Scene Study (2) and Theorizing the Contemporary

Scene study today was our presentation of the first act scenes of Duchess of Malfi. We went in order of the play. The first group up had some challenges with the language specifically, watching you could see some need for more clarity in purpose. That said, good things did come out of watching the group. Tom's comments were quite forceful about the specifics of what he had seen. The expectation for clear intention and clear speaking of the verse was also made clear. Although this isn't an "acting" exercise it is a good opportunity to make clear the impact an actor has on our ability to understand the text (practically) and the role of the director in teasing this out of the script.

Our group was up next; our scene went reasonably well, there were moments that felt rushed and some of the detailed physicality was lost, but overally we conveyed the scene clearly. Tom commented that he was a little confused at times as a result of how we had to deal with double casting and limited bodies, but this rectified itself quickly. I agreed, that I would like to try staging this scene on the same ideas but with the full "body count" so to speak. One other thing I found interesting was the response a couple students had to the scene after Tom asked them to only listen; they noted that they could hear the sense of status from the characters vocally (yes!!) and also that the sense of using the space was clear, even if they couldn't see the performers. This made me quite happy.

The next group presented the final scene of the act; the image that stood out to me was the way the Duchess turned about during her monologue (they did a long column stage with audience on two sides). She seemed almost to be in a whirlpool, a metaphor for the choices she was making and their eventual impact on her in the spiraling out of the play..

We continued from here to discuss the play and what is going on. One piece of advice that stuck with me was when Tom advised us to always look back to what the playwright is giving you; what do they want you to see? Why have they given us these people at this moment?

We were divided into larger groups and assigned sections of act 2. Becaused I directed this week I'm acting for the new week, and will be playing the Duchess of Malfi. Rehearsals on Thursday.

After a break for dinner we moved on to our first actual class Theorizing The Contemporary with Dr Aiofe Monks. This class is intended for us to see theatre from the audience's perspective; why do we go to theatre? What impacts the way we experience the theatre? and then how do we talk about this? There was a great discussion about the effervescence of theatre and its immediacy. We also did an exercise in iconography and our experience relating to symbols, imbuing meaning in simple images created by two still objects. We moved from simple description (EG black chair, made of cloth and metal, one foot from a toy doll, etc) to imbuing meaning on this image (what does this make us think? What is the narrative??).

I don't know that I agreed with all of the assertions about us needing to understand certain images to understand theatre. I feel very strongly that a good play or performance will bring something for people with no "social" or intellectual references to compare and also for those who have a background of higher education. I will continue playing out this tension and my thoughts on this as we continue the course.

Practically, we also spent some time discussing our assignments for this class, of which there are two. More on those later.