November 3, 2015
What we did today: Today in class we performed a "body review," where we imagined ourselves in situations of confidence and uncomfortableness, then noted how we reacted physically.
How I felt about what we did today: It's always somewhat awkward to really think about your body, just because it's not something we do on a regular basis. Still, I'm glad we did it, if only to have that extra level of awareness.
What I learned that was new to me today: While it's fairly easy (for me, at least) to conjure positive emotions, negative ones are much harder. I think most uncomfortable feelings are caused by immediate risk, so memories don't have the same effect.
What did I see that I already knew about theatre? That you have to be aware of yourself before you can consciously control your actions. The very fact that we did an exercise like this is evidence of that.
What do I need to work on? I need to get more comfortable talking about myself, I guess. I like acting because I don't have to be me, but it's important to be able to bring yourself into a character also.
November 25, 2015
What we did today: Actually two days ago, but we practiced the motions of various Comedia del Arte characters.
How I felt: It was so much fun. Words cannot even describe how much fun this was.
What I learned: We don't use our bodies to communicate nearly as much as we could. Yes, posture and such can provide a lot of information, but the pure physicality of these characters is just incredible.
What I knew: You don't necessarily need words to convey information.
What I need to work on: Surprisingly, awkwardness wasn't a problem, but just being able to control your body that much is really hard. The positions are hard to hold for extended lengths of time, and maintaining the energy level is super tiring.
December 2, 2015
Thoughts on our Devised Piece so far:
Attractions- We've been able to make sure that everyone plays a more-or-less equal part. And there's a lot of fluidity in the moments; everyone's really open to suggestions.
Reservations- There's not much of a connection between one scene and the next. They're too separate to be considered a part of the same story, but just similar enough to make it seem like they should be.
December 6, 2015
Containers in our Devised Theatre Piece:
From the get-go, we had one really obvious container (or two, depending on how you look at it)- the two halves of the stage. Basically the first thing we did was find a dividing line, because the central theme we chose is dreams versus reality, and making the difference between the two is kinda crucial. So for any given scene we have to keep on the proper side of the chain/string/whatever-we-happen-to-be-using-that-day. Fortunately we can move it around, so whenever we need more space we just just the division.
Another container is definitely the number of people. With only six actors there's a lot of multi-tasking going on. We didn't have much of a choice about this one, although the previousness was definitely self-imposed. All that means is that we can't do anything overly complicated, but thee are a few times when I think that having some extras on hand would be nice, just for the moments when we need pure chaotic energy.
The third container is the Commedia Dell'Arte characters. If I'm being honest, we aren't fitting into this one very well, but it wasn't our idea to start, so we're doing our best. I'd say about 80% of our roles have an actual Commedia character to go along with them, and our accuracy rate on those characters is...not that good. It's tough to work up the energy needed to be that active first thing in the morning.
February 1, 2016
Stage Combat Workshop
What we did today:
Last Friday, we spent one class period how to engage in combat on stage without anyone getting hurt. In total we learned how to fake slapping, punching, dragging by the hair, slamming heads against a wall, and fainting.
How I felt about what we did today:
Umm... this was absolutely amazing. First of all, it felt good just to be moving that much instead of sitting in a chair for 100 minutes. Second, we actually had an end product- at first it seemed like we were just learning various elements, but we were actually able to put them all together and create an entire scene. That was just amazing to see, and it really made me feel like I'd gotten something concrete out of the class. Really, I enjoyed everything about it. We had a great teacher and great classmates (everyone worked so well together!) and I would totally do it again if I had the chance.
What I learned that was new to me:
I had no idea that actors made their own sound effects for when they get hit. Thinking about it now, it does make sense that the one doing the hitting wouldn't have hands free to make sound effects, but I'd just never considered it before. What's hard about that is the fact that the action and the sound still have to line up, but since they'e being handled by two different people there's a lot more room for error.
What was confirmed that I already knew:
Honestly, I didn't know much about stage combat going in to this class. I guess that I knew that perhaps more than any other kind of acting, fighting in theatre requires absolute focus and cooperation between those involved. This was really reinforced when we began practicing the combined final scene- while practicing individual moves we could be fairly casual about it, but once we began putting it all together, every move counted. Each action had to be carefully coordinated so that neither of us threw off the rhythm.
Areas of strength and weakness:
A definite weakness of mine would be physical control. Getting exactly the right muscles- and no others- to move in exactly the right way requires an acute sense of your body which I just don't quite have. The more we did it, though, the more I got a feel for myself, so I gradually got better. I suppose you could say that that's a strength, then: I can learn from my mistakes. During slap practice, for example, practically my entire body moved instead of just my neck. When I realized that was happening, though, I was able to focus on the muscles that were giving me trouble and work on keeping them still.
