Week 1: Orientation and Getting to Know Each Other


Exercises Tuesday 12th February: whole group moving as one, filling space/stopping+starting; trust game body/word/sound guided; run up and down shouting at each other, had to trust other person going to do certain things and then respond. Watched other half of group.

I found it remarkably easy to trust someone when I was being guided by my body; the sound instances I felt harder. It was also easier when my partner developed a more rhythmic/recognizable/constant pattern of clicking which I could follow, found it confusing that sometimes (retrospectively) he clicked with both hands. I think the guiding exercises, and the whole group space-filling exercise, heightened my awareness of what the other person/people were doing, in a way that I would not normally be aware - normally I use mostly my sight to poke out certain objects around me, rather than being aware on a broader level of the whole physical space around me and precisely what other people were doing in that space. It also heightened and fine-tuned my sensitivity to the non-verbal means of communication between myself an another person; how many ways of understanding someone else there is. I felt like my whole spectrum of sensitivity to what is happening around my body was explored. It was like following a lead in dancing, in that I was becoming completely receptive to parts of my body/sensory experience which I normally ignore or discard. Very rich experience.

It was also interesting to find how easily there can be a shared, unspoken understanding reached between two people, in terms of communication, without using words to pre-agree what signals are going to mean.

I found the running/screaming exercise difficult. I think we were supposed to create a momentary character and respond with that frame of mind, I didn't and it was uncomfortable expressing something I didn't already feel. I felt distinctly inhibited and didn't really trust everyone to hold my actions with sensitivity and accept what I did. It also rawed my vocal chords.

Week 2: Stanislavski and Naturalism


Exercises Tuesday 26th February: Lecture about nature and development of Naturalism; Stanislavski. Exercises: relaxation exercises, physical and vocal (+tongue/cheek/mouth/jaw) warm up, breathing, vowels to practise projection and resonance (hard to know when to stop being loud when i couldn't hear my voice), repeated filling space exercise from last week (dull), naming objects (repeated) holding a moment in time +focus, read/followed from linguistically unreal/potentially emotionally real piece called "Kiss My Hands" (terrorists/wife/child/husband).

Understanding relaxation - Stanislavski's actors were about to be filled with their character's experience and feelings, their experience of the ensemble and heightened sensitivity to what was around them. This focus and awareness could not happen if they were not largely "nothing" beforehand. You cannot feel the weight of emotion if you are holding onto something, unresolved. To act, Stanislavsky says, you have to let everything go (my take).

Similarly the naming exercise, allows you to recognise the reality of how you believe, perceive objects. To remember how they appeared to you, they have to be real to me, and I have to focus and bring that reality into every aspect of my being. So small an exercise was funny and useful in experience of committing to the moment, and using Stankslavski's "centre of attention" focus. Focusing on my perception of teh object in the earlier exercise, I found it relatively hard to express something to that object without that was real. It was as if I just began saying whatever I felt, regardless of the object to which I was saying it. Uncomfortable. Making a great form of cost-effective therapy, though, i am sure!

I was captivated by the script that we read aloud today. The language was very unreal, childlike/dementia-like even, but they found real emotions? As if we had to transcend the actual words to find the real meaning, go beyond what was just on the page. "Inner truth" comes to mind, but the inner truth of the piece rather than the experience of the actor. I liked that it held no pretence about what it stood for ("you have killed all language!"), and the extreme reality of the language of the piece. Instead of each character communicating their-experience [filtered through] outer language/communication [then interpreted by] another character who fits it into their-experience (/way of viewing the world). There was a sense that the language of the piece was unreal because it cut straight across those three playing fields and placed all characters on the same linguistic/metaphorical panel. That said, I think for that very reason it would be difficult to act, because the dialogue is so frank that the actor's emotional experience as the character cannot be false or misleading at all. By removing the safe/familiar protective boundaries of conventional language, Barker makes the actor's behaviour language merge perfectly with their "internal truth" - if there is no internal truth, there is no good actor because there is no easy pretence with which to represent the external realities of the characters. There is no "character" (as in personality), almost, only human being and its experience and emotion. With no affectations/linguistic habits/pretences, the emotion of each character has to be raw, and real, and so the actors cannot fake this emotion by pretence. I think this is why Barker said his script could only be made by good actors.

Interesting exploration of relaxation, and committing to the moment (ensemble?), focusing attention, and others! Especially loved Barker work.

Good detail analysis ... looking forward to seeing you put your understanding into practice.
If you're in Barker's work...have a look at "Arguments for the Theatre" - it's in the library.

