40 Conventions and Counting

This post originally appeared on a blog for our 2018 Study Abroad Program in London.

By Carey Urban

Today we continued the work Dr. William Barlow began with us on July 12. Last Thursday, he introduced us to several evocative images and a song, and we began playing with conventions designed to scaffold toward the devising of an original piece of drama. Dr. Barlow’s motto is that if we as educators don’t help young people deal with difficult situations and emotions, who will? “I don’t see the point in doing work that’s not relevant,” he says. “Walk into the challenging emotion; not away from it,” with the safety of dramatic distance! Collectively, the group decided to focus on a story about a divorce between the parents of a boy we named Toby.

A Day in the Life chart for the character Toby showing events during a typical day in his life

We re-convened in smaller groups that had been established in the previous workshop to work in depth with conventions such as Tableau, Timeline, Teacher-in-Role, A Day In the Life, Collective Character, Hot Seating, Shape-Shifting, Telephone Conversations, Cross-Cutting, Altar Ego, Circular Drama and many more- over 40 in all! By day’s end, each group had devised 7-10 minutes of original material and everyone got to show off their acting chops to the group, including Dr. Barlow as Toby as Teacher-in-Role in a delightfully inclusive round of Circular Drama.

List of some of the 40 strategies used today including: theory building, caption, the ripple, thought tracking, circle of life, first impression, the ice berg, objects of the character, group structure, montage, space between, timeline, overheard conversations, good/bad angel, walls have ears, small group play, alter ego, teacher in role, a day in the life, shape shift, and collective character

It was an ideal workshop for our last day before our curriculum assignments are due, as it was packed with varied and combined uses of conventions and procedures we can now use to enrich and vary our lesson plans. Sadly, though, it was our last day of class with Dr. Barlow and we have to wish him happy trails tomorrow 😦 We’re in the home stretch now: Today was Day 14 of an overall 19-day program.

Collectively I bet we’ve easily seen over 100 plays in that brief time. I for one am already getting melancholy about the experience coming to a close. But we still have a busy program this week and at least one more night out at the theatre together to look forward to. As I write this, I know many of us are burning the midnight oil typing away at our curriculum assignments. Good luck everyone, and don’t stay up to late!


More information about the Study Abroad programs can be accessed on the NYU Steinhardt Global Programs Website.