Tuesday, 27 November 2007

CTM Showings' Running Order - December 10, 2007

10 am Studio Theatre – Tara Arts
10.30 am Sutherland House to Boilerhouse – Shunt
11. 00 Boilerhouse – Bread and Puppet

Afternoon – all in Boilerhouse
2pm Forced Entertainment
2.30 Improbable
3.00 Trestle

Monday, 26 November 2007

Second Rehearsal

Our Second rehearsal was even more successful than the first. Most of the music group were present so we were able to rehearse with music, and choreograph the movement accordingly. We manages to tackle the 'Whack a Terrorist' scene by experimenting with a human grid formation which was hugely successful. We perfected the fish mongering scene and started working on the brain washing scene. There were many limitations as we still don't have any puppets or masks. Also only half of the group was present which also created some difficulties. We took some pictures and videos to show the people who were absent what we did and also to keep record of what we have been doing.

Our first rehearsal was held in the Kingswood Hall, common/TV room. The room was surprisingly big and we were able to have the space all to ourselves without any interruptions. We started the rehearsal by discussing various issues, including the making aspect of the performance and the venue. After a short discussion we got down to work. There were only thirteen of us, so we found it difficult to rehearse some of the scenes that required the whole, or a large number of the cast. We started by rehearsing the opening scene after the parade. Emily, who has been cast as the narrator did a brilliant, bread and puppet style opening and we worked form there. We were working from a script based on the plan. but with some speech added for the narrator's part. Very quickly we began to change and develop our original plan. We added various details, new lines and lots of movement. It was like placing movement to the words on the paper. After working on the opening scene we tackled the 'brainwashing' scene. We rehearsed for around an hour. After the rehearsal we had divided the whole group - 24 members into various roles:
  • Narrator: Emily
  • Terrorist: Rob
  • Soldier: Marcus
  • Terror Brigade: Annie, Catrin, Freya
  • Iraqi Women: Laura, Carmen, Kerry
  • Band: Lou, Lia, Alice, Emily, Rosana. Emma
  • Main body of cast: Jolie, Jessica, Marika, Diana, Nia, Charlie, Georgia, Sheryl, Charlotte

All in all it was a really successful session and was also very productive, its amazing how quickly ideas can be establishes practically and also how well the group is working together.

After discussing the theme as a group, the plan for the piece was written up and will be used as the basis for our work.

Entrance with flags and banners, accompanied by ‘parade’ music and vocal shouts, chants etc…Leads into Narrator’s opening speech as ‘circus’ semi circle performance space is established.

Fish/War Monger
Market scene, a fish monger is selling ‘cardboard’ fish to people. The ‘corporate/government’ puppets enter and ‘scare’ the people with large representation of Media/Threat of terrorism (Large TV with headlines across it?). The Fish are turned around and become guns.

Brain Washing
One member of the ‘people’ comes forward; he is wearing a puppet head which sets him apart from the rest. The corporate/government men proceed to brainwash him – Remove Brain, wash in bath etc… He becomes an armed soldier.

Whack a Terrorist
He is handed a large comical hammer and ‘game show’ scene begins. It is instigated or hosted by the Narrator. A Terrorist is brought in and the ‘soldier’ attempts to ‘whack’ him as he avoids the hammer – all done in very comical style. When unsuccessful, the crowd begins to chase him, this leads us into…

Witch Hunt
Terrorist is chased around, while ‘Bear Hunt’ song is incorporated into scene. As this is happening, the white banner is advancing and dividing the space slowly. The terrorist finally escapes behind the white ‘screen’.

A missile is handed to the people by the corporate/government; it is slowly transferred from person to person, possibly through an array of large puppet hands. The Missile is tossed or placed over the other side of the banner.

Mourning Iraqi women
Shift in mood from festivity to somberness. Strange violin music begins and ‘Iraqi women’ complete with puppet heads emerge into the destruction caused by the missile. They proceed to covey slow, sad mourning through silent movement.

