New Perspectives

Spent a long and meandering day today, moving from one project to the next. Began with a voice tutorial with Adrienne Smook, an MA Voice student at Central who is offering small group and private tutorials for voice work with us. We first did a 45 minute group warmup, focused primarily on breathing - connecting breath with thought and the impulse to speak. One exercise I quite liked was a visualization of a specific place, where noises were used to identify things. This really served to help connect intention with breath and therefore voice. Another exercise I think I will use in workshops and classes is throwing a ball around the space, connecting breath, then a specific vocalization with the movement of the ball....aiming to curb the impulse to stop the breath and movement, allowing for smooth and continuous flow.

We also had a smaller private session with Adrienne, working on some more specific deep breathing and breath connection exercises. These really resonated with what I have been doing individually, connecting movement to voice - in this case, relaxation to voice relaxation, but using gravity in fetal or child's pose.

After this, went over to the Old Vic Tunnels for a dance dramaturgy workshop with Maryann Hushlak, dramaturg on Without Words. In some ways, this simply echoed our classes from last term with Paul Sirett about the role of the dramaturg. What I did find useful was the exercises and discussion on finding a language of creation. Maryann emphasized the importance of listening to how the creator talks about the projet, the kinds of words or phrases they use - this helps create a shared terminology of description for the process, and also enables creation of more practical materials like grant proposals. She also talked a lot about her process, particularly in the performance phase - analyzing the performance as well as the audience's reception. This is something I want to work into my workshop presentation in the dissertation - I am wondering if a Q&A would be useful to help understand the impact of the versions we see....and then help me draw some conclusions about identity and ghosts.

Finally, off to Birkbeck for Scene Study. A lot of talk of Hegel and Antigone today, so very apropo for my thoughts (not just now...always, really). I'm formulating my approach to the manifesto assignment, and think that I want to flesh out an anarchist tragedy of sorts...why do we need to define tragedy? Why do we spend so much time worrying about this? Now just to figure out how the form can merge...

Some Business With A Camel

This was our final approaches class for the Autumn term....true evidence that time is rapidly slipping by. Our group began in Acting Space with Sue, our course leader, who asked us to respond both to Brian's class and the Barbican Hamlet in some way. Some pairs chose just to talk about their experience, some chose a demonstration. We chose to create a scene which demonstrated our experience of Brian's approach, while commenting on Hamlet and what challenged us in the production. This was met with success. It was really great to watch and listen to everyone talking about their individual experiences in this way.

Next we went to dramaturgy in which Paul Sirrett answered our questions/led a discussion first about working as a dramaturg, and then about working as/being a playwright. This was a really great discussion, and a reminder that even those who work and whom some may deem have "made it" have the same insecurities, need to push forward, and effort to make/find work that those of us starting out do.

We're sill friends...

Today's dramaturgy class was great. We were learning about the side of the dramaturg's job that focuses on understanding classical texts, either to defend a decision to portray them in a way (EG as a tragedy) and in terms of managing the length, making informed cuts to the script to meet a production's length requirements.

This was lots of fun. Each group had to construct an argument either to show the play as closer to tragedy as Aristotlte describes it, or to another form; for Malfi it was a Melodrama, and for Measure it was comedy. It was really informative to have to craft an argument to support a side, even when you may not necessarily agree with that position as it pertains to the play. We got a bit snippy with one another in the spirit of debate as well.

Prior to that we rehearsed Duchess. My group has been assigned act 3 scenes 1 and 2, so one of the most juicy scenes in the play, where the duchess is found out by ferdinand. Once again I have been cast as the duchess, which makes me quite happy, as I find her to be a completely fascinating character. We have crafted a very still, frightening scene which clearly illustrates her movement from trying to cover up what is perceived to be her indiscretion, and "coming clean" so to speak. I am really excited about this scene, and hope we can bring something that really surprises and moves the class and Tom.

And you know we are really down to business when I'm reading Nietzsche on the train at 11:30pm. Preparing for my Theorizing assignment which involves writing a questionnaire to engage theoretically with one of the performances we have seen. We don't need to answer the questions yet, but rather do need to provide a bibliography that will support answering the questions....and then for our final assessment in this class will be a questionnaire engaging with two of the performances, which we then need to answer. It is an intereting mix of essay writing, and preparation for the idea that we'll likely one day be in a position to be creating exam or essay questions ourselves. That class has a lot that is structured to position us as tutors and educators, which is exciting. And terrifying.

Snow at home

I have seen, thanks to the glorious technology of facetime, that there is already snow at home in Winnipeg. Albeit the icy, only-on-the-banisters kind, but snow nonetheless. Things are getting colder here, and some trees are turning, but many are still rather green and fully leaved. Right now it is great, although at some point the curiosity of ever-green might wear off. I'm told it gets "brown" here, however having lived through Winnipeg springs for the last 29 years, seriously doubt it can be quite as brown as my least favourite season.

Spent a lot of time in the RADA library, picked up some reading, mainly for my own purposes; Absolutely! (perhaps) by Luigi Pirandello, Three Late Medieval Morality Plays, Sophocles' Antigone, fat pig by Neil LaBute, and Palace of the End by Judith Thompson. Also a book on the context of Medieval Theatre for research on Ludus Danielis, the play I will be co-directing for the King's College MA students with two fellow RADA MA's. I want to do a bit of dramaturgical work for this specifically, because my previous experience with the Medieval plays is limited to discussions in Theatre History back at UW.

On to class; today we were discussing Aristotle and Plato's ideas about the theatre, followed by an in-depth look at the similarity and difference between The Oresteia and Hamlet in terms of structure, function of the characters, and presentation of argument. I found it quite interesting to re-read Aristotle and Plato in this context, with only excerpts (and from poor translations...) to guide us. I felt compelled to argue in defense of Plato, who was presented separated from his view of the human condition (cave image) and from his later Phaedrus. For me, Plato's false idols are still a problem, however not an indication that all art is bad.

We did an exercise creating an image of the plots of Hamlet and an Aristotelian tragedy. This proved really difficult, partially because I felt our group lacked significant focus. I am not entirely happy with the result we produced on this, and am going to spend some time on my own creating an image system to do this task. I am hoping this clarifies my thoughts, particularly those about the point of climax in Hamlet...as stated in an earlier blog, I feel that the deaths are not necessarily the climax. This is an argument I want to play out some more

A Lusty Widow

Began with rehearsals on Act 2 of Duchess of Malfi today. I am playing The Duchess, in her expectant but secretive state in scene 2 of the act. The rehearsal was bumpy, working with so large a group (and 3 directors!) but overall we managed to develop a good sense of what Webster is intending and what is going on, along with the blocking. I must admit, The Duchess is quite fun to play, particularly in this scene. As a young Duchess (for she is still quite young) she has a feeling of entitlement, and also of defiance against those who want to restrain her or fit her into a mould. More rehearsals Tuesday, then presentation.

Then our first dramaturgy class with Paul Sirett. Such fun! We began with looking at the function of dramaturgs as they relate to new plays. We read several new short plays as "readers" for a literary department of a company, then debated the merits of each as something potential for our fictional company to pursue and potentially produce. It was interesting to hear what people took from the various plays, and the debate over some got fairly intense. Mountain of homework for this class (we only have 4 total, so have to jam it in!) including writing an External Report to the Literary Department on one of the plays.

As well, I have taken on a project (along with two classmates) to direct a Medieval Latin play for King's College with their MA students. The production takes place in April 2012.

image: Helen Mirren as The Duchess of Malfi (1981)