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.