My Journal

September 17, 2017

After covering a vast period of European theatre in an incomparably smaller period of time, I was most taken with the Golden Age of Spanish Theatre. To be more specific, I was most intrigued with the playwright Calderón—whose name greatly confounded me, as a student of french. Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Barreda González de Henao Ruiz de Blasco y Rieaño contributed greatly to Spanish theatre in his time—to the same extent as Lope De Vega according to theatrehistory.com.

 

Calderón is greatly renowned for the philosophical depth of his works particularly in his religious dramas. Many of his religious dramas were intended for and presented in the Royal court of Spain. I found this to be in contrast to the otherwise widely available nature of Spanish theatre in this time. From what I found in my research, Spanish theatre was more commonly intended for mass consumption and entertainment—equally available to common people and aristocracy. I took particular notice of the availability of Spanish theatre because it seemed to be more commonplace than many other European theatre forms of the time and therefore more akin to today’s theatre.

Spanish Golden Age Theatre

Context for Lysistrata

In my search for a contextual setting—in which to transpose Lysistrata—I landed on two potential settings that I would like to pursue. The first choice, and my preferred choice, is the Russian civil war that immediately followed the Bolshevik revolution. I would hypothetically set the story in a Soviet-controlled city in the North, likely Moscow. My reasoning for choosing it is the effect of the Soviet regime on women’s rights; which corresponds with the ideas in Lysistrata.

 

Of course, given my limited knowledge of Lysistrata, I can’t be certain that setting would work—therefore I also consider the more general Napoleonic wars to be of equal potential. The connection between the wars and Lysistrata is less obvious, but I do have more pre-existing knowledge of the conflicts. The connection I could exploit was the role of women in the actual war. In the French army, women were occasionally brought along as to serve as what amounted to prostitutes. Claims validating this vary but it would make for an interesting area of exploration if I could link the two. I believe that either setting would hypothetically be suitable to convey the story and its message.

September 24, 2017

October 16, 2017

 

    Before starting production of any theatre piece, I find it necessary and somewhat unavoidable—simply in its natural generation—to find the social importance of that production. By social importance, I mean the social impact it will have on its audience—in both what is presented by it, and what ideas are catalyzed into existence as a result. For instance, the school’s current production—The Diary of Anne Frank—deals with racism in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, during WWII. And yet, prior to beginning rehearsal or technical production, or anything else, we collectively found a variety of social messages we wanted to share. Some of the messages were explicit—living as a Jewish family at that time was hard, frightening, seemingly impossible—and other messages were implicit: racism is evil in all forms, this could relate specifically to current events.

    However, before identifying and picking out certain ideas from certain plays, there must first be some idea of the overarching importance of theatre in modern society. Of course, theatre does what many other art forms do, it presents a story, a message, a wide cast of characters; all of which can be combined and rearranged to tell different stories. The element that makes theatre unique and separate from those other forms—e.g. film—is the immediacy of it—as described by Peter Brook. Theatre is a form of art which has no intermediate medium to separate the performance from the audience. When watching a movie, the audience is completely separate from the story; but in theatre, they are not separate, they are as close as is possible. This is—to me—the most important element of theatre in a social sense, the thing that most drastically sets it apart from all other art forms.

What is the Social Function of Theatre?

To what extent is imagination a fundamental requirement for participation in theatre?

November 6, 2017

    Theatre is an art form. I state this so assuredly because the concept is so accepted and ingrained that it would be far more difficult to refute it. I can think of no form of theatre that does not, in some way, qualify as artistic expression. Most would agree—I believe and extrapolate from experience—that art requires some creativity. If not the creativity to create, at least the creativity to recognize and appreciate beauty or other intrigue

    The degree to which imagination is involved in theatre, varies drastically  based on a number of factors; the most obvious to me being the degree of creation involved in the actual piece. I would argue that in most cases there is greater imagination in a devised piece than in a scripted piece—where there may be the same amount of imagination in the piece but originated from many participants and therefore less discernible at first glance.

    Therefore, I determine that the question asked of me is not answerable in any definite sense and I can only provide that which I have given above.

