Sunday, 22 November 2009
(This is an initial draft of criteria prepared by Nat Horne. To be revised by the group via comments on the blog and via facebook.)
Use of puppets and masks and other props –did we use these in the style of Bread and Puppet, and did we make them with recyclables as B&P do?
Working as an ensemble – does it look like everyone is involved, and do we complement each other on stage?
Communicating our message – is the script relevant, is it well structured, satirical but still serious?
Choreography – do we use movement effectively? Non-verbal communication is important with B&P.
Staging – do we fill and use the stage well? Is our presentation appropriate to the space we are performing in?
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Bread and Puppet blog: week 5
This week consisted of three student run workshops; one on Dramaturgy; one on Choreography and the other on Scenography.
The first workshop on Dramaturgy was run by myself (Jade), Miranda and Yong and started with and introduction to Bread and Puppet Dramaturgy and how it will be relevant in our Bread and Puppet style piece.
We discussed things like:
What is Dramaturgy? It is defined as ‘The craft or the techniques of dramatic composition. Basically how you go about structuring something.
Bankelsang- The best B&P example of this is ‘The Foot’
Episodes- Such as ‘Fire’ or ‘Joan of Arc’ (video from last week)
Ringmaster- Again like in ‘The Foot’ the ringmaster conducts/narrates the goings on.
Sideshows- During the ‘Domestic Resurrection Circus’ there were often sideshows running at the same time as the main piece.
-Which path? Allegory or a protest/celebration
-Puppets first talking later!
-Language needs to be kept simple as not to over complicate-
‘He dispenses almost entirely with language’
(An Existing Better World. Notes on the Bread and Puppet Theater. George Dennsion)
Miranda then talked about what techniques we could use in our piece e.g. different episodes to show different topics. Using an underlying theme, such as the hidden curriculum in schools.
Yong then split the class into 4 groups and gave them different tasks:
Group 1: Using Bankelsang, explore the BNP’s views on immigration.
Group 2: Create an episode based on a quote from the BNP that justifies rape, saying it’s like force feeding a woman chocolate cake
Group 3: Using a ringmaster, explore the idea that the BNP deny the Holocaust.
Group 4: Using parody, explore the ideas of racism.
They had 15 minutes to devise something in the style of Bread and Puppet and then had to show their work to the rest of the class. It was entertaining to see what each group had come up with and I feel the exercise helped show the group thinking on your feet rather than sitting and planning forever can be very effective. It also allowed us to look at different styles and see how we can incorporate them.
The next workshop was run by … (?) a large group and was about Choreography. First we did the ‘Hokey Kokey’ as a warm up and afterwards everyone was…very warmed up.
Then we played cat and mouse, one person is the cat, the other the mouse and everyone else stands in rows turning when told, to make moving around more difficult for the cat and mouse. After playing the game, the group told us that they chose it as it requires most of the group to move as one thinking like an ensemble.
The group then showed and taught us the ‘Who is a terrorist?’ cheerleading dance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtZWl_bRJts). After learning the Bread and Puppet cheer we split into two groups and had to create our own cheer using BNP topics relevant to our devised piece.
As well as being fun, we discussed how the cheers could be an effective opening for our piece. The Choreography group explained that use of Cheerleaders for a political statements not only parodies American culture (Dumb blondes + Politics= huge mess), but could also help show the ridiculousness of the ideas we are showing.
We discussed how Bread and Puppet entrances and exits are often very big and so it may be appropriate to start and finish with a dance. A cheer or perhaps a folkdance and Rebecca suggested which is indeed very traditional.
The third and final workshop was run by Nat and Mina and was about Scenography.
Sceneography is where the theatre takes place, locations and spaces.
“When you go to the theatre you put the audience on the stage, and you play on the seats, or you put them against the wall and your action is on the seat, or you don’t go into the theatre, you leave it empty and you play in front of the theatre, or you abandon that area altogether and you play in the street.” - Peter Schumann
They started their workshop with the above quote heading an info sheet. The quote made us think about the different places we might perform.
Mina and Nat then gave us a shortened version of ‘The Foot’, which we have performed as a group before. After having a go at the new version we were told we were exploring scenography at the next level and went to perform it outside the Windsor building.
By doing this we were experiencing what Bread and Puppet performers may experience when performing on the street; funny looks; abandonment and intrigued yet altogether confused faces.
