On Wednesday the 15th I payed a visit to Glenn Noble a lecturer in theatre at Coventry University, to discuss his processes as a director in both his professional and academic work.
Our MA class had recently had a few workshops with Glenn on long form improvisation, for me they proved to be very informative. I have not spent much time around theatre improvisation, however I have within dance. At first I thought it would be a completely different ball game compared to dance, surprisingly there were important similarities to dance that make ensemble theatre devising so collaborative. The nature of being together in the moment, always saying yes allows for any idea to be explored. For me it means there can never be a creative block, as you’re always up and giving something a go.
So I thought I would contact Glenn and speak with him to find out more about his process and what he thinks is important when directing theatre. We spoke about many things to do with theatre, however there were a few gems that stuck out for me in our conversation.
Storyboarding- Glenn mentioned his use of storyboards to keep a clear guide of the series of events and work from there. Instead of starting right from the script, it was easier to have a visual that could be manipulated from a flexible base. That for me makes a lot of sense, as someone who is very visual, I normally make sense of things through images, hence my love for movement. To put something down in a simple format, it means everyone is on the same page, there is no issue of confusion.
Facilitator- We began discussing the job of a director and Glenn used the word facilitator to highlight the importance of equal collaboration rather than authority. This is a key element to Glenn’s working processes, the mentality that everyone is in it together following the same flow, just occasionally veering off into different directions to explore the same theme. It is an interesting point, to lead without hindering or blocking creativity. I can imagine it is a hard task, but when used correctly you can utilise the experience and background of every performer. To open up creativity, suggest and guide, rather than steer. It is a process that seems to discard the usual performing ego that always appears in any rehearsal, and allow time to honestly listen to everyone’s creative ideas.
Augusto Boal- We briefly discussed Augusto Boal’s forum theatre. A scene is a played twice, the second time the audience can shout ‘Stop’ at anytime and jump into an actors place if they feel they could change the outcome of the situation.
“The strategy breaks through the barrier between performers and audience, putting them on an equal footing. It enables participants to try out courses of action which could be applicable to their everyday lives. Originally the technique was developed by Boal as a political tool for change (part of the Theatre of the Oppressed), but has been widely adapted for use in educational contexts.” (Farmer n.d.)
I am very fascinated by this way of creating work, it is such an active and free flowing exercise to use. To have performers acting and observing, always constantly moving from one side to the other, it allows everyone an opportunity to observe and change what they would like. With the guidance of the narrator (director), it is a devise that could give everyone their moment to speak without laying the pressure of creating ‘good quality work’.
Mike Alfreds- The last little piece of information Glenn recommended was Mike Alfred’s book Then What Happens. It is an investigation into story theatre, pin pointing its techniques and the process of adapting story theatre to stage. It is a book I am yet to read, however it sounds like a very practical guide to creating theatre with exercises and improvisations to play with.
I am very glad I had this conversation with Glenn it really showed that theatre directing can be so flexible depending on the show, and how you want to work with your performers. Glenn is certainly a collaborative artist, hence his background in improvisational performance. I agree that at points there does need to be a certain sense of authority as someone ultimately does need to make the decisions. But to foster a completely open environment in the first place means everyone feels they have valid ideas. And that for me is the most important thing!
Farmer, D (n.d.) Forum Theatre [online] available from http://dramaresource.com/forum-theatre/ [20 March 2017]