Week 3: Brecht


Can't get my head around Brecht. I had a similar problem with Stanislavsky, because I had nothing else to compare it to. I know how it feels when I act, it's amazing, it's like there's this life inside me that is being allowed to burn (like fabulous yellow Roman candles!!). But this is so much based in the Method that I can't seem to get outside of it in order to see what makes the Method different. The only other thing I have to compare it to is melodrama, and mime, and Commedia dell'arte. These are nothing to me, they are not acting. None of them is real enough for me to have seen and found entertaining or meaningful or graceful of gripping or emotionally/intellectually significant in any way. And even in Hollywood, I don't understand how everyone else acts, other than those actors who are drawn out as being specifically "Method" actors. How does everyone else act?? What methods do they use?!? I have no strong concept of them, and without those it is difficult to make a meaningful or illuminating comparison with them to Naturalism/Brechtian, because each concept is still mostly a set of words to me, I have no visual/experiential concept of either of them. The German clip of the director addressing his players was helpful in putting it all together, but i haven't read either of Brecht's scripts as I thought to try and find a performance of them on Youtube. Found it infuriatingly hard to locate them although I am suuure there must be some out there. Even Laurence Olivier, Have seen him in Shakespeare but I cannot locate a mass of performances enough to really examine what distinguishes him from non-method actors (I haven't seen many actors playing the same roles in Shakespeare, ie. how much of LO's performance is Shakespeare, and how much is his own personal wierd??) What is going on in his head when he says those lines? Recital? How can he stay so real if he is not experiencing any of the emotions his lines purport to??? I am so confused.

Theatre is real to me if it makes me respond, gives me emotions. Somehow it doesn't do that sometimes, maybe because I am not receptive to my viewing of it at certain times. But that realness I associate with naturalism, actors using their emotional memory/imagination, not through anything else. In this way, I suppose the actor can never completely abandon themselves because without responding as yourself you can never really feel the emotions your character is experiencing. But... then how can you not respond in the same way? How can you make someone else [character]'s mannerisms and history your own, so that your emotions naturally flow into their way of expressing themselves? I feel I am tying myself in knots. Bizarre.

REFLECTIONS after Watching Brecht's Exception to the Rule
I think I get it. Performing "unscripted" plays (inasmuch as them being performed linguistically anew each time rather than trying to get each performance to be exactly the same), that people are almost supposed to consider and react with as if it were already part of their life makes so much more sense when it's performed as street theatre. It fits better. It would take very good actors not to learn parts by rote and "recite" such a performance, instead to actually be the real thing each night and perform it afresh there and then without exactly knowing how it's going to go or having rehearsed blandness into it.

The picture on the right is from a Youtube clip I found (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmbnCxPzyKs&feature=endscreen) of Brecht's Exception to the Rule, performed by the Subversive Theatre Collective, Buffalo, NY, as part of Buffalo's 2007 Infringement Festival.
Youtube-Exception and the Rule2.jpg
Youtube-Exception and the Rule2.jpg

The cast performed on the streets, physically travelling between locations, marching (presumably with audience in tow) and held banners saying what scene it was, and used symbolic scenery/props (such as holding yellow and blue sheets horizontally to represent the sea that the two characters have to wade through). They were dressed in simple/symbolic costumes (the narrator is dressed poshly and most of the cast have black clothes and white masks), and used lots of stylised movement (particularly the masked actors).
The rich 'oppressor' (waistcoat) speaks during the performance candidly about his power over the baggage carrier, repeatedly states "this is how it should be", and whips the (heavily padded) bag-carrier (who screams/cowers) at intervals throughout the piece. The baggage carrier dies (is shot) and is covered by one of the scene-naming banners and loudly grieved over while the 'oppressor' again says how "right" this is. Another actor tells the audience not to intervene, not to comfort the grieving, not to show any 'human' qualities; this clearly demands the audience's judgement and, in telling them not to intervene, obviously tells them that they should have, could have, intervened to reduce the character/actor's' suffering. It was very empowering and disturbing to watch (even on Youtube)!

WORKSHOPExercises Thursday 7th March: Changed to smaller tutorial (changed to Thurs). Walking around/trust/meeting people games - names (chairs game - comfortable with physical space). Meeting people in middle of room and forming an interaction with them, spontaneously+going with it, taking on characters. 2 groups have to complete scenes like theatre sports - saying yes. In those groups, make up Brechtian scene out of someone's own experience, then other half identify/discuss Brechtian elements: Cleaning the floor seriously. David's speech. Commitment to group. Care.
The theatre sports-style performances earlier in the tute are to connect us as a group I think, so that we could not be driven by our own resolution to pull/push/yank the group in a certain direction. It really stands out when someone does this. Seeing scene-importance of non-main characters was important, too. Trust and commitment to the action, and acting as a whole, were significant for me today from the exercises we were given.

It was really great seeing the mini-performances we did in Brechtian-style, and experiencing/seeing some of the effects that certain elements of Brechtian theatre have on the audience. Helped me understand Brecht more clearly.

Being in a group is like being in a relationship, because sometimes you need to let down your natural barriers in order to really authentically experience(/act) something with someone, because you almost have to feel things strongly and instantly in order to react "as if they were real". I think for this reason, care and commitment to each other in an (acting) group is very important.

The most interesting exercise today was completely immersing myself in cleaning the floor. I found a reason - it was because that was where my dad had died or something (he is alive). It was immense to completely abandon myself to a moment. David's speech was profound, that this amount of commitment should be given to other people. In theatre. Also the importance of reliability over talent was cool. I don't consider myself a reliable person. I see how it is required to make real theatre though, trust.

I seem to be stuck on this Method-acting-thing and trying to appear to be like Brecht using method-acting techniques. Not quite sure how I can act differently.

