This kind of group is important for several reasons. One of the reasons is that, in our society, cultural life has progressed from diversity of expression into conformist, mass-distributed, pop culture. I hope that working with children, giving them confidence in their own competence, and making them see the value of their own artistic expression, can act as a counterweight to this tendency.
Aldebaran is a theatre group I founded in 2005 in my home town Skien, after having participated in the ma Acting course with The Song of the Goat Theatre. First, I ran workshops with young people and other actors, and started to produce performances with them, mostly street theatre. After a year we founded the Aldebaran children's theatre which, since then, I have been leading with the help of the other members of Aldebaran.
We want to work with the children in a different way to most traditional children's theatre groups in Norway. One part of the work is training in different skills, like acrobatics, juggling and stilt dancing. The children often take part in street performances with the older group, using these skills, especially the stilt dancing, in addition to this the children have their own performances. In contrast to most Norwegian children's groups, we have chosen to produce unknown plays or plays that one wouldn't expect children to perform. Our rehearsals usually take a longer time than is usual, since it is important that the children really find ownership in the new material.
One example is Nala and Damajanti, which they performed in December 2008. It was based on a story from the Indian epic Mahabharata. The process consisted of a first telling of the story to the children. After this they improvised scenes several times while the instructors wrote down what thev said and did. Based on this work we wrote scenes and rehearsed them for the performance. In May they will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a production oil which we have worked since the beginning of last year.
Aldebaran consists of thirteen children, almost all of them girls. They are divided into a younger group of six and an older group of seven. Six of them are coming to the festival. The children are recruited giving information to primary school in our town, by members asking their friends to join and sometimes people come to us after seeing our performances.
Unlike some other children group in Norway, we don't select kids based on their talent, experience or other criteria - being part of a minority or some government program for example. Therefore the children are fairly normal, Norwegian kids. That means they live under quite good conditions. Norway has a low level of violence, a good school system and universal healthcare. It is a rich country with a social, democratic government, so unemployment is very low and real economic poverty is almost non-existent. On the other hand, in Norway, like in many other places, social structures are dissolving, and most of the children live in broken homes.