Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Week 5 Notes From Group A

Monday the 26th of October

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.

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.

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