My Theatre Profile
My primary takeaway from the “My Theatre Profile” worksheet was an understanding of the many different perspectives from which I might create a piece of theatre. So many of my interests and skills are in different fields or even directly juxtaposed with one another that incorporating everything would be impossible—or at least too much to handle. The same is true of the different methods and approaches I might use to create a piece—having had experience with written devising, verbal devising, silent devising, and a wide range of other approaches in between. Although it make for a series of difficult decisions in what to include or do further down the road, it also means that I’m extremely flexible when it comes to creating a piece—both in scope and in method. Hopefully this means I’ll be able to help my peers in creating a piece that belongs to everyone and remain mindful of not losing sight of their perspectives or my own.
September 23, 2018
October 1, 2018
It may be presumptuous of me to feel intimate with the ins and outs of peer collaboration, but there is a certain confidence which comes after so many years of working with the people around you. I’ve collaborated with all of the people in my class at some point before, either in theatre or in other subjects, and I know firsthand that none of them are any more inexperienced in working with our peers than I am. One of my fondest memories of collaborative work was two years ago in a devising theatre elective. It was mixed grade levels and many of the people I had never worked with before; perhaps that contributed to the outcome which was a strong, confident-feeling piece. It was a large group in that case so we divided into several different groups of three or four and created short little scenes which we then wove together. That was an effective process but might not be applicable to the Collaborative Theatre Project which is already a small group of people. The idea generating process undertaken in that case however was useful and effective. We began by coming up with vague ideas for skits based on random objects or articles or photos, and then we would create solely the dialogue. We used a shared Google Document and for each of our characters (sometimes making up new ones spontaneously) we wrote our lines of dialogue. This was an incredibly effective script creation process, because it allowed for us to really refine the staging, movements, and vocalizations of characters along with script changes, and I would greatly like to emulate it in some way for this project. Another experience I have in collaboration is currently ongoing and of a much different nature than any theatre project I’ve ever devised. I run an after-school philosophy club with another person and we working in conjunction to plan and facilitate weekly discussions of certain decided upon topics. This kind of collaboration is much less structured and is more characterized by spontaneous ideas for pop culture references and 4:00 a.m. phone calls. It is equally as effective however, and the results of such a hectic process are surprisingly satisfactory. The non-rigid, free structure of such a process allows for more creative bursts and seems to be a general boon to the uniqueness of whatever ends up being generated. These are things which I also find desirable in theatre projects, so I would encourage our group to consider some elements of this process (although complete disarray might certainly prove to be more problematic than helpful for our process).
Having had a few years’ experience with devising, I hold in certain regard almost all devising company theatre an uniquely non-traditional. What I mean by this is that no company I’ve ever encountered produces what I would call conventional theatre. As a theatre student, I’ve always been drawn to the look of Broadway plays and professional performances—the costumes, staging, scripting—most of which seems to be directly challenged in devising theatre. Most devising companies remind me of Absurdists theatre or impressionist painting, and despite being a hallmark of many other companies, I would very much like to avoid this in my project. For me, it simply boils down to a matter of taste—but all art is subjective and as a subject my take on art ought to be valid enough on its own. The first company I looked at, Forkbeard, uses mixed media (e.g. sculpture, projections, etc.) because they are visual artists firstly and performs second. They too come across as stereotypically non-traditionalist because their performances are so rooted in art pieces and the live performance feels as if it comes second. Nonetheless, I might like to borrow from their use of art as a focal point because it connects the show with something directly physical. The other company I look at was Gecko. Although Gecko’s productions don’t much appeal to me in the way of final products, I’ve taken great interest in their devising process. Their process includes finding a “seed” of the performance during the idea-generating period and then expounding upon that to great lengths until an entire entity comes into focus, like an iceberg emerging slowly from the water. Their seed-finding process is something I would very much like to incorporate in our devising process.
