This week in Drama, we looked at the ways actors use focus and place/space in performances. Focus is helping us learn how to focus the audience’s attention on one particular point on the stage during a performance. Learning about place/space helps us to do this because we learn about where certain activities should take place on the stage (more intimate/deep moments should happen close to the audience, group things should happen in the middle).
There were a few activities we did when we were looking at focus, but mostly we looked at how different things can be placed on a stage and how the focus can change depending on where they are. For example, Solon and Kosei did a short skit where they were playing in a sandbox as little kids, telling each other a secret. Because of the intimacy of the scene, they placed the sandbox downstage, where they were close to the audience. On the other hand, Kent, Jaap and I did a skit where Kent was a princess in a tower. We put the tower upstage left, partly because it makes the tower look far away and partly because it is a less intimate scene and more focused on J saving Kent, so it is more action based. After we did some performances of our own, we watched some videos of what people in past years had come up with. There was on that stood out to me about a ritual. It was interesting because they put the alter up closer to the audience, even though it was more action/tension based. They did use height very well, having the sacrificial victim higher up, as well as chanting to make the tension rise. All of these short scenes are good examples of how a scene is set up differently depending on what will happen in it.
Both focus and place/space are vital parts of any performance, in both film as well as plays. When setting up a scene in either of these cases, one must be aware of what is going to happen and how it is going to effect the audience. The attention of the audience should be brought to a certain part of the stage if something important is happening, and staging is very important so that the audience does not miss important things from the play that may be smaller or at first look less important.
Over the last two weeks in design, we have been working on a program called stencyl. Once I managed to get the first crash course up I played through it briefly, and found the two main things that were wrong with the game. First of all, there was no dying, second, there was no game over. This made the game easy, as well as boring, as there was no chance you could die, so there was no skill involved. The other problem was that although there were enemies, they couldn’t harm or be harmed, making them basically pointless. I fixed both of these things by adding a ‘game over’ sequence as well as having the enemies kill the main character when they were jumped on. The most difficult part I had to fix was having the enemies kill the main character when they made contact from the sides. This was difficult because I had to make it so that if the main character touched them on the top, they would die, but if the main character touched them on the sides, they would die and the game over sequence would play. This is how it turned out.
This week we did quite a bit of work on tension and how a director and actors can get the audience on the edge of their seat. Tension is the anxiety or excitement that builds up to a certain point which, used in acting, can help capture and keep the audiences undivided attention during a performance.
We did some activities on what makes tension and how we can use it to entertain an audience. One activity we did was called the holy hat. It was a sort of ritual where everyone sat around a hat and sort of worshipped it. This was one of the hardest activities for me because I found it difficult to keep a straight face in such a silly situation. I noticed that some other students stared at one place and concentrated most on not laughing, but I felt that doing this seemed to relieve the tension as I was not really ‘in the moment’ so to say, so I was not really playing the game.
Another activity called Medusa’s diamond included one student standing at one end of a room while the other students tried to make their way to a diamond guarded by the single student. The idea of the game was to get the diamond from one end of the room to the other. But if ‘medusa’ turned and saw someone move, they would be sent back to the beginning. It uses expected tension because the people attempting to get the diamond are constantly anxious about when medusa will turn to look at them. When I was medusa, I fund it interesting because of how much control I had of the room. There were times where I gave the players more time than normal to move the diamond but found they had barely moved in anticipation of me turning sometime sooner.
At the end of this week, there were some performances based on tension that we did. I thought some other groups did really well in building expected tension, and did a really good job of keeping my attention. For example, in a performance based on a mayan ritual, when Garrel was about to be killed, the whole class was quiet in anticipation of the event. I thought his was a really good example of building tension because we all know about how gory mayan rituals were, and we are captivated and horrified by some of these rituals, and enjoy seeing them reenacted.