Just got back from a resort up north where I attended the CODE conference. CODE stands for the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators.

I got to go through my booking agency, and this year was different because through the Ontario Arts Council, which helps fund such initiatives, there was an artist subsidy that basically paid the conference fee for artists who wanted to attend for reasons of professional development.

Between that and my booking agency Prologue to the Performing Arts, paying for my room, it was well worth going! (Only cost me $50 plus the gas it took to go there.)

I’m surprised more artists didn’t go. And yet when I received the mass email about the availability of spots I thought, “What business does an author/storyteller have going to something like that?”

I’ve always felt like drama types were a completely different breed of artist.

They are!

And yet I came home with an information hangover.

My head’s buzzing from all the things I’ve learned.

Art is art, and some people say at the heart of many an author lies an unfulfilled actor.

And that’s kind of true of me.

There was a time when I thought I could be in movies. But it’s just not conducive to an Islamic personality.

How could I play a part that requires me to remove my headscarf or other apparel?

Nope. Can’t and won’t do it.

If it ever comes down to a tug of war between my beliefs/religious duties and my art–I always pray that my faith wins, because all the success in the world won’t mean a thing if I lose in the hereafter.

So it was easy for me to reject that path.

And yet there are problems with these kinds of artistic professional development opportunities. So many times men will have physical contact with me. And even when they put out their hands and I tell them as nicely as I can that I’m not allowed to shake their hands, they’ll pat me on the arm or something.

And I cringe inside.

Nevertheless, I just wanted to share some of the things I learned from this escapade.

One of the best things that drama and dance folks can do are loosening up exercises, where they get people interacting with each other so they’re feeling pretty comfortable.

It’s pretty standard with all drama and dance workshops.

Oh and there are so many ways they accomplish this! You could probably google drama warm-up exercises if you want to learn more about this.

The first activity occurred Friday night, after a long drive! We were told to make little boxes by folding up squares of silver cardboard and then decorate them. I heard from someone that we would be encouraged to wear our silver boxes as some kind of adornment the next night, at the Gala. They had cutout letters and I put a big silvery blue R with an exclamation mark on one side of the box. Then I added two shocking blue feathers at the top of the box (I thought they looked like wings but other people told me they looked like bunny ears!) and I added some blue lace around the edge and glue the whole thing to a hair band.

The next day we started the workshops in earnest.

In the first writing course I ever took, the teacher used a somewhat similar method to get us to write. He had us look at the twelve illustrations in Chris Van Allsberg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick to glean some inspiration to write something.

The first workshop I took did much the same thing only we looked at a picture called The Gift.

It’s a very eerie little painting and very ambiguous which lent itself perfectly to the workshop that Christine Jackson was doing.

We had to pair up with someone else, write three words and a sentence on sticky notes and that became a sort of dialogue for a scene that evoked the painting.

Then we acted out certain tableaus and stuff.

It was very interesting!

And very creative!

And it made me wonder that perhaps authors don’t use their bodies enough when they’re tapping into creativity!

Moving your body while you’re accessing this type of deep creativity sure makes you experience it in a different matter.

(And that led me back to thinking about prayer.

Growing up one thing that ALWAYS made me wonder was why our prayer has so many different movements! We say certain prescribed things while performing certain positions of prayer: raising our hands to our ears to begin the prayer, standing, bowing (from the waist with our hands on our knees), prostrating (so we’re on our hands and knees and our face is touching the floor at the nose and forehead), sitting on our knees, etc.

For the first time in my life, I actually have an answer.)

I came out of that workshop really primed to take in the rest of the knowledge I’d be accessing!

The second workshop I attended was led by an aboriginal dancer.

I’ve always been fascinated by Aboriginal culture but I must say, some of that fascination seems to be waning now.

The third workshop I went to was SPECTACULAR!

It was given by a Spoken Word artist Greg Frankson who calls himself Ritallin. You can hear one of the poems he delivered here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NulPRBn2lA

The visuals are terrible, but the poem stands up well to scrutiny!

He got us all to create a bit of spoken word poetry centred on a word. My word was ‘rock’. I came up with something I rather liked. But then the kicker, we had to pair up with someone else who had a completely different word poem. I ended up with a lovely lady who’d been given the word ‘pizza’.

The challenge was to fuse both our poems together to create something intelligible.

This is what we came up with:

Rock crust, Olive trees

Tomato plants, double cheese

Think you are invincible

But you’re not.

Slate grey, granite

Making up a planet

Doesn’t matter what the cost

Ignore the danger, all is lost.

The biggest pizza is the world

Topped with every boy and girl

Bug global warming gets too hot

Burns the pizza on the spot

So you can’t eat it.

Well it won’t win any slam competition but…we tried!

And the fourth session were two actors doing a workshop about Verbatim theatre.

That one was also SPECTACULAR!

These were actors who recorded interviews, often with homeless people, and transcribed them into a theatrical composition.


They were on a level that so many of the workshops hadn’t plumbed.

I have a confession to make.

I used to think dramatic arts were over-rated when it came to being educationally valuable.

I was a real three ‘r’s kind of person: reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, but having seen these dramatic teachers in action, I’ve really changed my mind!

These educators work just as hard to reach students and bring out their potential as any Math or English teacher!

Kudos to them!

Oh! Almost forgot!

If you got twelve of the vendors in the trade fair to validate your schedule book, you got five raffle tickets for prizes, the grandest of which was a pair of tickets for the premiere of a world class play, Warhorse. (Apparently it’s won 6 Tony awards including best new play!)

I have never won any of these things, till now!