The Cohen New Works Festival presented by the University Co-op
is proud to announce programming for the first annual affiliate event
Perfectly Mixed Up: More Than the Sum
Across the pond, drama has become a regular activity for Exeter’s young people in care who have joined forces with students from the University of Exeter to stage a play here in Austin, Texas. Stetsons and cowboy boots are at the ready as Exeter’s creative gang of performers head to the United States.
This life changing experience will be the first time that the theatre company ‘Perfectly Mixed Up’ travel and perform outside of Devon, UK. Throughout the week long stay the company will perform their show, More than the Sum and run a workshop with young people in care at LifeWorks. The University of Texas at Austin set up an exchange programme with the Drama department at University of Exeter and invited ‘Perfectly Mixed Up’ to perform in the 2013 Cohen New Works Festival.
Young care leavers face similar challenges to anyone leaving home for the first time, but without the safety net that family or community networks provide. This has a powerful impact on making and sustaining positive connections in society. Devon County Council were seeking solutions to this serious issue and the University of Exeter’s Drama Department were able to respond by using creative processes in drama to address some of the areas of concern.
A small group of young ‘care leavers’ work alongside MA Exeter drama students in an integrated theatre company, where the creative contribution of each member is valued. Exploring what community means to young people in care and looking at how to reach out to the community they want to be a part of, forms the basis of the group’s theatre workshops. They meet each week to work on ideas collaboratively and illustrate a commitment to the group by turning up and working together. The drama workshops are regularly held each Wednesday afternoon. Regardless of whether there is chaos elsewhere in the young people’s lives they can be assured of the consistency of the theatre company.
The theatre company consists of 7 members; it is comprised of a mix of care leavers and MA Drama students. Shannon Price, one of the young care leavers said “When I am with Perfectly Mixed Up I can be myself. It is a support network for me and I feel valued. If I hadn’t got the theatre group I would feel quite down. I focus my negative thoughts into giving a great performance and that makes me feel better in myself. I am really excited about going to America!”
Fiona Macbeth, University of Exeter Drama lecturer said: ”Through applied drama we can address important issues for staff working with young people in care. We can explore questions that young people are asking, using innovative ways to address complex issues around both the experience of being ‘looked after’ and leaving care.”
Throughout the creative process, The University of Texas has been involved in devising the performance piece from afar. Avital Stolar, an MA student from the University of Exeter and an alum from The University of Texas at Austin explained: “Through connecting the two universities, we have engaged in a cultural exchange in which masters theatre students from UT and Exeter share ideas from across the world and explore them in rehearsals. Meeting together in Austin will enable our collaborators from UT to see the final product they helped to create. As applied theatre students, we all have an interest in developing artwork with the community and are excited to learn from each other about different ways of working with young people.”
Funding for Perfectly Mixed Up has included finance from Devon County Council, Universities of Exeter and Texas, and a local Exeter charity Mark Marshall. A significant donation from American philanthropists amounted to half of the expenses and was raised through the online “funding platform for creative projects” known as Kickstarter. With over 80 backers, “Perfectly Mixed Up On Tour” received generous support from those hopeful for the project’s success. The Devon County Councillor Andrea Davis, responsible for children in care said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for these young people, and an experience I’m sure they will never forget. The self confidence the young people develop being involved in innovative and creative activities will benefit them for a long time to come.”
The inclusive theatre company fly to the USA on Monday 25 March. Look out for their shows in the UT Cohen New Works Festival on the UT campus on Wednesday, March 27 at 12:00, and Thursday, March 28 at 1:30.
About the University of Exeter
The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13, the University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one percent of institutions globally. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 18,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Sunday Times University Guide, 10th in the UK in The Times Good University Guide 2012 and 10th in the Guardian University Guide. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 90% of the University’s research was rated as being at internationally recognised levels and 16 of its 31 subjects are ranked in the top 10, with 27 subjects ranked in the top 20.
The University has invested strategically to deliver more than £350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses for 2012, including landmark new student services centres – the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange in Cornwall – and world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute.
For further information:University of Exeter Press Office Esther White +44 (0)1392 722307 [email protected]
Festival Inquiries:[email protected]
Press Release and copy courtesy of
Esther White: Press Officer
University of Exeter