Working with a Theorist

Now that the new course has started there is a focus on students being able to research and apply the methodologies of a theatre theorist. This blog will focus on what I have been doing with my students in class to prepare them for the old and the new course. We have looked briefly at August Boal, as a lead in to ensemble work, visual awareness, communication through a vehicle beyond language, and are now working in depth on Peter Brook’s theories.

Starting the work

When beginning work on a theorist’s ideas it is always hard to know where to start. What I did with my students is focus on the elements of the course that are key to the new and the old course, namely:

  • Working with and mentoring others
  • Researching and sourcing material
  • Leading sections of devised work
  • Evidencing your contribution to group created work
  • Documenting a process and working as an ensemble
  • Applying research in practical work
  • Taking on multiple roles as devisor, designer, director and performer

I then led a series of 3 workshops that introduced aspects of theory (namely impulse and group energy) in practical exercises, powerpoints to introduce them to his early work and then gave homework readings of his CONTEXT as a theorist, developing that into students researching the work with his company to then lead their own exercises. In this process students need to justify what they are doing, how it links to theory and what is being developed in the group and the performer. One key resource at this time was the workshops he led in Paris with The International Centre for Theatre Research. See video below:

 

 

The structure

I then led a series of 3 workshops that introduced aspects of theory (namely impulse and group energy) in practical exercises, powerpoints to introduce them to his early work and then gave homework readings of his CONTEXT as a theorist, developing that into students researching the work with his company to then lead their own exercises. In this process students need to justify what they are doing, how it links to theory and what is being developed in the group and the performer. One key resource at this time was the workshops he led in Paris with The International Centre for Theatre Research. See video below:

 

Below is the content of some of the workshop, with some of the quotes I peppered throughout:A.

Introduction: Powerpoint

An introduction to Peter Brook as a British theatre practitioner, theatre and film director with an explanation of how his directional approach broke new ground with his production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in 1970 at the RSC, which took place in a white box.B.

Impulse: Activity 1

Impulse: ‘A word does not start as a word – it is an end product which begins as an impulse, stimulated by attitude and behaviour which dictates the need for expression.’ (‘The Empty Space’ P15)

Suspension of energy awareness as a group: Activity 2 

What Brook says about the quote in ‘The Empty Space’: ‘I can take any space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.’ (‘The Empty Space’ page 11)

‘That is exactly how is starts. With a silence. There are 2 silences, perhaps there are many, but there are 2 ends of the pole of silence. There is the dead silence, the silence of the dead, which doesn’t help any of us, and then there is the other silence, which is the supreme moment of communication – the moment when people are normally divided from one another by every sort of natural human barrier, suddenly find themselves truly together, and that supreme moment expresses itself in something that is undeniably shared.’ (‘Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook’ Edited by Dale Moffitt page 6)

Unknown territory. The aim is to have a trust between the audience and the actors where they embark on a journey into unknown territory ‘heading towards an exploration that neither actor nor audience has discovered yet.’ (‘Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook’ Edited by Dale Moffitt page xiii)

Living the experience: Embarking on unknown territory: Activity 4

Conviction – being alive in every moment. Activity 5

‘One must hold strong convictions and then go with them.’ (‘Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook’ Edited by Dale Moffitt)

Expression: A word. Activity 6

 

Developing the work

 Once the students had made a group list as a class of Brook’s key areas of practice, conducted their own research into his work and watched sections of his productions they were then ready to apply the theory in practice

Working on Act 1 scene 1 of ‘The Tempest’ they each directed a section of the piece, basing this on text, movement, impulse or group awareness.

The final work was filmed and photos of the process captured each individual’s contribution.

All work was documented and reflected on in their journal.

 

Links to the course:

  • Filming a final collaborative piece (Solo Performance and Research Presentation)
  • Documenting individual contribution to a process (Collaborative Project, TPPP)
  • Applied theory in performance (Solo Performance, TPPP)
  • Research leading to application in practice (Research Investigation, TPPP, Solo Performance)
  • Taking on multiple roles in the production process (TPPP, Collaborative Project)
  • Performing as an ensemble (Collaborative Project, TPPP)
  • Working with text and having directorial vision (Director’s notebook)

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