I saw the movie Cloud Atlas [spoiler alert] and it struck me as Brechtian. At the start actors twice seem to be speaking to the camera although you realise much later that it's somewhat of an embedded story and they actually were speaking to an audience within the film. This effected the attention I initially gave to the piece - it says, "wake up!" "I am giving this piece of information to you as a gift, use it!". It was more as if the whole play was a gift for my consideration. It also used the same actors across several different time-scapes, although again I later realised this was because part of the message of the film is that we are all inter-connected and the constant re-occurrence of good vs. evil, oppression vs rebellion and redemption. Also the film was about political/social change - the strength of the message came from the cumulative effect of individuals, instead of from the life story of just one individual/set of characters. They were all also undergoing similar things or situations, emphasising the commonality of their experience (trapped, isolated, oppressed by injustice, wanting to fix) - and the ending was focused on the struggle of all of them, in the process of creating change, rather than the success or failure of a single change itself. Some individuals' livesstories ended there, but the cause for which they were fighting was unresolved. It was not the result of the individual characters that change came about. It was the culmination of their efforts. Even when they seemed to show one person as the leader/catalyst for change, what the audience was actually shown was the massive efforts of those around her in creating that opportunity to create change through her speech (which was then spread across future rebellers, making it seem like she was a great heroine/goddess). I came away questioning what was the most unjust thing in my society, and why couldn't I help change it? It made me think, partly because it cut up so many lives and experiences that my life and experience seemed to be necessarily tied in with it and just as applicable to the experiences/suffering of the roles within the film.

Week 4: Artaud and Theatre of Cruelty, Grotowski and the Spectator


Exercises Thursday 14th March: untangle game; circle - far out as possible, close in as possible, far out, close in; lay on floor and tried to get each other to laugh; vowels in circle, "to be or not to be" enunciating vowels in circle, "to be or not to be" blown into circle; walked in circle and said "2B/N2B" with image (fire/ice/knife etc) in mind/age; entries with emotion in mind (guessed others'); shared character profiles, did character work - walking on stage+into chair in character of that person, exaggerated, again, then did that character normally; all together in character at party, had conversation with others;

The first two exercises helped us to relax and also get comfortable with each others' bodies. This is important in drama I think, because if your character is comfortable with another character, you have to be as well. Also if you are not comfortable in your own body I think it is nigh impossible to become "neutral" and so to adequately become "another's" body. If your relations with other actors are constrained, then your ability to perform that character onstage will be constrained too. Also ensemble acting requires this.

Getting each other to laugh was difficult at first (not laughing I mean). I find this space within me where I am separated from a certain emotion/response in me, and when I get there it fits to be anything as long as I want to understand and experience that character (so far). Focus when acting requires me to close the door that "Bethia" response that I get, eliminating any option of my responding in a certain way. To be able to flip in and out of that space is important to practise, because that stretches your ability to 'neutralise' your own response and act.

Saying vowels and enunciating "to be or not to be" was a good warm-up exercise, and made me focus on a different part of performing. I found it scary being the only person "performing" at a time in front of the class, subject to everyone's judgement of how well I was doing it. That was good too, 'cus it will only get easier with practise.

Walking around saying those words to mental pictures, I noticed that I tended to 'categorise' them into few broader sections of characteristics: fire was witch-like, because of the way it crackled, and the flames leaping up suddenly, but I didn't associate it with heat or strength or anything - more jittery, flashing. The knife was hard, firm, sharp... after a few images though, I sort of characterised each image into one of just a few groupings of characteristics - it was easy to lose distinction of the finer qualities of each image, in the memory of past images' characteristics. It made me pay attention to the quality of my voice and body movements though, although perhaps (again) I need to fine-tune these aural/physical generalisations. EXCELLENT COMMENT

Entering a room in character/in a certain emotional way again emphasised the quality of my physical movements, and emphasised how much I need to change the details of my physicality to express the emotion/motivation of my character. It was amazing how easy it was to make a good guess at where/what the other characters were feeling/doing, base solely on their movement! It is so easy to forget the importance of expressing a character in movement, when you can explain it all using words. The concrete-ness and pre-determined-ness of a script helps me forget how important all the other, non-vocal stuff is. It is much harder, I think, to fake vocalisations than to fake movements, because we give them off/pick up on them from others, at a much more sub-conscious level.

The exercise involving CHARACTER PROFILES was especially illuminative as to the great variety of fine detail involved in the way a person moves their body, of which we are (at least, I am,) normally not aware. Becoming aware of this in another person makes me more observant of how I move my body - but when you are trying to play a character and remember lines and think them and play their emotions all at once, AND get their movements right, it's bloody difficult! Also I felt that when I tried to make more complex movements of theirs, it seemed like there was a vast ocean of observation about their movements, in which I was lacking!! I knew how he would make certain movements, but found it hard to imagine convincingly (to myself) how he would make other movements. I had no psychology of him I think, no reason to care about him, or be interested by him, so ideas of him were stifled somehow, maybe??

