Andrea Montgomery from Terra Nova Productions on the PICAS Project and the “Making it” Conference

Terra Nova Productions was lucky enough to experience support from the PICAS programme just as we were formulating our methodology for Arrivals2, the second in what we hope will be our trilogy of intercultural new writing productions.

By the time we received PICAS funding we already knew our basic plan worked: take five writers through a well-thought-out intercultural workshop process with four professional actors of mixed backgrounds and members of Northern Ireland’s foreign-born residents and you will get exciting new intercultural plays relevant to Northern Ireland.

We connected with CAP and the PICAS programme as we were planning Arrivals2. That connection, and the role played by five other funders, was part of an expansion of our programme.

We were able to set up an intercultural steering group, through whom we widened the community workshop programme that sits as a foundation to our professional work. We hired actors in Belfast and London. We ran a competition for professional writers. We not only completed our masterclass and a new writer’s script development workshop, but we were able to run a mentoring and development programme for two emerging artists alongside the professional script development. We had zeroed in not just on telling intercultural stories particular to Northern Ireland, but also on ensuring we included the stories of second generation immigrants, Northern Irish people who just happened to have at least one parent born elsewhere.

When we came to the PICAS conference we were in week two of our final rehearsal process. Four professional actors were working towards the presentation of five short plays in an evening of theatre. We had dubbed it ‘Tapas’ Theatre.

At the conference our Artistic Director spoke about the development of our process. We performed a reading of James Meredith’s “Secrets”, the second of the five pieces of theatre we would be presenting the following week. Our Artistic Director and Company Manager answered questions about our processes, and how we developed our thinking, and how we continued to engage with communities.

We have refined our aims and ambitions over the course of this year. We’ve thought about where we’d like to be in five years, and how we’d like to influence the performing arts in Northern Ireland. We’ve further articulated our mentoring and development role as well as our role as a professional theatre company.

Listening to audience reactions to Arrivals2 and reading their comments, we feel we have successfully stretched artistically. Arrivals2 is more imaginative, a greater leap away from naturalism, than Arrivals.

Our audiences may begin by thinking about the fact that we are bringing intercultural stories to the Belfast professional stage. By the end of each night we aim for them to be enjoying, high quality, innovative and exciting theatre that just happens to have an intercultural foundation.

Andrea Montgomery
Terra Nova Productions
16 March, 2015

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