A devised work by Bago Magic Peformance Group, Wauchope (2005)
Case study prepared by Mariet Ludriks, Coordinator, Bago Magic Performance Group Inc.
Bago Magic Performance Group (BMPG) started in 2001 as a Respite Service and a leisure link outing for people with disabilities in the rural area’s of Port Macquarie. We started running an exercise class in the Wauchope Show Ground hall, but the 5 participants we had were more interested in being on the stage than doing the exercises. That’s how it all started and the idea for BMPG came about!
Now 8 years on Bago Magic Performance Group Inc has become a community performance group which strives to be accessible and meaningful for all members of the community. We offer drama, music and visual arts classes, delivered by professional teachers and designed to include all participants. Workshops are held weekly during school terms at the Wauchope Community Arts Council Hall. Throughout the year participants will develop skills and experience in a variety of aspects leading to live performance. Opportunities exist to be involved in making of props, costumes, masks, make-up application, acting, singing, playing music, lighting, film and sound. We hope to create an atmosphere where everybody helps others and we work together towards a common goal.
Island Dreaming was a devised theatrical piece created from the ideas, stories and experiences of the participants of BMPG. The participants also contributed to the music and the design and construction of the set thus creating a show that was truly their own.
Island Dreaming started with a discussion, whereby participants put forward all sorts of ideas. The characters in Island Dreaming were developed by the participants in the drama group around individual preferences and skills guided by the director, Angela MacPherson. Participants chose the character they would like to play and preferred themes and then the story developed. Methods such as visualization, group discussion & small group work ensued based on these decisions that were made by the group and ensured involvement from all participants. For inspiration the group watched videos of Pacific Island culture, listened to Island myths, invited guest speakers from Pacific island cultures and flicked through travel brochures. After about four weeks of discussions, we started putting ideas into action. The group met weekly, with music and drama workshops from 10-12pm, and visual arts workshops from 1-2pm. We rehearsed this play for at least seven months before performing. Angela then compiled these ideas into a workable dramatic script which was rehearsed for several weeks.
The music in Island Dreaming directed by Elly Franchimont was inspired by traditional island music and adapted for our performance. Throughout the development the music group created appropriate music and sound effects to enhance the performance. The music group was made up of members of BMPG that were interested in music. They were involved in developing the music right from the beginning of rehearsals. Many percussion instruments were used, and also voice.
Costumes, props and backdrops were made by participants of BMPG under the direction of Margrit Rickenbach & Claude Teyssier. During weekly workshops throughout the year participants worked on projects such as printing individual designs on sarongs or creating masks and butterflies. Visual arts workshops were on the same day as the performance workshops, but in the afternoon.
The backdrops, palm trees and volcano were made using paper we painted then glued on to the objects which were constructed using bamboo. The art works played a major role in the evolution of the play.
To ensure that BMPG adopts all inclusive processes is to keep asking questions so that the facilitators become just that, ‘facilitators’ that prompt discussion & activity through questioning. Questions like; Do you like the story? What would you change? Do you like the props? Costumes? Are you happy and comfortable with the lines? These keep us all on track as we do this through regular sit around a circle discussions.
BMPG is partly funded by the participants. Each participant pays $10 per week for the workshops. This is not enough to fund BMPG, so we also apply for grants, and have been successful in securing two major grants from Regional Arts NSW. Other funding comes from Council and other grants, donations and fundraising. BMPG pays for production and all other costs out of these funds.
The major strength of Island Dreaming was that is was developed from a collaboration of ideas and suggestions from all participants of BMPG, which were woven together to created a play based on all the ideas, stories and experiences of the participants giving them a great sense of ownership over the final production. For example: someone suggested having a volcano on a holiday island, another person, obviously very fond of chocolate and cheese thought it would be a good idea to have real chocolate and cheese in the play exploding from the volcano – why not?? Another idea came then from the musicians to write a song about this and so it happened and it worked! This was the essence that made this and other plays performed by BMPG such a success and utterly unique.
Another strength is the fact that BMPG includes people with and without disabilities, whom are interested in working together as a group towards a common goal, which is putting on high quality performances and/or have an interest in music, dance, visual arts and other aspects relating to performing arts.
Another strength of Island Dreaming & other BMPG performances is the employment & instruction by qualified tutors/artists. These tutors have the skills to create something special from all the ideas put forward.
