Drama Journal 10- Lesson of Monday April 22nd and Friday April 26th 2013
This week, in drama class, we began devising short 5 minute pieces based on the IGCSE 3 stimuli in groups of 6. We have t devise a segment for each of the following stimuli: The Shape of Things to Come, Social Networking and A Wonderful Surprise and then perform these one after another, with some sort of a transition between each, in order to form a dramatic collage. The pieces don’t have to be related stories/character-wise, however it would be good to have some element of any sort that connects the three pieces together so that the flow is not disrupted or so that it isn’t confusing for the audience.
On Monday, we separated into our groups and began discussing ideas for the pieces. We also stood up and physicalised our ideas, and experimented a bit as well. On Thursday, we continued rehearsing and developing our ideas until we were ready for the performance. Then, each group performed to the class. My group’s story for each of our stimuli were the following:
Shape of things to come: For this piece, we decided to explore how little insignificant things can completely alter the shape of the future and the amount of attention people award to certain things can completely change the circumstances. We also explored how small and easily missed shaped objects can in fact have larger impacts than objects that are more noticeable. Thus, in our piece we used a scrunched up piece of paper. In the beginning, there are a two characters that enter on stage and sit on the chairs. We set this piece at an airport, thus, we set up a row of chairs to use as a waiting room in a terminal. After the two characters have entered, we had a voice sound on the ‘inter-phone’ (offstage) of the airport asking a passenger to report to the gate, in order to establish the setting for the audience so they could focus on the action and characters. Next, the characters interact somewhat, however both still playing on their devices. Next, one of the characters leaves stage, leaving the other on his phone, playing loudly. Suddenly, the scrunched paper rolled in. Then, one by one we kept entering and exiting from the stage as different characters and interacted with the one sitting and playing on his phone. Some just looked at the paper strangely and walked off quickly, while others asked the boy if he had dropped something, or if it was his. Some got angry at the boy and accused him of littering and dirtying the airport, etc. We also had someone act as a security guard, trying to eliminate the threat of an unidentified object. Meanwhile, the boy kept playing on his phone with the music loudly and when he did interact with the others, it was a careless nod, head shake or shrug. After several people had made entrances and exits, all the character surrounded the paper and began talking at once, voicing their views about the paper. As the volume of this mounted, the tension of mystery for the audience was heightened (what would happen next? who is the boy? what is the mysterious paper? why are they all so affected by it?) and the tension of the task (hard to get the boy to react or hard to find out the identity of the paper) was also intensified. Furthermore, the focus was on the boy since everyone else was talking at once, and he remained silent, isolating him from the other characters. Once the mood had gotten very chaotic and the volume very loud, as well as the tension high, we all fell silent. Then, two of the characters picked up the paper and walked towards the audience. Finally, they asked “Is this yours?”, marking the moment. In our piece, we explored the insignificant object deeply, by having anonymous characters and undefined plot. This allowed the audience to keep guessing as well as create their own details about the piece. The lack of definite storyline in our piece also maintained the audience’s focus because it established great tension of mystery. Next, we used tension of relationships between the boy on the phone and the other characters. In our piece, we tried to use the space element by incorporating chairs in a neat row, with one person only sitting. The rest were standing at different heights and levels. Also, we used the element of place and chose our setting carefully. By choosing to set the action in an airport, we considered symbol of place. Airports are often associated with the future, where people start anew. Airports are also associated with unknown and adventure. A lot of people would also agree that airports are places where traffic is so routine that most go unnoticed and little things seem insignificant. the symbol of future and lack of identity relates to the anonymity of our characters as well as the stimuli behind our piece, helping it to come together as a coherent segment that was clear enough to the audience, yet still abstract in meaning and practice.
Social Networks: For this stimuli, we decided as a team to explore the social aspect of this phrase; the relationships that exist between people and the intricate webs of relationships it forms, as opposed to more stereotypical associations such as technology or the internet… With our piece, we wanted to explore how some people could know one person, however all have different views on that person, therefore making the sociogram complicated. We also explored how gossip affects social networks and how when gossiping, one might change their perspective on certain people, etc. For our scene, we decided to set it in an airplane, in order to have a connection to the first scene. We maintained the same stage set-up: a linear arrangement of seats facing the audience. At the start of the piece, we sounded an announcement like those on flights and translated this into French as well, to establish to the audience the setting. Then, passengers began to pile into the cabin and two flight attendants helped them to be seated. This calm beginning, very normal for a flight established tension of mystery because the audience was anxious to find out what would happen next, since it was unclear as well as the fact that the scene seemed uneventful and it did not appear to have a conflict yet… After the passengers were seated, the two flight attendants began to gossip, to stage right (one of the most powerful positions, where the audience would look first), however upstage (establishing a secretive atmosphere). They began to gossip about a certain person they knew. Meanwhile, in the cabin, the passengers were also gossiping and interacting as characters. Then, the flight attendants began to distribute the meals. As meal trays, we used paper cards and distributed them to each passenger, with a few problems along the way, such as passengers not knowing which meal to choose, passengers wanting two meals, etc., etc. This created tension of the task, because it was an ordeal to get all the passengers settled and satisfied in order for the women to return to their gossip. Once all the characters had the cards, they lifted them. On the cards, there were labels, reading ” Sally is a hussy”. This captioned what the flight attendants had been talking about earlier. Then, the passenger who had ordered two meals flipped his other ‘tray up, where several insults were written all over the card. This represented each of the characters’ views on this particular Sally and demonstrated how although they may not all be referring to the same Sally, a complicated web of social relationships exists. After this, all the characters slowly started reciting insults about Sally. Slowly this built up until all were doing so loudly and at the same time. This was similar to the strategy conscience alley, however there was no character present getting affected by the insults, creating more tension of mystery, as the audience was left to wonder about the supposed character Sally. We also used the elements of space at this moment because the flights attendants we standing behind the passengers, creating level. Throughout the piece, the element of place was also used because airplanes represent a means of transport, that people use to connect with other people, other societies, etc. and sometimes people are interrelated and connected on flights, relating it to social networks. After the conscience alley type part, the characters began to leave the stage, leaving the audience still tense from mystery and wondering who Sally was and what in fact had happened.