Brainwashing Two
Their movement gradually builds up and the terrorist enters. He is surrounded by the women who appear to plead with him and suffer at his feet. He then moves forward, at the same time the ‘Western soldier also comes forward on the other side of the banner. Both stand as if ready to fight. Violin music possibly carries on, maybe gets louder and builds up.


The banner is brought over the two men and held in front of them. The banner contains a quote or the chosen title to reinforce meaning in the performance. For example: For the profit of few, at the cost of many.

Friday, 23 November 2007


- 30 November: Rehearsal at Boilerhouse (12.30-2.00 pm)

- 08 December: Run-through at Boilerhouse (10-11.30 am)

- 10 December: Final showing at Boilerhouse (11 am)

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

New performance assessment criteria

As agreed in class on Monday, the three criteria for assessing your performance on 10 December will be:

Did you present a clear message about a topic of global significance?
Did you convincingly use the methods and techniques of Bread and Puppet? Did you maintain a balance between festivity and sombreness?


Monday, 12 November 2007

Joan of Arc

Irene Bittles writes to say that the video of Bread and Puppet's “Joan of Arc” is now available for loan from the Founder’s Library. We watched parts of this during week 4, and it is well worth seeing in whole.

Even more important if you haven't already do look at How to Turn Distress into Success (http://blip.tv/file/300997) - it will be very useful for the work you are doing on your piece in thinking about dramatic structure, use of music and the physical objects (masks, puppets, props etc) that go into Bread and Puppet's work.


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

68 Ways to Make Really Big Puppets

In a web search I ran into a bibliography of Bread and Puppet sources that included the following excellent making resource:

Peattie, Sara and the Puppeteer’s Cooperative. 68 Ways to Make Really Big Puppets.Glover, VT: Bread and Puppet Press; St. Johnsbury, VT: Troll Press, 1997. 10 pp., ill.Instructions for simple puppets, animals, dragons, giant puppets, hoop and cloth puppets.

This booklet is available online at http://www.gis.net/~puppetco/

I've added this as a link to the side of the webpage. Well worth looking at as preparation


Monday, 5 November 2007

Group Discussion - Choosing a Topic

During our last session (week five) which was the final session before rehearsals begin, we spent approximately the last hour discussing what topic we were going to base our final performance on. The discussion also led on to the various issues surrounding the creative process, when it comes to devising the final piece: the division of roles, timing, the order of the creative process etc… Before we began this discussion, Matthew suggested we follow a certain structure, as laid out in the ‘Wise Fool’s Handbook’ which has been our constant companion throughout this course. Various roles were given out, Time-keeper (Rob), Vibe-reader (Charlotte), note-taker (Carmen) and Cheryl took on the role of the ‘Organiser’ (to be honest I can’t remember the actual title of her role, sorry!) she was in charge of who would speak and when. Initially this plan wasn’t received very well, with most of us taking a very cynical attitude towards this very controlled form of discussion, but towards the end of the ‘conference’ style talk, it was clearly successful as everyone got a chance to speak their mind and a general consensus was reached in a very democratic and intelligent way. As I was assigned the role of ‘Note-taker’, I will now try my best to write up the notes I took of during the session. I tried my best to write down what everyone said and apologise in advance if I leave anything or anyone out but we’ll just have to put in down to human error! I wasn’t sure what form to present the notes in, but as I just wrote down what everyone said, I will simply recount the conversation that took place and the conclusions we reached.

