As an applied theatre artist, I am interested in the potentials of drama, theatre, and digital storytelling as tools for education, dialogue, and social change. I facilitate theatre projects in settings and with populations where theatre is not normally practiced, often with the intention of building community, exploring an issue or idea, and/or providing a platform for participants to tell their stories. In my work, theatre serves both as the process and the product; it is a way for participants to explore big ideas and to build community, as well as a way for them to express themselves to a broader audience. In my work, I invite participants to use theatre as a tool for articulating their thoughts and perceptions. I am especially interested in the ways in which theatre can serve as a means of engaging with one’s community through a thoughtful and critical lens. Through the use of the tools of theatre—the body, the voice, and a sense of creative collaboration—participants are invited to express their thoughts, questions, and discoveries about their own relationships to the places and spaces they inhabit. In an applied theatre setting, I am a learner alongside my participants. Together, we express ourselves, listen, forge connections, and raise questions. As an applied theatre practitioner, it is my job both to equip participants for tools for expression and to listen and, when necessary, step out of the way.
I am primarily an applied theatre artist. This means that I facilitate theatre projects in settings and with populations where theatre is not normally practiced, usually with the intention of building community, exploring a social issue, and/or providing a platform for participants to tell their stories. Some populations I have worked with include high school students exploring human rights, low income students talking about their neighborhood, LGBTQ young people sharing personal narratives, young people getting involved in a community development initiative in their rural Texas town, and students and teachers at a school in India exploring the role of gender in society. In my work, theatre serves both as the process and the product. Theatre-based techniques serve as the foundation of my facilitation process. I also work in the medium of digital storytelling, which involves participants combining spoken narrative, music, sound, still images, and video to tell a personal story of some significance. Digital storytelling involves a lot of the same components and applied theatre but offers some differences in terms of the process and the sharing of the product.
My close friend Seana Higgins and I met as six-year-olds playing on the swings at Hayes Park in Chicago's Wrightwood neighborhood, on the city's southwest side. Today, by chance of fate or circumstance, both of us have grown into practicing artists and arts educators, Seana in the visual arts and myself in performance and digital storytelling. Seana and I have both grown up, lived in, and eventually worked as artists and educators in many of Chicago's diverse neighborhoods. We both see our histories with Chicago and its neighborhoods as direct influences on their artistic paths and perspectives. In our workshop for CAM, we look forward to inviting participants of all ages to join us in reflecting on the way Chicago's neighborhoods have influenced and continue to influence our identities, relationships, and histories. Through facilitating this multi-arts workshop, we also hope to invite participants to consider how they can continue to influence the identity of the city of Chicago.
Anne McNamee is a community-based theatre and digital media artist. She holds a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities from the University of Texas at Austin. Anne has worked as an educator and artist in such divers settings as public and Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, a performance summer camp for children who have lost a parent, a digital storytelling project for LGBTQ youth, an arts integration professional development program for teachers, and an arts-based school in Varanasi, India. A recent project involved facilitating theatre and digital storytelling projects as part of a larger community development initiative taking place in a rural Texas town. Anne is interested in the potentials of drama, theatre, and digital storytelling as tools for education, dialogue, and social change.