SOLO THEATRE PROJECT
Reflection for December 18th
For me, this past week has been almost exclusively about teaching the juniors in our class Commedia, along with a fellow senior. This has been a tremendous experience, and I have enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. In teaching Commedia, I had to try and recall everything I had learned myself, such as the individual physicality of the different archetypes and the nuances to Gramalot. Luckily, the resources I used when I was learning Commedia with my class still exist, and they have been critically helpful in both filling in gaps in my personal knowledge as well as giving a stronger, more detailed overview of characters or aspects of Commedia. The one thing that I think makes this setup, of seniors mentoring juniors, is that we are able to draw on our personal shortcomings with Commedia and the Commedia piece we performed to try and rectify any potential snags we faced when devising a piece. For instance, in our piece we elected to used Gramalot, but we weren't speaking the same Gramalot. Gramalot is all about the types of sounds you use, and making them seem coherent enough that they aren't just a language but the same language as that being used by the other actors. To make sure this didn't happen for the juniors, my partner and I shared the story I just documented, and then conducted several Gramalot exercises we had found so that the juniors could really get a feel for what it means to speak the same language. To their credit, the juniors have been a joy to work with. Each one is inquisitive in a different way, with some immediately latching onto the innate physicality of the characters and others really getting into the language of Gramalot. Their motivation and drive to achieve has made them great assets to work with, and I am happy that I got this opportunity to work with them, when the seniors typically don't. The last thing we did this week was beginning to watch an actual Commedia piece, servant with two masters. This has been enormously helpful in putting the physicality of characters, the use of Lozzi, and the use of masks into a real theatre context. I think watching the play has helped to clarify what it means to be a character, and also helps to show that you don't necessarily have to be restricted to a rigid interpretation of the archetype, such as the liberties taken by the physicality of the doctor. In all, I am eager to continue working with the juniors as they construct their own Commedia piece, and I eagerly await viewing the product that comes out of it.
Reflection for December 10th
I have found a new exercise related to Brecht that I will be teaching in class on Monday. The idea of the exercise is that two characters are having a conflict, but instead of staging the scene as usual it is set in the context of a boxing match, where the announcer narrates their fight and the two arguing actors duke it out, to maintain the alienation style of Brecht by not allowing the audience to get too involved in the argument. The exercise was initially intended for use during the devising process, but since we are not in devising at the moment I thought it would be better to just use some conflict improv starters instead, so that the conflict piece of the exercise remains present and we are able to have it under our belts the next time devising comes around. Finding the piece itself was not totally difficult, but exploring Brecht was. With vague directions, it was difficult to find any one thing that wasn't connected to either Alienation or gestus. However, once we were told that it was actually an exercise we were looking for, it suddenly became much easier. I was able to locate the exercise in our theatre textbook, and I immediately locked onto it because I viewed it as a unique way to explore what alienation means. Initially, when trying to wrap your head around the idea of a conflict that has nothing to do with boxing taking place in a boxing setting, it can be confusing, and I personally struggled with finding the use of the exercise. However, I realized that the boxing setting was just that: setting, external context that took the argument out of the real world and put it into a foreign environment so that the audience can appreciate the nuances of the argument itself without being weighed down with real-world considerations. As I looked into the exercise I was able to to see that it functioned much in the same way that the songs in Caucasian Chalk Circle do, interrupting the audience and preventing them from getting too involved with the piece. I have always liked the format of boxing, how dramatic it is with the announcer's loud voice booming over a sea of thousands of fans (though I am not so fond of the fighting itself). Given how fun these elements of boxing are, I feel excited to bring this exercise to class so that I can try to show my classmates exactly what alienation can be, and how exciting and dynamic it can be to integrate it into a scene.