Our group formed after all the students in the class shared with one another the posters they had made advertising their interests and theatre background. The group that I am a part of formed mostly around the prospective roles that we were interested in: I expressed interest in having a directing/technical role, both my peers had interest in performing onstage. Our initial class was small enough that this group made for an almost even split and neither group felt particularly slighted or unbalanced, so far as I know. Everyone in our group had previously collaborated, both in theatre and in other coursework so going in we all felt comfortable knowing each other’s comfortabilities and strengths.
The day after forming our group, we set about creating a list of agreements that would reflect the mutual interests of our group. Having worked with each other many times before, there was little to no disagreements and the seamlessness of the process seemed to foreshadow a smooth and well-functioning collaborative process down the road. The agreements we came up with are as follows:
We agree to respect and support each other as artists, people, and creators so that we may all produce the best work possible.
We agree to not rewrite or remove another’s work and instead question each other about anything we are unsure of and have respectful discussions.
We that we need each other in order to collaborate effectively and respectfully.
We agree to not say “no” without discussion.
These center mostly around how we will treat the collaborators in our group, and next week we will begin setting forth our containers and bringing in source material to inspire our initial devising.
October 8, 2018
This week, our group began by exploring the different objects which we each brought in. Max brought a letter opener sword which had been given to him as a gift and which he used to open college mail, and a pair of sunglasses which he had worn on a family trip to Mexico. I brought a sword which reminded me of my childhood working in orchards, and a water bottle from the past summer I spent taking a course at Stanford which reminded me of the people I had met there. Olivia brought pins from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she had been over the summer. The first thing which immediately stood out to us from the objects was the theme of memory. When we elaborated on this, we came to the idea that “what matters is not the truth of an event itself, but how we interpret it, remember it, and how it makes us feel in the present.” I though this was a fascinating idea and really pushed for us to continue exploring it, but I was reminded that we might still find other ideas by retracing our steps and going back to the beginning. As of yet, we’ve not found another theme but we have been looking. Olivia was absent from our group one of the days this week and that made progress very difficult, so our group spent most of the time going over potential improvisation exercises and reviewing the resources we had. We have not yet found an exercise which seems to really fit our needs, although we tried several—the most memorable one to me being one which we made up on the spot, in which someone is handed a random object and had to tell a story about it as if it is a personal heirloom. The next week of our process, I plan to suggest some of the practices I’ve used in past devising/collaborating experience with the hope that we find something that really resonates with the direction we want follow.
During the second week of our collaborative group work, we encountered the sudden difficulty of choosing where to focus our attention in the upcoming devising process. Olivia and I were both in a devising group last year in which we pulled the trigger on our storyline too quickly and then lost sight of our piece’s purpose and intention. Fear of that happening again has kept us back from making any quick decisions this time, although I worry that such a fear is slowing down the process and causing us to lose momentum. For this reason, I suggested that we might try narrowing in our intention as a starting point for further devising. Since we’ve already arrived at the topic of memory and explored it in various ways, it would make sense for us to consider what intention we could construct a piece around that relates to memory. We spent a few minutes on this before the end of last week, but the majority of what we came up with were argumentative statement, like “you don’t know what you don’t remember.” While I think these make for intriguing statements, I’m not sure they would lay a good foundation for the intention of our piece. In the upcoming week, I think we should further consider intentions that relate to our intended audience (which we’ve agreed is our local school population—i.e. students and teachers). By focusing on what we want to convey to those people and deciding on an intention from there, I think we will be able to create a much, much more meaningful piece.
The other element of the devising process that we worked on during this week was experimentation with various improvisational devising exercises. We drew mainly from Gecko in terms of what exercises we used, and we tried to experiment a wide range of exercises in order to construct the most wholesome ensemble possible. We tried passing a scarf around and using it as something other than a scarf then trying to engage the rest of the group with it; we tried controlling an object that someone else was using and giving it a personality; and we tried telling a collaborative story about a photograph by each elaborating on one person in the frame to build a bigger narrative. The main effect of all these exercises was not to give us insight into where our own piece would go, but to help us understand how one other worked and to create a strong sense of dependance and collective ensemble. This week was composed mostly of laying groundwork and building a strong communal network on which to build our devised piece.
