Savannah's Theatre Blog

Week 5: Monday

Posted in IPP by Savannah on March 5, 2011

Today was a really interesting lesson. We didn’t get much done in terms of ticking of boxes but we got a lot accomplished in the way of new ideas, development of ideas, development of character and theatre styles.

I’ll start with theatre styles:

Over the weekend, I’d put quite a lot of work into researching some new theatre styles. I specifically looked at Eclectic theatre, which is pulling bits and pieces from many different styles which seemed very suitable because I can see a lot of influences even if I am not able to put them into words just yet! However, I also looked (a little bit) into Symbolist Theatre from our textbook which, I have to say, confused me greatly and I had to read so many times to draw what I did from it. What really stood out for me was existence of both dreams and reality and the interaction between them. It seemed quite fitting for our piece because we do have both illusion and reality. Illusion in that Geoff is the personification of the drug and can only be seen by Pandora and thus not by Cathy, which to me was like the dream side of Symbolist theatre and reality is what Cathy’s character sees. I think it’s quite clear however, if you pay attention, what is real and what is not. Because Cathy and Geoff’s characters do not interact at any point and Cat’s character literally walks past him on a few occasions, I think if the audience pays attention they will be able to see the distinction between illussion and reality. The problem with drawing from symbolist theatre is that we are not symbolising a political stance or particular view-point with our characters and that seems to be an important part of Symbolist Theatre.

Ms Flood is going to lend me a book about dream interpretation which will be really interesting and the may be a way to incorporate that which would bring it back to Symbolist Theatre, as well as Bio-mechanics.

Ms Flood’s words: A world goes to a new reality that we accept in a dream.

In dreams we view all happenings as regular as Pandora (my character) does in The Heroine. I do not mean that her actions are normal in regard to day-to-day life, rather – normal for a heroin addict. Cathy’s character will be out of the “dream” so she does not view the things I do/how I react to Geoff as normal or regular.

Something else I talked about with Ms Flood was LYING.

I’d heard of a story someone had told me about meeting with an old friend who they hadn’t seen for a long time. She said that this old friend was acting very strangely and asked for fruit/food ‘for later’ and took it away in her bag. Later it was discovered that her friend was addicted to heroin. It struck me after talking with Ms Flood that the user would not only lie or act strangely when covering up their addiction but would act differently in many other situations such as was the case with this story. It could have been due to lack of money or it could have been simply erratic behaviour because of the mental state they are in.

Something else Ms Flood brought my attention to was the actual presentation of heroin and how something so precious is stored in something so cheap. She suggested that I try to emphasise this.

We talked about the routines and how I was thinking of having a voice over through them explaining what was happening in short snippets (the analyst). She thought of having a similar thing with Pandora’s thoughts perhaps going through the piece. Phrases such as: ‘I won’t become addicted’, ‘I’ll just try it’, etc. Now that I think about it, Ms Flood may have talked about Pandora’s thoughts as a voice over and then I mentioned my idea about the routines.

Both Taleah and I were worried about how our groups were progressing in regard to Laban and Stanislavski. Ms Flood had talked to both of us and emphasised how important character development is and what the purpose of what we are doing is; what is going on behind the eyes. It became apparent at this point that we had both been focussing on the aesthetic and not what is actually going on. The thought of continuing like that really scared me but I wasn’t sure how much of an effect my saying it had on the other two (I think Ms Flood may have also mentioned it to them) and I think that Taleah’s thoughts were along the same lines as we both thought a workshop in Laban and Stanislavski was a good idea.

So, on Wednesday we had the workshop. I was so nervous to begin this workshop because whilst I knew the theory and had exercises prepared I’d never really taught anyone anything before and there were so many things that could go wrong! But, the big thing  I was scared of was teaching them the wrong thing. I felt that I took a big step forward with this workshop because I really had to trust that all the reading I’d done as well as work I’d done in years 10 and 11 as well as  NIDA workshops out of school.  With more time I would have liked to go more in-depth but I think for the workshop’s purpose (getting everyone’s minds switched on to Laban) it was really good. I was really happy with the way everyone worked except for a few minor glitches where we lost concentration. It was very interesting to do physical work with non-dancers because they obviously didn’t have as much physical/self awareness. Even with things that are now familiar to me, such as lifting the upper torso, it was very difficult for some of the people in the class. Saying this, I even found it rewarding when they started to translate what I was saying into their body – it was very exciting to be able to teach something I feel passionate about!