Reflection for December 6th
Even though I won’t be creating a solo project myself, I still found the influence each theorist had on the piece was quite profound. All of the videos focused on different aspects of the scene and the environment, because of the emphasis put on different elements by each of the theorists. This gave each piece a unique feel, and even though the core actions in each were the same (take out items, say monologue/sing song, drown) I felt as though I was watching the piece for the first time with every new video, as a result of the dissimilar emphases of the theorists. With Grotowski, the piece opened with Ophelia wailing, screaming, in a way that served to be quite unsettling. She was totally overcome in her emotion, and spends the rest of the piece dejected, laying on the ground. She drowns face down, in silence. While I think Grotowski’s rendition was quite dramatic and did a good job of representing emotion, the scene was lacking in substance on account of Ophelia being incapable of dragging herself off the ground, which I thought hurt the piece somewhat. Brook is totally different in the clip inspired by his approaches, with Ophelia focusing on the ticking watch of her father, even wrapping it around her flowers. There is also great care taken with the unpacking of the objects presumably tied to Hamlet. This was a pretty cool emphasis for me personally, because the ticking watch ticked on despite her father’s death. It was a very symbolistic gesture, and one that I thought helped convey the emotions Ophelia was feeling without sacrificing a large portion of the piece. One of the most intriguing pieces was the rendition inspired by Brecht. I actually knew a little bit of what Brecht’s theatre theory involved, so I was able to appreciate the piece more than the other theorist applications. While my classmates had done obvious asides to the audience to portray Brecht, the video saw the actress bringing lines like ‘and then she said’ into the other lines she had. This felt much less clunky than the very harsh and disruptive style used by my classmates, and it really did help separate the strong emotions felt by Ophelia from real life, reminding the audience that all of this wasn’t real. Because I could appreciate it more fully than the other performances. Stanislavski did something none of the other pieces did, having Ophelia smoke a cigarette during the scene. While mentioned in class, I find myself really agreeing with the notion that the act of smoking helped convey how restless Ophelia was. It slowed the scene down somewhat, which allowed the audience to linger on the moments Ophelia had with each object, which for me increased my appreciation of the scene. With Stanislavski, I really felt that the scene felt very authentic, less staged and more a window into the life of a real Ophelia living somewhere in the world. While I liked Brecht the best, Stanislavski is a close second. Finally, we watched Artaud’s rendition. It was weird. Super weird. You weren’t actually able to hear Ophelia’s dialogue, but you could hear her yell and see her facial expressions. I thought Artaud as a whole was totally unnerving and unnatural, and helped to unsettle the audience, and make them uncomfortable. I liked some of the film affects used by Artaud with the mirrored screen and the fish bowl view of the action, but the fact that all of this came at the loss of understanding Shakespeare’s dialogue was difficult for me. All of the pieces held my attention and were compelling in their own way, with Brecht keeping the performance in perspective, Artaud keeping you on your toes with the disturbing imagery, Stanislavski’s methodical, measured approach, Brook’s tender attention to the watch, and Grotowski’s vivid representation of emotion. All in all, I think that the pieces helped me to appreciate the differences between the many different theorists, and I look forward to both exploring more theorists and seeing my classmates develop their pieces.
Collaborative theatre project
Reflection for November 26th
We presented our CTP this week. I am incredibly happy with how our piece went. The audience noticed two of the elements that we had focused on, being the movement of the piece found in our fluid transitions between scenes and use of a minimalist set, inspired by the movement of Gecko Theatre, as well as our choice to go with a more comedic piece. What is most satisfying for me is that the audience actually found the piece funny, because our group had worked hard to introduce comedy into the piece as a way to communicate our intention in a better format than a dramatic or serious piece might. I was worried that the piece might be confusing, but during the performance we were sure to emphasize the initial scene where the five points of the father are passed to the son, so that the audience could get acquainted with the solutions we would employ throughout the performance. I was also worried about our costume transitions, but we were diligent in our rehearsals of trying to be very deliberate in how quickly we changed, and I think that shows through in the video. I would have liked to gotten more response from the audience on what they thought about the performance, because while there was excellent attendance not many people were willing to talk. We may have wanted to have more than a few questions prepared, so our reliance on the audience sharing their thoughts was unfortunately misplaced. All in all, I would say that our impact of flexibility, of trying all options and of trying to work your way through problems was communicated. I am satisfied that our piece came together how it did, because each member labored over different parts, with one groupmate focusing on costume, another on lines, and myself on blocking and staging. Easily the moment that made me feel proudest was the comment we got about the dancelike use of the chairs. I worked very hard to try and create scenes so that the transitions between them wouldn't feel too jarring, and we went through numerous iterations of chair location (even doing some improve with chairs to try and see where they naturally wanted to go). The fact that this was noticed reflects the effort that was put into this aspect of the performance by me, in addition to all the other work done by my groupmates and myself.
Reflection for November 19th
This last week was not quite as fruitful as I hoped, but progress was still made. We again had a student missing from our group for a day, but that actually gave us some time to nail down a few monologues. I am grateful for this because I do much of the talking in the piece, and there were a few portions where I tended to ramble, drawing up valuable time. I feel that having a few rehearsed bits of dialogue will be helpful in keeping our piece from stagnating while I belt nonsense to the audience, because it will give me something to focus on and help to narrow down the important points I have to say. Besides this, we also managed to rehearse under lights for the first time. This was crucial, because it would have been truly terrible if our piece wasn't properly blocked for the lighting in our space. However, the lighting meshes well with our piece, and gives us an atmosphere of a party by being bright and constant, like the stimulation you get when walking into a dance. While we did not incorporate any special lighting or sound elements into our piece, I think that it is not at the detriment to our performance because it shifts the focus to the scene and the actors. I have always heard the phrase that the audience is smarter than you think, and I think that this was a crucial notion in swaying us to not use lighting elements to portray the multiple paths explored by the best man, because we realized it would only serve to disorient or even distract the audience from our fast-paced piece. We have a lot of information to fit into a narrow time, so to have any distraction is to grind the momentum to a halt and waste valuable minutes, because while the audience is focused on flashing lights they miss crucial dialogue and important actions.We present our piece tomorrow, and I feel not only prepared but excited to share our piece, because I am interested to see how our audience will react, and if our intention will be discernible.