October 16, 2018
October 22, 2018
During this week of work on the collaborative theatre process, we finally began consolidating our brainstorming process and expanded upon our seed idea. From the topic of memory and the idea of displaying different memories of a single event, we came to the idea of showing different dispositions to the extreme on either side of a spectrum and giving to our audience a message of well-roundedness. Initially, we considered displaying the conflict between extreme selfishness and extreme altruism, but then we looked at how we could display different historical situations through different extreme ideologies similar to the last idea. I was personally attached to this idea, but we ended up settling on the proposed idea of taking a situation from history, putting it in a detached context and then manipulated it as fiction. The idea which we talked the most about was different reactions to situations of nuclear annihilation—an idea which I think has a great significance to both our audience and ourselves, the performers, because it seems to be an ever emergent threat in the popular subconscious of our culture.
The main method which we used to sift through the different idea we had as group was discussion. After trying some of the improv exercises suggested and used by Gecko, we found that we kept coming up with the same messy melange of ideas--devoid of any new insights. Perhaps it was our execution or the different dispositions among our group that made Gecko's exercises less successful for us. In the end, the natural, unguided discussion of the group (which took approximately one or two hours across the span of several periods) yielded the best results. Sometimes happy mediums could be found between different opinions and sometimes concessions were made. I think this aptly describes the work dynamic of our group and the accepting, meaningful atmosphere we create when collaborating.
Having spent the majority of our process so far analyzing our themes of perspective, memory, and balance, our group now began to construct the literal blueprint of our performance from those abstract sketches. In the previous week, I had suggested that we alter the intention and focus of our piece from memory to balance. This was because I thought balance was a more pertinent issue with which our audience of fellow peers at the school could relate to. Although everyone can relate to the experience of memories, I think it would be a much more meaningful experience to connect with our audience over something which applies much more specifically to them and us. What I mean by this is that our school, and coincidentally all three members of our collaborative group, struggle with perfectionism. The intended impact of our piece is to convey that sometimes perfection is impossible and one must be balanced in order to accept and deal with the myriad outcomes of life’s wild variability. Max and Olivia were both on board with this idea and we then used that message as a springboard for constructing a sketch of what our piece might look like.
We began by looking at historical scenarios in which something may have gone better than it did. This was because we were still attached to the idea of playing with how time worked and structuring our piece in such a way that it looped back on itself with a device such as time travel or a character’s premonition. These were stylistic devices that we had come up with during the very initial stage of devising and have remained attached to ever since for purely aesthetic reasons—although in their application they are never purely aesthetic and always serve to advance some element of the story or message. After looking at some scenarios we could play around with using the theme of balance (for instance the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the Cuban Missile Crisis) we decided to explore something more mundane and relatable to the lives of our audience members.
For this reason, we began looking at how our ideas could be applied to the scene of a wedding (after Olivia brought it up). I was not initially on board with the idea of a wedding, mostly because I know very little about weddings and have only attended one in recent memory. However, as we discussed it I found the topic more and more appealing and eventually found myself really quite attached to the idea—if more than anything because it was a topic I knew little about and thus it had an unknownness which was intriguing to me.
After delving into the idea of a wedding, we began brainstorming things that go wrong. We came up with a list that included the bride or groom running away, a bridesmaid getting drunk, the photographer not showing up, the vows being forgotten, and the cake being destroyed. Some of these were taken from personal experiences (for instance, at my uncle’s wedding he forgot his vows and I got to experience that firsthand). Once wee had the list of problems, we decided the main protagonist of the story needed to be the best man. This was mostly a stylistic choice and somewhat arbitrary because we needed a character in order to build the rest of the piece off of him or her. Using the idea of a best man who needed to fix all of these problems, we began to improvise each one of these scenes.