Some really excellent insights here. Personal and critical: like your comments on Brecht.\

Week 5: Research

RESEARCH for Dialogue, starring Elizabeth and John Proctor from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

During the Cold War of the 1940's and 50's in the USA there was a political and cultural atmosphere of fear of communism in reaction to the expansion of the USSR and the communist revolution in China. Many feared that there would be a 'domino effect' across the world, with many more countries becoming communist. In this context of this fear, the Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was set up to root out forces of communism in America. In 1947 the HUAC began trials against accused communists. Senator Joseph McCarthy inflamed these trials in 1950. Throughout the ensuing mass of trials McCarthy played "judge, jury, prosecutor, castigator, and press agent, all in one" (Harvard law dean Ervin Griswold). Unfair trials were accepted and encouraged because of the climate of fear and hysteria surrounding communism, which would at a less feverish and fearful time have been unaccepted: trials were brought with little or no hard evidence apart from verbal accusation, and defendants often lacked adequate legal representation or were asked unfair questions to which they were not able to answer (for example, because McCarthy would not allow them silence in which to speak). The focus was first on politicians but then turned to Hollywood. Suspicion of being a communist lead to difficulty finding work, or loss of popular support. If one was found guilty of communist sympathies, you were "blacklisted" - this meant dissolution of your career. Once you had been accused, the only way to avoid blacklisting or imprisonment/fines was to testify (act as "friendly witness") to others' communist sympathies (to show the sincerity of their "repentance"). Accused communists who did not confess and "name names", for example the "Hollywood Ten", were imprisoned or punished for "contempt of congress". The 'Hollywood Ten' refused to bear "friendly witness" and accuse their fellows, and each received a one-year prison sentence for contempt of congress. Similarly, anyone openly doubting the fairness of the trials or veracity of the accusations was liable to be denounced as a communist themselves. The blacklisting and trials carried on until 1960 - all up more than 300 people were blacklisted, including many in Hollywood. The McCarthy trials and the fear surrounding them were responsible for the loss of many creative minds in Hollywood, via emigration or just complete destruction of their careers, though some were able to work undercover, using pseudonyms and selling scripts for a fraction of the possible price. The hysteria also cost marriages many possible suicides, and created ruptures in friendships and working relationships for many in Hollywood such as that of Miller and director Elia Kazan, who testified as "friendly witness" in 1952 and went on to a very successful career - nevertheless, the unpopularity which this caused him in Hollywood circles was reflected when many from the film industry refused to stand for his reception of an Honorary Oscar in 2008.

The vigour of the trials is reflected in McCarthy's speech at the 1952 Republican National Convention (spoken with much vigorous head nodding): "One senator on the faculty of one university, is one communist too many. (cheers) One communist among the American advisors at Yalta, was one communist too many. (cheers) And even, even if there was only one communist in the state department, even if there was only one communist in the state department, that would still be one communist too many (lots of cheers)" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NziBMP7DDBw).

The Basis for The Crucible: the Salem Witch-Hunts and Infidelity
Arthur Miller's play The Crucible opened on Broadway in January 1953 (Broadway was must less organised at the time than Hollywood, and so less under the scrutiny of McCarthyism). It drew a parallel between the McCarthy trials and the Salem "witch-hunts" 1692. The witch-hunts also rode on the back of hysteria, unfair trials, exaggerated and random accusations (at least in relation to the crime for which they were accused), and once the accusation had been laid, freedom from punishment only upon confession and the (false?) accusation of others. The witch-hunts began in Salem in 1692 and, although short-lived, resulted in the deaths of 20 people. The trials were ruthless and the accused often had inadequate legal defence for the defendants. The guilt of the accused and honesty of the person making the accusation were assumed without other evidence, and anyone seen to oppose the proceedings or doubting their justice-finding potential of the courts was libble to be accused themselves. Also similar to the McCarthy trials, once accused the only defence lay in admitting guilt and passing the blame on to others, demonstrating the sincerity of their repentance. Similarly, as the play makes clear in the first scene, the real reasons behind the witchcraft accusations were the tensions underlying the Salem community. In both the McCarthy trials and in Salem, the accused are scapegoats for deeper fears and broader tensions in society.

Part of the irrationality and injustice of both the McCarthy and the Salem proceedings is the complete innocence of its victims, and in Salem also the irrationality line of accusations (relative to the alleged crime). Aristotle says in his Poetics that the suffering of innocents is so repugnant that it is unsuitable even for a tragedy (the tragic hero needs a fatal flaw of some kind which leads to his downfall), and it is perhaps for this reason that Miller's tragic hero does actually have some kind of guilt, albeit one unrelated to the crime for which he is "officially" punished. Miller was also serially unfaithful to his very unforgiving wife, so maybe this had something to do with Proctor's unfaithfulness and Elizabeth's lack of forgiveness, too.

Relevant Puritanism in New England, as in The Puritan Family by Edmund S Morgan (who has written several books on aspects of Puritan life) (pp 1-64)
The dialogue is between Elizabeth and her husband, in their home. Elizabeth has been betrayed seven months prior to the dialogue by her husband's adultery.