We then went to the south quad at Founders to look at the space as it would be good to perform there as there are always lots of people. We then performed ‘The Foot’ at Founders and it was worthwhile doing as we discovered people sort of have to watch/listen because the acoustics are so good.
Finally all tired out from our workshops we elected different people to be in charge of specific areas (e.g. Art directors) and created a contact list so that organising during the devising project is easier.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Today we had the final two of our series of presentations/workshops to the class. The topics were Space and Sceneography and Dramatugy.
The session was mainly practical, and we all were up and active, which was a lot of fun, and I felt that we had a productive day.
SPACE AND SCENOGRAPHY
The group gave a short and interesting introduction into the different spaces used by Bread and Puppet. These included Barns, woods, fields and streets. There were some great videos of Bread and Puppet performing out of doors, a concept which highlights their cheap art ethos, as well as bringing in natural elements, and backs up their environmental messages. When theatre is performed outside, whether in the street or in a forest it becomes instantly more accessible to the audience, as the traditional fourth wall in a proscenium arch theatre is broken, and they begin to feel more involved. We thought about how the atmosphere could be made light and joyful in an open space, in contrast to the more sinister feel to performing in the woods, which give the piece a darker, claustrophobic feel.
We then moved on to playing one my favourite childhood games, stuck in the mud. Needless to say we were all transformed, and became about eight again, running about, screaming and laughing. We played it inside, and the group giving the presentation stood round the edges of the playing space, gradually closing up the space, to demonstrate how we adapted to the space as it changed.
Musical instruments were then dished out, those who didn’t have them were instructed to clap a rhythm, or hold recycled bits of the puppets we made in the previous session. We began by forming a line, three by three, and processed round the room, improvising a musical accompaniment. We did this with much laughter and all feeling a little silly, but enjoying ourselves. However, this exercise was merely a warm up, as we soon discovered. The group leading the workshop then had us process up, over the bridge to the main campus, through Founders north quad and back again. The stares and alarmed glances we received were hilarious, but we all soon got quite into it, counting the rhythm and marching in time. Again, we adapted to the space around us, the column was fluid as we moved to let people pass, and then expanded into the more open spaces. Once we reached the safety of the classroom, some words were thrown about as to how we felt about the exercise. Words such as funny, refreshed, enlivened, embarrassed, strange and liberated were the general consensus. All in all, we really enjoyed this activity, and it felt good to be part of a procession, however clumsy and makeshift, and all moving as one, with one common marching rhythm.
The final group to give their presentation and workshop were focused on the topic of Dramaturgy. I don’t know about my classmates, but dramaturgy is not a concept I’d ever really encountered before, so it was interesting to finally have some questions answered. The general definition of Dramaturgy is ‘the art of playmaking’. Matthew Maw told us that the best way to look at it was as if a finished performance was a tapestry, into which many different threads of information, music, movement and image were woven. Bread and Puppet devise their performances in this style, bringing many different elements into a finished production. Another example of dramaturgy in performance is the play Enron, which most of us had seen for the Writing and Performance module. This play brings in facts from real life events and combines it with stylised metaphors and fictional plot lines. The group then went on to talk about the process Bread and Puppet go through when devising a production. The begin with a concept, go on to storyboard it, to visualise how it might look practically, then script it. We were shown a lovely handmade storyboard of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. Then the class was split into two, to come up with our own very short performance using the idea of storyboarding in the planning process. One group’s theme was ‘body image’ the other worked on ‘consumerism’. I was in the latter of the two groups, and we had so many different images of how we wanted to structure our performance that a distinct storyboard was difficult to settle on, and our cardboard soon became crowded with doodles and sketches (mainly of possums). Our general idea in the end was a perfect landscape which then gets devoured by brand names and advertising. We then adapted this into a Garden of Eden idea, in which Adam and Eve are tempted to destroy their beautiful natural environment by the snake, which represented advertising corporations. Adam and Eve are tempted by Macdonalds burgers, cheap clothes, cars, houses, and electronic gadgets, and they slowly consume their paradise, until all they are left with is a land of waste. We used our bodies first to represent the trees and the sun, then to represent the companies selling the consumerist items. Gradually the snake (played by two puppeteers and a long piece of material) wound round all the rest of the actors, and suffocating the central tree (played by yours truly). We felt that had we had more time, the garden of Eden idea was something we would love to come back to, as it is a recognisable story to everyone.
