A Gust Of Wind- Jeff Ball
Look at one of the productions listed under ‘theatre visits’ research background and devising process.
(From What I Heard About The World, the companys most recent show!)
- Established ‘95 in Sheffield
- Performance/Theatre/Live art/Design/Film/Video art/Photography
- Wish to remain an accessible but create contemporary theatre that plays with conventional forms.
- Project for ROOT festival in Hull which was inappropriate for ‘civic pride’theme for the year SO… took it to Sheffield and were let take over a workstation- this led to Quaterlight fest in Sheffield in ‘96. From this came two installations and a film
- Funders then wanted to know where they were going from there- had to think long-term—— Drew up a five year plan!—-Artistic and business development.
How much writing/prep before you start devising?
- A year of collecting images/music. Visiting galleries,writing,drawing,research,discussion.
-They all keep sketch books and a ‘company sketchbook’
- Bring these together and choose a few things to start with- JUST starting points, some become irrelevent as devising progresses.
Techniques- What the rehearsal space looks like:
- List of ideas on big sheets of paper
- Set/defined space to work in i.e stack of filing cabinets,a table and two chairs
- Piles of research material
- A video camera and TV
- Discussion, improvisation, arguement, research, writing, drawing, video, watchin.
- Use some rule based devising exercises and games.
-TASKS/IDEA FOR AN IMAGE: Draw improvs out, get bored and frustrated but KEEP GOING because some of the moments are found at those times.
- Often material comes through concentrated analysis of a problem or effect we they want to achieve, and many attempts to solve it.
- Project ideas grow over time- research,discussion and negotiation.
-Try to make work that is experimental for them- haven’t done before.
- Projects lead on to others
- Money/time/space effects all these things.
Consider how you would apply the exercises on your stories, embelishment and fibbing to your performance. Make some notes on how you might embellish or elevate your personal contribution to the group by presenting as if it were a lie.
1. As a group we could…
- Famous i.e Great Grandfather was Napolean..
-“Dream” family? I.e Everything your family isn’t. Do you have a brother but wish you had a sister?
- We could interlink family connections
1:”My Uncle George…”
2: ” I have an Uncle George, he was in the army.”
1: “So was my Uncle George, but anyway, my Uncle George was married to a lady called Penelope…”
3: “My second cousin was called Penelope.”
1: “Did she sail to France by herself?”
3: ” She did actually.”
And so on…
- Want to be very good at something silly/impossible i.e flying, building sandcastles..
- Through the building of something?
- Literally build the family tree… Could use a video to show it or maybe it would be nice to see a struggle on stage?
2. My personal contribution: (connecting to my idea)
- Build a map, literally, drag it out, could almost get too repetitive. Attention to detail would be important, so if you made a mistake, you could go back and repeat the same action, making sure the ? was in the right place.
- Tell an exciting, wonderful life story using lots of props and materials. Make a ‘busy’ stage. - Going from nothing on stage to a full stage. I.e As you add details to the story you also add details to the performance (or the aesthetics of.)
This week the theme was stories.
Discuss books we had read, how it related to our question (How can you help an audience engage with your devised piece of theatre?)
Nikki had read Offending the Audience by Peter Handke:
She described how this piece of theatre was aimed at a complete involvement of the audience- the whole action is directed at them. This performance explores what being an audience member means; how far you can push them before you ‘offend’ them.
Craig had read ’ Making a Performance’ by Emma Govan, Helen Nicholoson and Kate Normington:
He talked about how this book explores the history of devising and methodologies.
What he took from the book in relation to our question was that essentially devising is a method of creating which pushes boundaries and challenges performer and audience and its this challenge, simply, which helps them to engage.
Charlie had read ‘Frantic Assembly’ by ?
This book is a record of how they make theatre. Who and what influences them and how they began. One method Frantic Assembly use which was particularly interesting to us was the pre-show show. By this I mean that they always create a performance which happens before the actual performance happens. This can be as simple as very loud music playing or use of videos.
But before we played with this theme we got together in our symposium groups and discussed the books we had read and the things we had learnt.
1.We played a game of master and servant:
This game tests your reflexes and reactions as Masters subtly lure Servants over to their seat and opposing masters have to try and keep their servants by tapping them before they get away.
Richard added a nice element in here in which we had to stop in between seats and speak about the books we had read. He asked us to pretend we were giving a presentation to very important people. This added a performative level to a very simple game and bought out some really nice moments where people got nervous and just laughed ‘on stage.’
These accidental performative moments are moments I love. The moments when people are caught off guard- its an honesty I appreciate in performance.
2. Then we looked at telling stories/fibbing/lying.
In groups we were asked to each tell the same story, however, all but one of us had to be lying. Then we had to sit in a line and tell the rest of the class. We didnt get any time to rehearse.
I am a particularly bad liar- so I hated this exercise! I found relatively easy to tell who was telling the truth though.
Attention to detail, no over-dramatics and being able to remember and repeat details= the one whos telling the truth!
Some people over-acted it or added little quirks in there, Jen was an interesting one because her story sounded very real until the next door neighbours knocked on the door because her microwave exploded…
I, was terrible. I hadn’t got the kind of story that we’d chosen- I bored people with my stuttering and it was a fail from the beginning. However, miraculously some people thought I was the truth teller!
See next post for more…
I missed today’s lesson due to illness but booked a meeting with Richard to talk about how I could catch up:
1.He suggested that I make a script of the proposal performance; a record that the group could hold on to and refer back to. He asked me to keep this ‘mapping’ style that I had acquired with my original idea.