Puritans regarded adultery as a serious offence. Edmund S Morgan describes "the fundamental duties of Puritan marriage [are] peaceful cohabitation, sexual union and faithfulness, and economic support of the wife by the husband" (41-2). In lieu of this, adultery was one of few legal grounds for divorce, and could also lead to "fines, whippings [and] brandings" (41). It was illegal for a husband to strike his wife (or vice versa), and the courts even went so far as to fine one man (Henry Flood) for verbal abuse of his wife. They also intervene when adultery looked probable, as in the case of "Mr. Clearke" spending too much time with a "Mrs. Freeman" (both were fined!). Love was expected as a rational (willed) choice, and the result of marriage (not a precursor to it); while woman was thought inferior and subordinate to man, both were expected to feel loving towards their spouse and to treat them with kindness and tenderness. The Puritans were therefore not prudes or ascetics as they are popularly believed to have been, but "all relations [including that of husband/wife] must be maintained with respect to the order of things... man "ought to make God his immediate End"" (21).

For this reason, their society was very hierarchical from father-mother-child/servant in the family, to every other measurable aspect of circumstance or ability. Marriage was strictly to economic equals. The social order was considered created as such by God, as with the order of man over beast. When Elizabeth says she "is no Goody Good that sleeps in ditches, nor Osburn, drunk and half-witted," she means in terms of social standing and authority/respect, not just in terms of morality or 'good name' - it refers to a social hierarchy that has religious weight.

Week 6/7: Postmodern Theater; Animal Exercises


Exercises Thursday 28th March: Zoo trip for animal Exercise. Read "Animal Exercise" study and action words document. Put action words, stress and pauses into dialogue, split up main emotional shifts.


Exercises Thursday 4th April: Mirror exercises, calling to each other across a room, molding each other into positions that reflect emotions, animal exercises - 100% animal to 50% to 10%, saying our lines as 20% animal, in groups making tableaus from our dialogue.

The mirror exercises were designed to enhance ensemble acting, I think, by perfecting our focus on aspects of another actor's movements and expressions, and having us respond physically to them. It also made me aware of how I was using my whole body - I noticed that several times I was getting overly focused on a particular area of the other person's movements, like their face, and I was just responding to their movements with my face and forgetting about what I was doing with my hands. I am not sure if this would be bad or good in a performance - when I am not acting, I do sometimes leave my arms by my side or forget about what I am doing with them, but in acting I think at first this would not be good because then only some of you is "interesting" to look at; I think ideally you should use your whole body to express something when you act. But on the other hand, if I am not using my arms expressively sometimes, maybe it is right for my character to not use their arms either. There is a difference though, because when I am being myself there are unconscious actions or movements that I make expressing emotion or just as a habitual movement, which onstage would either need to be created deliberately (in expressing thought or emotion) or in creating a character to avoid me going back into Bethia's habitual rhythms and movements rather than my characters. I think the exercise reminded me to be aware of what my whole body was doing, as well as to focus on the other person and make a response to that person.

Calling to each other across the room similarly made me focus exactly on the other person I was calling to, and "block" out all the other sounds around me.

Molding each other into positions again I think was to help us focus a) on all the huge number of ways that a body can express an emotion (posture, angle of limbs, shoulders, hands, eyebrows, shape of mouth, face, etc), so that we can choose from all of these when we are expressing a character, and b) so that we can really "listen" to what our partner is telling us and not pre-empt what they want us to do. It was funny how often I had to imagine what I would be like if I was depressed/anxious, in order to notice how my body would be in that state. We so often create a physical state of how we are feeling in our body, and even though we can read this from other people without much difficulty I could not automatically think "anxiety=...". A lot of it must be sub-conscious, and so to bring the physicality of emotion to our awareness is useful I think, so that we can better represent our characters' realities on stage. It made me think of how useful it would be to really notice what I do with my body next time I am feeling something, so that I can have more physical activity to draw on when I am recreating an emotion onstage.

The animal exercises were extraordinary. I chose a tortoise for Elizabeth because of the feeling of quietness and stillness that it has about it, and I think also because she is protective and concerned about her family. Divorce was definitely attainable for adultery in Puritan society (although I am not sure if this changed when the family included children) - I think it says a lot about her that she valued her family/their good name above her resentment towards her husband, so I reflected the shell upon that. Even when she is arrested she tells Proctor to lie to the children so they will not get upset.

Transforming my body into that of another was an experience in itself. It made me use my body in unfamiliar ways, pushing me outside of what was physically comfortable. Translating this into human/verbal form was difficult, because it meant searching through my observations of the tortoise to see what reflected Elizabeth's character, and what I could easily use in her form. It really reminded me to change my voice when playing Elizabeth not just to reflect emotion but also to reflect character. Also the physicality stretched my previous idea of what was natural/normal movements/behaviour in a character to (again) outside what was actually just MY normal way of moving and holding myself. Although I ended up with a character too morose/dull to represent Elizabeth completely, I really was assisted by the stretching of my notion of acceptable movement. I liked thinking about the way that emotion would build in a tortoise too, and having Elizabeth FEEL angry in a different way to the way that I sometimes feel angry. I would like to explore/familiarise myself with that certain way of moving, so that I can translate more of it into her character.

The tableaus also were useful in giving a skeleton structure to performance of the dialogue: thinking about power relationships and such. Simplifying it to the key emotional/power shifts gives the piece dynamism and interest I think because it means we can emphasis the difference between shifts, have a unified and so clearer vision of the power relations in each section of the piece, and use the differences to our advantage and create a more dynamic and interesting interaction as a whole.