The other group had the idea of ‘The BodyShop’ in which unhappy girls could purchase the bodyparts they feel they need to make them beautiful. This group made excellent use of the idea of a refrain, chanting ‘I want’, then the body part. Jack represented the voice of reason, and he would ask of the girls why they wanted to change. Matthew, as the narrator and owner of ‘The BodyShop’ would insist each time “Because it will make her happy!” This too was effective, as it gave the message that the girls could not think for themselves.
To conclude we came together and discussed any ideas we were having to our final performance, to be given in five weeks time. It was generally agreed that we would steer clear of the idea of ‘body image’ as a theme, as we felt we couldn’t get much out of it, and the idea of consumerism was a lot more relevant and serious an issue. We also agreed that we could work the idea of body image into the overall theme of consumerism, as we all buy things that we think will; make us beautiful. We decided to arrange our first over meeting over facebook, to take place sometime in the first half of reading week.
I received notice about this upcoming event at Central that may be of interest -
The Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London
Presentation and Round Table: The On Theatre project and social / political theatres
Tuesday 3 November 5.30pm - 7.00pm, Staff Room
Visitors are very welcome to all free events but booking is essential
To reserve a place, please RSVP to the CETT Office:
firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 020 7449 1571
Mick Gordon - Director, On Theatre
On Theatre was created by award-winning artistic director Mick Gordon to explore the fundamental preoccupations of modern life through bold experimental theatre. On Theatre works with experts like the celebrated neuropsychologist, Dr. Paul Broks and best-selling philosopher A.C. Grayling using an innovative creative process to dramatise complex debates. Visit www.on-theatre.org.uk for more information.
Chris Megson - Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London
Chris's research has focused on post-1968 British playwriting and contemporary ‘verbatim’ and documentary performance. His PhD project brought together two related fields of interest: the negotiation of political critique in a range of theatre forms and, more specifically, the representation of topical political events and living parliamentarians on the British stage from 1968. Over the past decade, he's been involved in two actors’ companies that specialise in the application of role-play techniques in professional training contexts including, most recently, in prisons. He is a company director and trustee of Love&Madness. Visit http://www.rhul.ac.uk/Drama/staff/Megson_chris/index.html for a short biography and list of publications.
Nina Steiger - Director, Writers’ Centre, Soho Theatre
The Writers’ Centre discovers and nurtures new writers. It does this through a broad range of activity designed to identify the best new writers and to develop their work towards production. Other theatres read scripts, consider them for production and, to varying degrees, work with writers but no other offers such a comprehensive programme to as many writers and at such an early stage in their career. Visit http://www.sohotheatre.com/
Gareth White (chair) - Lecturer in Applied Theatre, CSSD
Please can we remind all staff and students that booking is essential. Please RSVP to email@example.com to ensure a place.
The Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, Embassy Theatre, Eton Avenue, London NW3 3HY.
For directions to the School see: http://www.cssd.ac.uk/pages/location3.html
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Bread and Puppet Blog, Group A, Week 4!
This week’s session started with a discussion about ideas for our final performance piece now that we have chosen the theme “What makes you happy?” Alissa suggested the possibility of thinking along the lines of ‘Keeping up with the Jones’’ and using the idea of Adam and Eve in the Garden on Eden being seduced by advertising, making their ‘perfect paradise’, not so perfect as they keep acquiring new things to make themselves ‘happy’. Matthew also informed us of a link that could be useful to the Guardian website which looks at the highs and lows of the last decade, which will be put up on our facebook group (Bread and Puppet, Group A – RHUL)
We then began this week’s workshop, which was puppet making, held by Jasmine, Rebecca, K/Cez (?...sorry!)Maria, Dom, Ana and Valeria…I think that’s everyone! The workshop started with a presentation, we were told of the ethos of Cheap Art, and Jasmine read out Peter Schuman’s manifesto, which was written out in a style very true to Bread and Puppet! We were also given an idea of how Bread and Puppet make their puppet making accessible to the public, through running workshops, and also the museum in Vermont which shows a range of their masks and puppets. We were told about the different types of puppets they make, what materials are used (strictly recyclable) and how exactly they are made, complete with images! Finally, the last part of the presentation gave us a small history of masks and how they can be used as ritual objects, and sometime people see them as a joke, but they are also used to hide behind real issues.
Once the presentation was over were split into three groups for the three activities that were to take up the rest of the session. One group started with watching a video, one with a discussion about readings we’d done, and the other started making a puppet. We did this in rotating fashion so everyone could partake in each activity.
