So the STEP UP Creative’s had a morning of being very serious! (This was slightly unnerving at first as we always seem to act stupid!) We all sat around the table at New Perspectives HQ and laid the DREAM UP scripts bare. This session was a planning session for our next meeting where we will have the pleasure of meeting the writers and putting some of the scripts up on their feet. It was nice to finally sit down and have a discussion and play around with what we are going to be using in our final show. After reading the scripts at home to ourselves it was enlightening to have the opportunity to come together and give them a voice.
We took each script and read aloud what the writers had created. It is an inspirational feeling that our newly formed ensemble company will be working on brand new scripts to create a brand new play. The read through of the plays also threw up a surprising outcome. Most members of the group by the end of the session had changed their feelings and initial views of at least one of the scripts. After hearing them being read out loud we all agreed that it had added a new dimension to characters that we had not noticed before and how the words had come alive. We could now see them as they were intended.
We progressed up the serious ladder (I hope no one suffers from vertigo!) by beginning to link certain themes together that we had noticed running through groups of the scripts, such as certain personality traits that we spotted between characters. We began to feel like we had started something that was only going to get better with time. I really began to notice how we were beginning to show how much we have learnt from the other sessions that New Perspectives had organised for us.
We were throwing words and phrases around like we were pros! I feel this has been a highlight of the process in STEP UP as it is becoming clear that we have individually (with all the amazing talent that is in the group!) bought together our own skills – but now we are starting to bring in the shared experiences and merge it all together. (Go Team!).
Deep in the heart of the rehearsal room on a rather chilly March afternoon Tilly was planning something…BIG…something…SCARY!!
It all started with a very funny warm up of ball throwing, name calling (in a nice way!) and kiss blowing (which is always nice I feel!) to various, overlapping patterns; which, I may add, we did a splendid job. The group then moved on to a game that was extremely comical and very fun to play.
As the afternoon was about improvisation and devising, the ‘Servant and Master’ game is definitely a great start. I always wonder with a game like this what people would think we were doing if they just happen to stroll past the window. I mean peering in to the space they would have seen all sorts of nonsense, people with shoes on their hands, others being told to sit still and they would continue to jump and dance around the room…(actors eh!). During the madness though new skills were emerging from the depths of the boundaries of improvisation…if you just keep going then more interesting scenarios will arise. All these skills were to prove valuable to the task that was to lay in store for the ensemble.
So Tilly had decided our fate for the final task of the day. As we waited, nervous, we wondered what was to come. Tilly announced that to finish off the session we were going to be doing…(drum roll please…!) a ‘Durational Improvisation’.
Now my first though was WHAT!?! However after the explanation I think everyone felt a little better about the whole situation (ahem…I lied…I was bricking it!). Anyway so the idea of a ‘Durational Improvisation is that the performance space is filled with lots of props, cards with character traits, situations or mini tasks and themes from the scripts that we were working on in the morning. The performers enter the space and will begin a piece of theatre. It was a very interesting task and the thought of it when Tilly said it was going to last 45 minutes… I think we were ready to run!
Entering the space I found myself drawn to the comfort and familiarity of a chair. It was about exploring the space and in no time at all had I picked up a prop and began an interaction with Elanor (see it wasn’t so bad after all!). The improvisation had picked up pace and each person began to engage with the space and began to evolve certain elements from the cards placed around the room. I used the time to see what stage pictures I could create by hopefully portraying something that could be developed in to our final piece. Members of the team developed a whole story line from a box – that mysteriously could not be opened – and a piece of paper. Watching this story unfold when I watched the footage back it was interesting to see how it started with Emma H and she had totally taken the focus of the playing area by her reaction to this box. Other people, such as Chris, were then drawn in to the world Emma had created and he began the fight to obtain this box. Meanwhile other scenes were being played out but the focus on the box – and as an audience member this was great.
I found it fascinating after watching the recording, that these bits jumped out at me – when at the time I didn’t even notice they were going on. We all tried manipulating objects to see what effects they created – with Chris and me wearing rubber gloves as flippers, Dickie experimented with wearing two masks and how this affected his ability to blow bubbles (All rather amusing I must say!).
There were many effective and amazing moments that could really be evolved in to something more. If we had more time (and hopefully we will do this again) we would have then watched the footage choosing moments that we liked and then developing on this as groundwork to devise a brand new piece of theatre. The ‘Durational Improvisation’ is a great tool for generating ideas that can then be developed further. I think it goes without saying that it was very enjoyable, as we all like to release our inner child at some point and be allowed to play!
Jennifer Ellis, Perfomer, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013