The Rowan’s Story Project

The Rowan’s Story Project came out of a creative development on another play. A play that told the story of a family whose fracture, years before, had finally caught up with its members. Well, some of them.

There were two stories there: the story of the broken, coercive adult relationship, and its fall-out, and the story of the son of the family – 7 years old at the time his mother fled, taking him with her, but 16 years old now, finishing school, falling into love, and seeing his father’s face in the mirror when he gets up in the morning.

How does this young man come into himself? How does he deal with the meaning of his history? What does he think of sex? What is intimacy to him? What do you do when some kinds of touch take you to a place of memory that is full of confusion and fear? And anger? How do you know you are going to like the person you’re becoming?

The Rowan’s Story Project starts with a series of drama scenarios, created by playwright Elaine Acworth that offer these kinds of questions to young people, but a step removed from their personal lives – scenarios on sexting (sending, receiving, being asked to share it), scenarios on controlling behaviour, on gender role assumptions…

Over the course of a school term, teaching artists go into schools with these scenarios, and some ‘discovery’ scenes that can act as prompts, if they’re needed. Working with devising exercises, play-making, and elements of process and forum theatre, these artists collaborate with senior drama students to explore, discuss and potentially re-create the scenario’s situations to have alternate endings – outcomes the students choose.
It’s a simple premise we’re testing in this pilot program: whilst practicing plot and character development, young people ‘practice’ the idea that they can have a say in something fundamental in their lives.

Participating schools come together for a collaborative workshop at a managed theatre venue (SunPAC) mid-way through term, there’s more exploration in-house, and then a showcase of the youth-created work at SunPAC at the beginning of the following school term.
That’s Stage 1 of the Project…

There’s then a 45-minute play, Rowan’s Story, written by Elaine Acworth, for a youth audience, and responding to the concerns, giggles, anxiety and courage of the students’ work. Acworth won’t use their work in her play – their work belongs to them. Their Intellectual Property is entirely theirs. But ongoing conversations with the Project’s young participants is a rare gift for a writer and will colour, inform and set parameters for Acworth’s work.

That play’s Stage 2…

The Rowan's Story Project - workshop at Yeronga State High School

That work then needs to be put on the floor with cast and creatives – and taken to pieces. Tested. Pushed. Re-shaped. With the Project’s student participants in the room as observers – and dramaturgs, in a way. That creative development is Stage 3…

And from there – production? More schools next year? (A couple of other schools have expressed interest for 2025, expanding the scope of the project re year levels and size.) There’s another play that would be a fabulous pair for Rowan’s Story – they would make a terrific double bill… a debase play…

Well, let’s see. Thank you everyone who has come on this journey with us so far – we can’t wait to see where it leads!

This project has been supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
It has also been supported by the Sunnybank Performing Arts Centre (SunPAC), Yeronga State High School, MacGregor State High School, and Codex.

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