Assistant Professor of Theatre Emily K. Harrison recently discussed teaching devised theatre techniques on the HowlRound Teaching Commons podcast “Teaching Theatre.” Harrison was joined by Andy Paris of the North Carolina School of the Arts in an episode titled “On Devising in the Classroom.”

In the interview, Harrison explained devising as “making an original piece of theatrical material together as an ensemble, as a collaborative,” noting that “it could be something that ends up being very abstract in nature and more experimental.”

She described how she introduces devising to students by having them think about a piece of theatre they’ve seen and then asking them to talk about and break down a moment that stood out to them. “They’re talking about how all the elements came together to make them feel something,” rather than about the story or plot, she said.

The conversation also included discussion about the collaborative nature of devising and how differences of opinion can be resolved, as well as the importance of learning devising to students interested in a career in theatre.

“The tools that they learn in that class … are going to be tools that serve them incredibly well as an actor for the rest of their career, should they have a career in theatre, and even in film and television, because it just teaches you about all of the tools you have at your disposal as opposed to just your body and your voice,” Harrision said.

HowlRound likens itself to the amplified feedback loop that happens when sound from a speaker is fed back into a microphone, describing it “as a place for artists to provide feedback, learning, expertise, frustration, and vision—in an effort to enliven the fields of theatre and performance to the aspiring and established artist alike.”

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