McMullen Student Ambassador Dana Connolly reflects on Professor Jorgensen’s interactions with the museum to fuel his creative endeavors in the classroom.
Professor Luke Jorgensen, BC ‘91, whether demonstrating children’s improvisation exercises, sharing anecdotes from his twenty-five years of experience on and off the stage, or declaiming “MORE THEATRE!” between student performances, throws every item in his theatrical bag of tricks to create electrifying drama classes. Once a year, he plans a field trip for his Creative Dramatics classes to the McMullen Museum for a change of scenery.
While the quiet, reflective McMullen Museum hardly seems like a suitable venue to capture theatrical lightning in a bottle, Jorgensen has integrated museum education into his classes for years, each time beginning anew with the McMullen’s changing exhibitions. This Fall, the McMullen Museum reopened Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives, a multifaceted exhibition of videos, collages, paintings, sculptures, interactive installations, and photographs by contemporary artists whose work reflects the changing landscape of the Indian Ocean and surrounding geography.
After the abrupt transition to remote learning last Spring, Jorgensen was eager to bring his classes back to the McMullen to explore the exhibit. For this visit, he brought a class to Indian Ocean Current to demonstrate creative dramatics. For the unfamiliar, creative dramatics is “an improvisational, non-exhibitional, process-centered form of drama in which participants are guided by a leader to imagine, enact, and reflect upon human experience.”1 Using creative drama exercises, students create new works, entirely without scripts or cues, using only the exhibition and their imaginations.
From a kindergarten classroom to upper-level theatre courses at Boston College, creative dramatics empowers young people to take risks, devise new theatrical experiences, and develop their artistic eye through recreating for the stage their shared human experiences. At the museum, the vocabulary of a creative dramatics work is less explicit; Jorgensen loves to teach what he calls “happenings,” a short written, devised, or performed piece written collaboratively by a class of drama students. For Indian Ocean Current, Jorgensen let his class loose in the museum. He tasked them with collectively writing short stories—thirteen stories for thirteen students—in response to pieces from the exhibition that created vivid mental images and stories, the kindling of creative dramatics work to come.
Jorgensen loves the chain reaction effect of devised theatre pieces like these. In his words, devised theatre captures the “immediate reaction to a piece of art,” empowering the actor to build upon the original work in a collaborative process. Students react to a piece in the museum and use their classmates’ reactions to spark new ideas, reopening the stories behind Indian Ocean Current and continuing them through live performance. During his class, students in Jorgensen’s class used Wangechi Mutu’s digital piece, Amazing Grace, to collaboratively write a story about live zoo animals inexplicably washing up on the shore of a small coastal town.
Jorgensen’s dream for collaboration between the Boston College Theatre Department and the McMullen Museum is something to behold: a (socially distanced) site-specific devised theatre piece accompanied by student musicians and performed throughout the McMullen galleries. Actors and audience members could move freely through different spaces, encounter new scenes and “happenings.” Luke’s description echoes the inventive Macbeth adaptation, Sleep No More, which premiered in nearby Brookline at the abandoned Old Lincoln School. The immersive experience of site-specific theatre creates exciting and authentic dramatic experiences.
Though the future of live theatre is uncertain, Luke Jorgensen has high hopes for the theatre students and faculty at Boston College. For now, he’ll happily keep the ghost light lit until all audiences can return to the theater.
1 Davis, Jed H., and Tom Behm. 1978. Terminology of drama/theatre with and for children: A redefinition. Children’s Theatre Review XXVII (1): 10-11.