The video we watched was Bread and Puppet’s take on Joan of Arc, and we were told to pay particular attention to the use of music and the puppets now that we were better informed on those two aspects of Bread and Puppet’s performance, and it was interesting to see a different take on a well known story.
The readings that we had to discuss were Uprising of the Beast: An Interview with Peter Schuman ¬– John Bell and Peter Schuman and ‘The End of “Our Domestic Resurrection Circus” also by John Bell. In particular, the groups seemed to pick up most on the second text, talking about the reasons why the Circus ended, and my group also ended up discussing whether or not Bread and Puppet are as relevant in today’s society as they were in the 60’s when they were first established, a discussion that resulted in the idea that perhaps they are relevant in different ways now than they were back in the 60’s.
The more practical activity was puppet making, each group made a different type of puppet from the recyclable material that we had all brought in, all to do with perfect body image and what makes us happy. The first group created a puppet that was meant to portray ‘the perfect body’ but she was made purposefully too skinny, with protruding sticks to portray her ribs, and her facial expression was unhappy, certain parts of her features were also exaggerated to show that she had had plastic surgery.
The second group made a mask of an ‘ugly’ woman, all her features were made to look almost grotesque, and we left the cutting lines on her face to portray her want for surgery, showing the mindset that surgery can make you feel better.
The last group made a large puppet, made of separate body parts, and she was the direct opposite of the first puppet, fat rather than skinny, and she was made with unhealthy food around her, showing what makes her happy.
This was a fun week, where getting to create the puppets was not only an entertaining, but informative for the final performance!
Space and Scenography and Dramaturgy Workshops!
Remember to bring a musical instrument of some sort and a flat piece of cardboard!
Thursday, 15 October 2009
The first workshop, which was held by Jo and Miranda, gave us an insight into the creative music ideas of the Bread and Puppet theatre, which included the explanations of the instruments used and the way in which the music of the “Sacred Harp” is performed in terms of staging, singing and locations.
Jo and Miranda firstly stimulated the groups vocal chords with a singing warm-up involving the forwards and backwards flow of the numbers 1-8, “1 1 2 1 1 2 3 2 1...” This was followed by a group rendition of The Sound of Music’s “Doe a dear...” Although not everyone know the song, Jo and Miranda incorporated this into the exercise by dividing the group up into melody and repetition of lyrics, giving the group basic experience of harmonies and groupings before challenging the group with a sacred harp song.
Once the group had experienced a sense of communal singing, it was time to learn a sacred harp song, taught by Jo (who also led the song on piano, taken over later by Matthew) and Miranda. Placing the group in a seated square formation, the group were divided into four harmonies, bass, tenor, soprano and alto. Learning the song “he leadth me”, was then the focus of the group’s attention, gradually but confidently, the group slowly became a vocally-pleasing community choir. With our new found skills and talent for learning harmonies, we then incorporated instruments (some being sticks or small metal bowls) into the piece. Each harmony section then had to manipulate the sound of the instruments to fit with their section. Upon returning to the main group, we then sang once again to perfect the noise, before taking our newly-made Bread and Puppet choir to the bridge of Wettons, to the delight of traffic and passers-by. This experience was not only extremely exciting and enjoyable, but the group’s unity and enthusiasm also generated the feeling of a community, as if we were part of a Bread and Puppet protest, to which the general public were taking an interest in. The outdoors also impacted on the piece itself, the group became louder and appeared to have more of a purpose in performing the piece, once passers’ by started to take notice of the group.
Following on from this we then discussed the idea of a “poor theatre”, to which the group contributed points such as “Can the Bread and Puppet really be a poor theatre if the puppets are so visually spectacular?” This then developed into the idea of “voluntary poverty” to which the performers are devoting their lives to the company, knowing they may not earn money, but are satisfied knowing they are influencing and making a difference to the lives of those, they perform to.
Moving on from this, we discussed the key readings, including “Sacral Theatre”, to which ideas included “the strong element of political protest within the theme of the Vietnam war”. We then discussed the possible reasons for why the Bread and Puppet theatre would hold a strong influence over Stefan Brecht, resulting in suggestions such as “both types of theatre are similar in terms of political values and aims”, “both use similar objects such as placards”, “radical movement was a key theme of the time”, “the use of puppets was completely out of the ordinary” and the lack of fear by performers to try and influence society”. The discussion generated various key themes within the Bread and Puppet theatre, such as the central theme of war in many plays.
