Getting Ready to Perform!

I haven’t had much that’s exciting to say about our last few rehearsals because we’ve basically just been going through the show and figuring out what goes where and who does what; fitting all of the pieces together. This has actually been a longer process that I thought it would be, which made me kind of nervous. However, today we got it set! We are finally happy with the order and we have transitions to move from one section to another. Actually, we figured out today that when we transition from person to person, we will hand something off. This idea came when I was watching a past rehearsal and listening to our conversation. Hilary-Ann said something that I thought was very poignant. She said that she believes that, as actors, we give a little piece of ourselves to the audience. I though maybe it would be nice if we “gave a piece of ourselves” to each other when we transitioned to the next section of the piece. So we’ve decided that we will have a necklace with a mirror on it that will be passed from person to person. I think this brings some unity to the piece and helps to tie all of the individual stories together. Now, we just have to keep rehearsing the piece until Saturday so that everyone feels comfortable. I’m really happy with the journey that we’ve made with this piece. Its been a lot of fun to work with this cast and I feel that we’ve all gotten closer because of this project. I’m so excited to show our work to an audience. They may not completely get what we are trying to say, but I think each person can take something away from it. I like art that doesn’t give you all of the answers and I think this piece is an example of that.

Anyway, at this point we’re really just getting ready for the performance. I’ve been hanging posters, making a program, and putting together all of the music that we’re using during the performance. I also think it will be interesting for us to have an audience because we have put some pretty personal things into this piece and I feel that, as a group, we have grown pretty comfortable with sharing these personal things, having an audience will add a new dynamic of people that we’re not necessarily that comfortable with. Still, that should make for an exciting show! The performance is next Saturday April 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm in the Math and Computer Science Building at Baldwin Wallace University. All are welcome!

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Setting Our First Scene

Last weekend, we worked on putting two bits together that we have worked on previously. This will eventually become a set scene in the piece. We put the bit with Kelly and Shaun together with a bit that Ian and I did a while ago. First, in order to do this, we had to finish the movement between Kelly and Shaun that we had worked on in a previous rehearsal. I took Shaun’s place for the time being and we were able to finish the movement and work out some other movement for when only one person is talking. Then we went back to a bit that Ian and I did a while back in rehearsals. We sort of recreated what we had done before, but kept it improvised. We also started improving dialogue. Then we picked some places, in the scene that Ian and I had created, to pause and have the dialogue that Kelly and Shaun had created spoken. The first time that the dialogue was spoken, we had only one side of the dialogue spoken by one person, while the other person simply faced away from them. Then Ian and I continued with our scene and we found another place to stop. Next we decided that the one sided dialogue needed some movement as well. We brought out a white sheet that was in our rehearsal room and the two people played tug of war with it while only one person said their dialogue. This activated the dialogue much more. We came up with a movement that could be done for the first half of the dialogue as well. The sheet was dropped by the person who is speaking and the person who is not speaking tries to give the sheet back to the speaker. The speaker does everything s/he can not to get the she back in her/his hands. This is where we ended out first rehearsal that weekend.

When we came back together on Sunday, Kelly and I did the movement that we had finished for the dialogue between she and Shaun. Then we had Kelly and Shaun do the movement. We were unsure which coupling we liked better. We decided that, in combining these two scenes, we would make the partners fluid so that one couple wasn’t together for the entire scene. This was difficult to maneuver, but we figured out a switching order and some transitions and tried it out. This was rough, but it gave us an idea of how the scene will go and how to transition between partners. We also decided that during the bit that Ian and I originally created, the actors would not talk.

Starting the New Semester

So our last few rehearsals before break were very productive. I just neglected to write about them because of end of semester craziness. We had someone come in to watch one of our rehearsals, which was extremely helpful because he gave us really good advice. I had started to feel like I wasn’t sure where to go next with our rehearsals and that if we continued doing exercises like we were doing, we would never create anything cohesive. Our visitor told me not to be afraid to start “directing” or shaping things. This was helpful because I was afraid that by directing I would ruin the creativity and spontaneity that we had. However, if I didn’t do this, no one would get anything from the piece. So I started to take the things that we had created and go deeper with them with individual people and put things together in different ways. We went deeper with some people with their masks and put them in situations that might make the mask comfortable or uncomfortable. These have been the most interesting to me so far and have started to create a sort of narrative.

 

At the very end of Christmas break, I went to the region 2 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival with a group of BW students. At this conference, I did  a workshop with some people from the Living Theatre, which was an awesome experience. We did some things in the workshop that I wanted to bring back to our rehearsals, and we did a couple of these things tonight. The first thing we did tonight at our rehearsal was a chord. I did this with the piece we created in the Living Theatre workshop and it was a nice ending to our piece. I thought it could be a possible ending to the piece that we are working on here at BW. So as a company we all just start singing a note and it creates a “chord.” It’s not necessarily very musical. It tends to be pretty cacophonous. We invite the audience members to join us in the chord and I find it to be a nice unifying ending. At rehearsal tonight, Kelly suggested that we try the same thing with rhythms.  We did this and it was also pretty cool. So this is a possible ending for our piece. The other thing we did today that I learned in my workshop with the Living Theatre was a sequence of tableaus. In the workshop, there was a chime which told us to move and when the chime rang again we were to freeze. Tonight, as we started doing this exercise, someone mentioned that the room we were in looks cool when its night and the street lamps shine in. So we opened all of the blinds and turned out the lights. Then we decided that everyone would move in the dark and we would turn on the lights to see the picture. The signal for everyone to stop was two hand claps. The darkness created a neat effect. I watched for a couple of tableaus and then Kelly traded places with me. After Kelly watched us she talked about how it reminded her of being caught doing things we may do when were alone. Things we do in the dark when no one is watching and then suddenly having the lights turned on and having eyes on us. We played with this idea by having Chelsea do the lights and turn them on whenever she felt like it without giving the rest of us any warning. Next we played with some symbolism. I turned out the lights and had everyone move freely, then when I clapped my hands and turned the lights on they were all to be in a straight line. I did the same thing again and they were all meant to face away from each other. When I turned the lights on a third time, they were not given any warning and were caught in the dark. After this work we talked about Chelsea’s mask and did some exercises to physicalize and work on telling a story with it.

Another thing that I did at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival was watch some devised performances. There was one that really stuck in my head and I liked how they presented a conversation. I would like to try what they did with some previous dialogue that I have from rehearsals. I have been watching and listening to recordings that we have and I am working on a script for this for our next rehearsal.

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.

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.