I was surprised with how easily each one of our scenes came to together in the first or second run-through of it, seeing as how in past collaborative work it has taken days just to get single scenes to work or make any sense. This was, I think, because of the enormous amount of time we spent brainstorming ideas and synchronizing our visions for what the piece would look like. All of that early discussion paid off by creating an extremely strong sense of ensemble among Max, Olivia, and I.
Once we had an early “draft” of our piece, we then had a brief discussion with our teacher. She suggested that we delve further into the theme of resilience in addition to balance, and we then had another brainstorming session as a group to strengthen the presence of this theme in our piece. We devised a set of different “solution methods” for the best man to employ in each of the problems he encounters which represented the manifold balance of his problem solving resilience. They included: personal sacrifice, violence, getting help, talking it out, and leaving everything alone. The final problem, however, (a fight breaking out among drunken wedding-goers) we decided would still be unsolvable. This was in order to perpetuate our central message of imperfection and necessity of letting some things go. Overall, this was our most productive week by far and essentially saw the entire creation and first revision of our piece. It’s very exciting!
November 06, 2018
During this week of collaborative work, we made considerable progress grinding out the technicalities of our piece. We established a firm character list, because Olivia and I must each play upwards of three or four characters, and started working on quick change transitions. I think that this elements we added (quick changes) adds a great deal of substance and depth to the piece. My acting abilities are challenged by the rapidity and boisterousness required, and some comedy is added for the audience’s entertainment. The most difficult of these changes, for me, is my transition into playing a dog. This is because I repeatedly keep scratching up my palms on the rough staging which is in the performance space (although this staging will fortunately be gone when we perform our piece for an audience).
After polishing up our character list and setting the story in a solid structure, we decided to run through what we had and time it. To our great surprise it was thirty minutes long. We cut out a single scene (about thirty seconds of the piece probably) and then tried it again, but we went as fast as we possibly could without mangling our lines or blocking. This attempt put our piece right at fifteen minutes. Through this process, we also found that the rapidity (which was now required of us) was actually very invigorating to the comedy of the piece. Hopefully that will help to keep our audience engaged.
November 14, 2018
November 20, 2018
This week of work on the collaborative project was dedicated mostly to the technical refinement of what we have so far for the performance. Once again, we found ourselves battling the time constraint and constantly going too long, but we did not want to lose anything from what we had so far. This was because we were deeply attached to every moment in the play, not only for what it contributed to the plot, but for the importance of the process and personal attachment to many of the moments we had created. For the most part, we were unwilling to sacrifice the little features which made up the linear progression of our story and instead chose to experiment with the pacing of the piece. In my opinion, this is a testament to how meaningful our piece really is. We were then forced to deal with the problems by speeding up the pace and in many cases shortening dialogue. We were, however, up for the challenge and our results yielded good success so far. After polishing up our character list and setting the story in a solid structure, we decided to run through what we had and time it. To our great surprise it was thirty minutes long. We cut out a single scene (about thirty seconds of the piece probably) and then tried it again, but we went as fast as we possibly could without mangling our lines or blocking. This attempt put our piece right at fifteen minutes. Through this process, we also found that the rapidity (which was now required of us) was actually very invigorating to the comedy of the piece. Hopefully that will help to keep our audience engaged.
In addition to that work, we also worked on the visual technical elements: lighting, costumes, and set. For the set, we remained using three plastic chairs (ideally, we would use sleeker, plain black chairs—as these that we have are a bit conspicuous and stand out on stage). We decided to keep it simple so that the many set changes could be faster and keep up with the pace of the story, and also so that the focus of the audience could be directed to the dialogues, monologues, and various silent actions that could sometimes be subtle transpiring on stage. For the costumes, we have so far decided to distinguish characters visually on a basis of simple costume changes. For instance a policeman is wearing a police hat, a drunk uncle is wearing a mustache, etc. For the lighting, we were unable to finish brainstorming this week but our dominant idea so far is to keep relatively monotone lighting for the majority of the piece and then flash the stage with a certain color (perhaps red, or blue) on the occasions that something happening onstage is a thought or a glimpse into the future.