Being three weeks into the project, the workshop groups then divided up so that a representative from each group could give feedback on the progress they have made, relating to their upcoming workshops. All groups appeared to have many creative ideas for the workshops and seemed keen to discuss their research into their topic.
Next workshop! BRING BOOTS!!! ( will need them for the workshop making)...
List of Materials:
• Black marker pen
• Toilet roll, newspaper
• Pva glue
• Old fabric/children’s clothes
• A balloon
Group A workshop: Sacred Harp. Photo by Matthew Maw
We began the session by making a group decision of what we would like to be our key issue in our Bread and Puppet theatre style performance later on in the term. Sat in a circle, we went round everybody who had about 30 seconds to pitch their idea to the rest of the group. The following are all the different ideas that people had:
Westboro Baptist Church (Fred Phelps)
Picket funerals of soldiers that have died in Iraq
State that the soldiers deserved to die as America has allowed homosexuality to exist in America.
Documentary made on the Church by Louis Theroux.
Rights over our own body
Religion controlling Politics
War on the State
British National Party Rallies
Is it Government control propaganda?
Gap between science and governing the planet
Whaling/ Over-sea fishing
Green Peace protestations to these activities
Perfect Body = Happiness
Factory farming vs. Local villagers
Friends of the Earth protestation
Global Warming in Developing Countries
MP’s expenses scandal
Land Fill sites
Lack of support for Veterans
Soldier suicide rates at an all time high
With all the ideas pitched, Alissa generalised the issues into smaller groups and votes were cast for each as follows:
Brown/MP Expenses Scandal/BNP – 7 Votes
Ecological Issues – 0 Votes
Religious Views (Westboro Baptist Church/Abortion) – 3 Votes
Zapatista Movement- 0 Votes
What makes you Happy- 8 Votes
Veteran Soldiers- 0 Votes
With a majority vote for the issue “What makes you Happy”, this is the issue we have decided to use in our group performance. We went on to discuss various topics that could be included in this particular issue. Body image was a primary topic, with issues such as body image and photo shopping being suggested and what limits there are to these topics. The current Ralph Lauren photo scandal was also an item brought to our attention in regards to this topic which we can go on to research. We also discussed how consumerism and money issues can be seen as important to some people in the debate of “What makes you Happy.”
In the 3rd part of the class we decided to set up a group on Facebook so that people would be able to post some of their ideas as to what we could include in our performance of “What makes you Happy.”
Afterwards, we went on to discuss the social context of the 1970’s which was when the Bread and Puppet theatre began. Some of the important issues we discussed, in relation to theatre at this time, were mass censorship in theatre and also the social issues of violence in this era. We also mentioned about how theatre was very particular and restricted as only the public that could afford to go to the theatre would go, and in this way was less open than it is in this day and age.
We then split into different groups to discuss the articles that we had been instructed to read in preparation for the lesson. These articles included “TDR Comment” by Erika Munk which gave a detailed description of the Bread and Puppet show “The Tragedy in Mississippi” and an article by Peter Schumann discussing the use of bread in the company.
When we returned as a group to discuss the articles, we spoke about what techniques in the plays seemed to be effective. Some techniques mentioned were the use of sounds rather than verbal speech created a haunting effect in some of the plays, which was supported by the notion that actions speak louder than words. We also discussed how the use of colours in the performances can be seen to be symbolic, and how the repetition of the same scene at the beginning and end of a play can be effective.
We also discussed how Bread and Puppet theatre can be viewed in relation to children. One issue that arose was that giant puppets could be a scary thing for a child to witness. However, it was also argued that it is necessary for children to view Bread and Puppet plays as they are being exposed to political and social issues early on in life. Furthermore it was argued that, by using puppets, it allows the company to state their causes less aggressively and it is able to present the issues without demanding a decision to be made on the issue having viewed the piece of theatre. The shows were also admired for displaying to children how power can be seen as corruptive.
By Tommy Adamson
PART TWO- SACRED HARP MUSIC.
For the second part of the lecture the first workshop was introduced.
This workshop gave us an insight into the musical ideas of the Bread
and Puppet theatre, which included the explanations of the instruments
used and the way in which the music of the “Sacred Harp” is performed
in terms of staging, singing and locations.
