Posts Tagged ‘Drama

07
Mar
14

Hamlet. Psyched

 

Hamlet. Psyched 

USC Drama

Chancellor College Performance Centre

Friday March 28 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

How can we look after our own mental health?

 

 

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Drama Discipline Leader of USC, Jo Loth, wanted to make Hamlet relevant to her students and what better way than to incorporate MYTERN SMS?

 

MYTERN is an acronym for Take Emotional Responsibility Now. As part of her PhD studies, Jane Foster offered MYTERN SMS to the USC student community.

 

Foster has been running the service from her own mobile phone, offering daily text messages to students for inspiration, motivation, comfort and support.

 

Participants gave permission for their messages and feedback to be used for publishing purposes, and in this case, within Loth’s newly adapted production of Shakespeare’s classic tale of teen angst and a family in dissolve.

 

With two Hamlets on stage, a male and a female, the interpretations are interesting and not always as contrasting as one would think, though this may be due to shared rehearsal time and collaborative work on the character. A monologue is treated as dialogue, and there are times when I wonder about the effect of the role played solely by a female.

 

There is less need for the actors to raise their voices than they appear to think there is, with much of their shouting becoming ineffectual through over-application; we miss words and we cringe with Ophelia. These are young performers with minimal training and it shows, despite their best efforts to perform with gusto and fully commit to their roles. I’ll look forward to seeing them again in future, with a little more training and stage experience under their belts.

 

The Creative Industries Drama Major course is designed to produce entrepreneurs who can find or create work in a number of fields. Performance Skills Laboratory 1 (Acting 101) has brought them to a point where they are (mostly) confident in the space, however, I suspect lack of time has been a hindrance on students’ understanding of the text, and also with regard to connecting voice and body and character. We get a more fully realised performance from a mature age student, Lyn Stevenson; the same woman who stood out from the rest in USC Drama’s debut production, R&J (2013).

 

The production cleverly incorporates Foster’s research by giving students’ responses to her text messages to white clad ensemble figures in between the familiar scenes. The focus shifts from Hamlet to Ophelia, and her death, which brings a sudden change in pace and an unexpected conclusion. The ensemble, like a Greek Chorus or a shiver of sharks, circle Ophelia on her pedestal/coffin and take their places downstage to remind us that mental health is, indeed, a serious issue.

 

The template is potentially a wonderful resource for schools and community groups. It deserves further dramaturgical development and I’d love to see it receive the funds that would make publishing possible. This way, the (anonymous) personal stories can be easily incorporated, making the original story and local content relevant to entirely new audiences.

 

Loth has big ideas and at times very little to work with, but her gift is in going beyond our expectations and boldly challenging our notions of what theatre is and what role it plays within contemporary society. The potential of performance, to change how we see the world and each other, is evident in each original production Loth undertakes.

 

19
Apr
12

A quick question for teachers and school management peeps

I’ll get back to this – there’s the school run and then another sold-out performance of Travelling North to do – but first, just quickly, I had to copy and paste from Facebook, my status lamenting the lack of school groups in attendance at Empire Theatre Project’s April’s Fool this morning at Nambour Civic Centre.

I’d love for you to weigh in on this one. It continues to baffle me. It continues to frustrate me. Please let me know what it takes to get a school group (and not just the drama classes) to attend life-affirming, life-changing, life-saving theatre on the Sunshine Coast. I commend those schools who support their staff in doing so regularly. I’d love to hear from you too!

Dear everybody who is actually still doing party drugs and everybody with a child over the age of twelve on the Sunshine Coast, if you can possibly get to it tonight, go see APRIL’S FOOL with them at Nambour Civic Centre at 7:30pm for 75 minutes of your time. This show is already saving lives. Absolutely incredible storytelling. My heartfelt congrats go to Lewis Jones, David Burton, et al. As Poppy would say, “my heart hurts…”

Dear secondary school teachers and principals, if you didn’t book to take your students to see APRIL’S FOOL at Nambour Civic Centre today, SHAME ON YOU!

I know some students are attending tonight’s performance and I know that one teacher tried to arrange for her students to see this show and the excursion policy had not been signed off on! 

Hmmm… Does council need an education liaison person (or whatever) to let schools know what they’re missing (or to let schools know what they can’t afford to miss)?

Teacher friends, is it just getting too hard to do excursions? Do you need the info sooner? You would have seen the details for April’s Fool in your pigeon hole in October last year and I know you’ve got Boy Girl Wall now. Do you need assurance that the show is good?

Please tell me what it is you need in order to get your students to these shows! I’d really like to know. Thanks.

