NORPA collaborates with school children to imagine characters for a better community.

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What kind of characters are needed in today’s world to create a better future? This is one of many questions more than 360 kids and teachers from St Joseph’s Primary School in Tweed Heads have been exploring with NORPA as part of the theatre company’s innovative ‘Theatre in Schools’ program.

Drawing upon archetypes such as the caretaker, the explorer, the sage, the storyteller, the hero and also the disruptor, students were encouraged to explore characters through improvisation, text, physical theatre and movement. The characters worked together in a collaborative way to face and overcome challenges with wonderful results.

Adapting to recent restrictions, the students’ work was specifically devised to be photographed and presented as a visual gallery​. The photos then become further creative stimulus for the schools, teachers and students to engage with the project through art, experimentation, creative writing, poetry and song.

The project was funded through the Catholic Schools Office Lismore’s Arts Partnership Grant 2020 which is based on a residency program with creative professionals that builds community partnership with a school.

Developed by Project Directors Frauke Huhn and Lisa Aposolides, and NORPA Artistic Director Julian Louis in collaboration with the school, ​‘Characters for a New Community’​ was a theatrical experience spanning five weeks within the school, designed for primary students to learn new skills and develop their dramatic repertoire.

The program was a huge success with students commenting “ I am getting to know my classmates in a way that I have never seen them before”, “ I love working creatively with my peers” and “I wish I could do drama every day.”

Teacher and initiator of the collaboration Jennifer Hill commented “Frauke and Lisa were fully versed in class management and delivering professional and creative ideas from K-6. Their communication was clear and regular with feedback on sessions as they worked with varying grades. Both facilitators were positive and strove to draw the best from each individual student. The development of each group’s concept for a visual representation of their story was exciting to witness. I am very happy to have worked with such professional and inspiring facilitators.”

For Project Director Frauke Huhn the experience was very positive “It was incredible to be given the opportunity to develop a customized program that involved a whole school, across all different age groups. I also loved that teachers commented on the professional learning they gained through sitting in on our sessions. I congratulate the CSO Lismore on their vision and commitment to make important investments in arts education.”

“This year the Arts feel even more valuable as a way to engage with children and give them agency to express themselves and their ideas and experiences. There was great communication between the school and NORPA in the period leading up to the project and we were made very welcome,” said Frauke.

“We believe all students and schools should have access to high quality productions, acting workshops and programs that enrich the NSW curriculum and promote creativity and imagination in regional areas,” said Julian Louis, NORPA ‘s Artistic Director.

NORPA’s ‘Theatre for Schools’ program is created in collaboration with and tailored to each school’s needs. The workshops take place within the school and respond to individual timetable and curriculum needs. For more information about NORPA’s Education Program contact Frauke Huhn at education@norpa.org.au or visit www.norpa.org.au/education.