Reflection for November 14th
This week was very fruitful, because our piece has been not only further refined but also further developed. One of my groupmates pointed out that the introduction to our piece was abrupt, not really cold-open abrupt but just sort of jarring, which lead to the beginning scenes coming across poorly because of how shoddy the introduction looked. My groupmate was concerned, rightly so, that if we didn't rectify this problem we would have a weaker overall piece, because the introduction of any work should be grabbing and compelling, and without a strong start this would not be achieved. My groupmate proposed that we introduce our piece with a small scene, specifically in the childhood of the protagonist, in order to represent the motivation for the character and his drive to solve problems with his father's solving technique. I supplemented this with a transitional scene that linked the introduction to the main event of the play, a wedding, while simultaneously introducing some of the key players in the performance. I did this in order to avoid the initial scene coming off as too unrelated to the larger piece, too foreign. The week was not exclusively successful, however, because after a run-through of our piece we realized that we were a whopping 11 minutes over the time limit. This was frustrating, because initially it seemed that we would lose some of our impact if we had to cut out nearly half our piece. However, we were able to take a breath and reassure ourselves that the 11 minutes was not as drastic as it seemed, because it was one of our first times running through the whole piece. Indeed, once we ran through it a few more times we managed to drastically cut down the time, allowing us to be within the time limit. This is an excellent example of how my group is so effective in working together, because while I was ready to just start slashing scenes my groupmates reassured me that we could easily make the time while maintaining the story and impact we had devised. One final thing I would like to note is that we haven't yet found a place for sound or lighting in our piece, because it hasn't been a priority for our group. While I think the piece as-is could be fine with simple stage lighting, I feel that there may be opportunities to enhance our piece through lighting or even sound too, such as adding atmosphere with some sort of music or party background noise, or even using the lights to better communicate the mood or thought process of our characters. However, I could also see a world where we do neither of those, and forgo the use of lights all together. This wouldn't be sloth, but instead a conscious choice in line with our piece, because as the piece stands currently our set is very minimal, just a few chairs, and our costumes are also just the bare minimum needed to communicate the difference in characters. We did this so that the focus would be on the people, and the words they are saying, without their environment. With a flashy set, or dramatic effects, sometimes the audience can get distracted, so this is something we want to avoid. I look forward to working with my groupmates on exploring the use of effects in our piece.
Reflection for November 6th
This was a very productive week for me and my CTP group. We have the theme and the structure for our piece, and now it is just a matter of practicing and refining it. We have locked into the theme of wedding, and the current format for the piece is going through a few scenarios, like a dog almost eating the cake, the groom forgetting his vows, etc., and then repeating the scenarios with different problem-solving mindsets until the problem is solved to try and relate to a theme of adaptability, and being unflappable (though our intended impact is not quite decided on precisely yet). For instance, the situation with the cake. The character going through these scenes, currently the best man of the wedding, tries to solve the problem with violence (charge at the dog, cake gets destroyed) talking to others (asks bridesmaid for dog toy, throws it, dog goes through the cake to get it and cake is destroyed), and a few other solutions before using the solution of thinking through the problem (realizing that the dog must be trained because of earlier events in the play, telling the dog to sit, dog responds to commands, dog gets a lash put onto it, cake is saved). Essentially, the problems are all interrogated with the same methods of problem solving, and each one is solved by one of the methods (except for violence, no situation is solved by violence). This stems from our seed of memory leading to perspective, and perspective leading to us thinking about how many people can have different experiences of a situation, and one person could have many possible experiences for a situation too. I feel very confident in my group and the piece right now, because I feel like our process has really come together to guide us to a final piece. All of my groupmates seem happy, which is very important for me because I want everyone to be engaged and interested in the piece. All of us seem very conscious of this, and we often check in with one another to make sure everyone is still happy with how the piece is progressing, which has been very reassuring for me because it lets me know that the piece is progressing well. There are still a few unknowns in our piece, such as exactly how some scenes will play out, but I do not feel stressed about them because our group is working well together, and I believe we can easily rectify any issues that we may have.
Reflection for October 22nd
This week again saw a large jump in the development of our piece. We have taken our seed of memory and extracted the idea of perspective. During our conversations, we often realized that, in any one situation, there can be many different views, even if what occurred was the same. This stems from a conversation we had after our "witnessed a sword fight" prompt. I personally thought that this was an aspect of memory I wanted to explore because it has a lot of relevance to our everyday lives. I personally think a lot about my actions, how what I have done has affected others and how a different action or choice of words in a situation might have resulted in a different outcome. After we had come to this, we then decided to find an area on which to set a piece concerning perspective. This was tough, and is to some extent still ongoing. While we don't have characters or a plot pinpointed, we have decided to look at perspective in the context of a wedding. Coming to a wedding was not an easy choice. We initially wanted to put the piece in a historical context, something like the Cuban Missile Crisis, where one bad action could drastically change the course of history. However, some of my groupmates where doubtful that this would be the best medium through which to explore the idea. I actually really liked the thought of exploring the different ramifications of an event like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (which sparked WWI) but I let that go so that the whole group could be happy with the decision we made. We have several avenues through which to explore a wedding with perspective in mind. I have been envisioning a performance that teaches people to think about their actions by playing through the wedding several times, with characters either going through the event with different motives or maybe with a few characters slowly changing their actions as they see their negative effects. I believe that our next few meetings will be crucial, as we start to lay down what will constitute the core of our piece. However, I am thrilled with how our seed in progressing, and I eagerly await seeing where our piece will end up.