          We are beginning our second week of work on our Commedia Dell'Arte piece, and as we progress further into it, I cannot help but feel as if we are not creating Commedia Dell-Arte, but rather a piece built in its style. While we understand the basic movements and motivations of our characters, I fear that we spend too much time planning out the exact movements and comedy of the piece. My impression of Commedia Dell'Arte is that actors would portray certain characters, and then improvise their performances around a sort of basic list of entrances, exits, and pivotal moments. What we have done, is planned everything with such precision that there is no longer any room for improvisation within the piece. The exception there, being the language used which does seem to differ with every attmpt at peforming out piece. 

November 13, 2017

Reflection on Commedia Dell'Arte process

Analyze an Article from HowlRound

November 21, 2017

    I recently read the article Will Future Storytelling Include Live Theatre? written by Jonathan Mandell from the theatre blog Howl Round. This article revolves around the titular question which the article does not answer so much as ambiguously guess at. The article is a composition of exhibitions seen at a future of storytelling convention. Let me first say, that if the storytelling of the future is anything like what this article describes, I will be severely disappointed. This article describes most live performances occurring through virtual reality, which in my opinion, takes the immediacy and intimacy out of performance and mistakes the allure of theatre as spontaneity. These VR performances are essentially films—albeit they sound more like drug-induced fever dreams—that allow for alterations in the story based on the audience’s reaction. There is no genuine connection between the actor and audience as there is in live performance, which is why I previously said that these performances assume the value of theatre to be in its adaptability.

    These performances I have mentioned were the most similar to my idea of live performance—certainly, others were farther from it; I suggest reading this article to discover their bizarreness.  Because none of these performances truly capture what I would define as the essence of live theatre, I feel reasonably self-assured in my ideals that while these forms of performance may come to popular fruition, I cannot see a future without a theatre which bears more resemblance to the theatre of today.

          Being able to reflect upon the entirety of the performance and formulation process, I may now find it easier to confirm what I feared in my previous reflection. As our process evolved, we, as a group, continually found flaws with our specific roles--whether that be character movement, voice, etc. As we progressed through creating our piece, we focused so much on our characters that we overlooked an essential element of this theatre form; which is to say the spontaneity of Commedia. We became so obsessed with our characters that we never gove them the chance to speak for themselves in our piece and improvise.

          While I may be content with the outcome of our piece,  it was the process which left me retrospectively disappointed in our lack of having realized this earlier. Were we to attempt this again, I would most assuredly want to restructure the process in a way that allowed us to improvise in the way that we did on the first day--when we first experimented with our story and had no plan. That, in my opinion, was the best Commedia experience we had as a group.

November 21, 2017

Final Reflection of Commedia Dell'Arte

Second Reflection on Commedia Dell'Arte

November 21, 2017

          In creating our piece as a group, we have not deliberately or explicitly deiced upon any particular intention for our piece as far as impact or influence on the audience. It has been left unsaid that our most general goal is to inspire some reaction to the comedy which we present. However, it is my personal intent as an individual actor and participant to make my character and his intention clear--not only that, but also to make it apparent which stock character I am utilizing. Because this is most basically an examination of an acting style which focuses on characters, I think that is the most important element to concern myself with.

As of now, I am almost halfway through the group project of choosing and acting a single scene from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals. The scene my group and I have chosen is a four-person interaction between Captain Absolute, Sir Absolute, Mrs. Malaprop, and Lydia. At this point in the process, we are still flushing out the groundwork for the scene—blocking, set, etc.

I suspect that challenges might arise later in the process, because we did consciously cast against type in the case of Mrs. Malaprop and Lydia. However, all the group members seem to be equally and wholly invested in the process so far and I anticipate that we will be successful in presenting a polished final product.

December 11, 2017

Reflection on The Rivals

CPT#1

January 19, 2018

    Let me first say, that there are innumerable qualities and events of my life that could factor into my personal context; there are, however, only a few truly noteworthy elements that I consider when trying to identify what exactly my personal context is. Those elements are the ones which I believe stand out the most or have had the greatest influence on my perception of the world.