REHEARSALS Week 5 to Week 7

I've found it interesting working with Tim. My conception of Elizabeth's character and what's going on in the scene is somewhat different from Tim's. Possibly mine is the result of seeing it be performed, and my memory of it is shrapnel int the side of working with a unifying image of what we are working for. For example I began thinking that for teh most part Elizabeth is self-absorbed in the scene; a lot of what she says seems to be at odds with a reasonable or direct reply to what Proctor is saying, they seem to be talking in parallel for much of the scene. Eg. Proctor says "When will you know me, woman? Were I stone I would have cracked for shame this seven month! Elizabeth: Then go and tell her she's a whore." And later when Proctor says "But I'll plead no more! I see now how your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free! ELIZABETH: You'll tear it free - when you come to know that I will be your only wife, or no wife at all! She has an arrow in you yet, John Proctor, and you know it well. As is perfectly normal in an argument I think, each completely fails to recognise, acknowledge or respond to the other's emotional pain because their own is so great - they each try to force their own anguish on the other, even to the point where Elizabeth's aim of protecting herself is forgotten and she is blinded to her aim by a flood of suppressed anger and resentment towards Proctor. (This was my original reading)

Focusing on through-lines, objectives, using action words across my speech, and what has been said in class about ensemble acting, has altered my attitude to this scene - such that she cannot be in the scene alone with her thoughts but has to be more engrossed in convincing, persuading, beseeching, doubting, fearing, and imploring him to act in such a way as to alter the present course of her destiny from accusation and death to retraction of Abigail's accusation, and life. This is the key motivator in this scene; even when she angers at him at the end of the scene, it is from despair and powerlessness that Proctor will not save her, not from pent-up anger and hurt at his betrayal; which both reflects her character more and gives them a stronger connection onstage. Tim reminds me often that Elizabeth is trying to convince and engage him in order to save her life, not immersing herself in sentimental abstractions that aren't focused on the dynamic between them.

It is interesting sacrificing my ideas of how it should be to Tim's vision of the scene, and in turn telling him to work so that I can move and speak according to my idea of Elizabeth. I also think we disagree a lot on what the power relationships of the scene should be; I insistently favour a relationship weighted more towards Proctor, because of the gender expectations of the Puritan society that they lived in, and also because of the stage directions earlier in Act Two. Tim thinks that the urgency and fear of trial which prompts Elizabeth's words gives her force she would otherwise not have had, and balances the power relationship between them. I think this is an underestimation of the power that social expectations have in determining behaviour; I also think that the influence of culture on Proctor's self-perception would have been much greater than Tim thinks - I think the forcefulness of Elizabeth's tone would be tempered by her awareness that if Proctor thinks she is usurping his position he will be less likely to do as she asks. I find this challenging and think it maybe creates a scene that won't make sense entirely, at the same time I cannot act Elizabeth in a way which is at odds with how I see her character - practical, canny, very upright in her self-perception and staying to her values while still being resentful at John Proctor's betrayal, respectful of him and wanting to be towards him as she believes is right (subordinate to him, in keeping with the views of her religion and her time), stillness in the feeling about her (from living frugally, hard work which serves her family, caring for her children, sewing, making food) which is ruffled by her hurt/anger/coldness at John's betrayal, and a sense of protection and responsibility for her family. Simultaneously though, differences in opinion about how the scene should go means I have to think of new ideas of how it could be - it gives us more possibilities to explore and means we have to be more open-minded and flexible in our interpretation of the scene, focusing on the characters and what is happening between them/their connection, rather that it becoming a balloon of simple actions that are repeated with each performance. We have to seek new ways of expressing what the characters are experiencing, which I think makes us experience and explore the characters lines and motivations more deeply.

Week 8 (Technical lectures from now)


Exercises Thursday 11th April: Rehearsed scene, performed in front of David, feedback to keep intensity/increase volume/use silence at end before last line to intensify their relationship.

I found it hard to get into the tortoise-character today, to the extent that I would like that posture+manner to be reflected in Elizabeth. I am finding it easier to get into character when I have sat quietly beforehand, on the bus or whatever, so I start with being aware of how my emotions are and, I guess, relaxed and aware of my body. When I don't do this I can't keep my own life/busyness out of how I "feel" Elizabeth; conversely, when I am feeling so "busy"/thinking about things, I am less conscious of whatever emotions I am consciously or unconsciously feeling; it is like I have to be quiet to feel them deeply. This helps me "put on" Elizabeth as I can feel more strongly how I imagine she would have felt. If I try to leap straight into her it is much harder because it's like I am trying to pull her on over myself. I think this is what Stanislavski meant when he talked about the importance of relaxation.

I also notice it is easier to be in character when I think about all of the activities Elizabeth's been doing that day and flesh out her life while getting into character, stretching myself into her life.

