The play Brighton Beach Memoirs is semi-autobiographical. Despite this, I think the intentions of the playwright are to not only convey his own story, but to tell the story of a family struggling through difficult times and the importance of supporting one another. I do not want to change the focus much from what I believe to be the author’s intentions, meaning that I wish to focus on the importance of a family standing by one another and providing support through tough times. I want to show an image of the family as a unit, to convey how important it is for a family to try to be there when others need them, not to let arguments and struggle divide them. I want to say something that will help bring people together. I plan on keeping the story relatively unchanged, focusing on Eugene and his experience of these later years of the Great Depression. I think the audience who would benefit the most from viewing this play would be people in their older teens – they’d be able to relate to Eugene, but also understand the importance and significance of the themes of the play, such as I have previously mentioned. Since the original is set during the Great Depression, I wish to keep the struggle similar between me version and the original, to maintain the relevance of the dialogue relating to the financial situation. Thus, I thought maybe staging it in Weimar Germany, during the hyperinflation, not the Great Depression. This not only maintains the relevance of the financial crisis, but also has the impending rise of the Nazi party – a problem that pertains directly to the family, being Jewish. Although the Nazi party did not exist quite yet, some basics of its ideology did.
I want the audience to be able to empathize with Eugene and be able to understand his family’s struggle. From this, I want the audience to understand how important the family is and try to make an effort in their own life to realize this importance. I want them to feel empathy and understanding, to be able to connect with the characters in the play, to be involved. I want them to reflect on their own lives and how they treat their own family, thinking about the effects of what they say and do. I want the audience to leave feeling like they should do something, to try to get along with their family, to actually take action and not just think. The main thing I want the audience to remember is how a family should stick together and stand up for one another.
Plays I have read:
We only had Tuesday and Thursday to work this week, because we had Monday off. We spent Tuesday looking at the script Espen wrote over the break and working on the end scene, which we still needed to finalize because, although we had some ideas, we had never fully run through it with a concrete goal in mind. We were also informed that we needed a name for our show, and although we discussed it for a while we were unable to reach a conclusion. Leanne was sick on Thursday which was a slight problem, but Espen read her lines (one of the benefits of having a script). We talked about what we wanted for costumes, as well as maybe adding more to the set. We discussed maybe adding an actual door, but decided it would be too difficult to manage with the direction we would need it, and Lia already does a great job miming. We also worked on the lighting and getting the levels set where they looked best for what we wanted to communicate in each scene. We also worked on how we wanted to run the last scene where Leanne and Eleanor are left in the café when Lia leaves. We will be performing for the class to receive feedback during finals week.
This week was spent running through the show and working on script and technical aspects. On Monday we spent our time looking at the third scene and trying to work on Eleanor and Leanne's body language and making the dialogue run smoothly to the points we wanted to reach. Tuesday and Thursday were mostly run-throughs and we got the final scene worked out more. Also, Espen was asked to write a script over the break and I spent some time thinking about how I could improve lighting and how I would get this to work with the projector. Initially we had turned away from a script, preferring to have specific scripted points to guide the conversation, but everything in between was improvised. I think not having a script helped earlier on when we were devising, but now that we are trying to finalize the piece having a script will help the actors.
This week we began by catching Leanne up on what she had missed the previous week, as well as writing the dialogue for the "identity crisis" scene where Leanne and Eleanor argue with each other. On Tuesday we, or Espen, worked on the script while the actors ran through the scenes. We also ran through the first few scenes and worked on transitions, as well as practicing lines. We did not get to working out an ending, which, although we have a rough idea of what we want, is rather lacking. I've been thinking about how lighting should work and I have a map of the lights and which ones we have used on which scenes, but without knowing how to set cues this is pretty difficult (this lightboard is different from ones I have used in the past). Eleanor and I missed Thursday, but after talking to the rest of the group we learned they had been working on scripting and blocking.
This week, despite the absence of one of our group members later in the week, we made a significant amount of progress, both in terms of character and scene development, as well as the technical element. As the scene comes together more the lighting becomes easier to manage, although I really need to figure out how to set cues... Besides that, on Tuesday we worked on our "Identity Crisis" scene, when all the members were present. We used Thursday to talk about our intro scene, and Lia had a pretty great idea as to one way we could do it. Her idea involved using a video to show the memory of the the mother (in the play) left, while kind of mirroring it on stage. Lighting would be difficult, but I think it's a great idea.
Looking at another progress "portfolio," there are a couple elements that are present we need to work on. We have covered, albiet a bit sporadically, our starting points. What we lack is discussion about our audience, as well as general stage stuff like costumes. We have done a lot of work on explorations though.
We had a short week this last week due to Thanksgiving, so we only had class on Monday and Tuesday. Despite the short week, we did manage to make some progress. We finally decided upon how we want our play to start and end. We want to start with a scene where the main character gives a monologue where the choice the play centers around is explained, followed by the introduction of the two other characters - the "devil" and "angel" aspects of the main character. We want the play to end with both the devil and the angel telling how the play would have ended depending on what choice was made. While this is a good place to start, we really need to work on filling in the play, because we need something between the start and end.