EDIT: Because we had a truncated week, I have decided to simply add onto my post from our last work week instead of making a whole new post. This week was actually pretty frustrating for me, because the one day we had to work a group member wasn't present. While this couldn't be helped, the member in question was sick, it was still a day that couldn't really be used for much forward movement on our piece. I felt disheartened, as did my groupmate, because it seemed as though there was nothing of substance that we could do. However, I managed to come up with an exercise that would help give us material to discuss with our full group when we meet next. I took the topic of our piece, a wedding, and looked at different scenarios within a wedding through which we can explore our seed idea of perspective and memory. I personally drew on a personal memory of mine, being the ringbearer for my godfather's wedding, as well as other general wedding knowledge that I and my groupmate had. As ringbearer, I ended up dropping the ring and sprinting down the aisle to give my godfather a hug (I was very young at the time). I don't remember the event at all, but my family does. This was interesting for me, because it is an event that I consider important to who I am, and yet I have to rely on others for the recollection of that memory. This is an idea that I brainstormed as possible areas to explore as we further flesh out our piece.
Reflection for October 16th
We have made a few breakthroughs over this last week. I have personally gotten far more acquainted with the best learning style for my groupmates. I have always loved using improv, but over the last week both of my groupmates were able to express that they actually did notlike the loose form of improv. This was initially a little rattling for me, but by setting aside my predisposition for improv I was able to broaden my horizons and more fully engage with some of the exploration activities my groupmates suggested. On that note, we used a few activities today that helped us to have an insight onto our seed of 'memory'. We first all wrote one story, each person writing in a line. Then, we all wrote three different stories, given the same prompt. The prompt I came up with was "you witness a sword fight". We wrote for 10 minutes or so and then came together to show our results. I was blown away by how similar all of our stories were. Even though we all wrote about different perspectives on the sword fight, with no knowledge of what the other people were writing about, we ended up all having very similar stories that ended in very similar ways. This showed us that memory often is distorted by perspective, a crucial thought that we plan to employ in our piece. Through this activity, as well as through some of the improv we did try despite my groupmates' feelings, we realized that memory often involves conflict. We came to this by seeing how every time we did try the improv process, we naturally came head to head with one another in the scene, with one party remembering one series of events and the other remembering a different series of events, but both having the same result. This is what I hope to set our piece around, because I love the idea of seeing different perspectives of other people having the same experience but different views of how that experience happened. Over the course of the next week, I see us focusing on finding the impact for our piece, and after that discovering exactly what our piece will be.
Reflection for October 8th
This past week saw both stagnation and progress for my CTP group. We had our first day together where we could get used to working with one another. To be frank, it was initially pretty awkward. None of us are super outgoing people, but once we got rolling and played some improv games my group mates and myself really seemed to open up. I definitely felt pretty uncomfortable at first, because even though I know the members of my group very well I simply didn't have a lot of experience working with them. I want to make sure to continue using improv games and other team building exercises throughout the course of the CTP just so that we can all be sure to function together as best we can. I have definitely been in performances where it simply doesn't work because the actors don't work well together. When you are in a position like that, you just feel helpless. I personally felt like it was somehow my fault, which is one of the reasons why I want to prioritize making sure our group can really gel. I absolutely do not regret my group picks; I just think that we have a little ways to go before we can be completely comfortable working with one another. In that same meeting, we brought some items that held significance to us. I personally brought a small letter opener in the shape of a broadsword, and an old pair of sunglasses. The sword was a gift from a good friend of mine, and I use it very often because of how many colleges send letters to me. In contrast, I hadn't worn the sunglasses in years, because after I got my glasses in second grade I had no use for them. However, the memory they carried with them, being on the beach in Cancun for my uncle's wedding, is very powerful for me. My uncle and aunt are in the process of splitting up at the moment, so the glasses had an additional layer of significance. What was powerful for the item wasn't the item itself, but what it represented. This is also seen in the sword, as well as in some of the other objects brought in by my group mates. One brought in pins that they had gotten at a summer camp, while the other brought a sword and water bottle, the latter from a similar summer experience they had at a college. We noticed that the through line in all of the items was memories, and not the item but the memories it triggered. After that realization, we explored memory in a mind map before running out of time for that class session. The second day that we met this week, we only had two members of the group. This made progress challenging, because since our piece is still in a very formative state we didn't want to develop anything for fear of not including our missing member. Instead, my groupmate and I explored memory more, talking about what memory means for us. I did a little word-association game with my groupmate, and when I mentioned memory he paused, stating that memory reminded him of a feeling rather than a word in particular. That was powerful for me, and I want to see how we can develop that further. I think that if we can try to capture that feeling and relay it to our audience, we could have a very powerful piece. I look forward to the continuing progress of the piece.