Firstly we learnt that Sacred Harp Music is written differently to
Western Music. Instead of the traditional ‘DO, RAY, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI,
DO’ Sacred Harp Music uses ‘FA, SOL, LA, MI’ These are represented by
different shapes signifying the degree of the scale as oppose to the
traditional pitch of a scale. FA is represented as a triangle, SOL an
oval, LA a square and MI a diamond shape. For example the first note of
the scale would always be FA, whether it be a Major or Minor scale. FA
is the first degree of any scale. By having music written in such
simple terms it makes the music easy to read and it is therefore
accessible to anyone. This complies with the idea’s that Bread and
Puppet have, bringing the community together and proving that ‘Art is
for everyone.’ Once this was understood the group did a small
performance of Sacred Harp Music for everyone to hear; they stood in a
square formation with the Alto opposite the Tenor and the Soprano
opposite the Bass. This is the formation in which Sacred Harp Music is
sung,( there would usually be a conductor in the middle.)
Secondly the group continued explaining the use of Sacred Harp Music
within Bread and Puppet theatre. Highlighting the fact that the music
is traditionally Protestant Christian but in Bread and Puppet it is
used in all sorts of ways. Whether it be to convey a message or to
create an atmosphere. The music is played without any accompaniment
focusing on the idea of music as music- using the instrument that you
were blessed with at birth. Sacred Harp Music is never rehearsed so
each song that is performed is unique, each singer has to improvise and
listen to each other so a different interpretation of a song is created
each time. This adds authenticity to bread and puppet theatre and
underlines the huge sense of community within the company. Like all
Schumann’s work, Sacred Harp Music is used to create a message that
will effect the audience- make them rethink the issues that have been
broadcasted in the theatre.
The idea of ‘Cheap-Art’ was focused on in the 3rd part of the workshop.
The group explained about Junk Instruments and how you can make music
out of anything, from old jars to bits of plastic. They then passed
around some musical instruments to each member of the group, some were
junk instruments other non harmonic instruments such as drums. People
without instruments used their bodies as instruments by clapping their
hands or stamping their feet. They then introduced a small practical
exercise to highlight the communal idea of music making and help the
group understand how Sacred Harp Music works. They began with a simple
beat and then each person added to this beat. This is very similar to
the ‘Music Machine’ in week one only each person goes in turn,
listening to each other and adding to the creation of Music. It was
interesting to hear the Music build as each person added their
contribution, it became Music instead of just instruments being played
together. It was unique and couldn’t have been played in the same way
twice, highlighting the authenticity of Sacred Harp Music and helping
the group understand how it works.
Once the group understood the idea the workshop was then ended with the
creation of some Sacred Harp Music. The group had created a round using
lines from ‘The Foot’ by Peter Schumann and performed it to show the
group what they were trying to achieve.
They then split the group up into Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.
Soprano’s sang, “mushroom, barley, salt and pepper, chicken liver,
chicken heart” once, before the Alto’s came in with a different melody
line and rhythm singing, “potatoes, potatoes, and carrots and carrots.”
Then the Tenor’s and Basses made staggered entries as well, the Tenors
singing, “Protest and Survive” whilst the Basses sang “Don’t let the
big foot crush you” in a loud monotonic voice. The melodies were all
being sung together, the soprano’s light melody contrasted with the
brashness of the Basses ‘Don’t let the big foot crush you.’ Each part
then stopped singing in turn and the message ‘Don’t let the big foot
crush you’ was repeated at the end with everyone singing different
notes and increasing the volume to underline the message. By doing this
the group then understood the effectiveness of Sacred-Harp-Music and
had become involved in the communal experience of Music and “Cheap-Art”
giving the group a better grasp of what Bread and Puppet theatre
PART FOUR- DANCE
To end the lecture we had a second workshop on Dance. This workshop
gave us an insight into the dance ideas of the Bread and Puppet
theatre, which included the explanations of the different styles used
and the way in which the dancing is performed in terms of staging,
space and locations.
Firstly the group began by talking about ‘Folk-Dancing' explaining
that this type of Dance is not tightly choreographed. We learnt that
the dancers do not move exactly at the same time, the do not have
crisp, articulate movements such as a dance like Ballet. However, there
dancing has more abstract movement and the dancers move on
impulse/feelings as oppose to a direct, strict structure. They parade a
lot and interweave with each other, standing in circles, holding hands
etc. This is a clear example of the rural life that Bread and Puppet
leads and shows a lot of community spirit. There is always a sense of
community within Bread and Puppet whether it be in puppet-making,
Music, Theatre or Dance.
