Everyday Hands

 

Wednesday 15 March

I had a rehearsal with Merel, Jessie, and Fiona today for us all to get into the studio and focus on whatever ideas and thoughts that were niggling at us to explore.Within the rehearsal, I asked to play with a simple devising task that had come from the two week intensive with Frantic. It had stemmed from the task Scott had used giving various sign language movements and playing with them to create quite unique arm phrases. I wanted to explore this concept but play with another form of stimuli.I asked the girls to find four gestures they did everyday, that defined their movement language. As an example one was to twist your hair in your fingers, if this was a gesture that you naturally did on a daily. As they found four moves, I then asked them to play with the task by giving them three words of direction to follow and manipulate their phrase in whatever way those terms meant to them.

The directions were: Connect, transform, and heighten.

From this step it resulted in formed arm phrases that no longer really resembled the original four moves. I then asked for each of them to learn one or two moves from each others phrase. I wanted to see whether the difference in phrases could find a unifying moment by having one simple move pop up in each others sequence. I did not tweak or manipulate the moves as I wanted a completely natural and authentic pattern of movement that came from their bodies first.

Here are the set of three phrases:

 

I asked the girls to do their phrase together, to watch how the movement would work with one another.

 

The phrase together was lovely to see as there was one move with the arm outstretched that I was constantly looking for. It brought these three women together, all telling their own stories but having one shared experience. In an odd sense there was a nice canon of movement to this one gesture that could only have come from finding it through playing and not pre planning set rules.

It was interesting to watch, as this was a simple task that had no real intention behind the beginning direction, I could already clearly see and articulate subtexts within each person’s phrase that was not intended to be there. Simply because of the nature of their moves, the decision of their pace, pauses if added, and their eye line. For a task that came from movement that was already settled in their bodies, the girls finished with phrases that we could not have created from scratch without the initial elements. I was already brainstorming potential stories behind these phrases and how I could play with this movement to amplify those subtexts. I think the idea that if you begin from a movement that is natural to you, it is much easier to manipulate from there. As they all had a specific broken down understanding of their own created phrase, this laid a foundation to work and elaborate on.

This was something I did not understand until I had gone through this task with the girls. To be fair they were very quick and natural at this task as we had already explored this kind of devising in the intensive and so they were very comfortable to play. That said I believe it will be something I explore in the future when generating movement with people who are not necessarily comfortable with making movement from scratch.

Directing, Declan Donnellan

On Wednesday night I attended The Winters Tale at Warwick Arts Centre by Cheek by Jowl. I was initially going to watch for the movement dynamic of the show and became very interested in the directing aspect of the creation process. The day before I just so happened to take the book Directors/Directing out from the library and it has a section on Declan Donnellan who is the Artistic Director of Cheek By Jowl. Not knowing where to start with the book I thought the best place would be from the director of whose show I had just seen. After having read Donnellan’s section of the book I realized he is an interesting artist with some fantastic methods of creating work.

Declan Donnellan has for the last few years been working in a dual role as director for both Cheek By Jowl and a Russian company Chekhov international Theatre Festival. While reading his interview with Maria Shevtsova it was apparent Donnellan had a real interest in space particularly with text, stage and the actor. Keeping space with the actor and their character for Donnellan is most important, “the purpose is to see each other and their characters more clearly…to look outside of themselves towards the targets aimed for by their characters.”(Maria, 2009: 69) This was an interesting point made, my understanding of analyzing a character predominantly comes from method acting, in its nature is quite introspective. This allows you to operate as two beings, and objectively step outside and observe the character.

It was interesting to read Donnellan spoke about the problem with preconceptions when creating theatre. He states that to constantly question is an ongoing process, however it is not an intellectual process. “In many respects, it’s a rather anti-intellectual process because sometimes our intellects are not very useful, especially when they give us preconceptions. We have to meet the world as it really is, not as we intellectually perceive it ought to be.” (Donnellan, 2009: 73) This idea reminds me of Scott Graham’s mentality during the two week intensive. To rid yourself of assumptions and see everything with a new potential. They both present a similar point for the creative process. To have a completely open mind is often when you find something you could not have discussed and consolidated on your own, this also allows the audience to make their own decisions on the subtext of a scene. It is a rather abstract idea as it is not so easy to drop everything you know and look at things with new eyes, however I can see the freedom in not being weighed down by pre conceived expectations. “There is sometimes an honor in ignorance!”(Donnellan, 2009: 74) Donnellan states that there is a power in reflection on the actual experience, however unpredictable. To be open to the process, not decided on the final product. I think this relates to Graham’s ‘Crooked Path’, the most interesting material comes from an incredibly different place to where you wanted to end up. It is about being open to take the time when you find yourself in an unfamiliar place, as eventually you do find your way back with better results.I have certainly connected to this idea, it is a freeing mentality to have. I would like to work on this thought in future developments and allow the process to take me where I need to go.

