Is the moon a balloon?
It can be.
A balloon can be anything… anything you want it to be.
On January 8th, my flight from Philadelphia landed in Austin a little after noon. By 2:00 I was in the Oscar Brockett Theatre on campus in rehearsal for The Balloon Project.
The Balloon Project is an ongoing international artistic exchange between UT Austin’s department of theatre and dance and Patch Theatre of Adelaide, Australia. In the week before spring semester classes started up, an ensemble of eleven theatre makers explored the possibilities of circles and lines with Dave Brown, artistic director of Patch. Patch Theatre creates visual theatre specifically for young audiences aged 4-8. Dave guided us through a condensed theatre making experience similar to the collaborative process Patch Theatre uses to create their pieces in Adelaide.
As we explored the seemingly endless possibilities of balloons and what we could make with circles and lines, we blurred the lines that usually distinguish one production role from another. As one of two stage managers (stage management friends out there I know you’re jealous!), I generated rehearsal reports, wrangled the balloons and swept the stage at the end of the day. I also participated in warm ups, explored the movement vocabulary of each kind of balloon, co-created the lobby installation and pre-show activities, documented our exploration in photos and videos, and my artistic contributions and suggestions were welcomed by everyone. That week, all of my artistic interests and skills came together.
At this intersection of all my previously distinct artistic lenses, I discovered a new artistic identity for myself: theatre maker. Soaking up the IPAY Showcase immediately before diving into The Balloon Project made for an even fuller artistic exploration. I left Philadelphia with a wealth of inspiration, having finally seen the kind of theatre I want to make, and the opportunity to act on that inspiration in this residency with Dave was such a gift.
“In exchange” for this brilliant week of exploring visual theatre making, the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities area invited Dave into the work we do in drama-based instruction through the Drama For Schools program, and facilitated workshops and dialogue on community engagement, early arts and arts integration. As a result of this artistic exchange, and this new intersection of theatre making and teaching artistry, some exciting preliminary thesis project ideas are bubbling up in my brain. Wherever these thoughts take me, I’m already sure The Balloon Project was a significant turning point in my artistic career.
You can read more about The Balloon Project ensemble’s experiences here.
Here are some shots of our week of play and exploration: