At age eleven, Joe Cobden started performing internationally as a street clown. He holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from ConcordiaUniversity. Joe has been an award-winning actor on stage, screen and radio for the last 24 years. He played lead roles in several Canadian television shows and feature films. He was won all the top awards in Québec for theatre acting. He has also directed many award-winning short films and music videos (with premieres at SXSW and TIFF ’12). In 2013 alone, Joe led story-writing workshops with at-risk youth, directed six short films for Sesame Street, wrote, directed and starred in puppet musical The Season, which sold out Théâtre Outremont, was the star student of improv comedy school Upright Citizens Brigade inLos Angeles and acted with Tobey Maguire in Montréal-shot “Pawn Sacrifice.”
Joe has been blessed with a diverse career, with one practice informing the next, culminating in his current passion: working with young people to help them realize their unique artistic voice and to pay forward the incredible gifts that were given to him. Though his work is often humorous and music-based, Joe’s wide-ranging talents do not have a signature characteristic. Each project has unique demands, from imagination to creation. Joe places high importance on the value of “play” and collaboration, especially when working with young people, to find the suitable practice for the inspiration. It may be that a love story is best told with movement, for example, so Joe will play with a movement artist or musician to find a way to best serve the story. The inspiration is the beginning, the how is the work, and the work is different each time.
Other examples of activities
Joe works with students to find themes of focus, topics that are important to them. Some of these themes could incorporate elements of the school curriculum, and Joe will have early discussions with faculty to see what might be useful depending on current class work (for example, a chapter of Québec history). Once a theme has been agreed on, Joe and the students will brainstorm various ways they can explore it (illustration, film, photography, live dramatization, writing, etc.). Joe works with the students in groups according to the practice they are interested in. The students will create their work with constant feedback. No one is left out, and each student will have an objective, a piece to finish, so that they get to express themselves how they wish. The event will culminate in a variety show. This workshop will require three-hour sessions to prepare the final group presentation.
Joe leads students through a series of warm-up exercises inspired by those ofCalgary's infamous Loose Moose Theatre Company, the Upright Citizens Brigade and the Théâtre Ste. Catherine. First, there will be some movement exercises and fun games to loosen up the students and get them using their bodies. Once students are adequately engaged, they will participate in a series of improv story-telling games (telling a story speaking one word at a time, speaking as one voice, and “What Happens Next”). These games will be participatory for audience and performer alike, and Joe will make sure that a trustful, encouraging environment is fostered. Finally, Joe will help students improvise full scenes, introducing simple and helpful story elements like “platform” (the beginning) and “tilt” (the sudden shift). The improvisations’ themes will emphasize teen issues so as to allow participants to express the challenges they may be struggling with and defuse them through a humorous treatment. This workshop is three hours long, and students would benefit most from repeat sessions to develop their skills and storytelling abilities.
A television or projector would be useful for workshop1. A space suitable for movement.
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