Reflection for September 10th on Collaborative Theatre approaches, Making CTP Groups, and Group Agreements
After we formed our group, we decided to formulate a few agreements that would help to guide us through our CTP process. They are as follows:
1. We agree that we respect each other as artists and as people, and that our intention is to help each other do the best work possible and support each other's creativity
2. We agree not to rewrite or redo another's work, instead asking questions whenever possible in order to encourage creative thinking
3. We agree not to say 'no' without serious consideration and discussion
4. We agree that we need each other's support throughout this process
We came to these agreements by reviewing some other devising companies and their agreements. I really enjoy the making of agreements like this, because for me it is very important that all of the group members feel respected and included, even outside of theatre, though in the CTP this is especially important. As someone who has participated in theatre endeavors without such agreements being formulated, it quickly becomes unpleasant, with ideas being trampled and more often than not people walking away from the meeting feeling unsatisfied or frustrated. This is one of the feelings and memories I took into account while formulating these agreements, and I particularly emphasized a tolerance of new ideas in order to get the creative juices flowing. I look forward to seeing how these agreements help us through the process of making our Collaborative Theatre performance.
Making CTP Groups
Today we made our CTP groups. I am in a group with two wonderful individuals who I look forward to working with. I thought that the process we used to form the groups was actually quite efficient. First, we all went through our own collaborative theatre approaches, as documented below. Next, we all made posters that served as advertisements for our individual talents and strengths in theatre. Essentially, we were trying to convince other people that we would be worth working with. For my poster, pictured below this text post, I chose to focus on my diversity in skill, referencing my aptitude for robotics, as well as focusing on both my willingness to collaborate and take risks. After we had all crafted posters, we got a few minutes to walk around and look at the posters that everyone had. Several classmates simply had listed qualities with no consideration to aesthetics, which I did feel was the best way to communicate their artistic skill and ability. However, several students really caught my eye in how they presented themselves, with one classmate even incorporating different handwritten fonts as well as touting their proficiency in foreign language. This inspired me in several ways on how I would do my poster again in the future, because the use of different handwriting styles made you want to really examine the poster, and in doing so you would end up getting very familiar with the pitch the student had crafted. After this, we gathered together and selected CTP groups. After we used the posters, it actually became very easy to form groups, since they basically fell into place. I found two other people that had different backgrounds and goals enumerated on their posters, but similar enough to mine that they will compliment each other over the course of this CTP. I eagerly await the writing of our agreements, because I see that as the first step to really solidifying a group and ensuring that it will be a successful CTP.
Collaborative Theatre Approaches
Looking at my collaborative theatre approaches was very fun. Often, I forget to reflect on myself and my background, so when prompted with exercises that force me to examine my past I often make discoveries about myself that would usually go unnoticed. For instance, I recalled that back in 9th grade I had been apart of a series of improv and pantomime exercises in which actors brought individual animals to life, instilling their qualities and personalities into human characters. This is an experience that I usually do not draw on when I practice theatre, but in the context of the CTP I realized that many of the lessons I learned through the experience would prove incredibly valuable. Obviously, integrating improv into the writing process of the CTP is very crucial. However, what I ignored initially was the uses of pantomime in a potential piece. Typically, theatre pieces that I try to do will get bogged down in the search for the right props to utilize. However, with pantomime your wardrobe and props expand to be whatever you are able to convey. I hope to incorporate this aspect of my theatre history into the exercises we do while formulating our piece. Additionally, my remembering of past theatre approaches included another devising workshop I had done, which was centralized around the idea of constant evaluation. The performance we were working on was always in a constant flux, changing to suit the desires or inspirations that came to the actors throughout the process. This is absolutely how I envision a successful devising process, one that leads to a fruitful performance. Without constantly taking that step back, asking the 'What if?' question, I believe our piece will never reach its maximum. For that reason I intend to incorporate this too into the process of my group.
The poster I used to advertise myself to my classmates while we were forming CTP groups
Reflection for September 24th
I enjoyed making my Theatre Profile. I have always had a more detached writing style, which is excellent in History and Biology but less advantageous in Theatre and English, to name a few classes. Due to this fact, I really have to work hard to think about what I am writing about on something like the Theatre profile. The metacognition that the task brings with it is what makes it so fun in my opinion. With that, I will say that I actually found the exercise very valuable. Something that I, and many others, often get cornered into is the idea that a discipline should exist by itself, isolated from other bodies of thought. A good example of this is robotics, where the immediate thought is simply that robotics is only about engineering. Similarly, I tend to think about theatre and theatre projects in exclusively theatrical terms. However, I tried to really think outside of the box for this assignment, and I think it absolutely paid off. I thought about how I achieved success on my robotics team, and then translated that into theatre terminology. Instead of prototyping parts, we can practice certain scenes, seeing what works and what doesn't. Instead of simply thinking about something in its immediate context, we can look at the scene and how it would play out in our life. For example, in a robotics year where you have to move around small balls, look at how a tennis machine works. In the same way, instead of trying to craft a scene based on the premise of the scene itself, we can look towards our lives and the world at large to give us inspiration. With this in mind, I feel very excited to form groups and start on our Collaborative Theatre Project.
