stop in May is the wonderful DreamBIG festival in Adelaide. We’ll be part of the schools program and the Big Family Weekend of activities, with Paper Planet growing in the local Freemason’s Hall. Don’t miss this FREE family fun on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 May!
We’re also absolutely thrilled to be heading to the USA to build a city with the people of Pittsburgh for the EQT Children’s Theater Festival! This is our eighth year touring to the USA and one of our absolute favourite festivals – we can’t wait to see you again, Pittsburgh!
ASSITEJ and Creativity
Our wonderful Artistic Director, Sue Giles, heads to South Africa next month for the ASSITEJ Congress Assembly. Sue has been working as a member of the Executive Committee of ASSITEJ International for three years – a role that has allowed her to connect with extraordinary and inspiring artists making performance work for children and young people around the world. This was made possible with the support of a leadership grant from The Betty Amsden Trust. In May this year, ASSITEJ holds its Congress Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, where the work plan of the Association is created for the next three years and the new Executive Committee is elected. This is the first time the Congress has been held on the African Continent since ASSITEJ’s beginnings 50 years ago — a significant and momentous occasion! With a fabulous festival called Cradle of Creativity around it, artists, researchers, presenters and educators around the world will come together for symposia, cultural gatherings, focus days and shows, shows, and more shows! Read more about the Congress Assembly here. Sue will be standing for re-election – we wish her good luck!