A Wonderful Surprise: The third piece was the hardest for my group to devise I believe, because we felt as though the stimuli was very hard to devise from and we found it difficult to come up with original ideas that related. Finally due to shortness of time, we decided to devise a very stereotypical storyline and interpret the stimuli in a very expected way, however, try to incorporate different elements and techniques as well as dramatic strategies to make it more interesting. We started off sitting on the chairs previously used in the other scenes. Then, one person stood up and began narrating the start of a story. When the paused shortly after starting, we all got up and formed into a freeze frame, using elements of space to use different levels and position to represent status, relationships and circumstances as well as to make it interesting visually for the audience. After holding the frame, we returned to our starting positions and someone else stepped forward to narrate. We repeated this a couple of times. This tapped into the technique of freeze frame as well as thought tracking, as the audience was exposed to characters’ inner thoughts and feelings towards the event. During our narration, we decided to remain very vague about the event in order to heighten tension of mystery and make the mood uncomfortable and very tense, increasing audience interest. After one of the narrations, we moved into positions and began actually playing out the described scene to the audience. What happened was the scene was set in math class, going normally, when a character walked in and disrupted the class. they were demanding to see Ellen and were very aggressive about achieving their goal. Suddenly, they took out a gun and demanded further to see Ellen. All the characters were terrified and frightened and reacted to the gun by ducking down. This gave the gunman upper status, as he was at a higher level than the other characters. ANyways, after that, Ellen stepped forward and began discussing with him. After a huge dramatic build up, where the boy outlined how he is feeling about their relationship, he pointed the gun at her and shot it. However, instead of a bullet that came out, it was a banner and on that banner was inscribed an invitation to the prom. After realising the surprise, all the classmates jumped up in celebration, as well as the teachers and the scene concluded in chaotic celebration. I thought our ending was terrible, uncoordinated and completely ruined the piece’s tension. I also think the audience lost interest completely after that because we were unfocussed in our characters and weren’t considering their reactions. This made it very unbelievable to the audience, who was probably annoyed at the disappointing denouement…
I thought my group’s strong points were: our use of various dramatic strategies explored in class as well as our character development. I thought it made our piece more interesting that we used techniques such as labelling, marking the moment, freeze frame, narration, conscience alley, etc. However, we could have improved our closing of the final scene as well as our focus during this because it seemed very unbelievable and we seemed to have just given up on our idea, when we felt the scene was going wrongly. In order to improve this, we would have to think of what kinds of strategies or techniques we could use in order to conclude the piece and how we could finish the scene with a proper denouement, that still left the audience absorbed in the story. Also with the third, i think we would have to try and find a way to connect it more to the other two pieces, as it seemed completely random and there was absolutely no connection (Maybe we could have set it somewhere related to travel? Or had a principal’s announcement sound at the start to establish setting?)
The other group’s strengths of their performance were: their use of elements of drama and implementation of dramatic techniques and strategies to enhance the piece. I also thought they worked very well as a team and it seemed as though they had good chemistry and group dynamics. The particular elements of tension, mood and human context were well explored well as well as movement and place and space. Specifically, I liked how the second group’s last piece interpreted a Wonderful Surprise in the opposite sense of the words, and left me feeling the tension of mystery because the whole time I wondered what the wonderful surprise was.. . I also thought in the third piece, the use of conscience voices behind each character was effective and interesting and helped to establish human context and tension of relationships.
Overall, this devising task was very useful to further explore the stimuli for the IGCSE and they will help us to write the final exam that is fast approaching. It was also a great exercise to experiment with dramatic strategies and techniques, to build creative drama, to work as a team and to devise in short amounts of time.
In order to improve next time, I think we should spend less time discussing and more time acting, practicing and tweaking, as we barely practised for our pieces, especially the third. This has continually been a challenge for us a a group, throughout the year, to spend a whole 80% practically experimenting and I think the reason we find it so challenging is that we are scared to run off with ideas and scared of failure. However, I believe failure is a part of the artistic process and it will help us learn more. Take the third piece as an example…