Collaboration at core of theatre education

This blog post is by Emily Schweich, junior broadcast journalism major.

Sisi Reid photo by Olivia Brann

Senior theatre performance major Sisi Reid recently represented the University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the a2ru Emerging Creatives Student Summit in January. She says her experience at the University of Maryland has laid a firm foundation for collaboration in the arts.

I want to expand how much I know as an artist and what I know about different fields.

Reid participated in the Center for Creative Collaboration, a three-week winter course offered by the School of TDPS to encourage cross-disciplinary creation. Students were divided into five pods – projection design, performance, playwriting, dance and performance studies.

Reid said this process-based class was a new experience for her and that working in the projection pod put her outside of her comfort zone.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to become a projection designer – maybe I will! – but now I’m so interested in how media, space, video and live camera projections tell stories and how that can contribute to a theatrical piece,” Reid said. “Now I feel comfortable in collaborating with someone who does projections in my future because I get a little bit of the language.”

Reid says she aspires to start her own theatre company someday and that this course helped her pursue that dream.

“I want to expand how much I know as an artist and what I know about different fields,” she said. “Different elements…can hit people in different ways and thus the message can be imprinted on them. My message will be about love, humanity, unity. So if those messages can be imprinted more with projections, than I’m all for it.”

Reid took these collaborative skills with her to the a2ru summit. This year’s program, PULSE: Creative Collaborations for Cities in Flux, joined undergraduate and graduate students from across disciplines to address issues facing developing cities. Reid’s group tackled education and devised an idea called “City Changers” that links students with university students and professors to help them apply what they’re learning to real life.

Working with a group of strangers to solve a problem over the course of two days was a challenge, Reid said.

“I felt like my training from the winter class kicked in,” she said. “I just had to accept different people’s ideas and not get frustrated and not shut down.”

While collaborating was challenging, Reid said it was beneficial to work with people who were equally passionate about social change. “It was incredibly empowering as an artist, as an activist, as a human being…and reassuring because it gets hard to keep finding the motivation to want to change things.”

“I think from the winter class I realized collaboration is art…but then the conference really solidified that collaboration is life,” Reid said. “You’ve got to work with other people who don’t look like you, aren’t from where you’re from, who don’t do what you do, in order for this planet to get any better. That’s the only way it’s going to happen!"