Apart from increasing projection, part of David's feedback was to pause for longer in Elizabeth's last section of speech to Proctor, so that the emotion of Elizabeth/Proctor can swell more - I find this really effective and reflects her supressed anger, in that she has not and will not 'get over it'. I also find it really intense to feel Elizabeth's emotion but be constantly focused on being aware of Tim's physicalness onstage, as if she can feel the anger coming off him in waves.

Some great comments here, and especially on process. Intelligent and critical- and also great research. This shows a real un derstanding ofd acting ad=nd also theory- excellent work.

Week 9: Lecture on Tech aspects of Production, Presentation of Dialogue


I felt much more of Elizabeth's fear today than her anger, which is unfortunate because I think anger is very important to her lines. At one point Tim shouts at me and I wasn't ready for it to be so loud (we'd been practicing in more public spaces so no chance for extra loudness). I kinda resented that a little, that he had acted in a way that we hadn't rehearsed and that I wasn't prepared for. My next lines were cold, angry ones and I kinda let Tim shock me into more fear, that overwhelmed any anger there was. I said my next few lines rather mechanically as I had lost the necessary feeling behind them. I am not sure whether next time I will wait for longer to allow the anger to naturally build up (we hadn't rehearsed me waiting a long time; maybe Tim would have thought I had forgotten my line?) or just say it straight out the same. You know when you go to pick something up and it's so much heavier than you expected that your arms jerks because you haven't held enough resistance in yourself to brace against its weight? It was like that. It probably didn't help that I was nervous anyway, I shouldn't have tried to use that in Elizabeth as much as I did ( I think I made her more subservient and less powerful than in rehearsals, I was less observant of the power shifts that occur between them in the scene; which was lame because I think this is a great scene for Elizabeth because she's actually quite powerful and definitely ends up on top in this scene). A good lesson to not become complacent when acting and predict what your fellow actors going to do. Best to keep reacting to them and keeping your character's emotion very present all the time, so that each reaction is real and 'spontaneous'. That said I was pleased with the way we did respond to each other, I think we worked with each other really well, and I enjoyed working with Tim immensely.

Week 10: Study Break

Week 11: Technical Work, Tech exam


I really enjoyed the classes today, it makes acting much more real when I think about actually performing on stage and setting up and stuff. Also knowing more about the technical aspect of production really does increase my respect and awareness of the work of sound and lighting techs/people setting up the lighting (setting up one light and realising how fiddley it is definitely drives home how long it must take to set up lights for a whole show!) It helps thinking of concrete lighting designs as well, being aware of what you can actually do and how that works.

RESEARCH for Monologue, spoken by 'Marie' from A State Affair, by Robin Soans

A State Affair
Marie was/is actually a real person. A State Affair is a piece of verbatim theatre, which basically means that the cast and directors actually went to the 'scene of the crime' (pun somewhat inappropriate) and interviewed members of the community, in this case the Bradford estates in Britain, ranging from drug addicts to mums to young people to care workers to local police to members of the local community. They then choose stories which are intended to represent the actual reality, like a microcosm of that society. It was made in 2000 as a present-day 'sequel' if you like, for Andrea Dunbar's play Rita, Sue and Bob Too, which is set in Bradford.

Marie's mother is manipulative and a bully, and abuses her physically and verbally. She guesses that her father is not her birth father but her step-father, which her mother finally admits when drunk. Her family is poor, and she is bullied at school for wearing hand-me-downs (indicating that she was one of the poorer ones in what was already a low socio-economic area). When she is 12 starts skipping school and pinching stuff. She leaves school at 16 and gets a job, but her first pay is confiscated from her by her mother, who says it is 'for board'. Finally after an extensive bout of physical abuse from her mother Marie says she is sick of it and leaves home (her mother 'helps her' and throws her suitcase the window). She flat-shares with some friends who get her (further?) into drugs, and increase her exposure to theft ('the house was full of stolen stuff'). In one instance they steal some drugs from a mate's uncle, who 'sends a couple of boys round' to beat them up. She finally meets her dad (monologue) who is not quite a knight in shining armour but close to it. He gets back with the mum who has consistently abused her, and Marie moves out with a much older man who starts her on heroin - they steal stuff together to pay for drugs. She has been pregnant twice, and at the end of the play she is intending to come clean before her second baby is born so that she can keep it, and it won't be taken away like the first one. Pretty bleak life.

Andrea Dunbar and Her Plays The Arbor and Rita, Sue and Bob Too
Andrea Dunbar was a playwright who lived in the Buttershaw Estate in Bradford. When she was 15 she wrote a play called The Arbor based on her own life, which featured (autobiographically) a teenage girl (just "Girl") who becomes pregnant the first time she has sex (she has been somewhat pushed into it). Her father is very angry and makes a series of verbal threats, "fuck of! Get out before I kill you." The mother/father/sister/protagonist (it's uncomfortable to call it a 'family' and distancing to say 'domestic') scene in Rita, Sue and Bob Too also vividly expresses such violence. Although neither play shows domestic violence physically, the violence between the family members (especially towards and from the father figures) is awfully tangible. Both plays end rather 'bleakly', with the "Girl" accidentally seeing the boy who got her pregnant (she has miscarried) and him refusing to acknowledge that it is his. In Rita, Sue and Bob Too, depicting adolescent sexuality, Rita (aged fifteen) goes off with Bob (27) when he gets her pregnant, and is chained to a life as housewife and mother.