Declan Donnellan has demonstrated how much you can play with text particularly classical plays. His use of space in everything allows for free interpretation, that coupled with the disuse of preconceptions makes for plays like The Winters Tale to be accessible for an audience unfamiliar with Shakespeare. It is interesting to see a crossover of directing techniques through different genres, and how relevant they are to theatre as a whole.

 

Bibliography:

Shevtsova, M., & Innes, Christopher. (2009). Directors/directing : Conversations on theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

The Winters Tale

On Wednesday night I attended a show at the Warwick Arts Centre with Jessi. It was a Shakespeare show of The Winters Tale by Cheek By Jowl. My initial intention to see this performance was to continue my research on the ‘potential for movement’ and I ended up coming out with so much more. It was a full show, with laughs, dramatic moments of heartache and a general jovial sense of play.

The beginning image as people are filing into the theatre is of a person seated centre stage with their back to us knitting. Automatically I thought the sense of suspense of revealing an image and allowing you to ponder and analyse what it could mean, what is going to happen, soon it pulls you right into the action. Slowly I began to involve myself into the story, and make my own conclusions as to who this person was and why they were sitting there. ‘The potential for movement’ was already revealing itself in more ways than one.

As the lights go out the performers switch to present two men in stillness.They slowly look at one another, there is nothing else happening in the entire room, as everyone watches the breathe and eye line of these two men. Tension builds again but you’re not sure whether it is positive or simply terrifying. Suddenly the two men break into a fit of laughter and general horse play as they run around the stage.This was a another fantastic example of playing with stillness, particularly at the very beginning of a story, the audience do not know the characters and so are completely dependent on the initial action to reveal the first little nuggets of information.

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The Entire Set (In a little box)

The last strong example of the play with stillness, was a scene where two performers were placed in the centre of the stage seated facing forward completely motionless. They had no expression, no form of personality to perform for the audience. There was action happening around them, great monologues of power and fierce movement. However I could not stop myself from watching the two still creatures in the centre of the action. There was a certain power in their stillness, of being outside the confrontation. They were encapsulating, I wasn’t sure whether I was waiting for them to move or that I just wanted to join them in this peaceful moment of peace away from the complicated emotion of human beings. It reminded me of a time lapse in film where they place a person out in public and have them still as they film around them and then speed it up. So you are left with a lone person motionless around the busy lives of everyone else. It is a strong image that I feel carries out into theatre. It was lovely to see that this idea of ‘The potential for movement’ is relevant in how you place people on stage. The simple act of stillness can allow the audience to become involved, and leaves room for the imagination, rather being spoon fed every little moment of subtext.

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Jessi waiting for the show to begin

 

Studio Play

This week, I began to research what the ‘potential for movement’ means within the context of theatre and the various forms it can take. After finding one example in Pina Bausch with The Fall Dance, I decided to play with the same idea. I created one simple arm task that involved moments of stillness that ‘fell’ into each movement.

Here is the original task:

(Sorry this URL will not allow you to view it on this site, just copy and paste to watch it on Vimeo)

I realised that breathe and pace played a large role in how the sequence would come across. Naturally I did not think about these two elements when creating the phrase and did what came instantly to me. The breathe fuels the movement, and can set a tone for the rest of the sequence. Incidentally it is the pace that created the breathe pattern in the first place. If the movements were performed any faster or slower, how I breathe would change drastically, which in turn affects my demeanour.

This version is done by taking out all of the pauses in the sequence, to see whether these ‘potential for movement’ moments were imperative to the overall context.

It was interesting to note that as I removed the pauses the sequence became faster and faster. Those moments of stillness I realised kept the pace, and also the detail of each movement. It gave a particular dynamic, and suddenly the sequence became something that was completely different to what I had created.