Secondly the group focused on ‘Ensemble movement’, highlighting the
fact that Bread and Puppet always performs in different locations and
different spaces, they may be in a street, a field or a small room. As
an Ensemble they have to adapt to this and not be confined by the space
that they are given. The performers are untrained dancers and have to
adapt and have versatile movements, this is why the Dance style is
mainly folk as it is basic and communal. Everyone can join in. When it
comes to dancing Space is very important and Schumann does try to cover
the entire space that he has to use.
We also discussed ‘Representational Dancing’ for example ‘Blackbirds’
The dancing consisted of a lot of bird movements, there was a strong
relationship between the message and the Dance. The dancing in Bread
and Puppet always reflects what the narrator is saying. All the
movements for the dancing are dictated by the narrator, the narrator is
usually Schumann and he is best described as the conductor of the dance
(in this case.) This shows the relationship between the performer and
Schumann, again indicating a strong community and ‘Art for everyone.’
By dancing in this way as oppose to a strict structure you can see the
community as a whole, working together and moving on their impulses. In
a lot of dance movements the dances are practiced and choreographed to
impress, Bread and Puppet are trying to change an opinion not impress
Finally to allow everyone to grasp how dance is used within Bread and
Puppet we had a practical session. To begin with the practical session
started off as a ‘Movement machine’ reflecting what makes you happy.
However, this didn’t seem to work as it was hard to work together when
different things make different people happy. So we changed tactics.
The group split into two lines and ran forward into a circle. The left
line would cross over to the right and make the circle from that side,
so that each person was interweaving with each other. We then all held
hands and danced together. Mainly around in a circle for four steps and
then around in the opposite direction. We also moved in and out as a
circle and all cheered and clapped. This was a much more effective way
of dancing as everyone was working together. It looked good and we all
felt a sense of community, we were not asked to cheer but it seemed to
come automatically. The practical session helped us all understand the
type of dancing that is in Bread and Puppet and now that we had
experienced it we can now incorporate it into our own performance of
‘What makes you happy?’
Monday, 12 October 2009
After the discussions, everyone was given one slide of The Foot to copy onto a piece of paper, copying the words and pictures. These were then put into order on the table and most members of the group ‘auditioned’ to be the narrator using the line “Ladies and Gentlemen- The Foot!” and gauging their success on the rest of the group’s applause.
The Foot was then re-enacted. The pieces of paper were held up in the middle of the performance space with the narrator in front and males and females on either side respectively. The pieces of paper were held up and discarded with reference to what the narrator said. The style was call and response and very rough and not rehearsed in keeping with Bread and Puppet style performance.
Everyone then sat in a circle and small groups told the rest of the group their ideas for the upcoming performance:
Group 1- expenses scandal with Jacqui Smith etc
Group 2- Lisbon Treaty
Group 3- BNP/FNP Party. B+P stock character useful i.e. peasants, black and white evil. Klu Klux Klan re-union. Racism, white supremisis, Nick Griffin (criminal record). Hope not hate.
Group 4- Eating disorders, obesity, media spin, advertisements, London fashion week
Group 5- Nuclear bombs, radiation
A silent, anonymous vote was then cast and it the top decided on was the BNP because of its capacity for satire and the depth of the topic.
By Jo Hutchings and Nat Horne
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Monday, 5 October 2009
First half of the session was spent doing group bonding exercises.
1. NAME GAME – each person said their name and performed an action which said something about them. This was then repeated by the rest of the group. Each time a new name was said the whole group repeated it and the action, and then also repeated the previous names and actions that had been said. In a group of about 40 this was a long process but proved effective!
2. BOMB/SHIELD GAME – one member of the group was made the ‘bomb’. Each member of the group then picked someone else in the group to be their ‘shield’. The aim was to always to have your shield standing between you and the ‘bomb’. Whoever was left without a shield between them and the ‘bomb’ was out. As the group got smaller this game got more difficult and more violent!
