Devising using Environmental theatre

Recently I was training IB Theatre teachers in Australia and I ran an activity that focuses on Schechner’s six Axioms for environmental theatre for devising original theatre using the senses and physical theatre approaches. The activity below would be useful for the Practical Perforamnce Proposal, Director’s notebook or Collaborative Project.

For this activity you would need to read the axioms that address space, transformed space and found space, and refer to the quote below:

“Schechner makes clear that spaces, not just people, are performative – they collaborate with bodies (and vica versa) to produce agglomerate performances. For Schechner space if fluid, and agent in its re-creation through use and practice.  For a given human performance, Schechner concludes, space must be organised, but not necessarily controlled. He suggests that people need to know how a space works before they can use, apply or harness the power of that space.” (Schechner, 1968)

THEATRE IN THE ENVIRONMENT: INSPIRATIONS FROM THE LANDSCAPE

Step 1: Make up groups of 4 or 5

Step 2: Find a space in your local environment which excites you by its colours, shapes, forms and location.

Step 3: Each group member chooses a different sense (or each do all 4 and compare notes). Using only this sense, physically and sensually explore the space for 5 mins. Decide on some ways of recording your explorations (drawing, chart, doodles, words, shapes etc). Some aspects to record may be:

  • SIGHT: line, shape, form, colour, hue, textures, movement, shadow/light
  • HEARING: sounds, rhythms, pitch, tempo, relationships
  • SMELL: general smells, specific smells, constant/intermittent smells – placed in the space
  • TOUCH: textures, shapes, temperature, other physical details

Step 4: On your own explore how you can represent your findings in a physical way. Explore these ideas then create a short movement sequence (1-2 minutes) which you feel represents your sensual findings in the space.

Step 5: Share your sequence with the others in your group. Try to put them together somehow as a group to create a performance piece based on the holistic sensory perception of your space.

Step 6: Share you performance piece with another group and get a mentor to give you holistic and specific feedback.

 

Sources:

‘Environmental Theatre: An Expanded New Edition including “Six Axioms for Environmental Theater” New York: Applause, Richard Schechner, 1994 (1968)

Mike Pasternak’s condensed version of the Axioms and ideas for exercises.

 

 

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