This next version is done while holding my breath. I wanted to see what would happen if I were to take an important aspect out of moving. Would the suspense of anticipating the next move be lost? Or would adding a layer of suspense by holding my breathe give a different connotation to the phrase?

After having Jessi film these sequences, she later expressed that she naturally held her breath when watching that previous version. A relaxation in the body is discarded when the most important function of the human body is taken away. And this I think can make people feel uncomfortable, it is something so understandable the concept of holding your breath and the fear of not being able to catch the next one. The sequence once again took on certain characteristics when I was not actively thinking of controlling them. Particularly the pace once again, now that a certain urgency affected the sequence, each movement was faster than the next to finish the exercise as quickly as possible.

The last version, I played with the pace of the initial movement out of the stillness. Usually when beginning a fall the first move is slower and like a roller coaster it speeds up as gravity takes the lead. Here I did the opposite and sped up the first movement before finishing off with a slower pace.

I found this sequence the most interesting to watch, possibly because when watching back I did not expect to see that dynamic, and its pleasantly surprising to watch. When a fast movement comes first, you naturally expect to see a ‘fast’ sequence to follow. My mind had more to say when thinking about subtext and what the sequence could mean.

I am glad I completed this task, as simple as it was, it allowed me to break down movement in a different way and analyse a sequence from the point of how it can effect someone when viewing it. As opposed to how it feels and whether it looks good. In its simplicity I could break down ‘dance’ moves and apply them into a ‘movement’ context allowing me to strip back habitual habits and create what is needed for the task, instead of creating what I know. However there are still simple elements of creating movement that I did not think to dissect until  watching them back on the video. Pace and breathe particularly are so important and I think are assumptions we make in the rehearsal space. Without looking at the nature of a movement, those two elements can dictate how an audience perceives the sequence.

 

 

 

Provocation Week 3, Guest Artist

Over the two week intensive with Frantic Assembly we were introduced to a group of outstanding practitioners currently working within the theatre industry. They all came from various disciplines, from lighting and video designing to composing and sound design. My two favourite guests were Simon Stevens the playwright and Stephanie Connell a producer for Frantic.

For this weeks provocation I would like to focus on Stephanie, as I learnt many incredibly interesting things about her job role that I didn’t realise I had no previous understanding of what exactly a producer does. In the past I generally did not work around any producers, usually the companies and shows I worked for did not have enough funding to pay a producer. Hence this role fell by the wayside in my continuing observation of theatre. I am glad I got to sit and listen to what exactly they specialise in.

Stephanie explained that a producer is present in every step of a creative process, from the beginning seed idea to the final show.They are responsible for the general financial aspect of a production particularly as they normally write up the initial funding proposals.They are in charge of the network and communication with company partners.The marketing campaigns are their domain, they are expected to generate the initial advertisement for a new show.Day to day they liaise with the creative team and production manager, to settle any disagreements and to keep communication flowing.Lastly they are responsible for general administration and management of contracts and fee agreements.

These are just a few aspects involved in a producer’s job description. However even the list above is more than I had previously thought a producers job list involved. I always had the mentality that the creative leader particularly in smaller budget shows, were expected to not only create the show but also front the majority of the administration and advertisement as well. I no longer feel this way, and would love to look into finding a producer to collaborate with in the future. They are an integral part of a creative process behind the scenes that I was not aware of, and have a newfound respect for what they do.

I can imagine when creating a show to have the support of a producer that is capable of advertising your idea not only to funding institutions but also to the general public, it can relieve much of the pressure on your shoulders and your confidence in that it will be done right.

It was an incredibly informative discussion that I am glad I got to be a part of. I have been thinking about all of the amazing creative collaborations possible to artists these days, and now have broaden my view to collaborations behind the scenes that are just as important. If not more so, as without someone like a producer you may not be able to put a show on the stage.

Pina And Her Potential For Movement

Having begun to set out my self study programme a few days ago I have started a few tasks to get me going for the following weeks.