February 2, 2016
What we did today:
For the past few days we've been watching the movie Stage Beauty, which focuses on Restoration Theatre in England and the changing roles of women and men.
How I felt about what we did today:
I really enjoyed this movie: The story was both compelling and and informative. I'll go into more detail in later sections of this entry, but I think that as a film, it ws very well done.
What I learned that was new to me:
I learned lots of things. To start, the ways in which men were trained to play women. While admittedly I'm not entirely sure how accurate the facts in this movie were, I think it's safe to say that they put plenty of work into the research. So with that in mind, I'll go back to what I was saying earlier. I guess that I'd always assumed that men rehearsed women's roles like they would any other part, and just played it like that. The extremes mentioned in Stage Beauty are...well, intense. Maybe you could call it a form of method acting? I'd also never thought about how men would have been displaced by the introduction of women into theatre.
What I knew that was confirmed:
I knew that there was quite a bit of controversy around women in acting to start- Kinston's outburst about refusing to work with them was proof enough of that. Really though, that was about the extent of my knowledge regarding restoration theatre. Well, I suppose I knew that Charles II had been one of it's most important proponents, but I only learned that just before we began watching.
February 20, 2016
I really liked this production. It's not how I would have done it, but I like this more than how I would have done it. The ease with which one scene became another just astonished me. So in answer to our first prompt question, I would definitely produce it like this. As for whether or not you could put it in a contemporary setting, I think you could. It would be a little more difficult, because parents don't have as much absolute authority and not many people fight duels, but I can imagine it very easily. Julia, Lydia, Faulkland and Jack could all come from rich families, and rather than pretending he's lower ranking in the military Jack could pretend that he's an intern somewhere.
The last part- aspects of Restoration Theatre that I liked- well, that would be just about all of it. Using some specific examples, though, I would have to say that the thrust stage was my absolute favorite. I loved how it gave the scenes a depth that you just can't achieve with a 'normal' stage.
Febrary 27, 2016
Hello, everyone. My name is Lydia Languish, and I am seventeen years old. I currently live with my rather overbearing aunt, who is always lecturing me about some thing one another. I very much enjoy reading- The Sentimental Journey is one of my absolute favorites. I am a strong believer in the power of love, and I dream of marrying a poor man and forfeiting my dowry so that we may love each other only for ourselves. In fact, I have recently become acquainted with one Ensign Beverly, who is quite charming. I dare not tell my aunt though, for I fear that she would immediately shut down our correspondence. I must say that I don't think she believes me to be very intelligent- though I most certainly am. How else would I be able to evade her suspicions so?
April 2, 2016
Thoughts on our scenes:
I thought these turned out really well, actually. It was kind of hard being in two different groups because I would always have to play catch-up, but my team mates were really helpful in explaining what they'd done while I was gone. In terms of the actual acting, I think it's amazing how much progress we made in such a short time. The hardest part was probably blocking, because we weren't sure exactly where we'd be performing, so everything was a little shaky. For the most part, we could figure it out by just doing what felt natural, but there were one or two parts (notably the embrace between Lydia and Beverly) that required more thought. For that we really just kept playing around with it until we felt that it worked. I thought that our interaction was really good too. Admittedly my character didn't do that much, but the others worked together really well.
April 19, 2016
Reflections on A Comedy of Errors
Okay, this was absolutely amazing. I love the fact that they had a kind of proscenium, but like... an an uber-proscenium. There was almost no stage at all, really- just the actors in the middle of the audience. It was very... free, I guess. The way the scenes blended was just incredible, and I love how everything just flowed- from acting to music, moment to moment. I am SO going to reference this in my next director's notebook. Incorporating the audience only works with very specific stage types, but I think it provides a really direct way for the viewers to experience the story, so I may just end up using a proscenium next time. This was a comedy, so the abrupt slapstick elements fit really well, but in a more general scope I think their use of physicality was excellent. The way they kept changing their acting style was a really creative way to keep the audience engaged. Overall, anamazing performance.
September 21, 2016
What is Devised Theatre?
To me, devised theatre is a way of thinking about theatre as well as a way of approaching it. To start, the literal meaning of devising is:
“A form of theatre where the script originates not from a writer or writers, but from collaborative, usually improvisatory, work by a group of people (usually, but not necessarily, the performers).” –definition from Wikipedia
The problem with this definition is that it only refers to “pure devising”. By this I mean any piece of theatre that was devised from beginning to end. By contrast, I think that there is a sort of spectrum for devising, with pure devising on one end and by-the-book acting on the other. You can take a pre-existing script and devise around it to create an original approach to something you didn’t create.
This brings me to what I mentioned earlier, the idea of devising as a way of thinking about theatre. Essentially, the devising thought process is letting whatever theater piece you’re working on be in charge. Rather than trying to impose your own ideas and forcing the piece into submission, it’s a matter of allowing ideas to flow freely and interact with each other as they will. (Based on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvHMN31u4r8 )
September 26, 2016
I'd have to say that my best skill is improvisation- my mindset in just about any situation is 'you started it, now see it through.' Acting is a little bit like drawing with a permanent marker, since you can't go back and undo anything. If you make a mistake, you either have to draw over it or incorporate it into the picture. I also have a tendency of making sarcastic remarks, which might not seem like a skill, but if done right it can actually be really funny. Also I have good balance. As for my approaches, I usually start by just doing the first thing that comes into my head just to see how it goes. If It' works, I'll keep going with it until it becomes more concrete. If it doesn't, I'll try to move on, but often I'll keep those ideas in the back of my mind and try to find a place for them later. This tends to have the unfortunate side effect of overcomplicating things, so I work best if there's somebody to keep me from getting to caught up in it. My knowledge and experience covers a ton of different and fairly unrelated topics. I draw people a lot, so I'm relatively okay at costume design, and I can sew to a limited extent. I'm pretty good at math, too, and I have synesthesia. In terms if my interests, I've already mentioned that I like drawing. I'm not to good at anything except people, but I try. I also like reading (mostly fiction, but non-fiction is good too), and I really like anime and manga. I enjoy writing, and have been trying to write a coherent story for the past three years (it just will not end!). And finally I like making music videos with my favorite series, though with schoolwork I haven't had as much time to finish any.
October 1, 2016
How will what we did in class guide how you lead your group?
Looking at the ways my teammates naturally approach collaborative work was really helpful (or it will be when we begin working, but it was very informative). One thing that I typically struggle with when working with other people is remembering that they'll have different ways of looking at the same problem, and my solution isn't necessarily going to be the same as theirs. So having heard from each of them explicitly how they work, I feel like it'll be much easier to incorporate their work style into my plans so that I'm not forcing anyone into anything. It was also really nice to look at the techniques of actual devising companies again as a refresher, and also to get some details that weren't necessarily in the original presentations.
October 6, 2016
This entry didn't have a prompt but I just felt the need to make a note of what we did today because it was awesome. So we were just talking about things and bouncing ideas around and the idea of silence came up. So we began talking about the different kinds of silence there can be, and the we decided to try to listen for it. So we all got into a car and sat there for four minutes and didn't say anything. I know that doesn't sound like much, but we got so many ideas from it and I just had to write it down here so here it is.
October 11, 2016
Our Own Agreements
I feel like our agreements are really similar to (if not exactly the same as) the examples we were provided, but they work well. They are:
1- Allow for discussion
2- Be conscientious and resolve debates respectfully
3- Remain aware of the end goal and be ready to let go
4- Be engaged and ask questions
5- Recognize responsibilities and strive to do your best under given circumstances.
The main idea behind our agreements is to get the group to work together as smoothly as possible without causing anyone stress or discomfort. There was a lot of conversation behind each on of the five, so they all have their own sub-agreements attached to them beyond just the words. For example, number 5 covers being present and on time, but also not forcing yourself if you're sick. Number one includes giving all ideas serious thought and not saying 'no'. They're basically a way of ensuring that our various ways of approaching theatre can interact and produce results rather than clash and end up in a conflict.
October 19, 2016
Right now our plan is still very approximate. For the most part we're a group that spends a lot of time in our thoughts, so actually formulating a plan and putting it down an paper is rather difficult. Actually, those of us in 12th grade (which is most of us) took various aptitude tests last year that told us, among other things, the ways that are best for us in handling long-term projects. I already knew that I work best when I have smaller deadlines along the way, but as we go along I'm finding that getting started is actually the hardest part. We've drafted the first few step of the plan, but we're all hesitant about committing to a specific direction so getting any farther than that is proving difficult. Tomorrow we'll be bringing in moments based on some themes we came up with earlier, so hopefully that will give us a bit more of an idea as to where we're going, but the whole thing is still a little bit up in the air.
In terms of the actual process of making the plan, it's basically a matter of taking the steps we all listed in the "My approaches to theatre" section and compiling them and putting them in the terms provided by the IB. Admittedly that can be somewhat difficult when our approaches differ, but we surprisingly have a lot in common- as I learned yesterday, learning by doing is something that works for just about all of us. Hopefully I'll update this tomorrow and we'll have a plan in more detail.
October 25, 2015
Update on what we did today
So we did some more thinking and are finally getting somewhere in terms of concrete ideas. We were thinking about identity and how people take on elements of the personalities of the people they interact with, which led us to thinking about someone who doesn't have a real 'self' and is just a reflection of their surroundings. Thinking about a black slate made me think about amnesia and what it would be like to actually have no idea who you are. We began looking up real-life accounts of amnesiacs and sharing whatever experiences we have with memory loss. Of our six group members, the three who definitely want to act all look vaguely similar (we all have brown hair and are girls, so it's not like we're doppelgängers, but we look more alike than the other three do) so we began thinking about us all being the same person. Another possibility was Multiple or Dissociative Identity Disorder, but we haven't discussed that path yet so there's not much to write.
We're still in a really rough planning stage, so we don't actually know where we're going yet, but we do think that exploring the concept of identity is really cool. We have to be a little careful not to get ahead of ourselves thinking that we're doing something really deep and meaningful when we don't even have much of a plan, though- last year's devised piece was really interesting to those of us performing it, but its meaning was largely lost on the audience because we tried to be too abstract and impressionistic without having a real purpose to our actions. Once we have a better foundation we may be able to add a little abstraction, but we're trying to keep it real for now.
October 26, 2016
Example Portfolio 9: Reflections
I looked at all of the examples portfolios we were given and decided that number nine was the best, so I chose it to do my reflections on. We actually watched the chosen 3-5 minutes for each of these portfolios, and to be honest it seems like group nine was just better put-together over all. My group is using them as a point of comparison, which worried us a little bit because we didn't want to copy anything, but it was really impressive to us and we wanted to be able to create something equally impressive. We tried to reconcile these two goals by looking at the elements that made their piece successful (which makes the assessor's comments incredibly useful) and occasionally checking to see if we had something similar or at least looked like we were heading in that general direction. For example, all three example groups had a starting point, but one was really specific (the flower) and one was super broad (social inequity). Insomnia, by contrast, is a concept rather than an object, but is still relatable to just about anyone (the portfolio explained that most people experience insomnia at some point in their lives). Likewise, our group is trying to find something that allows for interpretation but will be easy to understand.
I also thought that looking at their process was really interesting. We've just been going at our own pace and noting anything interesting that comes out of it, but they were a lot more inspired by their chosen devising company. Having read that kind of makes me want to go back and look at ours and reconsider how we've been approaching this. Other things like detailing the contributions of all the members and not just the individual whose portfolio it is hadn't even really occurred to me- I may have mentioned them in context of whatever I was doing, but probably not have devoted a whole section to it. Then again it's hard to tell because we're still in the very early stages of this whole process, so maybe once we began finalizing roles I would have done something like that anyways? It's hard to say, But I'm definitely going to do it now.
For the most part I feel like I had a basic understanding of what we were supposed to include here, but wasn't entirely sure how to work it all together. My original idea was to open with a quick profile of our group, talk about our ideas and inspirations, then fill it in with the details of what we came up with along the way. Intentions and audience probably would have come up eventually, but I hadn't directly thought about them at this point. That's probably my biggest problem when it comes to writing reflections: when I write extemporaneously, I tend to miss important elements, but when I have a checklist I write a tiny amount for each point and call it good. The reason this section isn't very connected to the first two is because I just kind of wrote for a while, then actually looked at what was required, and added that in. I won't reorganize things this time because I think it's a good reminder of what I need to work on, but if it happens in the actual portfolio I'll make sure to even things out a bit.
November 3, 2016
Well, I think we're finally narrowing down our concepts a little bit. Earlier this week we took a closer look at some of our starting points, but there were still so many of them that we weren't quite sure what to do with them. So instead of trying to do all of that at once, we moved on the the next step, which was more individual. We all picked an element that we thought was interesting and filled out a worksheet that would allow us to begin devising around that element in our own style. I feel like that was really useful for me because it allowed me to step back from the whole 'group project' idea and really focus on my own ideas so that when I brought them to the table, they were more solid than usual.
On Monday and Tuesday we experimented with casual discussion as a catalyst for inspiration, which worked pretty well to an extent. Our three actors began by sitting in a circle and just talking about our experiences with our topics- mostly memory, and our memories of each other, but we branded out from there. While we were talking, our writer sat in and took notes of interesting ideas that came up and outlined random scenes that they inspired. (Note: this whole process was heavily inspired by the devising techniques of Frantic Assembly, which our writer studied for an earlier presentation.) We got some cool material out of that, but it was still pretty disjointed since we didn't have anything overarching besides a vague idea of 'amnesia'. We still needed more direction.
Thursday started out pretty normal. We got a book that had various theatre games and exercises in it, and we tried out a few of them, but nothing was totally clicking with us. After a while we decided that the main problem was that we still didn't have any goals with this project, even if we had ideas for what we wanted to do. That, I think, was what was really missing this whole time. Even if we came up with a really cool concept, we wouldn't be able to develop it properly until we knew what out intentions were. Thinking back on it, that seems like something we should have done a long time ago, since the intention is one of the most important parts of any production. I even mentioned it in my last journal entry! Hmmm, no point in complaining about the past. This is where we are now, so we'll just have to go forward.
With the new idea of looking for messages of intentions, our group took a step back and reassessed out idea. None of us have actually experienced amnesia for ourselves, so we realized that trying to make that the focus of our play is a little risky. Instead we looked at themes that accompany amnesia- identity, relationships, belonging- and tried to consider them more than the amnesia itself. In discussing identity and relationships, we began to revisit the concept of a blank slate, which is what originally led us to amnesia. Instead of trying to ground it, though, this time we looked at what we could convey about ourselves and our intentions by using a blank slate. Right now we're considering using that idea to-in part- create our set, possibly live in the first scene, by making a collaborative art piece on panels to put behind us. It would get all of us personally invested in the piece beyond just 'make something cool' of 'get a good grade', and could easily be used as a catalyst for further interaction. Here's hoping!
11-4-16 EDIT: Yesterday was the 3rd, not the 5th. I fixed that in the header, apologies for any confusion.
November 10, 2016
This week was a little slow, to be honest. We almost completely re-did our entire plan, but then we thought that might not be such a good idea. Here's what happened in a nutshell:
On Tuesday we talked about where we were and where we wanted to be. The concepts we came up with last week were really interesting and we liked them, but using them meant that we couldn't go through with the 'amnesiac wakes up in a hospital' idea. Or rather we could, but using our new ideas (like painting the background at the beginning and the shirt throughout the play) would cancel out some of our older ones (Hospital setting, using all of our actors as the same character).
For a while we decided that that was okay, and kept going with our conversation. We were talking about what colors to use for the colored-slates (as opposed to blank slates), and I used my impressions of all of our group members filtered through my synesthesia to assign each of them colors. We went on a little tangent about the extent to which my synesthesia goes, then our writer suggested making the whole piece about synesthesia instead. We all got super exited about that, but then realized that would entail scrapping just about everything we'd come up with so far, so we put the idea of synesthesia on the back burner and took a step back.
We talked about intentions for a while, but couldn't come up with anything really specific because we were up in the air again. Finally we all kind of decided 'okay, trying to do something really cool from the get go isn't gonna work.' We decided to something pretty basic, get that solidified, and then add the cool stuff once we know what we're doing.
Right now the basic idea is to use most of the time limit as flashbacks to key important in someone's life and then cut back to the present and quickly indicate how those events have shaped that person's identity. We're going to revisit the personal moments we brought in a while ago and craft most of our scenes out of those. The context for the whole thing is an interview where our character is asked the "so tell me about yourself" question, which prompts the memories, then a small conclusion. It's a little flat, but like I said we'll add depth to it later.
Our current timeline is: Have an idea of what moments we like by next Thursday and begin stringing them together into something coherent. After that it's still a little vague, but having something concrete, no matter how short or simple it may be, will really help us.
November 17, 2016
Through the process of infinite metaphors, we've begun to identify our problem. We have a skeleton of a play, but all the bones are connected oddly and we need actual tendons. Or rather, we have tendons, but we keep changing them around and it's weird. So we finally sat down and decided to lock in what we're trying to do.
Actually, no. We did very little sitting. Earlier in the week we spilt into tech and acting teams and talked things over like that. The tech people began looking at a set and lighting components, while the actors began creating a backstory for our character. This was less to directly influence the story and more to give her motivations in each of our moments. Somewhere along the line we changed the initial cause for flashbacks from an interview to trying to make a decision and using past decisions to influence the present. In this model we still have the introvert-extrovert dynamic, but with the potential for more interaction with the main character. That was about as far as we got through Tuesday.
Then this morning happened and the whole thing shifted again. My extrovert partner were playing around at being the same person, and it ended up with both of us clinging to the tech guy's legs while the script writer looked at us in confusion. We tried doing an exercise where one actor plays an expert in a random field and another asked them questions to practice the 'yes and' concept, but since there were two ion us playing the singular expert it got really strange really fast. After that we split up to become experts of fruit and vegetable juice respectively, which resulted in me shouting, and I quote, "They shall burn! The lemons shall burn in hell!" At that point we decided that despite our best efforts to be serious, comedy just happens with our group. Rather than trying to change that, we just decided to go with it. Looking at opposite kinds of personality through the humor lens led to the introvert-extrovert characters turning into the angel/devil-on-your-shoulder situation. That made me think of a skit I watched once (link at the end of this entry), and after watching it we decided that it was the sort of thing we were currently aiming for. A quick think-tank session came up with a potential cause for dilemma- deciding whether or not to go home for winter break in the first year of college. 4 out of 5 of us will be in college next year, so it's already a little relevant to our lives, and part of the backstory we came up with was having a complicated relationship with her family. This is innocuous enough that humor wouldn't seem too out of place, so hopefully we'll actually stick with it this time around? At least now our characters are a bit more defined.
Video link (It's in Japanese): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-Y8wCLeUgc
November 24, 2016
Yay, it's working! We've taken our basic scene starters from earlier and are now reframing them in the context of the angel-devil dynamic. We've been working on developing the motivations for the characters in each scene, and in doing so we've actually begun to find a middle ground between the initial attempt at being serious and our inevitable decent into comedy. We were looking at the characters and realized that the "devil" character (me) isn't exactly trying to get the main character to do bad things. It seems more like the devil is acting through self-preservation instinct, trying to maximize individual happiness. The angel, by contrast, is the one acting with internal motivation to become happy by making others happy. The conflict comes from the fact that they both want the same thing, but have different ways of going about it.
For the most part we're leaving it comedic, but there's one part where the 'angel' and 'devil' are talking to each other and the devil complains about always being forced to be the bad guy. It goes into an examination of where our motivations come from and how we decide what is 'good'. The ending goes back to humor, but that middle bit is important.
There's another part that I feel like I should mention. It's still in the comedy section, but I thought it was hilarious. The angel's having a bit of an identity crisis about wearing white all the time (in typical 'angel' fashion) and the devil's trying to comfort her. This is taking place at a party, and they're playing limbo. The angel falls down and just lays there while they finish the conversation, and the devil ends it by saying 'it's not good for you to be stuck in limbo like this!' Cheap pun, maybe, but I thought it was great.
December 3, 2016
Thursday Update (on a Saturday)
I'm really happy right now, because it's actually coming together! We spent some time in the commons this week to look at lighting and actually have some semi-finalized light schemes. I can't say too much about it because I'm on stage the whole time and not the tech booth, but they say they have things under control so I trust them. As for the actors' side of the situation, we have dialogue! Admittedly it's not quite complete, but we have a strong enough idea of what we're trying to accomplish in the scene that we can improvise it and be relatively consistent from take to take.
I should clarify that the dialogue is only really settled in the identity crisis part where the angel and devil are arguing. We're at the point where we've decided to work on each scene (there are roughly four: Intro, memory, crisis, and decision) for a day and focus solely on it. Technically this week we worked on crisis and intro, but since one of our actors wasn't there for the intro run-through we did more individual stuff. Specifically, we each wrote our own interpretations of how we imagined the scene, then compared notes. It was more of a theoretical day, to be honest,because we're just going to have to go over it again on Monday, but at the very least it was helpful for me in terms of developing my character (Oh yeah. It seems that we've made our character assignments permanent. I didn't really think we were going to shift anything, but up until now we were trying to keep everything open). She used to be just the typical 'do bad things because it's fun' character, but now she's less mean-hearted and more cynical. She's the 'once bitten twice shy' type who prefers to rely only on herself rather than trust other people. As a result she may end up being a bit short-tempered with the angel, not because she's actually angry and more because she thinks the angel is too naive and just doesn't understand why her suggestions won't work. Really the devil actually cares about both the angel and their host, but she's not very good at showing that which leads to conflict.
Beyond that there's not much to talk about. Now that the big ideas are coming together, it's more a matter of fine-tuning everything and fitting it all into a coherent piece. So lets talk about re-reading the Insomnia journal. As I was going over it again, I noticed the line "I was born in Sweden." In the original context he's talking about his approach to theatre in general, but I really haven't considered how where I was born and the community in which I grew up has affected my approach to our topic. The 'angel/devil on your shoulder' concept, according to some admittedly very quick googling, originated in Islamic tradition. There's a lot of dispute about this, but I'm going to go with it for now: the point is that our whole idea is dependent on a cultural idea. To us it's something that we all know, but it may not be as obvious to others. I think we may have mentioned something like that once in passing, but never talked about it in depth. Also I think we need to start taking some pictures of our process.
December 11, 2016
Thursday Update (even though I wasn't at school on Thursday)
So this week we ran through scenes and tried to finalize our dialogue. What ended up happening is that we decided our main character will have set lines and the angel/devil will improvise around certain points as long as we get agreed-upon messages across. We came to that conclusion after trying both scripted and improvised scenes, and seeing what worked best. The main character preferred knowing what to say in advance so she could practice it and be confident about it, while our duo felt like our interactions were more natural when we made them up on the spot. It kind of makes sense when you consider the difference in our characters: the main is more contemplative, so what she says has to be specific and meaningful. On the other hand, the whole point of the angel and devil is that we really don't know what we're doing and are just bumbling along trying to make our host as happy as possible- even if we aren't quite sure what that entails.
Somewhat on that note- I though of a different way of defining our characters besides "angel" and "devil." In my mind, we're more like the Ego and Id from Freudian psychology. This plays into the idea that the devil isn't really trying to be a bad person, just pursuing personal interests rather than "the greater good." Thinking about it this way also helps remove the religious context. We'll probably keep using angel and devil terminology in practice as shorthand, but I brought up the Ego/Id dynamic and we agreed that it's closer to what we're trying to convey.
This entry is gonna be a little short because I was absent Thursday, so I pretty much only have on full day to write about, but after I catch up to what the group did without me I'll update this also.
December 15, 2016
I'm so exited, this show is actually coming together! We had a bit of a slow start this week, but once we got started it really got rolling. We can pretty much run through the entire thing until the end scene! The difficult thing is getting it the same every time, since only bits and pieces of it are scripted, but we've been talking with our writer and now have some cue lines that give us something to aim for until we get a final script. These lines are actually more to provide cues for the lights, since they're only at the beginning or end of a scene, but it's better than we used to have. For the most part the Angel and I are still improvising our lines, but it's the end of the third scene and all of the fourth that need work. That's mostly because before that we're just arguing with no conclusion, but at the end of three we actually have to come to some sort of understanding.
Beyond scripting, we've also finally gotten a start on blocking. By movements are described as "like an octopus," which I think is really funny but also it makes sense. The only difficult part is that in scene three the angel and I are lit only by a single spotlight, so our range of motion is pretty limited, but we're working on that so it should be fine.
Let's see, what else did we do? We're finalizing costumes, which is good. Oh yeah, we've gotten rid of the literal limbo scene, which was fun but doesn't really fit with the mood of the rest of the story. There are some technical adjustments going on, but I'm not too sure about the specifics because I know nothing about technology. Still, stoked that this is actually becoming a thing!
January 9, 2017
Thursday Update (Now on a Monday!)
So we're pretty much in the final stretch here before giving our final presentations- less than two weeks to go! On one hand that's sort of freaky, but on the other I feel like we actually have a pretty good grasp on what we're doing. We have an actual script now, and we finally know how to transition from the third to fourth scene, so now it's pretty much just a matter of rehearsal. Since there's not much else to say on that front, I thought I'd talk about how our piece has evolved in terms of our main ideas.
At first we were trying to deliberately incorporate every single element- the songs, books, photographs, items, etc.- but that got overcomplicated really quickly. As my early journals indicate, we ended up with something completely different every time we looked at it, and no clear idea of what we were doing. Around the time we dropped the amnesia idea, we also stopped trying to force the elements into the piece. Instead we've just been tossing ideas in as we think they would work, and it's been much more productive. Not only that, but most of our elements have popped back up without us even needing to try. For example, we have the 'enclosed space' element in the third scene when the angel and devil are lit by a single spotlight, and so can't move very far. We have the idea of snow in all of scene two, which takes place outside, and in a memory to boot. We have the idea of relationships throughout the whole thing, and the object of the cellphone appears in the last scene. We have concepts of who you were versus how you are now, and of decisions with no 'correct' answer. All in all, I think it's really exiting, and I'm looking forward to the final performance!
January 21, 2017
Thursday Update (on a Saturday)
Oh wow we did it. It's done. We did the actual performance in front of an audience and everything. Okay, let me back up a bit and go through what happened up to this point. We did a practice run-through for our final, but we weren't off-script yet so it was a little awkward. Also it was only 6 minutes long, which was a problem. So after we got some feedback on motion, we went back and modified the script some. I extended the second argument so that it had a bit more of a flow to it, and then class ended. We didn't meet again for about four days, so the actors took that time to work on memorization.
When we came back, we ran lines for a while, and then started blocking scenes. One of my comments from the final was to stay in one place for longer instead of wandering, so we changed my motion from 'octopus' to 'possessive floppy'. That way I still retain the loose quality on my character without being distracting. That was on Tuesday, and the performance was Thursday night, so we thought that was going to be it and that we'd just keep rehearsing until the real deal. That's not what happened.
On Thursday morning, we were running lines when the superego/angel character pointed out that since our title was originally going to be "We to She" (we later changed the 'to' to 'are'), we should try to be more intentional with our pronouns. So. we basically gave the whole script a minor overhaul so that both of us used 'we' in the beginning, then began to transition to using 'me' 'you' and 'her'. We also redid our costumes- I was going to be wearing a red cardigan, but then we switched it to a flannel shirt that was mis-buttoned to contribute to the 'just woke up' vibe. I also changed my blocking so that when our main character leaves the cafe and locks us in, I follow after her and try to open it just as she's locking it and then watch as she leaves rather than trying it after she's gone.
So now that there's all that, it's time to talk about the real performance. I think it went pretty well, but we were all really nervous and I feel like we rushed it a bit. It was still 12:51, so it was really close to the required 13 minutes, but considering it was over 14 minutes when we practiced it I think it's safe to say we were going a bit faster than normal. Also we screwed up some our lines, specifically the ones in the newer section, so the argument scene was cut a bit short. I still think we did a good job, though- it just would have been nice to be able to do more than one performance with an audience, to get used to the nerves.
As for the talkback, I think it was great, but there were just so many things that I wanted to talk about that we'd never be able to get to all of it. It lasted about half and hour, and we still only covered a tiny portion of everything we did. Anyway, the whole experience was a ton of fun and I really enjoyed it.
February 16, 2017
Plays I have read:
- Alice in Wonderland
- The Foreigner
- Three Sisters
- The Rivals
- A Doll’s House
- Oedipus Rex
- A Midsummer’s Night Dream
- The Tempest
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged
- The Importance of Being Earnest
Plays I have seen:
- Secret in The Wings
- Anatomy of Grey
- Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
- Comedy of Errors
- Haikyuu! Stage Play
- (Part of) Tokyo Ghoul Stage Play
- Music Man
- Fiddler on the Roof
- Wizard of Oz
- I Hate Hamlet
- 12 Angry Jurors
- Robin Hood
- The Rivals
March 1, 2017
New Reactions and Discoveries
The biggest thing I've noticed on my second reading of the play is that there are no off-stage transitions. There's only one act, but almost ten different scenes and locations. Instead of closing the curtain and changing the set, it happens onstage in view of the audience. Most of this is thanks to the fact that there really isn't much set, and the actors make most of the props. I thought it was fascinating, though, because the whole play is a continuous process of ever-changing settings.
Another thing wasn't exactly something I 'noticed', but between the first reading and the second one I actually read 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Alice Through the Looking Glass', and it made the whole thing make a bunch more sense. With that in mind, I'm going to have to make sure that my rendition of it is accessible to people who have read both, only one, or neither.
Due to my research on the Manhattan project, I was able to visualize the setup much more easily, which should help when it comes to designing my version. I want to keep the simplicity, but be able to put my own spin on it.
Beyond that I began to wonder how this play - or the original novels, for that matter- would be translated into other languages.
March 9, 2017
Intentions and Impact
- I think the playwright’s intentions were to create a world with as little as possible and inspire creativity.
- I want to focus on self-reflection and curiosity.
- I want to show a different way of looking at the world.
- I want to say that uncertainty is okay.
- My audience is anyone who is looking for answers, particularly those in the murky periods of their lives: the middle teen years, or the beginning of adulthood when everything is a little confusing.
- I’ll probably stage it in a medium-sized indoor theatre, nothing too fancy.
- I want to encourage people to think about things around them more critically and to have more open minds. Ideally I want to make them look at things as is they’ve never seen them before.
- I want them to feel a bit of confusion, but more a sense of acceptance or contentment.
- I want them to think that not everything has to be perfect and polished.
- They should leave the experience hopefully sort of unified?
- I want reassurance to remain with them.