 

26
Aug
10

EROTIQUE – NOTES

I know I had promised to share process/progress notes at the outset of this blog and failed to deliver during La Ronde, largely because I felt I was in such a busy, multi-tasking place at the time and I never stopped for very long to reflect upon or to dissect exactly what I was doing. Also, I tend to shy away from the more academic literary styles of writing…as you may have noticed.

Tonight we had notes. It was just Ben and I, working together with Sam on our scene, Scene Six; the final scene of the show.

No pressure, guys, NO PRESSURE.

I had been given notes previously of course, during La Ronde‘s rehearsal process, which I either applied or argued at the time, before getting on with the job. This time, this process seems slightly different. In my life, I’m just as busy (busier), just as multi-tasking (more so), just as exhausted (much more so) and yet, this time around, it feels like I’m more focused and more able to apply immediately – without arguing – the teeny tiny adjustments necessary to make this scene really…smart. And by “smart” I mean “sting”, rather than come across as anything particularly intellectual!

The premise is simple. The motives are honest. The story is short and bitter sweet.

For those of you unfamiliar with

a) the way we work or

b) our product

let me explain something…

We don’t do “acting” *GASP*

I know. I hear ya. It’s a big call. And arguable, sure, depending on your perceived notion of what acting is or isn’t or should be or shouldn’t be. And whilst Sam and I may disagree on the process part, we certainly strive for the same end result. And that is:

TRUTH. BEAUTY. FREEDOM. LOVE.

Ha! I just wanted to throw in a little Moulin Rouge again. It was time.

We do want all of that, in various guises, on stage at some stage…but not all of the time. What we do want all of the time is truth. And the way we get it is to gradually rehearse the actors out of their pre-conceived notions of story, character and connections or relationships.

The actors end up not “acting” at all.

Ben and I have indeed been feeling our way into this final scene. No pun intended. It is so not that sort of sex scene. We had a script with which to work on Monday, after 2 rehearsals and just 2 weeks out, before we “should” have it all together for the preview performances at the M1 Function Rooms in Maroochydore (stay tuned for those details).

As Director, Sam gave us the basic structure of the scene and did his whole descriptive-analysis-my-turn-in-the-spotlight thing so we were sure to GET IT. His vision, that is. WE GOT IT and we brought our own stuff to it, then we contributed to the shape of the script, did away with the script, wrote a new interpretation of the script to better reflect the mood and motives of the people we felt these characters to be and we worked it to the desired emotional point at the very first rehearsal anyway, because we were really feeling it, because we could relate to it, because we had created it.

Wow, look at that; my little green grammar line didn’t come up there! *win*

Expressed that way, it sounds so simple! Doesn’t it?!?? It is simple…if, as an actor, you can let go of all the stuff you “should” be doing as An Actor and just be the person in the story. And within that story, tell your story. We are privileged to be working with a bold director who believes in madness before method and that in between, anything goes! Lucky for him (and for us) it appears to work.

It is, in fact, the same way I coach much younger actors and singers (not so much of the madness methinks, though they – the kids – may beg to differ). It’s certainly not a common approach on the Sunshine Coast, particularly when we’re talking about school students and studio students in the lead up to the local eisteddfod!

Luckily, my recent experiences, outside of the schools, have served to validate the way I do what I do.

The way I see it is that parents are happy to pay fees for lessons outside of school in order to see results outside of the ordinary.

Contrary to popular belief, these are not just parents looking to put their child into a class because they didn’t make the netball or the footy team! In fact, they are my favourite kind of parents because they are like mine and they acknowledge and support their child’s passion for the Performing Arts, driving them to classes and rehearsals and concerts and eisteddfods and exams and…well, you probably know them too.

In schools, regardless of fees paid or the way in which the department is run, I have found that if I employ the same unconventional teaching methods, parents and principals all tend to ask, “Is that really necessary?” even before they see the work. Or indeed, the results that come from working in such an honest way.

Sometimes, when they have seen the work, they can’t help but question the way in which it was developed. And well they should! It’s always a fascinating and very courageous journey! But they don’t always like what they hear. They wonder why, when JUICE is the title in the curriculum, do we stray from it?! “Well, actually, it’s more that we’ve gone off on a tangent, to tell more personal stories and the stories have come from the kids. This is their Juice.” Their ideas, their content, their experiences, their stories. Their truth. Do we censor that? Do we deny what actually happened during their weekend? Do we not tackle the real stuff when it starts to get hard? Do we not allow the real stuff – the hard stuff – to become the lesson? I don’t want to get way off track here (too late!) but self-devised and collaborative drama is really what we’re doing here. And it’s magic. Let the kids play like this too. Don’t stop at “drama games” for 10 minutes to start or finish a class *groan* but build on them! Use them to advance the drama and develop the stories the students want to tell. We are all storytellers; actors, singers, dancers…how liberating and empowering it is to just tell the story in the spirit of truth! I hope I’m preaching to the choir here!