2.As part of the syposium groups, he had given everyone a book to read as research. My book was:
A Widening Field: journeys in body and imagination. Miranda Tufnell and Chris Cricknay. (note: needs havard reference.)
A JOURNEY OF IDEAS EVOLVING
We have an identity, this identity starts with the bigger picture and goes on to look at our personal history and invites others to remember theirs. It also explores our hopes and dreams and paths we could take…
The map is laid out so that the ideas are in a connecting round and the performance is in the middle. I.E the performance started with the idea of “What do I want to be,” so thats where the blue line starts and then it goes on to connect with the other ideas. I have also written what was said and done along the ‘path.’
2. Reading the book I knew I had to keep our question in mind:
How do you help an audience engage with your devised piece of theatre?
The book is almost a collection of ideas about how to make theatre. At the forefront of the methodology is ‘becoming aware.’ Realising yourself, noticing your body which on a day-to-day basis you take for granted and noticing everything around you. Literally, widening the field.
“… Moving out of our heads and into the present moment of what is within and around us.” (Tufnell, Cricknay;ix)
I used a text which I actually wrote last year in response to the question:
Where are you from?
I am from the ground I fell on at three years old, the glass that cut me. I am from the strawberry jam I ate in ‘98. I am from the firmness of my Mother, the softness of my Father. I am from the time my Father told me he would always love me but didn’t like me. I am from the hair I cut from my own head at school. I am from the silliness of my sister and the hippie of my brother. I am from Sheen, Epsom, Ireland, Wales, Germany. I am from my granddads part in the second World War, my Fathers trip across the world on foot.I am from my Mothers first marriage and then her struggle as a single Mother.I am from my Brothers depression at University, my Fathers realization that there is no god. I am from my sisters tragic fall on my 18th birthday which kept her in bed for a year.
I am also from the next conversation I have with you. The old man who smiled at me.The friend that died. I am from the best friend I made in Prague. The broken-heart I got in ‘07. I’m from this land here and the land I walked on in India, Canada and New York.
I am from the people I have yet to meet and the land I have yet to find.
The song I chose was BJORK:JOGA, a song which I love and simply find very powerful.
The connections I made from my piece to others were:
Emmas: Remembering/collecting memories…
Ilarias: Memory/ Memories which make up someone’s history…
Because my idea was to ‘make a map of an identity’; I made a map of my idea.
There were a few rough sketches…
I realised I needed it to be as clear as possible: so there had to be a starting point, a key and I had to work out what connected to what.
The final version of the map looked like this:
It started with ‘Identity’:
There was a ‘Key’ to explain what the different colours represented:
Phrases gave the map direction:
And, finally, my possible idea for how you might stage it if it were a collective identity:
INTRODUCTION TO LESSON: Richard handed out an extract: What devisng means to us:The Frantic Assembly Book: Hoggart; (2009) London;Routledge.
As well as Writing from the body: A widening Field, journeys in body and imagination: Tufnell,M. Cricknay,C. (2004); Altern: Dance Books
These two extracts were an introduction to devising, how to handle and hold ideas and the latter text was about writing in response to your body; using writing as a tool to record something more permanent.
” I do not write to keep I write to feel.
I write to touch the body, of the instant with the tips of the words”
(Helene Cixous, Stigmata.)
TASK: DISCUSS IDEAS AND CREATE A CRITERIA FOR PROPOSAL.
There are a lot of links amongst our ideas such as childhood, culture, memory, identity.
As part of an assessment we had to bring these ideas together in a proposal for what we our final performance might look like. We decided that we would individually go away and expand our ideas and the criteria we each had to meet was:
There were also other ideas added to this map later on but some people had missed the first session.
Those other ideas were:
- Exploring homelessness
- A story of giving addicts or vulnerable people a home
- Exploring a family tree
NEXT TASK: DECIDE WHAT OUR SYMPOSIUM GROUP QUESTIONS WILL BE.
I was personally interested in the boundaries of self-indulgence of theatre and I bought this up with the group. Devising theatre is often autobiographical and from personal experience I know that this kind of worj can stray away from an audience and infact exclude them. So after some discussion we decided on
How can you help an audience to relate with your (devised) performance?
We ended the session with an exercise that got our heats beating and tested our rhythm! I have done this many times and I hate it, maybe because I’m so bad at it….
In three lines of four we had to jump to ten following on from each other, with a another group of four counting at their own pace. Richard really wanted us to test ourselves, so we were made to practice (my line was particularly rubbish) and he kept reminding us it was a performance. Much to my dismay we did this a few times but repetitive work like this challenges you and there is something quite rewarding at the end when you’ve jumped over 50 times…
After this, the group who had been leading this had to do a very different exercise at our command. At first, they were just asked to walk around a room with purpose.. Then they had to turn at 90 degree angles….Then they had to jump at corners…then other people got involved…then you could only walk on your side… And so on…
As this went on Richard spoke a narrative to it, trying to get us to imagine where we were, what we were doing. One idea was that we were animals, this bought our funny persona’s in as all as we started to take on characteristics.
TO DO FOR NEXT WEEK, PREPARE PROPOSAL AND EMAIL RICHARD AN OUTLINE OF WHAT IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE.
In this day and age obsessed with body image, I thought about offering to draw somoenes body by their description. And then how you saw them.
That drawing is meant to be an example of how the space might be set out!
The funny blocks are ‘objects.’