Thinking back over the first 3 weeks of our residency and I'm remembering that Ros had advised us to take it slowly - there would be a lot of elements to consider and a steep learning curve ahead of us in terms of observing the different approaches to engagement, communication and play...
An important early classroom observation that has already begun informing our approach to performance-making has been trying to remain aware  about the the processing time kids might need when taking in information. For many PMLD kids response times to requests and instructions really are a matter of minutes... and minutes... In interactive theatre terms this translates as providing ample time for experiential invitations to be taken up by them - as performers this really requires us to be comfortable with the kinds of lulls and pauses that go against the grain of most of our performance experience. Watching these teachers' infinite patience with each child is hugely instructive (and humbling) to us - the teacher (and the EA's) shows the performers how to calmly use those pauses as opportunities to closely observe each child/audience member. When an individual kid's response and engagement might be measured by small eye movements for example, then as a performer you have to be able to give yourself and them the time and space to communicate that.
I was struck by a kind of table of "Levels of Experience" for PMLD  kids Ros shared in an early meeting, almost in passing, as if it was a given that we all knew already - she described it as "First -  'Encounter', second - 'Engage', third - 'Gaining knowledge', and then, possibly for some - 'Application.' " I've been mulling this over ever since in relation to story-shaping/devising... I'm  learning that I'm going to have to let go of some of my past restrictive scriptwriter ("structure"-focused) tendencies to allow a bit more space for lateral "story exploration" and just let the kids "play through the story" a bit more.
 


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