I ended up adjusting my workshop plan slightly to really pinpoint what flow, space, time and weight really meant. We looked at successive and simultaneously flow and exaggerated the opposites of space, time and weight.

Exercise for successive/simultaneous body movements:

1.      Start in an upright position, arms by side and roll down from head until knees are bent and back up again.

2.      Start in an upright position, arms extended upward. Allow the movement to slowly flow through the body by bringing the fingers to extend backwards and to then go through the wrist, elbows, etc. Here, play with both successive and simultaneous flow. And back up.

I think that breaking down each aspect was very helpful. I know I found it helpful so I hope everyone else did too.

It was really interesting to be able to watch as well as demonstrate some of the exercises. It was really interesting to see what different people in the class were doing and why. For example, there were a couple of people who were adding characteristics that were not necessary for the effort such as dragging of the feet. Upon reflecting, I think it was because they were adding character to their movement which, whilst not necessarily a bad thing was not something we had progressed to. I wanted it to be down to the raw efforts because once the technique is achieved, you can then progress to bigger and better things with a solid base.

Okay, so: I was just being totally nosy and reading my group members blogs (I’M SORRY TO CAT AND GEOFF IF EITHER OF YOU ARE READING THIS BUT I THINK IF YOU ARE THAT MAKES YOU JUST AS NOSY AND I SHOULDN’T BE APOLOGISING THEN) and when I was reading Cathy’s she was talking about the Zen Zen Zo workshop in relation to Rolling in the Deep. She briefly mentioned the 7 levels of energy and that really has me thinking! I want total changes in energy throughout the piece as children are ecstatic and asleep/dead to the world, the next. I can particularly see this at the start of the routine where Cathy does a walkover and I do cartwheels down the aisle, during cops and robbers, the high five that misses and the ending (I want to ‘borrow’ statement items from two wonderful audience members – imitating adults – and freeze in an ‘adult’ position, i.e. legs crossed looking important). I am very excited to experiment with that in order to incorporate more of the stuff that we did last year into this performance.

Here are some useful things I said in my blog from the workshop and also things that I think of whilst going through them:

– I think creating the different levels of energy it is one of the best exercises is for determining energy levels. It made me very aware of just how much energy impacts on those surrounding you, which includes the audience. I discovered this by simply being in the space with people doing the same exercise for I could feel the difference

– The curious level (5) and the very emotional one (6) would be very useful in RITD because they are so indicative of children

– Perhaps very brief moments of level 7 (short attention span)

– ‘I was shocked to discover that I walked with my arms. At first – when watching Daniel – I thought I was flicking up my hands with each walk but he was just trying to bring more attention to the arms. It is something I will be conscious of in the future.’

– This exercise involves 5 people standing in some sort of formation (a line, star, etc.) and two people must be crouched whilst the other three are standing. The difficulty, or the key, is not using sight. Each person looks straight ahead and relies on their other senses to determine whether to crouch or stand.

After the demonstration, 5 of us started it off. I found it very difficult to resist looking at the others but I got over that. My next difficulty was that I got frustrated, which of course helped nothing. I had to be very stern with myself to regain focus after this. I wanted to try it again so I could focus more and do a better job yet I always want this!

In this one focus, energy, physical and group awareness were clearly needed; if one wasn’t present the result wasn’t as good. I found that Sonia fidgeted a lot and was obviously not focussed and I think (from observations) that the others had to give even more focus to compensate.

I worked on lighting with Taleah and Cat (and some helpful others) on Friday. I wanted very basic lighting, no colours; something soft. I didn’t want a huge emphasis on lighting or artificial means of enticing the audience because, whilst it is very effective in some pieces, I felt that that was not the mood I was trying to create. The emotions in The Heroine are vital as it is a very raw play brought down to the truth of the matter and I feel that simple lighting will emphasise that.

I’m so, so glad that Taleah still wants to help me with lighting because she is AMAZING and is able to achieve the exact effects I want for each scene!

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