Friday, 12 October 2007

Week Two Session - 08 Oct 2007

Working indoors

Monday’s session opened with a mirror game. Initially split into pairs, it made us aware of each other and the space around us. One person would lead, creating shapes and using a variation in speed of their movements to induce and challenge the other partner to imitate them correctly. I enjoyed this exercise as it was quite an intimate one, which involved studying the other constantly to maintain a correct imitation, and therefore became a minor form of a trust exercise. Awareness and understanding was required in order for movements to be physically possible for the other to copy, for example, appreciating that your partner may not be able to imitate a split!
Then Nesreen asked us to mirror each other as a group of four, this posed as a challenge, but I believe this helped develop the idea of collective thought, which is vital in the process of theatre making.
This idea was then taken a step further as we were set a task of mirroring each other as a class. We relied heavily on one another to lead an action, and then to mirror that person collectively. I believe this was a valuable experience because there was no one leading figure, everyone took turns in creating an action. We relied heavily on our hearing and spatial awareness to achieve what we had set out to do; especially as we were lying on the floor for this task. For example, if someone sat up, you had to be aware of a distortion in the space you were in to recognise a changed position . Interestingly enough, I observed how people gained more confidence in creating an action independently, once we all had to close our eyes, while still performing the task. I believe this is because some people in our group feel intimidated by the dominating minority, and feel their creative contribution would'nt be appreciated. With everyone unaware of who was making the contribution, each idea was confidently introduced, heard and imitated.

After a lengthy discussion, which evaluated and discussed the previous exercise, Matthew then asked us to draw out our folder and look at ‘Guest Editorial: The Foot’ and gave us numbers, which corresponded to a picture in the cartoon strip on the first page, marked as page five in the booklet. We were given marker pens and paper, and were set to work copying a picture allocated to us. We pinned this to a flip chart, and then were given the option of auditioning for the part of the narrator, who is the main driving force and focal point in a script, which appears on page six. All played the part very well and we finally settled for a narrator, who led a chorus of men and women, in a short Bread and Puppet piece. As the majority of the words were sung, we were split into a chorus of altos and sopranos. I believe this was a valuable part of the session as it allowed us, as a group, to communicate to each other our vocal range, which then allowed us to segregate into smaller groups and discuss how to harmonise and vocally co-ordinate with the other groups in our class; once we were given certain words to sing. The Process was one of trial and error, with the group exploring different levels in volume, and the development of the music itself. Musically, everything was improvised by the narrator, to which the chorus, depending on the group you were in, would then imitate, exploring the different harmonies available which were most suited to the notes the narrator was singing. We then rehearsed the whole play together twice before we were then handed banners to take outside with us.

