Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day Eleven

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Our day was to begin with a screening of a documentary chronicling Antonio Martorell's artist residency at the Fogue Museum at Harvard wherein he paid tribute to the classic practicing of copying the masters in order to learn to be an artist. To do so, he drew copies of the artwork, but (to add his own flair) he also integrated images of the security and janitorial staff so that his completed works reflected not just copies of these works, but rather holistically painted a picture of the museum as it is.

During the lunch break, Nelson (Rosa Luisa's assistant) escorted the PhD cohort on a cake hunt so we could celebrate the three birthdays that have been celebrated on our trip. The presentation of the cake involved singing in three languages (we have gone multicultural!) and smiles all around.

After our cake hunt, we were treated to Jeanne Dosse’s documentary on Janna Sanskriti, the Theatre of the Oppressed group from West Bengali India, 20,000 members strong. The documentary followed the development and presentation of a Forum Theatre play about domestic violence. This work was filmed in 2004 and was followed up with a shorter piece documenting Augusto Boal’s visit to Calcutta in 2006, participating in a march to unite the varying groups that constitute Janna Sanskriti – a march estimated to have included between 10 and 12,000 people. Both works highlighted the fact that the function of the facilitator and actors in working in theatre of the oppressed is to express solidarity with the participants as we are all oppressed—it is not a charitable endeavor.

Our fourth day of work with Julian Boal involved yet another series of warm up exercises, but was followed with specific rehearsal techniques that both strengthen the performance of the plays we have been rehearsing, and also prepare the actors for the multiple possibilities that may emerge when the spect-actors step into our plays.

Warm Up Activities:

1. The participants were arranged in groups of three with hands clasped to create a triangle. A group of “hunters” were kept out of these triads so that they might approach a group, identify one person who they were hunting, and then their objective was to try to tag their victim. The members of the triad worked together to keep the hunter away from the victim in any way they could.

2. Cat and Mouse: The group was broken up into pairs where one person stood in front of the other (both facing the same direction). Two people were “it”, but one was the cat and he or she was chasing the other who was the mouse. The only way a mouse could save itself, was to become a third person in one of the pairs coming up from behind and bumping the front person out. The cat then became the mouse that the person who was bumped from their position was the new cat (which they would signify with a loud hiss and scary claws they made with their hands and nails (think “Thriller”). If the cat catches the mouse, they switch roles.

Forum Theatre Rehearsal Techniques:

1. Stop and Think – As the play is going on, the facilitator calls out, “Stop” and each actor begins to recite a monologue of their character’s thoughts at that moment. The facilitator chooses when to resume the action and continues this stop and start throughout the piece. This allows the actors to work out their motivation so that when a spect-actor steps into their play, every actor is sure of what their roles are.

2. Hanover’s Variation – Very much like hot-seating. The spectators think of questions for the protagonist and raise their hands when they have one. When a lot of questions are apparent, the facilitator stops the action and the spectators take turns asking their questions. Like the previous activity, this helps the actors prepare for the improvisation that will come when a spect-actor steps into the play.

3. Analytical Rehearsal of Emotions – To develop subtext, the actors perform the play and the spectators give specific emotions which the actors must physically and verbally integrate into their character. This is not for amusement, but rather to heighten the emotional delivery of the actors.

4. Analytical Rehearsal of Style – Like the previous technique, the actors perform the scene, but this time the spectators call out a film genre (western, musical, romance, etc) which the actors must integrate into their delivery style. Also not for amusement (though it’s very funny), this is to get at strengthening characterization.

5. Roshomon – like the film by Akira Kurosowa, we have one story told from four different perspectives. Here, the protagonist sculpts the bodies of the other actors into images of how he or she feels about them. Are they allies? Are they enemies? Etc. Then, the antagonist does the same. Here, the idea is to clarify how the characters should interact with one another based on the perceptions they have of each other. If the view of the antagonist and protagonist is too similar, it shows there is not enough conflict in the play.

6. Animals – The spectators chose animals for each of the actors to incorporate into their physical and verbal performance of their character. The animals should be chosen based on some aspect of the desired representation.

7. Long Beach Telegram – the actors perform the play, but all dialogue is limited to one word responses. As the plays are usually improvised, this should help clarify and limit unnecessary dialogue.

8. I Don’t Believe You – As the play is performed, the facilitator or the spectators can call out, “I don’t believe you” to any actor in order to push the actor to find a more realistic way to deliver their words.

9. Keep Talking – As the play is performed, the facilitator or the spectators can call out, “Keep talking,” which will require that actor to continue speaking beyond their rehearsed dialogue in order to develop their arguments, which may help when a spect-actor steps into the play.

Activities to Prepare for Spect-Actors

1. Wrist Connection – The group is divided into pairs and each pair must face each other and connect their bodies at their wrists. The connection between the arms must not be broken whilst each tries to tap the other’s face (obviously the opposite intention is to prevent them from touching your face). The arms must be fully relaxed and no force should be exerted in your efforts. This serves as a metaphor for how we must treat the spect-actor. They are part of the scene and though they are working to change it, we must resist.without aggression.

2. Yes…but… - The group works in pairs, where one chooses the relationship (ex. You are my chauffer and you’ve been taking my car out a night). The partner responds, Yes, but (ex. I needed to get medicine), and the conversation continues, where on is the oppressor/aggressor and the other must continually accept their response and offer a reason for their stated actions/behaviors. This prepares for the spect-actor because the actors must accept the situation as the intervener presents it, and try to complicate matters without being dismissive. The goal is to provide opportunities, which is not easy.

Amusing Anecdote:

Augusto was working with a group of miners in Peru and there was no electricity in the own and he wondered if they only performed plays during the day due to the lack of electricity for lighting. A member of the community explained that they did perform at night and they had the miners wear their hard-hats with lights on top of them and that was their light source—and it was a great one too, because if the play was boring, the miners would look away and they would lose the light.

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