Performance for/by/with Young People: Presenting the “Here and Now”

Convenors: Sandra Chamberlain-Snider and Heather Fitzsimmons Frey

(from the original call for papers)

Contemporary Western society burdens young people and their bodies with a great deal of symbolism: as Adele Senior points out, they represent the future (2016). Yet, as creators, performers, and audience members, young people’s active work in performance reveals their current presence as human beings and not only as a notion of a future becoming (van de Water 2012).

Contemporary, cultural construction of young people creates an essential challenge to consider youth in its relationship with performance. Canada’s diverse range of performing arts provides a valuable lens through which young people reveal their own perspectives on notions of hope, agency, moral panics, boldness, the future, and themselves. This seminar proposes to examine performances for/by/with young people in terms of who they are in this moment rather than in an imagined notion of who they will become. The creative work of children and youth, whether created for them, by them, or with them, is often undervalued; but the artists and scholars involved with young people understand that this work is aesthetically challenging, thematically complex, brave, and surprising.

In March, prior to CATR, through a secure website, we expect to generate a fruitful online discussion by inviting each participant to pose one question/provocation and share brief descriptions about one project they are currently pursuing. Besides the provocations, participants are invited to submit up to 1000 words of a draft for comment from the seminar cohort. In our two-hour session at CATR, we will identify and discuss the emergent issues raised online that will enhance our participants’ current research.

This seminar proposes to raise the profile of the performances for/by/with young people in Canadian scholarly research by reaching out to participants that are both currently involved or have an interest. Our goal for this seminar is to enhance our understanding of how youthfulness influences scholars discussing performance.

Works Cited:

Senior, Adele. “Beginners on Stage: Arendt, Natality and the Appearance of Children in Contemporary Performance.” Theatre Research International. March 2016 p 70-84.

van de Water, Manon. Theatre, Youth, Culture: A Critical and Historical Exploration. Palgrave, 2012.