Areas of Investigation

Earlyarts Learners

Rachel Riggs, Artistic Director, DNA puppetry and visual theatre

DNA puppetry & visual theatre – ‘imaginary leaps’ a newly developed programme and website for early years is being launched this spring following on from an initial pilot research project including CPD training, theatre play sessions and open play kits. The programme is aimed at children’s centres and Surestarts, and engages artists to work with early years settings, often in deprived areas. As Artistic Director, Rachel is leading on this, and also upgrading her own skills development, studying to be an Early Years Practitioner to understand the creative changes within the early years sector and use this within her research in creating theatre programmes for under 5’s. Last year, two early years productions went to Singapore and Malaysia which were successful – Ball Pond Bobby and Atishoo!

Hopes for Dandelion – to continue to develop European links and networks with fellow early years artists and researchers. To develop understanding of other European early years cultures and to bring together research interests with making theatre for early years.

Liz Fitzgerald-Taylor, Artistic Director of Imaginary Leaps, Dynamic New Animation

As a freelance artist working for DNA’s Imaginary Leaps, then it goes without saying that I also have the same learning objectives as Rachel.  However, I am also a freelance actor and my main area of research through the Dandelion Project is to continually reflect and evaluate my own acting skills. It is vital for me to continue to “learn.”  To open my mind up to new ways of working, to gain new skills and continue my lifelong practical study as an actor working within children’s theatre  It is therefore crucial for me to be part of a European network of artists – to see, learn, fuse ideas, disagree with and gain knowledge from European Theatre.

Natasha Holmes, Artistic Director, Tell Tale Hearts Touring Theatre Company

Tell Tale Hearts main body of work is developing early year’s theatre. They also plan to make a piece for younger children – 6 months to 3 years – and have been building a client base that understands the parameters of what promenade theatre for this age group looks like. They need to build this up before they move on and take the audience with them. Natasha is interested in how to effectively stage work for that age range and encouraging venues to buy into that.

Hopes for Dandelion– Natasha is interested in European theatre and how different countries have different approaches to theatre for early years. Natasha has a multi cultural family so she is keen to tap into the wider community of theatre and find out more about the differing approaches. She is particularly interested in the nature of engagement and/or participation in work for the very young. She is keen to see how European companies approach this dynamic in their work – as the participation element is a huge part of her own company’s work.

Lizzie Allen, Artistic Director, Freehand Theatre Company

Freehand Theatre’s work in the last 10 years has focused on the age group 3 to 7 – this is a huge age group in developmental terms. Previous work had always been for children of 4 and older. By embracing children as young as 3 in our audiences we have opened many questions in our heads about performing for children this young and, in its turn, these questions have led us to consider the matter of theatre for even younger children.
Lizzie is interested in exploring the question “what is the point of doing theatre for the very young (1-3 yr olds)?” She is interested in clarifying in her own mind why it is so important to expose such young children to quality theatre and art in general.

Hopes for Dandelion – to have an opportunity for a period of reflection on the above questions, to see and investigate the work of European companies who are in the vanguard of this area of work and, through this contact, to explore new directions for Freehand Theatre’s future work. 

Potsdam Learners

Susann – studying Early Childhood Education, interested in questions like – what can parents learn from this kind of theatre;  is it possible to interview the artists on how they prepare for creating for young children? Also if Natasha produces a play for young children inspired by the learning from the La Baracca/Toihaus piece, is this developed according to the age group of the children being targeted?

Katia – also studying Early Childhood Education – questions on process of education, how does theatre influence the children after the end of the performance, how do they enter and exit the performance and what is the reaction of the children, do they play afterwards in the theatre in response to the show, and do they do so at home afterwards or in the kindergarten?

Rike – studying Social Work – talked with Natasha in Salzburg and very interested in her work – is it possible for her to come to England and watch this work? Interested in the play they are creating and wants to see it. Discussed limitations of budgets and decided that it would be better for all the learners to meet together in Bologna in September rather than split between England and Bologna, and then we could take DVDs of all the theatre company’s work with us, otherwise they can’t go to Bologna if they come to England.

Steffie – diploma in theatre science and theatre pedagogy, interested in both sides of the coin – theatre viewer and also in the pedagogic aspects of the work.

Marianne – studying cultural and theatre skills, but never yet worked in theatre for children, so great opportunity. Question is are there any differences in the artistic process in creating theatre for children and theatre for adults, why do artists choose to produce plays for young ones as opposed to adults, and what do they learn in the process that helps towards their own development? Wants to inteview artists and actors, cultural workers from our different countries.


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