Poor Behaviour

I've never been much of one for following rules. That comes out in the theatre I make, the way I test audience limits and re-think time-honoured classics. So when I read about the "infamous iPhone incident" in New York this week, I laughed. Yep. I wasn't shocked, or annoyed, or disappointed. I didn't call for "education" or making sure the "right kind" of people go to the theatre. I found it a little silly that the dude believed sufficiently in the reality of the set to think there would be power running to the plug, but that's about it.

The right kind of people attending theatre are breathing people. That's really the only requirement. Breathing people feel things. They experience things. In life, and in these weird black boxes of rooms where they sit in semi-darkness beside strangers. Whether someone knows the traditions and codified behaviours, the expectations, is completely irrelevant. In fact, I would argue that those very expectations are the reason young friends feel the theatre is "not for them". Theatre is for everyone. It is. I'm not saying that in some sort of populist theatre for the people way. Theatre tells stories. People like stories. Bingo! A match made in heaven. It is that simple. 

As soon as there is any sense of an "us" and a "them", a desired audience, a set of behaviours, theatre dies a little. And it keeps dying slowly. Until we get out from behind the curtain and share stories and experiences truthfully, and with everyone, theatre will continue to die.

Lets shake things up a bit, shall we?


So I have written a bit about this scary playwriting adventure. Under the tutelage of the fabulous Lin Coglin we are learning a character-based approach to writing, and various exercises to help ellicit good (read: Interesting) writing. I have found this process to be rather challenging, but quite rewarding in its evolution. Challenging, because it turns out that I am writing a play that I never would have guessed would come out of me; I'm not much of a one for realism, contemporary family drama, etc. I tend to attach to plays of ideas, of movement. . . not those in which the central character is an 80 year old man. But, then there was Frank. Our starting point for the process was to select an image that interested us, and get to know the character in this image. I selected a rather silly photo of a man and woman, in bed with sunglasses on, and met Frank. And I became rather attached.

I'm really wrestling with my inner-critic monkey, which keeps jumping up and down reminding me I am not a playwright. That little monkey did a number this week when I tried to write a scene outside those Lin had assigned us. But this week I'll be having a word with the monkey, and making some progress. Because although I might not be a playwright, Frank is there, and wants his story to be discovered. I guess I'll have to help!

Crisis of Faith

It is crunch time. So naturally, it is also the time when any other part of the universe (mainly transport) that can mess around with me does its best to make things difficult. Today, it was the return of the kid's flu, meaning that I was stranded at home when I should have been rehearsing and attending Scene Study for our impending Malfi presentation (one week today!!!!!! aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!).

AND screw this. i wrote the whole blog post, and then blogger ATE IT. example of the above happening.

What you missed: me musing about the presentation, positive feedback that makes me uneasy and think I'm not pushing far enough, details about portfolio and essay status.

Brain Ache

Today was a mountain of aching brain in many ways. Began with missing my train....getting to rehearsal late. My scene partner wasn't there....waited about 45 mins and then he came downstairs...we had been waiting for each other in separate rooms! So clearly no rehearsing accomplished.

Scene Study was good: We read and discussed Act 5 of The Duchess of Malfi, and then Tom spent some time directing short scenes in the play with different people. What really came out of this was how important the text is, and how slowing down and making sure the actors mean the words they are saying, without any "extras" of acting on top of it can really make the play come alive. It is remarkable just how little acting we need to understand the play. We then got to pitch our proposals for final Scene Study presentations on Duchess; my group's pitch was successful...hooray! More on this process later...tomorrow we meet to try to put together the script.

Then on to Theorizing. We spent the class looking at media in performance, and what theatre means in a mediated age. This included watching clips of performances from various companies who work with media in their practice...specifically several from the Wooster Group. I found these rather difficult to deal with; Wooster work in relation/response/interaction with classic or canonical texts, looking at the effect that media has on them. They use a lot of microphoned voices, really showing the mechanics of producing sound, and using the microphone's power to silence other actors who don't have the microphone. At the same time, they use various images, often many at once....simulating channel surfing as we do it on TV. There is a lot of ambient sound, screeches, enhanced voices from the microphones, videos, etc, simultaneously...which combine (in theory) to really make the audience aware of the work they are doing as audience members.

Now in theory, I agree with this idea...alienating the audience, really engaging them with the mechanics and not letting them be lulled in by emotion or character. In the video clips we watched, however, I wasn't able to get this. The onslaught, primarily the sound, made it impossible for me as a spectator to make a choice on where to focus; in fact, I tried to jump around, but soon just disengaged and stopped watching/listening. We debated in groups the means with which Wooster try to achieve this alienation, discussing the techniques above. Each on their own, or even in reasonable combination, I find these all to be exceptionally useful. I must say however that the combination, layering them all at once, just made me angry as a spectator. In all honestly, if the full show were like that, I would likely leave. Someone put forward that perhaps the point is just to agitate or provoke the audience. Maybe it is...but provoke them to what? for what? It seems to me this is likely just to end in resentment.

I think another area of frustration is that most of these, as I stated above, were attempting to interact with a canonical text...but the words of the text, even the ideas, felt lost in the pandemonium. What is the point of "interacting" with a text if the text is lost in the muddle? Why not just look at an abstract idea instead?

Now all this said, it is based on a few short video clips on the internet, which likely have the inherent sound engineering problems of videotaped theatre....and didn't show the full production. I am now rather curious to see a production by Wooster, just to see if in its entirety, live, it hangs together.

Random Encounters With Various Centuries

Began the day (after yet another trip to the Greenwich council to sort Sarah out with school....still somewhat unresolved) with a trip to the National Gallery. Sarah decided she wanted to look at paintings from the 15th century. This is certainly an odd request for a 7 year old, but we complied. She really enjoyed moving through the rooms on that side of the gallery, looking at the various ways religious iconography was represented. Of course, being 7, any painting with a dog or a horse was immediately of interest. Also amusing was a 17th century peepshow from a Dutch painter whose name is escaping me. I couldn't help but think about how remarkably old and yet new this idea was, and was drawn back to an exhibit of Wanda Koop's work that I had seen over the winter at the WAG. The feeling of actual overt voyeurism in art, reminding me of the necessity of a level of voyeurism for the audience of any work of art...otherwise what is the creation for?

Another thing that stood out was a friend's comment, upon looking at some Rembrandts, that he seemed to "get lazy" as he got older. In fact, the relaxing of the lines in his later work signifies to me a more intense level of work; his ability to capture the human spirit evolved with the seeming devolution of rigidity in his lines. Just thoughts, I suppose.

On to we had the Birkbeck portion of Scene Study, in which we discussed The Oresteia triology (Aeschelys). The discussion was interesting, but I found it frustrating for a couple reasons. First, we seemed to focus a lot on the plot details, and only at the very end got to the ideas within the play, never reaching the images through which these ideas are examined. Secondly, I sort of felt throughout the discussion that I wanted to speak and jump to these points, but could sense that this would not be well-received. The focus on things such as who made up Greek Audiences, etc, tended on the Anthropological for my tastes, today at least. I was itching to discuss the meat of the play, but didn't really get the chance. I am hoping the debate in this class is able to progress beyond; i would love a great discussion of the nature of Tragedy.