Reflection on March 27 (Posted March 30th, pm)
Today we ran through our piece for our instructor. It was the first time that we had tried to present to someone not immediately in the group, so we were all excited to get feedback. The performance was very helpful in several ways. First off, even before we performed, the mere prospect that we were going to be watched forced us into being introspective about some aspects of the piece that had been thus far neglected, such as A/V transitions and intended impact. I personally brought up a discrepancy that I had noticed, which was that there was a slight disconnect between how Anxiety was portrayed in our video clip and how she acts during the performance. After we made some minor changes to fixed these problems, we gave our performance. The performance itself went very well, with all intended audio and visual components executing without any failure. Afterwards, our instructor had several different suggestions for things we could do in order to perfect our piece. First, it was brought up that the piece lacked a clear beginning, middle and end, in the sense that it didn't really fit within the standard framework of the Dramatic Structure. Additionally, there were also several notes on Anxiety and how she acted, in addition to several other minor notes on a range of topics. I think that the notes were certainly merited, and that the aspects that were brought up needed to be improved. As for the personality of Anxiety, we have begun work on shifting Anxiety's role in the piece, from something sort of irrelevant to something that is always at Maggie's side with a comment or a jab at her intelligence or decisions. We also decided to break the single therapy session into two different, separate sessions. What this does it that it allows us to show a major catalyst for a deterioration in Maggie's condition, as well as a rising action that eventually culminates in the phone call to Sam. I think that splitting the piece is just what we need to help our work achieve the level of quality we have been striving for. The meeting also made us think about exactly why we wanted to make the piece, and what impact we wanted to go for. We decided that the goal of the performance was to show the transformation of someone suffering anxiety to someone able to both get help and overcome that anxiety. I personally think that we want to impact our audience in a positive way, where they both see the pain of anxiety but also have faith that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that there is a way to get help. I am not sure exactly who our audience will be, but I think that, with discussion, we will find the group we look to impact and also add to our piece the extra little 'oomph' we need to make a very compelling, moving, and interesting performance.
Reflection on Week 3/19-3/23
This week was mostly about making sure that our tech aspects will be effective and successful. Using a recording setup that our school had, we were able to record some audio for a phone call in our piece. The audio itself was of a very good quality, so we had to do some research on how to distort it in order to get a track that sounded somewhat like a phone call, and after we added some effects I think that it really sounded quite authentic. The call was really cool for me in particular because I do not have an acting part in the piece due to my interest in technical theatre, but through the phone call I am still able to play a part onstage as well as behind it. The other major technical aspect that we worked on was the recording of a presentation. We actually already recorded the presentation for our piece, but after reviewing the script and how we were reading certain parts we decided that we needed to slightly rework how the recording played out, in order to make it seem more in line with the rest of the acting. After taking a few videos, we found some clips that we really liked, and plan to use in our final performance. The week for me was quite exciting because we are beginning to not only finalize but also link together different technical elements of the show. Since we will be using a combination of audio, visual and lighting effects throughout the piece we have had to look critically about how each would function, and importantly how they would serve to enhance the piece and not make it feel clunky or overly stylized. An example of this is in the presentation. Instead of having the presentation show Anxiety, we only see Maggie's interactions with Anxiety. This serves the purpose of showing how this affects Maggie's life, and for us justified its use. With these effects, however, there are challenges. With the phone call, we struggled for some time deciding whether the phone call should be live or should be one prerecorded, continuous audio track. We elected to have one track that is paused and played intermittently, in order to allow for the actors to have time to 'talk' with the person on the phone. This solved the potential issue of an actor either being cut off by a prerecorded audio segment or conversely having a long awkward silence while they waited for the track to catch up. Going into next week, I look forward to integrating our A/V effects with our piece as we begin to practice in earnest for our final performance.
Reflection on Week 3/12-3/16
As we creep closer to the day of our final performance, I can occasionally get a little overwhelmed with just how much we are trying to do. However, after this week I felt both reassured and prepared for the weeks to come. This week was about both tuning the script and making the final touches on the performance, as well as setting out a clear road map for the weeks ahead. As we finished the script, I personally brought up a few key moments and scenes that I thought could be altered ever so slightly, to the benefit of the piece. An example of this is when we see a phone call between Maggie and her brother Sam. I felt as though this was one of if not the most powerful moment in the piece, but I felt as though we were selling it short. To counter that, I brought up some possible movements we could have Anxiety do, shifting her body language, that would help underscore the emotional transformation Maggie was undergoing in the scene. Additionally, I suggested that we add a visual effects element to the scene, in the form of a shift from blue-toned light to red-toned light, showing how Maggie went from sad and anxious to a more relaxed, collected state. On that note, we also got a chance to run through the whole performance on our second work day. This was definitely one of the more valuable moments of the week, as we were able to test costumes and lighting. I realized that the lighting plans I had made were not going to work, since the location of certain crucial set pieces, the couch for Maggie, for instance, had been shifted. I will have to make some changes to that in next week. The final thing we did was that we finalized some technical aspects of the piece. In our work, we have two separate videos of a presentation of some sort. On our second work day, we filmed these presentations. While we have yet to actually review the clips, I think that we definitely have enough material to finalize that aspect of the performance. I think that our path forward is clear, and while our performance is not yet technically flawless I believe that it has reached a stage in development where we can say confidently that we will be putting on some qualitydevised theatre.
An image from our first run-through of the performance, with minimal special effects. While the set still needs to be developed, the dialogue is complete.