To begin with Cheryl announced we had 10 minutes to discuss or put forward our own views on what topic we wanted to base our performance on. We were given a choice of three current affairs: Globalisation, Climate change and The War and Terror. The discussion was opened by Lou who expressed her reservations about choosing ‘The war on terror’. She felt it was a topic that we didn’t know enough about, and was a subject that may require research into the whole history of the Middle East. This statement was more or less the core of our ‘debate’. Laura then told the class that she had studied this ‘issue’ at A-level and was therefore fairly knowledgeable already and this would be of great value to the production. Alice then admitted that it would be easier to take on Climate change but that the war on terror was currently more relevant. Nia then made a very important point, she reminded the group that the war on terror was an extremely broad topic and it would be better if we specified or focused on a certain aspect of this broad theme. Examples were given such as ‘Guantanamo Bay’ and the theme of torture as a product of the war on terror. I feel that even though many of us may not know a lot about the war on terror as Georgia commented, we should take this opportunity to educate ourselves about such an important issue. This reminded me of the whole concept of bread and puppet – educating and informing people about the important issues in our world today. Matthew then voiced his preference and interest in focusing on globalisation. He made it much more relevant to our current community by connecting it to Egham and the corporate food industry’s (e.g. Dominos) monopoly of the food market, which made smaller businesses suffer. This topic was discussed further but the conversation was eventually brought back to the theme of the war on terror. Laura suggested that we use our performance to inform people about what’s going on. Or maybe use it as a form of protest against the general ignorance found in our society. Rob also gave some ideas about the style of the performance, which signalled the move to more concrete ideas. He suggested we create something comical and satirical, maybe highlighting the media’s stereotypical presentation of this topic. Cheryl then brought the conversation to a close, and gave those who hadn’t spoken a chance to voice their opinions. Lou then expressed that even though she would rather do climate change, she was willing to accept the topic of ‘war on terror’ without any reservations. Cheryl then suggested a vote through a show of hands and it was decided that we would base out final performance on ‘The War on Terror’. The discussion carried on from there with ideas surrounding ‘The War on Terror’ expressed. One of the main ideas was that the whole concept of ‘The War on Terror’ is very recent, only beginning after 9/11. This makes it all the more relevant and immediate, which is an essential quality in the Bread and Puppet ideology.

The Next fifteen minutes were dedicated to discussing the creative process we are going to undertake as a group. We were basically trying to decide the next step after choosing our theme. Emily started out by highlighting the advantages of working in smaller groups: it can be more comfortable to share ideas and then these ideas can then be presented to the group as a whole. Laura supported this by commenting that smaller groups are better for focusing on the various aspects of the performance such as puppets, script, music etc… Cheryl also expressed reservations about the disadvantages of an ensemble piece, with the strong possibilities of conflicts arising easily. However Rob then reminded the group that the final piece was an ensemble piece and we needed to stay true to the ‘theatre group’ we were trying to recreate, including the creative process. Matthew then reminded the group of the ‘Nicaragua model’ of group work which had been discussing earlier. In the Bread and Puppet’s work in Nicaragua, various groups had formed naturally during the creative process, with each focusing on a different area. This was generally agreed on by the group to be the way forward. We also discussed whether a ‘director’ or as we put it a ‘Schumann’ type role should be allocated. After a lot of discussion we decided it would be better to have 3 or 4 people assigned to that role and also to depend on our ability to function as a group more. Matthew reminded as that it was too early to decide at this stage and we came to the general consensus to wait till after we had decided on a concrete idea to choose people to take this position. Jollie suggested that we go away and do some research over reading week and then come back and present it to the group as a ‘pitch’. After a lot of discussion we also felt that each member of the group should conduct their own research and also come back with some sort of practical vision as well as knowledge surrounding the issue. This information could then be developed as a group. So we finally decided that reading week should be used to gather general stimulus and develop personal ideas rather than rehearsal as we all would feel more comfortable beginning the creative process around a concrete idea. The group was also asked to think about various aspects: The audience, the performance space, images, puppets, words, songs etc… The 15 minutes was then brought to a close and a further 5 minutes given in order for people to express any reservations or concerns.
Some members expressed concerns about the smaller groups being fixed and would rather gain experience in all the various creative areas rather than be restricted to one. Concerns were raised about the location of the performance being outdoors during December, and the need for a back up plan if it rains etc… Although most people wanted to perform outdoors we decided we had to create a performance that would be adaptable indoors and keep in mind the limitations this creates. We also discussed the ‘Bread’ aspect of the performance which raised many issues concerning the ‘ethos’ of bread making within Bread and Puppet’s ideology. Many practical concerns about the bread making were also raised. The session was concluded with the unanimous decision to use reading week to research and develop ideas, the present them to the class next week and begin the ‘group’ creative process from there.
Personally I felt that the discussion was very successful and the group has become much more comfortable with each other as a result. I am really looking forward to what is to come.