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What is a A New Devised Piece?

by Clara Livingston, Dramaturg

Devised Theatre has a myriad of definitions and can encompass all sorts of theatrical styles and creation processes. Generally, Devising is the process of creating new theatrical work without starting with a written script. Devised pieces are often ensemble-driven, created by a group of performers and artists working in collaboration. While a finalized script may develop by the end of the process, rehearsals consist of improvisation, experimentation, play, and “seeing what works.” The process of creating ARE YOU SOMEONE TO SOMEBODY? began with each ensemble member bringing in an individual piece based on a prompt from director Lindsay Beamish. These pieces often incorporated music, movement, improvisation, and written text. We then began combining some of these pieces with other work created by the group, and improvisations from class. We slowly started connecting different moments and identifying through-lines, all while prioritizing working on our feet over logically constructing the show.

When I asked the the cast and crew to share with me their own definitions of devising based on this process, here’s what they said:

  • “Creating something from nothing, not on a page, but on your feet first. It’s backwards playwriting.”
  • “The process of creating a piece of theatre through experimentation, movement, play, imagery… and creating meaning from these moments. The process of figuring things out.”
  • “Creating something from the ground up… creating a story based off of what comes naturally, working until it makes sense and feels good.”
  • “Taking elements from those pieces and making a quilt pattern and tying up the loose ends.”

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