Reflection on Week 3/5-3/9
We spent a lot of time writing out the script this week. The group was mostly focused on nailing down exactly what would be said and when, and how certain scene would flow. Specifically, we looked at exactly how we would display the altering moods and emotions of both Maggie and her anxiety. For the first time we actually ran through the script, to see both how long it would be and how it was flowing. I personally loved seeing some of the concepts we had written about or improv'd coming to life. For example, I excited to see how the therapist/Maggie relationship would feel, since whenever you are just reading lines I feel as though there is the loss of the spontaneity experienced during improv. However, the dialogue flowed very well, and it really sounded as though two people were having a conversation. In addition to our script work, I did some alone work mapping out our lights and looking at how we would light certain aspects of the scene. I am looking at incorporating warm and cold light into the emotions of the people in the scene. I think it would be a nice effect to show how the emotions of Maggie change and alter, such as fading from colder lights to warmer lights during the phone call. To an extent, I am contained by the lights and gels at my disposal. However, I feel confident that I can pull of the effect in some capacity with the materials I have. Working with the group was really fun this week especially, because we were all able to sit down and work together on completing our script. I really think that I lucked out with getting the people I did for my group, as I have had an amazing time creating this piece alongside them.
Reflection on Week 2/26-3/2
This week was all about setting up our framework for success in the future of our project. The group worked to make sure we were achieving the goals of the project, while also moving forward on the work we had done the week before. Specifically, we began writing our script this week. While we feel as though there should be some looseness to the performance, elements of improv that stem from there not actually being hard written lines but plot points that we want to hit, we wanted to establish a structure for how the story would progress. We elected to do this in lieu of more improv because we realized that we wouldn't naturally hit some of the more important points of our piece, such as the climax, without a little bit of outside direction. In addition to this, we made some progress on establishing what the roles of our project would be. They are enumerated at the end of this post for flow, but by looking at exactly what each group member would be doing it helped to provide a guide for how we would move forward on the project. I myself will be acting as the lighting designer, which will be just one of the many effects that we hope to use in the performance. To that end, we talked extensively about what we exactly wanted to do in our performance, and how we would achieve it through effects and dialogue. It looks like we might have some audio and visual elements in order to achieve the flashback effects we are going for. My personal favorite is what we are looking at doing for the audio. We wanted to portray a phone call on speaker phone, and to do this we will play a prerecorded message over speakers to the audience. The actor will be trained in hitting their lines of dialogue perfectly so that it sounds like a real conversation. I love the idea of this, and while it may be challenging I believe that this is a very achievable effect that will hopefully look amazing when it is finally carried out.
Creative Director: Audrey
Light Designer: Max
Sound and Visual Designer: Andy
Reflection on Week 2/12-2/16
There was a ton of progress made on our project this week. We had a super productive week, one of our most productive, and it is because we finally started to mobilize the ideas we had created. Essentially, we are looking at having the three acting members of our group perform as a teen, the teen's therapist, and a manifestation of the teen's fears or anxieties. The way we mobilized the ideas was by a rotating improv setup, where our actors each took turns going from teen to fear to counselor. Each time we ran the improv, myself and a fellow actor would analyze the improv as it progressed, making notes of changes that worked, new ideas that emerged, and then relay the new thoughts to the actors, which would then rotate roles and begin the process again. I personally made a ton of headway on trying to define how we could personify the fear/anxiety of the teen, and how that fear would interact with the teen. Initially, we had the fear as sort of a looming shadow, but one of our group members took that thought and made it more personal, with the fear talking to the teen as sort of a pestering manifestation of the subconscious. I loved this take on the relationship, and suggested that the actors take it even further by creating a combination of the two. This was achieved when one of the actors combined the constant pestering/chiding with a constant physical contact to the teen, whether it was an arm around the should, laying in their lap, or grabbing their arm. I look forward to seeing how this relationship evolves, but in the future I would like to make it more of an evolving relationship that changes throughout the scene, and will endeavor to have the actors try this out in order to see how it feels. In addition to our progress on the scene, we also talked extensively about physical effects we might want to use. At the moment, we only see a place for light, however I am keeping an open mind and constantly I stay sharp for opportunities where an effect could be integrated. On the subject of light, I was able to look over our school's light board and begin to familiarize myself with its functions, so that we can implement use of lighting effects later in our process. My family has a long history of working in technical theatre, so working on the light board was very fun for me. I look forward to seeing our scene develop, and I eagerly await exploring the effects that we might use.
An example of one of our brainstorming sheets that we used to spitball ideas. I personally came up with several items, as well as whole categories
Reflection on Shared Objects of Personal Value
The shared objects of personal value discussion was very enlightening as to the personalities of the members of my group. I enjoyed seeing what other people brought in, but even more so I enjoyed the stories that went with every different thing. The objects with stories of childhood were cool, but my personal favorites were the objects that had an emotional value, such as the grandfather’s knife or even the Super-8 camera. This made the next task, looking at possible stories, much easier, since we were all able to draw inspiration off of the emotional history of the items. It looks like the theme we will be using for our piece is something to do with childhood and fear. I personally am interested in seeing where this goes, and though at the moment I don’t have anything that I feel can be readily counted on for inspiration I trust that after some exercises either I or the members of my group will have enough material to start laying out our scene, a moment that I eagerly await.
