Red Balloon: Workshopped from the heart

In 2007, Rah Rah Productions began a performing arts project for young people living with a disability. Now in its 5th year, ArtStable has evolved and developed into a year-long workshop based program, facilitated and co-ordinated by Kimberly Grigg and Adam Pierzchalski of Rah Rah Productions (with immense support from the City of Kingston).

 ArtStable 2011 EnsembleThe 2011 ArtStable ensemble consists of Corey Pollock, Ebby May, Tim D’Rozario and Candice Jones; young people who answered an expression of interest for the program back in December 2010. They have attended workshops since March this year and will soon present their special feature performance of a high quality, group devised theatrical piece, Red Balloon. Marisa Cesario, the Performing Arts Coordinator for the Arts & Cultural Services in Kingston took some time to speak with about this wonderful project and what it means to the community.  “ArtStable is essentially a series of weekly workshops where a group come together to learn and develop various performing arts skills, with the aim of devising an original high quality piece of theatre to present to audiences at the end of the year”, she explains.  Under the tutelage and direction of Rah Rah Productions, the small ensemble have used their knowledge gained through their weekly workshops in workshops in movement, clowning, voice, alternative scriptwriting, shadow puppetry to create Red Balloon. The opportunity to connect with other people with a similar passion for the performing arts and together, use their own ideas and experiences to create their own characters, narrative and ultimately, a full theatrical performance has been a unique and wonderful experience for the young people involved in this year’s program. ArtStable - Corey PollockCesario says that a the creative process for these performers has been varied and exciting, with discussions and stimuli used to generate physical and visual responses from the ensemble.  “Surprisingly, the topics of their discussions leaned towards the various natural disasters occurring around the world, cyclone Yasi, the Japanese Tsunami, Christchurch earthquake, the Queensland floods and more. Some participants were fearful and others curious”, she said.  “This led them to very strong images and many survival stories. The group then started questioning themselves, their own projected responses and one member, Ebby said “If there was a tragedy near me I would want to get in a balloon and fly away until it was over.” The idea of a balloon as escape, as a beacon to happier times, as something that could burst at any time took root in their imagination”.  And so Red Ballon was born.
 The group made puppets, created characters, objects and were able to work on scores for sequential puppetry scenes. Cesario explained that the ensemble found the use of puppetry was not only enjoyable but aided them in telling various stories or exposing meanings to more challenging ideas. It also gave them a second reality where anything could take place.  After a rigorous script process, researching everything from Shaun Tan books & other picture books to a Japanese survival guide to loss and survival (which recognized various stages in grief particular to catastrophic loss) to music and imagery, to collecting newspaper clippings, creating walls of loss, tales of survival and reading children’s stories that dealt with relationships, friendships and overcoming loss or tragedy.  “They workshopped ideas of community, support, how to make broken things function again and so on. Red Balloon is haunting, beautiful and moving, and explores themes of dealing with loss and tragedy in a unique way”, said Cesario.  “The ArtStable project pushes the boundaries of theatre for people living with a disability by enabling actors to create and perform the whole work themselves and celebrates the difference in ‘on stage’ performance, openly allowing and accepting expression at any given moment. Red Balloon does not include other ‘professional actors’ to gel scenes or smooth out the edges (apart from some puppetry assistance backstage) but rather actively supports the creations of participants and their interpretation of thought and feeling caught in a sudden moment, celebrating chance and happening.” Red Balloon gives voice to those who are not always heard but are affected by the world around us. 
Cesario says she hopes that this other communities across Australia will be able to benefit from Rah Rah Production’s wonderful initiative.   “With funding and support from venues, this program could absolutely be adapted and presented across Australia”, she said.   Red Balloon is playing for 3 performances only at the Kingston Arts Centre, Moorabin Friday 9 December 6pm Thursday 15 December 2pmFriday 16 December 2pm Bookings: 

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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