    First, the groundwork for my personal context is what I would characterize as my outlook on social and cultural issues. I would say that I my general view of the social atmosphere in which I have been raised is critical of fundamental flaws which I see frequently—and also idealistically hopeful for an improved future. Therefore, I would envision my ideal future self as an agent of social change.

    The specific events which I would say have given birth to my cynicism are generally very recent ones. Particularly, I would note the national political atmosphere which has transformed in the past two years.

    Aside from my consideration of political conditions, I suppose that certain factors in my upbringing have also shaped me. I have been raised in a demographically white, liberal, middle-class situation with only an awareness of most of the world (as opposed to experience).

    These elements lister here are those which I find to be the most important to my personal context; although, I suspect that I may have a different perspective on any part of my context in the near future, because I find my view of myself to be in constant fluctuation.

    This article by Vanessa Garcia, “The Paradox of Devised Theater on the Twenty-First Century Stage,” attempts to familiarize the reader with the process of devising theatre, while also trying to convey the significance of the process with regard to its effect on mainstream art. The article only spends a few sentences describing devising theatre—which becomes a massive impediment later into the writing when it attempts to critically analyze devising based on that definition. The summarized version of what is written in the article is ‘devising is just like conventional theatre but where the process doesn’t start with a script.’ In my opinion, this is an oversimplification of the process and detracts from the bulk of the article which relies heavily on the reader’s understanding of devising.

    The article spends a very long time describing a specific novel, Goon Squad, from which the author has obviously drawn a lot of ideas. The premise of this section is to illustrate how mainstream culture is obsessed with surface. Surface, in this context (although it is undefined) seems to have two unrelated meanings.

    One, is the constant public nature of “life in the internet age” where everything is on the surface, visible to others, “for good or for bad.” The other, is physical surfaces—the example she gives is laptops (whose surfaces are getting progressively smaller and therefore are becoming less desirable to the surface-crazed audience).

    Garcia claims that devised theatre offers an escape and also an entry to both of these surfaces—and what she means by that it is entirely beyond me. It’s this sort of illogical thought and lack of continuity that I believe can often emerge in the devising process. In my opinion, this author published the unrefined ideas of her devising group that was understood abstractly by them, and assumed it would be similarly communicable to others. In devising, I believe it is important to be able to hash out one’s ideas enough to represent them to an outsider. This is a perfect example of what I would like to avoid, and I expect to come back to this article during the devising process.

 

Article:

http://howlround.com/the-paradox-of-devised-theater-on-the-twenty-first-century-stage

January 25, 2018

CPT #2

CPT #3

January 31, 2018

    In approaching a collaborative project, I find that the element which I find the most important to start with is a sense of direction. In the collaborative theatre project, we form agreements and containers, but it is more of a process to determine what we want to actually create. In projects that are so open-ended, I usually begin by proposing three or so possible ideas that the we might choose from. An example that comes to mind was a small, self-designed  biology experiment that involved creating an experiment as a group. The first thing that we did was quickly propose a few possible ideas and then choose one to flesh out in detail. I greatly enjoy this process of beginning a project because I find it gives a guiding sense of purpose and direction.

    Another element of group work that I find important and recurring in my experience is the forced egalitarianism that I think is necessary for any true group work. More often than not, I find that groups are divided between extremely vocal members and extremely quiet members. In a project such as the short devising piece that I was part of creating in a theatre elective last year, I found it was extremely important to consciously balance the input of group members by gently suggesting that people either listen or express themselves at specific times.

    The equality of devising theatre is one of my favorite parts about it and I think it is exemplified excellently by Double-Edge Theatre Company. Double-Edge is built on the premise of giving equal voice to all participants and creating a sense of community and trust, which I think is paramount to functional and outstanding devising theatre,

    Another interesting theatre company that I would like to draw from is Paper Birds. Their company’s focus is more on the content than the process, they exclusively devise pieces that are relevant to timely social issues, such as alcoholism or drug use. I think it would add a dimension of sincerity and purpose to our wok if we could similarly include such a layer of meaning.