One of the biggest challenges of this project was space. We never seemed to have enough space. We started this play in the Wauchope Community Arts Hall (we are not in the Arts Hall any longer, but have moved to an Industrial shed nearby) but with 40 participants it was quite a squeeze and storing props was nearly impossible with only a tiny tin shed out the back however we did manage this for a long time as we had nowhere else to go at the time. In the last few weeks of rehearsals leading up to the performance we asked Port Macquarie Council if we could use the Port Macquarie Civic Centre, that stood empty and was going to be demolished within a year to make way for the new Port Macquarie ‘Glasshouse.’ They agreed & for a few weeks we had a big space & a stage to work on, plus two change rooms and some storage space. The Civic Centre was not very accessible and all the participants had to climb a big flight of stairs to get inside (just as well BMPG had no-one in a wheelchair at the time). The next challenge was the venue we hired to actually perform Island Dreaming. The committee running this venue was not very supportive and very difficult to deal with even though we paid an extraordinary amount to hire this venue for a matinee and a nighttime performance. They denied us rehearsal time in the venue before the show which we had to put up with because again we felt we had no alternative at the time. We ended up walking the biggest props that didn’t fit in the cars (like the volcano) from the Civic Centre to the performance venue approximately 1.5km away. This was quite fun, we got a lot of looks and questions & proved to be good advertising.
Another challenge was (and still is) to get carers and parents to bring participants on time (or at all) for rehearsals & performances. The frustrations experienced by our tutors when participants were not showing up to perform certain roles and without any notice can be very difficult. It is about getting people to realise putting on production is a team effort just like sport but it seems sometimes that the arts is not quite seen as valuable as team sport is.
Also we have many transport issues and often resort to doing the transporting (pick-ups and drives home) ourselves. Transport has always been a major problem with numerous phone calls to community transport etc. but to no avail. Also the transporting of props is usually done (including loading and unloading) by the person with the biggest car/van and trailer. It is a lot of work & takes a lot of time and money (petrol) which because of limited funds is paid by the transporter/driver themselves.
This brings me to another challenge: funding and the constant chasing of grants. It’s time consuming, frustrating and disappointing when you miss out, but satisfying when you manage to secure one.
The last point I want to make is my personal challenge. As the coordinator I currently try to manage about 50 BMPG participants. I have to admit I don’t always find this easy since I have no managerial experience especially when conflict arises. I always try and hope that I’m doing the right thing but it can be frustrating and a bit undervalued. I have managed the group for the last 8 years and am constantly filling out application forms for grants, proposals and acquittals which are all done on the week ends when my husband and I aren’t working this is becoming very exhausting and taxing for both of us. Ideally we would like to employ a local artist to be facilitating the workshops so that we with our little experience don’t have to do this as well. A recent application we had in to fund this was unsuccessful.
Next time I would like to allow more time to put a performance together. It was quite a challenge to get the show together in the time we had. The script was not complicated, but we had a lot of participants who all needed a worthy role. It took a long time to make sure all the participants were included into the script.
- A very satisfied and excited audience
- Very proud and excited participants ready to do it all again
- Loads of great feedback from people from all walks of life, who came to see the show. A lot more understanding from committee members of the venue where we performed.
The result was a fantastic, visually stunning story. We performed twice at a local theatre in Port Macquarie, a matinee and an evening performance. We had about 350 audience for the shows, made up of family, friends, disability groups and general public.
Lis Tuck, Michelle Spencer, Chris Dacre, Jan Dark, Sarah Henderson, Kerrie Sicurella, Kerry Brown, Blair Webb, Chris Wood, Jacinta Evans-Wicks, Pat Theoret, Burt Atkinson, Maryanne Steitz, Charles Hall, Jacqui Clarke, Stephanie Gunn, Claude Teyssier, Abby Cass, Michaela Andrew, Sam Boffa, Aimee McWhirter, Melisa Steitz, Helen Beach, Christie Darnan, Denis McCarthy, Brian McLean, Cameron Skinner, Troy Bentley, Brendan Hall, James Kennedy, Mariet Ludriks, Jill Oliver, Melissa Patton, Allison Quirk, Kylie Winn.
Coordinators: Maryanne Steitz and Mariet Ludriks
Director: Angela Macpherson
Musical Director: Elly Franchimont
Costume Design and Props: Margrit Rickenbach
Set Design: Claude Teyssier
Stage Manager: Coleen Turner
Backstage crew: Greg Aurisch, Claude Teyssier, Mark Payton, Margrit Rickenbach, Ron Hutchinson.
Lighting: John Hanson
Make up and costumes: Celia Steadman, Trish Ginn
Film crew: Remi, Marcus & Chris
Front of House: Nicolas Cameron, Ethan Fitzgerald, Sarah Norrie, Natalie Smith, Erin Theoret.