Maybe it’s just me.

Oh, but tears! Tears, for example; tears mean trouble! Trouble for me, that is! For the student, tears often mean the liberation and self-discovery and the realisation that “OH! I never knew I could do that!” And, “Thank you!” that, as a teacher, I can tell you, we love to hear! Tears might be shed over something joyous like this or over something devastating, like, “Oh. I never realised I felt that way.” And, “Ouch! That’s a painful truth!” (i.e. he’s just not that into you!) Somehow these lessons are more easily taught away from the rigour of a traditional classroom setting.

For those on the outside of the drama class at school, tears (or any strong emotion) can be confronting and confusing and frightening and threatening (“Oh! What? She made her cry?!”) For those outside the studio setting however, tears seem to be a little more acceptable; there is an understanding that the student has made a bold choice and has committed to delivering their own interpretation of the song or monologue or scene. AND THAT’S CONFRONTING. For the artist, I mean. So let’s learn to chill out, open up and tell the truth of our stories! Let’s accept that THE PROCESS MAY INVOLVE TEARS. And let’s appreciate those parents who support the interests and ambitions of their children and send them to Performing Arts studios outside of school hours! And look, I don’t really make a habit of making my students cry; of course it’s just an example. What I do, unlike others who baulk at the thought of anything really tricky or emotional or REAL (or those who have also been told by administration that they just can’t field any more enquiries about one class) is to not stop nudging somebody towards their own raw, vulnerable place, which is where the tears might be.

The truth is extremely confronting and we face it in order to deliver it believably to an audience. As my good friend, Todd Schroeder likes to say, “If you can see it, you can sell it!” This is so difficult at first, for the students (including the adults) who have been told that their proclamation style “acting” and pantomime over-the-top-ness is DA BOMB.

THANK YOU Idol, X-Factor, Everybody in the Whole Freakin’ Universe’s Got Talent and every other reality tv talent-seeking competition insisting on increasing ratings and rewarding mediocrity!

Even my 10-12 year olds will invariably hear from me, from the outset, “I don’t believe you!” I say it lovingly, of course. And then I wait, with baited breath, for each to turn up to their second lesson ever…and yes, they always do!

Ok. End of rant/schools vs studios comparison/self-appraisal and approval segment.

So. I was going to share the director’s notes with you. Here they are:

  • 4 pages of script and 3 out of 4 pages perfect.
  • projection. You only have, at any time, one word each; make sure they get it.
  • more joy in the memories. Not sure why but “wasabi” works!

The rehearsal ran thus:

  1. lines run
  2. gabble, which is a lines run in fast forward
  3. lines run out of context (this was DIFFICULT for me)!
  4. lines run eyes closed (this was easy for me)!
  5. director’s notes

So, without even moving it this evening, we felt we got to the truth of it again. Well, our truth, which is, after all, all we can offer.

And you can take from it what you will.

Sam said an interesting thing, a great analogy for what we do. Here it is, paraphrased and noted here late, late, late; I will do my best to explain it so you GET IT.

The Preface: Sam used to run nightclubs. The real seedy ones, you know? He would sort out all sorts of trouble, especially after close (and kids, I’m talking about a 5am close, none of this 1:30 curfew and bring up the ugly lights before 3). During a stint at the helm of one particularly notorious club, he would walk home to our apartment at sunrise each morning and then walk with me along the beach to the school at which I was teaching, before walking home again to go to bed by about 9am. True story. He walked a lot.

The Analogy: Sam says a scene is like a nightclub. You have it there, all set up and you can see in your mind, the types of people who are going to rock up each night. You vaguely know what to expect from them because you’ve seen it all before (the bogans, the bikies, the flirtatious fake boobs, the stiletto through the palm of your hand on the stairs)…When they actually rock up, they’re not quite as you imagined them but they fit your scene and you can manipulate their actions to a certain extent (mood, music, lighting, security, etc). Every time a person walks into that club, the scene changes. You manipulate what you can but ultimately, the people make that club what it is.

Sam says it is his job to welcome the actors to the club and help them to feel comfortable in their own skin. Hmmm…Well, now, more than ever, that job description makes perfect sense. Next week, Ben and I will be getting comfortable – literally – in our own (lily white winter) skin.

Keep those ugly lights off, thanks, Sam!