This last week we have made quite a bit of progress, although we did kind of reset our basic plan again. On Tuesday we split into two groups - actors and not really actors in order to sort out ideas and work on defining what kinds of containers and limits we have. The actors discussed things such as backstory and how the character acts, while Espen and I looked at lighting, stage design, etc. Since we had previously discussed setting the play in a cafe we looked at what we had to work with for the stage and lights and how we would do that. On Thursday we looked more at how we wanted the character to develop. We had discussed having one person play the main character while the other two portrayed different, opposing aspects such as outgoing and introversion. We thought we could do something similar if instead of portraying different aspects they could simply play the "devil" and the "angel." I think this last week we have made a lot more progress than other weeks.
This week we started really thinking about the project as a whole and how we needed to actually come to a point where we had a complete piece instead of fragmented moments. We got to talking about some more solidified structure rather than hypothetical ideas. One interesting moment was when we essentially abandoned the idea of amnesia and decided instead to look at identity. While this had been a theme earlier, we separated it from the amnesia piece, and wanted to look at how people define themselves. Also, Espen and I decided we needed to spend more time looking at the design work and script stuff, and we went up to look at the lighting we have available to use.
Worksheet 6 Reflection:
This worksheet asked us to make note of various starting points for our devising process. We had already done this in the first stage of our brainstorming, and so we simply recorded the majority of those on the handout. It did serve a purpose further than this, in that we had to think about other starting points we had discussed since we started acting, and reflecting on this was quite helpful.
Worksheet 7 Reflection:
This worksheet asks us to develop a few activities to supplement the devising process. The way we talked about how to go about this is to select one of our themes and come up with a number of activities to explore that theme. We already kind of do this, when the main actors in our group discuss various themes and Espen writes a rough script for a scene based on their thoughts.
Reflection on Week:
This week we have been trying to narrow down our ideas a bit to get to a more concrete base, in order to begin truly working on developing scenes for our piece. On Tuesday, Espen and I sat and mostly listened to the other three talk about themselves and their identities and memories while Espen and I took notes: regarding script, in his case, while I though about possible lighting for the scenarios. I believe this will help us move our piece forward and create a piece that has the themes we want, but can still be understood.
We have looked at a number of examples of collaborative project portfolios done by other students, and as a class we examined the elements and ideas included. A few, such as descriptions of the devising process and exploration of ideas, were expected; others, such as the process of actually forming the group, I had not considered. I read the portfolio on the "Insomnia" project, and I found it really interesting. The ideas are laid out in a clear, organized manner, and one that I found rather helpful for figuring out how I would compose my own portfolio.
For the past week, we have essentially just been exploring ideas and seeing where they go. After a day or two of discussion, we started to take some ideas or themes and turn them into improv scenes. This was pretty interesting, when we had an actual starting point. We tried simply doing a scene from scratch, but that went rather poorly. On one day we had one of the group members write a kind of script or outline of the scene the rest of us were acting; this turned out pretty great, but is a bit lacking in direction. An interesting turn on Thursday was when we decided to do an activity where one member poses the other members into scenes from their everyday life. We also tried impersonating each other, in the interest of exploring the theme of identity. As I mentioned earlier, we are a bit lacking in direction at the moment, but that should improve in the coming weeks.
The group talked over IB's example planning form, and discussed how we ourselves would go about developing our piece. We looked at a few examples of types of plays (Theme, Character, Story and Setting) and discussed which would best suit us. We tentatively decided on a Theme play; we like how it is episodic, and it allows for more abstraction than Character or Setting plays. Going back to the planning form, IB divided it up into four sections: Preparation, Exploration, Shaping and Realization. We discussed how we had been preparing so far, and decided it had been mostly brainstorming. We have two large sheets of butcher paper taped to windows of the classroom detailing our various ideas and themes. For exploration, we simply put exploration. While this may seem rather unhelpful, it is actually precisely what we are doing. We take an idea and discuss it to see where we end up. We sometimes take an idea and improv a scene to see what we get. We decided that we would not set a path for ourselves for the Shaping and Realization parts until we actually decide what kind of play we want, and what we plan to have in it.
A short while ago, our group came together and talked about a few agreements to make prior to the devising process. We looked at the suggested agreements from IB and selected a few. We ended up with five basic agreements, most combinations from the IB list and a couple of our own devising. Our agreements are:
I believe devised theatre is theatre that is created through the collaboration of a group of people towards a single end goal. Essentially that all of the people discuss how they want the piece to work, and they all contribute to how to go about reaching that point. I don't believe the people need to be like minded or even incredibly similar, they simply need to be able to work together. If each person has a different view it adds a variety to the piece and allows for different viewpoints on how to better the piece. What this boils down to is that devised theatre is the product of group collaboration and cooperation.
