Savannah's Theatre Blog

What Keeps a Man Alive? – The Threepenny Opera

Posted in Uncategorized by Savannah on June 24, 2010

Set in a “dark metropolis” (Casey Benneto), The Threepenny Opera delves into the question: what keeps a man alive? Centered around the manipulative and “psychopathic” (Eddie Perfect) Macheath, we explore the lives of criminals and those they have brought into their lives but most importantly – what keeps them alive.

The Stage Manager and Eddie Perfect

After the performance, we were given the opportunity to talk with the stage manager (Darren Kowacki) and ask him some questions. Unfortunately I could not think of a SINGLE question, thankfully the others managed to. Taleah asked about the safety precautions they had to take in the process and during the performances of The Threepenny Opera. They were all fairly basic, logical precautions such as ensuring there was nothing for the cast and crew to trip over. Something I didn’t know was that he (Darren), or any stage manager, has to write a report of the show after each performance giving details of the technical issues. I think this is a really good thing to do and in a next performance, we should do something of the sort although perhaps in a shorter version even though as our performances only go on for two nights or so. Something I finally managed to ask about was the noose and why it was there at the beginning before the cast had come on. I had been thinking that it was likely to be foreshadowing of the events later in the play, both it being present but going up again because Macheath does not suffer the fate of being hanged does he? And it transpired that my theory was right! So I was very happy about that.

This talk with Darren soon transformed into a talk with Eddie Perfect and I was startled by his acting process. What he described was a process used long ago before method acting was introduced. His focus was on the outside (as the core of Brechtian theatre is) rather than the inside but essentially he did not find the inner truth of his character. Generally I would view this as a crime but I was captivated by his performance. I particularly loved the manipulative element of Macheath that he portrayed as well as the changes of emotion. He (Eddie Perfect) told us that the key to Macheath was unpredictable mood swings and that was something that really worked for me.

However, there were two main things in his performance that I didn’t like. The first was the posing and I do not mean the posing in itself – that’s fine but there it seemed that he had not found a purpose for the movements. This meant – to me – that they were rather useless.

Something else that I think would have made his performance more powerful would have been to create a heightened statues between Macheath and his gang. There was some contrast in their status but I think there could have and should have been more. IF he had held stance whilst his gang ran around like monkeys, I think it would have been very effective in portraying status. It would  have simultaneously shown the control and influence Macheath had over his gang.

Lighting

Something that really stuck out for me was the lighting right near the beginning of the piece. Some of the cast (including Paul Capsis who I  thought was just amazing – I didn’t even realise until after the play that he played Jenny and I was told even then – incredible!) were entering whilst the stage crew were organising the set. There was a series of flashing lights which really grabbed the attention of the audience and heightened the intensity that had been created by Paul Capsis’ screaming (as Jenny) at the very beginning. It was a stylistic choice that I felt was very effective.

Boxing

The many references to boxing I also found effective. There was the “rope of narrative” (inside they were the characters, outside they were a narrator. It was broken occasionally though when the plot was very intense), the signs (generally held by Sukey who incidentally physically portrayed her character very well – I think anyway), the drop down microphone, the boxing gloves and those moments where the characters would retreat to corners. It was great in portraying the competitive element of life which was an ever-present theme in The Threepenny Opera. As well as this, it tied the piece together.

All in all, a fantastic piece… I found it a bit confronting with the language and the story itself but just fascinating. The acting and singing was just phenomenal especially from the two sopranos. Their duet was so entertaining  but it also carried immense strength. I wish I could see it again to just absorb everything.

Finding Madame Pernelle – Preparation and Process

Posted in Uncategorized by Savannah on June 14, 2010

I felt status was the most important aspect to look at when finding Madame Pernelle’s character. To do this, I first needed to look at the family ties. Below is a flow chart showing the family tree of the predominant family in Tartuffe as well as what we can view as the extended family.

