Catching up on past rehearsals part 1

I have neglected to blog about our last three rehearsals. So now I will do a synopsis of each of them!

Our first unblogged rehearsal was the weekend of fall break. We met up so that I could give the cast a task after our last rehearsal. Our last rehearsal was awesome, but it didn’t exactly lead us in the direction that I thought it would. So I felt like we should continue exploring the things that we discovered in the last rehearsal. I gave all of the cast members the task of coming up with an activity that explores the question that they asked in the previous rehearsal. I gave some examples of devising methods that I have been reading in various books. Some of these include Viewpoints, telling individual stories, creating unfinished scenes or songs for the group to finish, and many other activities that would probably sound goofy if I tried to describe them.

We then did my activity since I could have something prepared. The question that I had asked in our previous rehearsal was, “How has your culture affected you?” What I saw in everyone’s movements at first was a lot of isolation. I then started to see people reaching out to each other and even using technology maybe to reach out to people.

I told everyone to think of a time when they have felt isolated and to show us that moment. We all took about 10 minutes to develop out stories and then we presented them to each other. I then had people pair up with someone that they felt they had a connection with and the pairs performed their stories in tandem. This created a cool new story as the two stories combined. This is where this rehearsal ended, but I told the pairs to think of ways that they could now connect their two stories together to make a cohesive story.

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Very Inspirational

That is what tonight’s rehearsal was for me. However, it makes it hard to narrow things down and find a clear through line for our piece. Tonight’s rehearsal was about defining culture. We used Viewpoints grid work for this. I had each person step out and ask a question, one at a time, while the other 5 people responded to that question physically. It brought to light tons of discussion points, which unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to discuss. We talked about how we need to recognize that each of us, in the cast, are part of a culture, and we don’t have a huge amount of diversity in the group. For example, we are all white college students. However, we do have individual cultures. We differ in gender, sexual orientation, where we come from, among other things. This really doesn’t concern me that we don’t have a wide diversity. Culture is culture and the piece is about recognizing how we are affected by culture. If that means we focus on the American middle class that’s ok.

So our task for this week is to reflect on what we each saw and did in the Viewpoints exercise in response to the questions and reflect on what cultures we belong to. I will be doing some research into studies about how people are affected by culture. I think this will give us a good spring board for moving forward in our next rehearsal.

First Rehearsal

We’ve just had our first rehearsal this afternoon! In my opinion it went very well. This rehearsal was dedicated to ensemble building. I think that its very important for our group to feel comfortable with each other and feel as though they can share ideas and personal stories. Hopefully our ensemble will get stronger as we work, but I think today was a step in the right direction for that.

We started rehearsal with a few warmup games. The first warmup game I called “rabbit in the hole.” I’m not exactly sure what its called. I learned it in my devising class at Kingston University in London. For this game, there is a person who is a rabbit and a person who is a fox. The fox chases the rabbit, and, if the fox tags the rabbit, then the rabbit becomes the fox and the fox becomes the rabbit. The way for the rabbit to save him/herself is to find a hole for safety. The rest of the company (the people who are not the rabbit or the fox) form the holes by getting into pairs, standing and facing each other, putting there arms straight in front of each other and resting their hands on each other’s shoulders. When the rabbit finds a hole that he/she would like to inhabit, he goes inside it and takes the place of one of the two people forming the hole. Now, whichever person the rabbit has replaced becomes the rabbit. This game was very fun, and I think it got everyone’s blood flowing. Next, we did an activity that I learned in a devising workshop at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. For this activity, everyone walks around the room and points to objects and says what they are. After doing this for a bit, everyone continues walking and pointing to objects, but they have to name the object that they pointed to previously when they are pointing to a new object. The purpose of this game is to get your mind active. You are pointing at one object, but your brain has to remember the object that you just pointed to previously and recall it’s name. Our final warmup activity was called pass the clap. In this activity, we all stand in a circle and one person faces a person next to them, makes eye contact and claps. The person that they are facing claps at the same time and then moves on to the person next to them and does the same thing. This gets sent around the circle and the hope is that is speeds up and the group will tend to develop a rhythm. A person can reverse the direction of the clap by doing the following: when a person receives the clap, she will clap with the person passing it to her and then clap again to pass it back, the clap has now changed directions.

After warmups we moved onto activities focused on building our ensemble. We walked around the room and as a group we counted up to 20. One person could only say one number at a time and if two people said a number at once, we would have to start over. We got up to 20 in one try so we moved onto the next activity. Continuing to walk around the room, we all had to stay aware of each other and stop at the same time. After doing that a couple of times, we continued walking and we all had to jump at the same time. These things are obviously virtually impossible, but there were a couple of times that we all seemed to connect and we were able to jump at the same time.