Reflection on Agreements for Collaborative Project
I think our agreements discussion was very productive today. We sat down as a group and went over all the preexisting agreements, and decided to narrow many of them down, and remove some of them completely. After hearing some of the stories of groups in years past, and the various personality issues they were plagued with, I am very satisfied with how the group dynamics appear to be shaking out. I think the fact that we didn’t need to use some agreements attests to the reasonable and kind nature of everyone in the group, and I think that working with them is going to be very fun! I think the idea of coming up with agreements for how the group will operate is a great way to ensure a safe and pleasant environment, and I think that in the future it is definitely a strategy that can be used both in school and out to be absolutely certain no one will end the project with a bad experience.
Reflection on Approaches to Collaboration
During our in-class exercises, I found that when I looked at past group projects I had worked on the one common idea was that each project had me breaking up a larger task into smaller, more manageable pieces. This was true for projects both outside the creative realm, such as group history presentations and robotics projects, as well as inside the realm, with such events like brief performances in English class or group art activities. I find that when a larger task is divided up among group members, or even better, when it is divided up and each piece is then worked on together by all group members, I have a more enjoyable and successful time with whatever the task or project may be. I would say that the my interests in theatre would go hand in hand with this, because I really enjoy both set design as well as some aspects of directing. I feel as though it would be ambitious for any person in our group to direct alone, myself included, but I hope to work with my classmates and create a system where everyone can present and safely share ideas, as well as having 2 or even 3 members helping to guide any final decisions about the performance. I hope to use my strategy of breaking apart larger tasks into manageable chunks, and I am super excited to start work on our project tomorrow!
HowlRound Article on Devising Process
Article: Devising Theatre With Highschool Students - http://howlround.com/devising-theater-with-high-school-students
This article was a teacher sharing his story about the positive affects of bringing devising into the classroom. He speaks to how sometimes, the urge can be to just pick up a script and start memorizing your lines on day one, but this is too 'safe'. Instead, he advocates for the risk taking required in devising theatre, starting the day with not "What are we going to do?" but "What are we going to try?" In this way, the teacher encourages students to take the leap of faith that comes with devising, and acknowledges that, while sometimes you will fall, the times you don't will be that much more powerful to both your audience and you. I really enjoyed this article, and I think that his point on the risk taking that comes with devising is true. The teacher also talks about how different personalities and uniquenesses will be shed in favor of a role (the analogy he uses is a square peg into an octagonal slot). The solution to this is devising theatre around the people you have at your disposal, using their personal context in order to shape the play in unique ways. This is something that I had not thought about previously, but I am interested in seeing how this can be incorporated into our own devising process.
My personal context is that I am a middle class white male living in Port Townsend, Washington as a resident and citizen of the United States of America. I am patriotic, agnostic, and intelligent, and also entirely in control of my mental faculties. Socially, I have what I would consider a standard social life - I would not describe myself as popular but I have plenty of friends, I have been described as having leadership abilities, and this is reflected through my status as President of the Student Council and Captain of the 2017 Knowledge Bowl team and current President and Captain of the Port Townsend FRC Team. I have always had a close relationship with theatre since both of my parents worked in the industry for many years, with my father doing props and holding the title of Head Flyman, and my mother working as a stage manager, as well as a showcaller/producer in more recent years. I am really interested in improvisational theatre, and value theatre that has strong themes of comedy. I enjoy working on the fly or developing a scene through controlled improv, and I find that I have a knack for making it up as I go along. I am interested specifically in making theatre that either has an improvisational element in it or was created through use of improv to flesh out or test scenes. I really enjoy this type of theatre because it allows for so many fun possibilities. I love working with other people in groups, and look forward to working on a devised theatre piece over the next few weeks.
Work in progress.
blog due 5/3
For my world theatre tradition, I have decided to look at the tradition of Ancient Greek Comedy. Greek Comedy was one of the three pillars of Ancient Greek theatre, with the other two being Tragedy and Satyr plays. I decided to look at this tradition because I have had some experience with Greek Tragedy but I hadn’t really focused on any other types of Greek theatre. Greek Comedy is fascinating because it shows a progression and evolution within Greek society in its own evolution. For instance, there are three different forms of Greek Comedy: Old Comedy, Middle Comedy, and New Comedy. Old Comedy revolves around politics, with masks being used to portray different political figures and the chorus at points stopping the play in order to speak to the audience about the playwright’s view on the political happenings at the time. Middle Comedy shifted away from that, and while some don’t even think that Middle Comedy should have its own denomination others believe that it is the crucial point at which the style of comedy shifted away from politics and towards a form of theatre more closely tied to set stock characters. This would eventually mature into New Comedy, where stock characters with masks were standards for performance. Interestingly, because of its location, there is some academic thought that New Comedy may have to some extent lead to the creation of Commedia del arte. All of these forms of comedy had an element of physical slapstickesque comedy, and so I will be exploring that in connection with the masks used by the actors. I have collected a variety of sources in a few different formats. For one, I have found several books that look at the common tropes found in Greek Comedies, in addition to a few websites that have helped to fill in a more general knowledge of the time and Greek theatre. I have also begun to read a play of Old Comedy, which is where I am focusing, called The Wasps. I am feeling quite confident at the moment in how my presentation is coming along, and I am hoping to finish up reading some of my sources and begin work on a mask or two very soon.