3. MUSIC MACHINE – the aim of this game was for the group to create a machine using just themselves. Someone came up with an idea for a machine and they had to create the first piece of it; one at a time the rest of the group then joined the shape until there was a ‘machine’. A) CHITTY BANG BANG EXPERIMENTAL MACHINE B) EVERLASTING BUBBLEGUM MACHINE C)
4. SONG GAME – this game was similar to Music Machine as it also involved really working together as a group, starting off in smaller groups we each had to pick a note or a phrase of music, which fitted together with the others in the group to make a song. Gradually the smaller groups had to join together, fitting the different tunes into each other until we had made a complete song comprising all our notes and phrases. For this game we all had to be really focussed with our listening, and be really aware of what everyone else was doing, so that the song was harmonious. We did this game 3 different times, and by the third time it was noticeable that everyone was a lot more concentrated and really aware of each other. Generally one person started and then everyone joined in in turn, sometimes in little groups, not just using their voices, but also using clapping/clicking/stamping feet etc.
After our practical games session we began work on analysing the Bread and Puppet Theatre, since they are to be the inspiration and drive behind our forthcoming theatre piece this term. In class we split into groups of 5 and began to discuss articles written by Baz Kershaw (The Routledge Reader in Politics and Performance) and James Roose-Evans (Experimental Theatre), which were assigned for us to read before class. In our groups we began to draw comparisons between Kershaw’s political analysis of radical theatre as cultural intervention and Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theatre. After discussing our ideas we re-grouped as a class and shared our thoughts to the other groups. Topics of discussion included the use of humour (that had almost sinister undertones), themes, the collective mentality of B&P, the relationship between the actors and the audience, the use of diverse theatrical techniques and space. Next we divided up into our Seminar Groups to discuss the areas in Contemporary Theatre we would be specializing in and teaching the rest of the class in the coming weeks. Areas of production included; sacred harp and music, choreography, puppet and mask making, script and dramaturgy and space and design. For next week we have been asked to recycle some cardboard and bring it to class (Everything in our performance needs to be used from recycled, cost free materials!!!) and research a social/political topic we would like to base our performance on.
After our practical games session we began work on analysing the Bread and Puppet Theatre, since they are to be the inspiration and drive behind our forthcoming theatre piece this term.
In class we split into groups of 5 and began to discuss articles written by Baz Kershaw (The Routledge Reader in Politics and Performance) and James Roose-Evans (Experimental Theatre), which were assigned for us to read before class. In our groups we began to draw comparisons between Kershaw’s political analysis of radical theatre as cultural intervention and Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theatre. After discussing our ideas we re-grouped as a class and shared our thoughts to the other groups. Topics of discussion included the use of humour (that had almost sinister undertones), themes, the collective mentality of B&P, the relationship between the actors and the audience, the use of diverse theatrical techniques and space.
Next we divided up into our Seminar Groups to discuss the areas in Contemporary Theatre we would be specializing in and teaching the rest of the class in the coming weeks. Areas of production included; sacred harp and music, choreography, puppet and mask making, script and dramaturgy and space and design.
For next week we have been asked to recycle some cardboard and bring it to class (Everything in our performance needs to be used from recycled, cost free materials!!!) and research a social/political topic we would like to base our performance on.
Today’s class has been fascinating. As a group, the games we played during the first half of the class helped us gain a sense of community and collaboration. Bread and Puppet is a company that extends past the conventions of the modern theatre, I think, during the next few months we will be faced with multiple challenges that will strengthen our work ethic, open our minds and push us physically. Can’t wait for us to pick a topic for our group and get the ball rolling! J
-Yazmin Vigus and Miranda Marvin
Sunday, 30 August 2009
This space is an opportunity for us to document the process of the project we are undertaking together. Documentation is a key concern for contemporary practitioners and scholars and part of your study during this course will involve reflecting upon the documentation of the company and developing documentation of your own work.
Each week group members will be allocated to the process of documentation - although you are all invited to post reports and comments. If you are unsure how to do any of these things, you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll try to talk you through it. You will receive feedback on your documentation work.
By the end of the course we hope that this blog will be a rich account of the ideas and images we have explored during the term which should prove very useful to you as you write your reflective essays.
Readings and viewings
This course has a course pack containing readings on Bread and Puppet that you are required to purchase from the departmental office. You will also be expected to view a number of videos.
Before the first class please view a generous selection (at least 30 minutes) of Bread and Puppet videos on youtube (http://www.youtube.com) as well as do the assigned readings in the course pack (only about 12 pages).
You are also encouraged to view Biting the Hand that Leads Us, an online video about theatre companies (primarily American) that use performance for political impact, including a three minute excerpt from the documentary Bread and Puppet Theatre: A Song for Nicaragua. See http://www.archive.org/details/ddtv_17_biting_the_hand_that_leads_us. The Bread and Puppet segment is at 47.42 -50.55.