I think the group was feeling pretty connected at this point so I wanted to do an activity that would push this even further and that I think also exemplifies the group dynamic of devising. In this activity we split into partners, and one person led while one person followed. The leader held her hand about a foot from the follower, and led them any which way around the room. We switched roles and then I had each leader also become a follower to a different person in the company. This created a large blob of people following other people’s hands. I see this as a good exemplification of what I hope our group dynamic will be. I’m hoping that every person will be able to lead and follow, and that by doing this we will lead each other in many different directions, but we will be able to trust our fellow artists.

Our next activity was to create objects as a group. The objects that we created were a copy machine, a sprinkler system, a stove, a refrigerator, a lawn mover, a bed and a blender. Here are some pictures of our objects.

The stove

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The bed

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I found this to be a very fun activity. At first we told each other which part of the object we were and then we challenged ourselves not to talk for the last few.

Our next activity was to tell a story all together speaking at one time. We were all telling the same story. This is a funny exercise as we all obviously do not think alike and different things come out of people’s mouths and then we all have to choose in a split second which direction we will take the story. This is similar to devising.

Our last activity was one that I learned in my devising class at Kingston. We all told a story individually using action. We all decided on the story topic, which was the best meal we had ever had. We then split away and crafted our stories. We presented our stories to each other. We then took our individual stories and put them together to make a scene. We had a few different ideas of what we could do with this scene. We only had time to use one of these ideas, which I think presented a pretty interesting scene. In the future, I would like to do this activity and try out all of the ideas that we come up with to create many different scenes from which we can pull out favorite material.

I am very happy with how today’s rehearsal went and I am looking forward to the next time we meet!

Info Meeting

I held an info meeting before we had our first rehearsal last week. We just chatted about the show and where I had gotten the inspiration for the theme. We talked about any questions that the cast had and I handed out a little packet for them to read to get them acclimated to devising because I don’t know how much experience everyone has. I also talked about the timeline I have for our process.

I can’t tell you how excited I am!

The process of this project is finally underway! I have had auditions and created my cast. Auditions were so much fun. I had a great turnout and there were so many people that I was excited to work with.

I had people audition in groups of six so that I could see how they would work with other people and how they could contribute to a group. When the groups first came in, I had them do an exercise in Viewpoints. This was created by Anne Bogart. I find it is a good way to see how people move, how creative they can be, and how willing they are to make bold decisions and take risks. In the exercise, there is an imaginary square which is divided into nine smaller squares by imaginary grid lines on the floor–my stage manager told everyone to think of it as a giant tick-tack-toe board inside a square. I asked the people auditioning to start moving on this grid and not to stray from the lines or talk. While they were moving, I told them to focus on their spacial relationships, architecture, shape, gesture, repetition, duration, kinesthetic response, and tempo. I talked about each of these things individually. Spacial relationship refers to how close or far away they are from other people or objects in the room, where they are on the grid, and where they are in the room. Architecture refers to how their shape affects or is affected by other people or objects in the room and what shapes they can make with those resources. Shape refers to what shapes they can make with just their bodies. Gesture refers to and movements they do within whatever shape, architecture or movement they are doing. Repetition refers to what things they repeat, or if they want to repeat thing, or if they want to repeat what others are doing. Duration refers to how long their movement takes, how long it takes to get into a certain shape, or how long they want to repeat something; also, how long they stay in one place on the grid. Kinesthetic response refers to the emotional response that they have because of their movements or because of other people’s movements and what that makes them do. Finally, tempo refers to how long they stay with a person, how long they repeat something, or stay in a shape, or walk the same way; also, how long it takes them to get from one place on the grid to another. After we did this initial work with viewpoints, I had them answer a question with the viewpoints. Because our theme is love in different cultures, I either had them answer a question about giving or receiving love, or about culture.

After viewpoints, I did an improv activity with the groups. I did two different ones, it just depended on what group they were in! One of the improvs was an activity that we did in my Commedia dell’arte class at Kingston University in London. In this activity, everyone had to choose an animal that they knew really well (there were a lot of cats!). They had to embody this animal and find all of the little idiosyncrasies that are specific to the animal. They were then told to interact with the other animals in the room, thinking about where their animal is on the food chain and how it would fare in this environment. They also had to find a sound for their animal. Next, they were told to slowly humanize this animal, still keeping a few idiosyncrasies that make us recognize the animal. Once the human-animal characters were complete, I split the groups of 6 in half and gave them a premise for an improv skit. One person would be interviewing for a job, one would be the boss conducting the interview, and one would be the receptionist who greets the person interviewing. These were incredibly entertaining. In the other improv, the entire group stood in a circle and told a story together one word at a time (one person said one word and then it moved around the circle). After they created their story, they had to act it out.

In the last few groups, I added one more improv activity. I wanted to see how much people were willing to offer of themselves in a group situation. I told everyone to split up and work on a story to tell us individually. This story was to be about a moment that they think of when they think of the word love, and they had to tell it physically. This activity was very helpful in deciding whether or not to cast many new people that I had never seen before.

At the end of the night, I was very pleased with how auditions went. Though I still struggled with choosing my cast, I am very pleased. The difficulty came in wanting to work with so many of the people that had auditioned.