 

Watching Tartuffe

Watching a filmed version of Tartuffe gave me great ideas for what I could do for my character. Also, I saw potential intentions that other actors in my class might choose to play. What I took from the film was Madame Pernelle’s sense of power and high status.

– Learning lines/scripts: The process began with familiarising ourselves with Tartuffe and when this was achieved – learning the lines. I found this fairly easy despite the short amount of time. This was mainly due to having not many lines but also because of my preparation I understood my character well so learning the actual lines became a detail for me rather than the main portion. What was difficult, was other members of the cast not knowing their lines and that they weren’t trying to save themselves; it made me feel insecure about my lines and I would occasionally drop them.

– Blocking. I was not involved in many scenes and for those which I was involved in the blocking on my part was minimal. For the most part, I was sitting in a chair on Tartuffe’s side of the room (to show that Madame Pernelle was on his side), standing when her emotions climaxed. This was something which assisted me with characterisation; that stillness enabled her strength to come through me.

The standing was mainly at points of extreme anger such as: “There! That’s the kind of rigmarole to please you, daughter in law.” There was one exception to this rule in the very last scene where Madame Pernelle connects with the family. This was represented by Elmire guiding Madame Pernelle from Tartuffe’s chair to the bench on the opposite side of the stage where the rest of the family was seated.

Something else which helped with characterisation was that I did not make an entrance as Madame Pernelle. She was seated when the lights came up. I could have interpreted this in a number of ways but I felt that it was symbolic of her high status. She never assembled around others she was much more important than them. She carefully avoided the fact that they (other characters; Orgon, Elmire, etc.) never assembled around her. This was because she had a false vision that she was better than those surrounding her.

Rehearsals

 

  • Speed run – A speed run is running through the entire play at high speed. This meant that our lines and cues to happen at an extreme rate. It was how we found energy as well as comic and dramatic timing.
  • Tech run and dress rehearsal – A tech run involves running through the play but using such things as lighting and sound. This meant that some of the original blocking had to be changed so we were in the light, etc.

A dress rehearsal is in costume and with all technical equipment. It is like the performance night only without the audience. Throughout the tech run and the dress rehearsal we began use of the porch (a thrust out of the stage) but the change in blocking was minimal.

***I realise that most of this is taken directly from my IPP but it was my process so I figured it should be included and put to use***

Theatre in France – the 1600s

Posted in Uncategorized by Savannah on June 14, 2010

Before the late 1500s/1600s theatre was only devised for the aristocracy with the prime motive of entertaining, no or few plays “survived” but as time went on, theatre in France began to change. It was in 1957 that things began to change and they did so with the help of Alexandre Hardy who introduced such things as five-act form and poetic dialogue. The theatre world in France didn’t really change until the period of Moliere.
Who was Moliere?
Born on January 15 1622, Moliere strived to achieve “lasting greatness” both for his political and theatrical stands. He was a playwright as well as an actor and it can be said that “what Shakespeare is to the English, Moliere is to the French”. He incorporated his passions to educate; he showed the corruption of the French nobility. He was banned from performing his plays on stage and threatened those who might want to act in plays such as Tartuffe. It wasn’t until 1669 until Moliere was granted permission to, again, perform his plays in public. Moliere had not wasted his time though; he polished his skills to come back with more vigilance.
He suffered brow a lung ailment in the late 1600s and finally collapsed during The Imaginary Invalid and he died later that evening.

References:
C.D Merriman, 2006, Moliere: Biography, Jalic In., internet site, viewed on 3/6/2010, http://www.online-literature.com/moliere/
Thomson Gale, 2005-2006, Tartuffe Study Guide: Historical Context, Thomson corporation, internet site from BookRags and Gale’s For Students Series, viewed on 3/6/2010, http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-tartuffe/hist.html
Scott R. Robinson, 2000-2010, Theatre in France – 1500 – 1700, CWU Department of Theatre Arts, internet site, viewed on 3/6/2010, http://www.cwu.edu/~robinsos/ppages/resources/Theatre_History/Theahis_8.html