Working Outdoors

After looking over ‘The Foot’ in class and briefly performing it indoors, we decided to go outside on to the grass area in order to vary our use of performance space and see how the dynamics and atmosphere would change by altering the space in which we worked.
Before starting to put together an outdoor performance of ‘The Foot’, we played some brief games to motivate us in our new acting space and to inspire us with ideas for our performance. For the first game we separated into two equal length lines, and from parallel starting points we jogged forward and then around in a circular pattern with one line forming the outer circle and the other forming the inner circle, both lines running in opposite directions and completing one full circle before jogging back to our original line positions. This first attempt was rather unsuccessful and from this we decided that the line forming the outer circle should be longer than the line forming the inner circle, and so we repeated the game but with a difference in line lengths. This proved slightly more successful but problems did occur when the inner circle line tried to jog back to their original line position. So we then added another variation to the game which was for the outer circle to jog for three complete circles and then jog back to their original position, and the leader of the inner circle line would then lead their group to join on to the back of the outer circle line to form one single line. This added variation made the game much more successful and prevented the two lines from bumping into each other and causing each other to change the rhythm of the jogging. As we’d now completed the game successfully, we brought in the use of the sticks and repeated the game but this time whilst each holding a stick in the air and waving it like a flag.
I think this was a good initial game to play outside because it was firstly a fun way of getting us used to working in different surroundings, as there were several holes and hilly areas in the place in which we were working. I feel that it also helped to improve our communication skills as a group because together we had to discuss how we would adapt the game in order to make it more successful based on the circumstances under which we were working. We had to universally agree on each idea that was used and then put the ideas to the test to see if they would work or not. We also needed to evaluate each idea after putting it to the test and decide whether it had increased the success of the game, and if not how we could improve our ideas. It was also quite an inspirational game because as a group it seemed to give us several ideas which we could adapt and use in our outdoor performance of ‘The Foot’ and it also primarily got the group used to working with the poles and banners, which are used copiously in Bread and Puppet theatre.
The second game we played was similar to the first in that we still participated in two lines, but this time we returned to lines of equal length. The aim of the game was to run forwards with the two lines crossing diagonally, and so as a group we had to decide how we would carry out this task successfully. We decided that each person should be crossing in between two consecutive people from the other line and so put this theory to the test. Unfortunately people began to bump into each other and the proposed idea didn’t quite go to plan, so we changed the speed at which we ran, and decided to jog instead. This made the task a little easier, but still having problems we decided to start walking instead of jogging which turned out to be easier as it created a much better rhythm and pattern to the game and dramatically decreased the amount of times the lines bumped into each other. We then decided to vary the point at which the two lines crossed and so we repeated the game in the same way but instead we crossed at a point which was further away from our initial starting points. We found this made the task much easier and so were able to quicken our pace and rhythm at which we were travelling, and we also were able to repeat the game several times without stopping by having each line loop around one of the trees and then jogging back to the initial starting point and repeating the pattern again. Once feeling confident in the task, we again brought in the use of sticks and waved them above our heads as flags.
I feel that this game was good at increasing our spatial awareness and encouraged us to use our peripheral vision in order to keep a reasonable distance away from each other so that we didn’t bump into each other, but also to stay close enough together that we still resembled two lines and didn’t break the pattern or lose the rhythm of the game. Like the first game we played, it was also good at improving our communication skills and increasing our awareness of our surroundings, and again it was an inspirational game as we were able to adapt the game and use it in our performance of ‘The Foot’.
The use of sticks at the end of the second game inspired us to come up with a more creative ending to the game using the sticks, which consequently led to this being the way in which we decided to start our performance of ‘The Foot’. So to start our performance, we began in our original starting positions for the diagonal crossing game, except for two people who each held one side of the large banner and stood at the ‘crossing’ position at which both lines began to intercept each other. The two lines would now represent the chorus of men and women in the production; one line being the men, and the other the women. The leader of each line then led their line around one of the two trees at the front of the performance space and then back up towards our initial starting positions, but stopping half away so that the group formed two parallel lines facing each other. Each person was to be exactly facing someone from the opposite line so that they could hold their stick high in the air and cross it with the other person, forming a long archway, with the banner at the front. This created an interesting pathway which the narrator would use to enter the performance space, and so as the narrator walked past each pair, they would turn do a half turn, turning towards the audience, and bring the stick over their head to touch the floor, forming a Mexican wave effect.
I think this was an effective and creative use of choreography and props and was fitting to the genre of Bread and Puppet theatre, as Schumann’s artistic pedigree is often described as “a mixture of dance and visual art” and I think this entrance is visually attractive and compelling to watch rather than just entering the stage in a boring, uninventive manner. The way in which we moved in canon with each other and how we all moved in the same direction also added a dance-like quality to the piece which I think would make it more appealing to watch.
After the entrance of the narrator, each line grouped together on one side of the stage forming a large V shape fanning out towards the audience, with the banner situated centrally at the back and the men and women making up the sides and the narrator commanding the space in the middle. This seemed to be a good shape to form because it meant that everybody would be visible to the audience, and it also centralised the main large banner bringing focus onto it, and it also brought focus onto the narrator who is an important part of the production and is like the ringleader.
We then continued to act out ‘The Foot’ as we had done in class in doors, but we soon realised that there were some alterations we needed to make in order to adapt to our new surroundings and performance space. The main issue was that we needed to project the dialogue much more and so needed to increase the volume and strength of our voices. We also found that we needed to make our actions much bigger so that they were easily visible to everyone and so that each action could be understood clearly.
When we were working indoors we had a very limited amount of space and so were quite closely huddled together, but when we went outside this limit of space was no longer a big issue. We had a much larger performance space to work with and so could adapt our performance to this. This meant we could spread out much more which complimented the need to increase the size of our actions to make them easily visible as we had more space to do this, so avoiding the danger of hitting and injuring anyone. Working outside also meant that we had to be more aware of the space we were working in though, as when we were inside the performance space was very predictable i.e. square room and flat concrete floor. There were lots of pot holes and hilly areas outside as well as nettles and sticks which we needed to be constantly aware of so that we did not injure ourselves or anyone else. Although this also meant that the space was less controlled and so we could be freer in the space we were in, and so be more creative as we had a larger, more interesting space to work in and adapt to.
Working outdoors had many other advantages too. It allowed us to include much of the natural surroundings such as the use of the trees in the opening of our performance. I think an audience member would find it more appealing to watch a production which made interesting use of an outdoor performance space than one which takes place in a traditional performance space. Working outdoors also creates a less intense environment to work in for both the actor and the audience. From evaluating working both outdoors and indoors I found that I was personally much more relaxed when performing outdoors. I felt that I could be more creative whilst also being more aware of my surroundings, and working in a large outdoor space was much more inspiring and enjoyable to work in.
Posted by Nia Statham

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