Many Hats Theatre Company – Creative Expression for Young People with Disabilities

21 August 2018

SkillWise is the group responsible for Many Hats Theatre Company. Through Ministry of Youth Development funding, the Company was supported to provide introductory drama workshops to groups made up of young participants with a wide range of disabilities from across Christchurch for a ten week period.

Many Hats Theatre 4
Many Hats Theatre 1

These workshops offered the young people an opportunity to engage with theatre techniques and practices which were new to them. The goal was to provide a relaxed environment which afforded those who require one-to-one support, the opportunity to become involved.

Many Hats Theatre 2
Many Hats Theatre 3

Performance techniques in poetry, puppetry, drama, improvisation and verbatim theatre are among the skills that performers in Many Hats Theatre Company develop. The Company’s tutors use different artistic approaches and techniques that work best with each performer and enable them to express themselves. These ‘expressions’ are then worked into scenes, with the performers writing the material for the shows. This can be produced through direct writing of dialogue, stories and poetry, or through devised workshops or improvisation.

Many Hats Theatre 6 (Warm Ups)
Many Hats Theatre 7 (Writings)

21 young people took part in the initiative and had good things to say about their experience:

“It’s fun. I love being able to bring in my writing each week and write whatever I wanted, and how everybody loved what I wrote.”

“I liked doing dancing, listening to music, the warm ups, stretching my body, and using my voice differently.”

“I liked expressing feelings and learning more each week about this. I liked moving around and being active.”

“Sharing stories was great. I got to write about something, share with the class and tell them what it’s all about. I liked acting out the scenes.”

Many Hats Theatre 5 (Warm Ups)
Many Hats Theatre 8 (Writings)

John Grant, General Manager SkillWise, was pleased to see an increase in the self-confidence and teamwork of participants in a short space of time:

“A number of participants have gained enough confidence to try new things. For some, this is about continuing to pursue an interest in drama – three participants have been invited to join our main theatre company. For others, they are pursuing training opportunities, employment and a variety of other interests. Some people gained enough self-confidence to say that drama was not for them.”

As the young people became more familiar with the format and structure of the programme, they began to work more cohesively as a team for example, taking turns, listening to peers, giving and receiving feedback, and taking direction from the tutors."

Many Hats Theatre 10 (Scenes)
Many Hats Theatre 9 (Scenes)

“Another notable outcome was that many participants developed the ability to work as a functional team. This evolved quickly and by the end of the programme, new friendships had developed,” says John.

Many Hats Theatre 13 (Scenes)
Many Hats Theatre 12 (Scenes)

In addition to these great outcomes, the young people’s communication skills were also encouraged and developed. Rangatahi brought along samples of their stories and poems to the workshops, and these helped inform some of the activities that took place. The young people were pleased to see that their ideas were valued and actively integrated into the programme. This is reflected in this lovely video featuring the young people.

Many Hats Theatre 11 (Scenes)
Many Hats Theatre 14 (Scenes)

Many Hats Theatre Company has created a wonderful space for rangatahi with disabilities to increase their wellbeing and flourish in a supportive, creative environment.