We are very excited to announce that Moriah Flagler is joining Be the Street as Artistic Director for 2018-2020. Here, she answers a few questions about herself and her background. Please welcome Moriah to our team!!
Q: Could you talk a little bit about your background and how you became interested in devising?
A: I think it all started when I went to a new high school where I didn’t know anyone. I was sitting in homeroom and heard an announcement on the loudspeaker that there would be a meeting for an improvisation club at lunch. I didn’t really know what improv was, but thought it would be a good solution to eating lunch alone. Fast forwarding through high school, I eventually became the vice president of the group and a member of a local Tucson improv troupe. I didn’t know it then, but improvisation and devising are closely linked. In improv, I learned how to really listen to my collaborators and how to build on what they offered me and the project. I learned how to support my teammates and how to trust that they had my back. I learned how to be flexible and respond in the moment as goals or tactics shifted. Most of all, I learned how important authenticity is onstage and off. Devising with a group is very much about collaboration… to make something together that exists because of the folks in the room. The process and the product would not exist without them. To me, this is a work of presence and generosity.
Much of my current devising work focuses on engaging across difference. Before beginning graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, I lived in Quepos, Costa Rica for two years. There, I taught English, started an improv troupe with teens at the local theatre, and partnered with applied theatre facilitators doing work in youth development. My experience living and working closely with members of the community in Quepos, deeply instilled my belief that people of different cultures and backgrounds hold a wealth of knowledge and skills that an outsider may not recognize unless they are willing and ready to make the familiar strange and really listen. In my devising work, I strive to create a space in which participants both recognize and share their community cultural wealth (skills and knowledges from their communities) with each other and their intended audiences.
Q: What are some projects that you worked on recently that really excited you?
A: The work I do as an applied theatre facilitator focuses on sharing and listening to personal stories, with the goal of centering voices that the dominant culture often does not value. My work in this area includes interview-based ethnographic theatre, interactive audio installations, and digital storytelling with young people.
During my time as a graduate student in UT Austin’s Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program, I mentored and co-facilitated a devised ethnographic theatre piece, called Work, with director Matthew Hernandez and an undergraduate ensemble. Work was presented in the Cohen New Works Festival 2017. The ethnographic theatre piece combined audio interviews and devised movement with the hopes of creating connections between students and the custodial workers who care for the environments in which we learn and work.
In another project, Patchwork Stories, at the University of Exeter, UK, I collaboratively created an interactive installation with the goal of sharing the wisdom of those we live and walk amongst in times of challenge and change. As a member of the ensemble, I gathered and curated stories from the community members in the Exeter Drug Project and guided over 50 visitors through the installation.
To listen to my audio: https://tinyurl.com/jat4rmw, Select “Fix Your Gaze” #3.
I’m as much a classroom teacher as I am a theatre maker; because of this, my most recent project explored how I could use applied theatre in my work as a teacher of non-arts content, and specifically in a middle school Spanish for Spanish Speakers class. I wondered how using applied theatre practices in this specific context might offer a way for young people and their teachers to build authentic relationships that focused on students’ assets and elevated their lived experiences or community cultural wealth in the classroom. During my residency, the young people engaged in drama, oral storytelling, and writing activities around the themes of community, family, and what we learn from these communities that help us navigate life. All of this lead to them creating group digital stories in iMovie that they shared with invited friends and family.
Q: What ideas or practices are you most anxious to explore as you get to know Columbus communities and students at Ohio State?
A: I am so excited to connect with students and community members — to see what they’re excited about, to hear their stories, and to create with them. I’m very much looking forward to exploring how storytelling and activism can be linked in Columbus and what this can look like in terms of the work we do together.
Moriah Flagler is a teacher, theatre maker, and scholar. Her research focuses on community-based devising, applied improvisation, and digital storytelling. Her recent scholarship examines how devising digital stories with middle school aged Spanish speakers foregrounded their community cultural wealth in a schooling system that often strips Latinx youth of their languages and cultures through subtractive assimilation.
Moriah holds a Master of Fine Arts in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Education from The University of Arizona. She is excited to join the OSU Be the Street team as Artistic Director and to continue to explore the intersections of place, identity, connection, story, and social justice.