The University of Portsmouth‘s School of Art, Design and Performance, in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, brings its community offerings to Wales with a series of student-led workshops for young people exploring the culture of British Sign Language through drama.
University of Portsmouth Musical Theatre students collaborated with students from the University of Kent to create a series of workshops for young people that used drama to facilitate youth engagement with British Sign Language in Cardiff, Wales on 16 November. The project, which was led by UoP Senior Lecturer Dr Laura MacDonald together with UK Reader Dr Stella Bolaki, was funded by a grant from the United States Embassy.
The workshops were presented in Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre in collaboration with Leeway Productions’ performance of The Last Five Years, a musical by American composer Jason Robert Brown. For this production, theatre director Angharad Lee and choreographer Mark Smith incorporated British Sign Language into the staging and choreography, creating a powerful intercultural work exploring Deaf culture. Lee visited the University of Portsmouth in October to discuss her work as a director and her aims in blending musical theatre and sign language. Subsequently, the team of students from Levels 5 and 6 travelled to Cardiff to see the production, then crafted a series of activities for young people aged 12-18 that explored sign language and communication with the body through dance, movement poems, signing, music, and drama games.
University of Portsmouth student Molly Brickley-Clark, who is currently in the second year of the Musical Theatre course, led a number of dance exercises with young people. An avid dancer, Molly enthusiastically noted how valuable it was for her to practice teaching dance and theatre in a supportive environment: “It was a wonderful experience that really tested new skills I hadn’t had to use before – skills I now plan to use in the future.”
Dr MacDonald added that “Angharad Lee’s innovation in musical theatre is inspiring, and we are incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity to engage with her vision. Thanks to the support of BAAS and the US Embassy, our students have enjoyed unique access and insight into pioneering work in the UK musical theatre industry.”