Today I have been researching ‘the potential for movement’ and naturally I fell upon Pina Bausch. I think Bausch naturally plays with this concept of the moment before a movement in any work she has made. And cleverly demonstrates that it can be interesting on its own, without adding other layers of context on top. The Fall Dance is one example, in this clip a woman walks around in what looks like a park and suddenly halts to a stop and falls forward just in time for a man to catch her as she repeats this phrase. This piece already speaks many messages to do with gender, and the relationship between men and women just to name one. However the simple moment before the woman falls is for me the most electric moment. In a scene that is filled with movement, maybe small but movement nonetheless, it is the little pocket of stillness that is so soothing to the eye, you never want it to end. It is interesting to note that after the first fall you are aware of what she will do the second time, but it does not change the feeling of uncertainty before she falls again. That is what makes this short dance so interesting to watch as an audience, over and over again you find yourself waiting for that moment of still. To be locked into this sharp suspension of breath with the performers, it almost places you right in their shoes with them for the tiniest second. This is what Scott was explaining in the intensive with Frantic, the little moments that lead to movement are the most vulnerable and precious. As he describes ‘they are the times when an audience just want to jump out of their seat and say “kiss her!” as an example of these effective moments’.

As a simple example, Pina Bausch encapsulates this concept, and signifies the importance it has within any theatre piece. I would like to play with this specific concept of the moment before a fall, and see how it can be manipulated. To see if what comes out of the suspense is not a fall at all but something else. I am interested to know whether it is imperative to have the fall, and without it, the potential for possibility suddenly has less power. Or whether it can have the same impact if say an arm is lifted out of the moment of suspension.

Watch Pina Bausch’s The Fall Dance Here on Youtube.

Provocation 2 and Outline of Self Study Programme

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From the two week intensive with Frantic Assembly and the one on one tutorials with Simon, Scott, and Andrea I have now identified three areas I would like to focus and develop on over the next month. I will create a weekly list of tasks to complete and ultimately post onto this blog, to demonstrate my progress. There are many more things that I would like to continue looking into, however for now these are the important points that resonated with me.

The first is to do with directing, the intensive was highly focused on tasks that can be used to create movement, and interpreting how they come across from an outside directors perspective. I was very intrigued to find out more about the role a director. And am left with many questions. How do you facilitate a rehearsal? How much time is spent with the performers in the early stages of developing a work. Are they there from the beginning, or just for the practical aspect? How to develop a rehearsal schedule, that will be effective when put into practice. I understand everyone has a vastly different way of working, and I feel its important to branch out to find what might work best for me.

The other aspect I thoroughly enjoyed in the two weeks, was the collaborative nature of working with my colleagues. I so enjoyed creating and learning, particularly as most of the people were new to movement. It was fantastic to see that with the correct facilitation and movement tasks that anyone can create a phrase. I would like to focus on this further. By spending time with both dancers and actors, I would like to find out whether it is possible for me to create that same environment that is open and judgement free. Also to see whether I can get actors to find ways of moving they had not experienced, and for dancers to break some of their habitual ways of moving and approach creating from another perspective.

The last goal I have for myself, is actually a principle that Scott had discussed while breaking down a phrase someone had created. It is called ‘The potential for movement’. The idea that the moment before a movement of any sort be it small or large is what holds an audience, the special secret that holds the most potential for any possibility. I am going to look into this aspect of theatre, to see where it lies. Whether it can be found in other elements of theatre not just movement. I would also like to personally spend time finding where it does fit when creating movement.

 

These are the weekly tasks I have set up for myself. At the moment they are a broad example for every week, and will be broken down as specific events are organised.

Find three specific directing techniques for creating work that fit into my own practice.

  • Email artists to ask whether I can observe and discuss their personal ways of directing a show.
  • See some live shows and attend post show talks to find out more about their process.
  • Research and gain a greater understanding of preconceived structured directing roles. Where they come from? Practically how it works? Why it is an effective way of directing?

 

Develop my own experience within movement directing and experiment with a mixture of creatives who are and are not comfortable with movement.

  • Create a conversation with both the dance and drama department at Coventry University and see whether I can connect with some of their undergrad students to come together and create movement.
  • Build a personal warmup and movement devising plan to use within workshops.
  • Document any personal or group practical research, to keep track of development.

 

Research and analyse the idea of ‘potential for movement’.

  • Research shows that play with that moment, and analyse whether these moments are in fact important and if so how are they relevant.
  • Create weekly phrases from my own movement play or with others, document, and anaylse whether they were successful or not.
  • Create conversations with both dance and theatre practitioners, discussing this very aspect of movement creating.

The resources I will need for these activities mainly lay within Coventry Universities studios and technology. The city is close to both Birmingham and London, that have a plethora of shows and rehearsals to observe. I will also be in communication with both the theatre and dance department at Coventry University and also Frantic Assembly as a starting point for contacts.