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Outspoken - it's show time

| 01.05.2009

Outspoken, a new drama about the challenges of stammering in adolescence, is the culmination and creative fruit of BSA Scotland's major collaboration with TAG Citizens Theatre.

Outspoken actorsThe play toured selected secondary schools in Scotland in Spring 2009 (feedback below), and has now been released as a DVD, including downloadable worksheets for schools.

The project started with the establishment of a group of young adults who stammer who met to explore the benefits of drama for developing confidence and communication skills (see below Development of project).

The play

The drama describes the experience of Danny, a first year High School pupil who stammers, and involves three actors who each play a variety of roles. The story is fast moving, comic, and at times larger than life - as we see the world through Danny's eyes. At the same time it deals with serious issues about stammering, being different, trying to fit in and bullying.

The play starts with Danny addressing the audience like a stand up comedian with a 'mic' and ends in the same way. There are few props - just a couple of chairs, the mic stand and a large leather satchel that signifies the identity of one of the main characters.

Danny tells his story, starting from when he began stammering, then moving on to experiences in High School. The script is essentially a string of pivotal scenes, brought to life, interspersed with narrative asides.

More on the story below...

Feedback from Outspoken schools tour

"The play and workshop sent out a very positive but realistic view of people who stammer and also raised awareness of bullying. Pupils found the experience fun and were fully engaged throughout, while taking the issues themselves seriously. I spoke to some of them afterwards who said they would now never bully anyone who had a stammer" - Teacher

"People who stammer are normal just like people who don't stammer. It doesn't matter the way people talk - it's how they are that matters." - Pupil

"I learned that if you stammer you have to be brave" - Pupil

DVD

The Outspoken DVD, available in June 2009, will include the entire play plus 'talking head' footage of project participants: describing their experiences of stammering; giving advice to listeners who don't stammer and offering support to viewers who do stammer.

The DVD will be made available to Education Departments across Scotland for use in secondary schools. Additional downloadable worksheets will provide structured classroom sessions in line with personal social education, drama and other aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence.

Many people have expressed a desire to buy a copy of the DVD so we hope to produce copies for sale too. Update: The DVD is now available to buy in the BSA shop, while stocks last.

Development of the project

Group working with TaroThe project started with the establishment of a group of young adults who stammer who met to explore the benefits of drama for developing confidence and communication skills. A second series of workshops in late summer 2008 introduced new elements such as writing and film-making.

In October 2008 an intensive week, led by playwright Davey Anderson, shifted the focus to eliciting participants' personal stories about stammering. The group thereafter became expert consultants to the play.

The intensive week was joined by Taro Alexander, Artistic Director and person who stammers from 'Our Time Theatre, New York. Taro facilitated two days of workshops and his unique combined experience of theatre and stammering also inspired material that ended up in the final script.

Link: Outspoken - a participant's view - article by Lynne Mackie

Outspoken - the story

Scene from OutspokenThe drama describes the experience of Danny, a first year High School pupil who stammers, and involves three actors who each play a variety of roles.

Danny tells his story, starting from when he began stammering, then moving on to experiences in High School. The script is essentially a string of pivotal scenes, brought to life, interspersed with narrative asides.

We see Danny encountering the 'hard nuts' on his first day in High School and find out how he becomes 'one of the boys'. We meet Sandra, the girl he likes, and see him in English class trying not to reveal that he stammers.

Everything 'hots up' when new boy, Cameron Montgomery, arrives. Cameron also stammers but deals with his speech in a much more open way. He doesn't 'know the rules' according to Danny. Danny feels Cameron is like a 'stammering shadow' reminding him of the difficulty he tries to hide.

In due course Sandra, who has no time for 'the boys', befriends individualistic Cameron and Danny begins to feel he is now the 'shadow', as Cameron takes over his role. Things come to a head when Danny is dumped in the pond by his supposed friends after a confrontation with Cameron.

Danny skulks home deciding its time for change. He visits the speech therapist he saw when he was younger and, in telling her about his recent experiences, comes to realise he is no longer 'one of the boys': He can see them for what they are. He reaches a greater acceptance of himself and now just wants to speak.

The future

Following the project, we are hopeful of developing further ways of collaborating with TAG Citizens Theatre, Glasgow and 'Our Time Theatre' in New York.

BSA Scotland proposals include:

  • widening the age range to develop separate drama workshops for children and young people who stammer and for adults who stammer;
  • drama project for young offenders who stammer;
  • exchange with 'Our Time' project.

Outspoken participants are keen to establish a follow-on drama group for young adults who stammer.

Funders

Outspoken was made possible with funding from The Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Power, The Russell Trust, The Rayne Foundation, The W M Mann Foundation, The Nancie Massey Charitable Trust and The Saints and Sinners Club.

Scottish Power