Uncommon Sense

A residency to remember

Madeline A. Jirak

The most impactful part of working with Tectonic Theater Project (TTP) in 2012 and 2013 was coming to a new understanding of a topic I knew virtually nothing about. I had read a few articles, etc. about the Autism Spectrum but had no real idea of what it meant, or how it manifests differently among different people. I had no sense of how Spectrum Disorders work at all. Learning along with my peers through the medium of devised theater brought everything into much clearer focus. To tell the story, we really had to break down the different sensory, thematic, and spatial elements that a person on the Spectrum would encounter, and approach it from that point of view.

Furthermore, I had never done devised theater before, so the working style of the team from TTP was very foreign to me. I appreciated their openness and collaboration, and really respected the perspectives of actors who were out in the world creating new work. They treated every idea that the students had as worthy of exploring, and when we began mixing and matching our scenes and ideas together, I think we (the students) were all amazed at how powerful our ideas could be.

My favorite memory was working on the two platforms that had plexiglass tops, were lit from underneath, and rolled! I had helped to build the platforms in the scene shop, and getting to explore how we could use them for the project was amazing. They were versatile, and opened up a whole new way to make our scenes.

While none of us can truly walk in another’s shoes, I feel that the attempt has not only made me more conscious of how other people can perceive the world, but also more willing to look at standard elements of theatre (light, sound, space, people, etc.) in a whole new way in terms of how they can be used to help the audience partake in the world of the play. In summary, I would definitely repeat the experience! I loved collaborating with my peers and learning together. If we were all to come back and do it again now, it would be interesting to see how our ideas have changed and what we would come up with!