Today we discussed various devising theatre companies and our own personal devising or collaborative experience in preparation for our upcoming Collaborative Project, known heretofore (and in the title) as "CP." In groups, we talked about how we each might lead the group "in the exploration of materials or ideas." After some consideration, I decided the best way I could go about exploring ideas or materials is through conversation within the group, discussing ideas they like and why, and what they don't like. This would also allow the group to narrow down ideas in preparation for more focused work on the acting itself. What I consider to be the best way to go about this is finding a common theme that can unify the ideas into a coherent piece, and then discussing how we want to go about each scene. If I had an idea about how I want a scene to work I would lead the group and try to create that. Improvisation is also a good method, if it is refined into a clear piece.
My theatre profile consists of three different parts: skills, approaches and interests. In theatre I am best at the technical aspects, namely lighting and sound. Acting is difficult for me, but that means I put a lot of effort into doing well. I tend to approach things in a pretty simple way: I'll usually plan how I'm going to go about something, whether its acting or lighting, and then just experiment with things until I find something that works. This isn't the most efficient method, but I have found it has good results, especially in devised theatre. My interests lie on the tech side of things. I've run sound for various events, though not actually for theatre, and I ran lights at the last school production.
Recently my class watched a performance of Comedy of Errors, by Shakespeare. I greatly enjoyed watching this - it is a hilarious play and the interpretation of the actors added to the humor. The stage design was interesting - it was of minimalist style, they used a refrigerator as the prison, and a curtain in the back for the abbey. The majority of the stage was a large wooden platform, which formed most of the settings - the town square, the house, etc. Many props were kept under this platform. I found it interesting how much the actors improvised - for instance when one actor mistakenly hits a kid with a thrown newspaper. This added a great deal of humor to the overall production.
In my group's first video, we had quite a few problems. I had a few problems with blocking, but also with general posture and pronunciation. In the area of blocking, I just was not moving. I am not very comfortable acting, and that made thing difficult. I simply stood kind of awkwardly the entire performance. When I sat I would slouch, similar to the production we watched in class but not actually how actors would sit in that theatre style. Also, my pronunciation was a bit off - I needed to pronounce the consonants a bit harder. In the final video, the entire group had improved. I moved around more, interacting more with props and allowing for better interaction between the characters. I also improved my posture and pronunciation.
For my group's presentation of The Rivals, I am Captain Jack Absolute. I am a Caucasian, higher-class man from England. I am about 6 feet tall and well built, having spent a good deal of my life in the military. I am currently on vacation in Bath, meeting with a certain Lydia Languish under the guise of ensign Beverly (she does not want a man of wealth, so I must disguise myself). I also try to help my friend Faulkland overcome his fretting nature, to help him with Julia.
We finished watching the Bristol Old Vic production of the play The Rivals, written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1775. This production was pretty interesting, I especially liked they way the stage was set up. There were many doors down both sides of the stage, and across the back. The doors in the back were rolled to the side for the final scene, revealing a painted grassy field with clouds in the sky - all in all it was a very detailed set. Each different setting - inside houses, on the street, etc. - were all quite intricate, but scene changes went very fast, which was impressive. The costumes were also very detailed, looking like quite accurate clothing from the late 1700's. The acting style also lent a different perspective than what I had when I read the play.
Today we finished watching the movie Stage Beauty, a movie about gender roles during the period of Restoration Theatre. I thought it was pretty interesting, how a man, Edward Kynaston, raised to act a woman was forced out of theatre by law of King Charles II and was trying to figure out who he was. I learned about how men who acted women were forced to leave acting, because they didn't know how to act other roles, and the struggle they went through trying to make a living. I knew about the event, that Charles had decreed men could no longer play women, but I didn't know to the extent it affected the livelihood of the actors.
Last week on Friday, Joe Bostick visited West Sound Academy to teach a stage combat workshop. I really enjoyed it. Due to schedule conflicts I was unable to stay the entire duration, but the parts I was present for were really fun and quite informative. I learned how to slap, punch, and drag somebody by their hair - all realistic but without actually hurting them. I knew the concept behind stage fighting, although I had never been able to practice it before, and it was quite difficult to get it right. I also really need to work on reacting seriously.
Within our devised piece are quite a few containers, limiting factors. The most prevalent one is the lack of speech - we decided on this one to keep the piece a bit simpler, as well as to add a comedic affect. Another is "the rope." This separates dreams and reality, literally containing them. It also serves to separate reality from the emotions/background. Another container, of a slightly different nature, would be the characters. We did not limit any one person to specific characters, but certain characters need to interact with certain other characters; if one is changed, the other(s) must be as well.
Recently we worked a lot on our devised piece - we actually mad really good progress! We worked on refining the individual moments, as well as developing transitions between the moments. Right now we have three solid moments and one tentative bit thing. The moments are: