From Passion Project to Successful Business

How a love of the performing arts led to a new, independent theatre company

Stephenie Pagulayan has a passion for theatre and drama that few could rival. The stark reality for her growing up in the Shetland Isles was that there were few opportunities for her to pursue her dream.

Through sheer hard work, grit and determination, and despite leaving school at the age of 15, Stephenie has developed her own Creative Theatre Company, which this year, reached the final of the ‘Creative Challenge’ at the 2020 Converge Awards.

Stephenie’s Theatre project – known as ALICE – came while studying for a post-graduate degree in Art and Social Practice at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Lerwick at Shetland College UHI. 

Whilst there is a thriving amateur dramatics scene in Shetland, ALICE’s role is to enhance, compliment and support the development of existing provision, with emphasis on skills development, education and technique. 

The uniqueness of ALICE comes from the devising/creative element of its work and the participatory nature. 

Stephenie comments; 

“ALICE, an acronym for five key ‘pillars’- Act, Learn Imagine Create Excel – provides an opportunity for people to nurture their creativity, confidence and individuality through theatre and performance practice and was incorporated as a Community Interest Company in January 2020”.

ALICE Theatre Project is unique, in that it does not work with pre-written materials.  

As mentioned, everything is devised and created within the group under Stephenie’s guidance. The core work focuses on weekly classes in parallel with the academic school year. The classes are for primary age children with strong emphasis on technique in the first two terms and then devising in the second two terms. The class then writes and performs its own show in the community theatre. This is all about creativity and development for young people.

In addition, ALICE Theatre Project conducts ad-hoc workshops in schools in creative theatre practice and has started a new initiative in collaboration with Ability Shetland,  a charitable organisation supporting individuals with additional support needs, by creating an innovative project framework which is called The Imaginarium. 

Stephenie takes up the story;

“The Imaginarium of Ability Shetland is a pilot project involving 120 disabled artists across Shetland. The level of interest it has created has exceeded expectations. The nature of the charity means that it can be very difficult to articulate the power of the work it does, so one of the outcomes from the Imaginarium is that we can show the community what this amazing charity is doing”.

Ability Shetland organises clubs for people with additional support needs from pre-school up to the age of 80+, so, each club will have what we call an Imagination Station, where members of the public will come and engage with the artwork with the idea that we raise the profile of the organisation and embed a legacy for the individuals to continue developing their craft “

Stephenie is convinced that the arts can transform lives as evidenced by the success of the Imaginarium project. She hopes this will lead to a major shift in perceptions in Shetland, making it a pivotal centre for Participatory Performing Arts.

Once the pilot has been trialled, Stephenie’s plan is to make this a Proof of Concept by linking organisations with art in a different way which has never been done before in Shetland.