A Track Record of Experimentation
Even before formation, the Upstate research group examining the feasibility of a professional theatre organisation for the North East concluded their research in December 1996 with a two day experimental actors' workshop.
This led to a platform presentation of ideas and scenes and a lively debate at Droichead Arts Centre, involving 75 invited guests from the local and national arts and cultural scene.
Based on the success of this, Upstate was offered an Arts Council "Mise-en-Scene" award in 1997, to engage a choreographer, a composer, a designer and a group of actors to work with the writer/director on developing the production script of The Weavers, Upstate’s first production.
Creating Collective Storytelling
In 1998, Upstate brought some young people they had met in their border-community drama workshops together with established professional actors, to explore storytelling methods which might be incorporated into the eventual Hades script.
In all, eighteen individual artists and activists as well as three youth groups are credited in the show programme as collaborators in the artistic development of the play. This method has been repeated, developed and refined over several of the professional productions.
The community drama work of the company is informed by experimentation and innovation, just as the professional productions are. The 1998/'99 project with Macra na Feirme in Termonfeckin began with a season of purely exploratory workshops, introducing the group to methods of choreography, stage design and narration, some of which they later used in their eventual productions of Tunnel of Love and Zoo Station.