Andrea died aged 29 of a brain haemorrhage, after 3 pregnancies and writing 3 plays. Her first daughter Lorraine is given several passages (also non-fictional) at the end of A State Affair, reflecting on her mother's life and work and how the estates have changed since then as a result of drugs. She also says that she hasn't forgiven her mother for some things. This is possibly why she started taking heroin, and she died of an overdose. I didn't follow up on the lives of Andrea Dunbar's other children. Maybe they're not as grim.

Bradford used to be successful economically speaking, until the decline of the textile industry in the 20th century which lead to problems with unemployment.('Resource Materials' compiled by Joe White, in Rita, Sue and Bob Too/A State Affair, 2000. London: Methuen Publishing Ltd) It is situated in West Yorkshire, Britain. It has a large Asian-British population, notably a high population of Muslims and Pakistanis. Race riots in 1995 and 2001 show simmering levels of racial tension in Bradford and the nearby area.
Bradford is also a low income area, which has higher-than-UK-average levels of unemployment. Bradford estates are considered dangerous (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Nx1ndTHqTE).

The Estates are home to an 'underclass' ('Resource Materials' 2000, p139). Heroin became widely available in the 1980s and this lead to an 'epidemic' of heroin addiction ('Resource Materials'), which worsened the already dire conditions in the estates depicted in Andrea's plays. Although heroin addiction is treatable there were, at least at the time of the interviews, insufficient rehabilitation facilities in Bradford, and the ones that did exist elsewhere were expensive and had six-month waiting lists (hardly helpful if you want help to get off the drug right now) (this is referred to in the play). High levels of drug use (particularly heroin), single parent/co-joined families, broken marriages, physical/sexual/verbal/financial abuse in families, low literacy and numeracy, gang violence, drug-related violence, bullying due to families not being able to afford school necessities, theft, racism, sexism, truancy, early deaths from drug overdoses and other things, teenage pregnancy, lack of impetus to get a job (eg because parents take wages) and lack of sufficient government assistance are all among the problems particularly relevant to the Bradford estates, which are depicted in A State Affair.

Heroin is considered the hardest drug. It gives a sensation of intense pleasure which lasts for a small amount of time and suppresses pain but can also cause nausea and vomiting (as described by Marie), which is followed by a period of mental fogginess and alternating drowsiness and wakefulness referred to in the play as 'gouching'. 'Rattling' refers to suffering withdrawal symptoms, which follow as soon as a few hours after the last dose of heroin and can include drug craving, restlessness, insomnia, muscle and bone pain, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle spasms, and cold flushes with goose bumps. Regular/heavy users develop a resistance and require increasing amounts of the drug to have the same effect. Dean says of heroin addiction in the play, 'they didn't understand you have to take heroin just to feel normal' (Soans, Robert. 2000. Rita, Sue and Bob Too/A State Affair. London: Methuen Publishing Ltd, 100). Long term effects include addiction, abscesses, collapsed veins, arthritis, and infections of heart lining/valves and risks of infectious diseases like hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and TB. (definitions and descriptions from urbandictionary.com)
It is especially easy to become addicted if the user has little pleasure in their life, for example as a result of trauma or childhood abuse (eg. Marie).

The Underclass: Precious
Precious is set in America and depicts the American 'underclass'. Precious, the main character, is incredible. She lives at home with her mother, who lives from welfare and does not cook for either of them and hates the school system, the government, and Precious (for 'stealing her man'). She beats Precious mercilessly and constantly insults her, and the father has got Precious pregnant twice. It's pretty horrific. At the start of the film Precious is illiterate and is forced to leave school because she is pregnant again. The film depicts the way that she deals with the abuse, and it 'real-ises' the fact that sometimes that level of abuse/hopelessness actually happens to kids+people. It also paints her as incredibly human throughout the abuse, and shows her slowly gaining confidence until the end. To see the inner workings of someone (albeit fictional) who is not visibly emotional about the abuse she is experiencing but is obviously very shy and under-confidant, I found extremely powerful and useful. Just to help me register the level of abuse that some people experience was very powerful, and helpful in 'visualising' the lives of the people from Bradford, even though the social/economic conditions are only just similar.

Week 12: Workshop (no lectures for rest)


Exercises Thursday 9th May (written Friday 17th May): rehearsed monologue to each other.

One of the most useful things that I got from today's tutorial was that Emma said my accent was hopeless! I sounded cockney apparently, but a pretty hopeless cockney accent at that. I plan to watch lots of Bradford/Liverpool Youtube clips, or find a relevantly-accented movie, and just 'rote-learn' the accent by annoyingly repeating everything they say (my poor patient parents!).

I found out that Bradford was actually in west Yorkshire (inserted above), and found some celebrities, documentaries, and interviews with Bradford/Leeds accents, so I have worked on this a lot. Some of the more informative/useful ones are: 'WBYI Bradford' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Nx1ndTHqTE ("this film was made by young people from the West Bowling Youth Initiative, and expresses their views on street violence in the local community" - from the first image of the clip), which was also useful for learning about the street life in Bradford even though it was uploaded in 2013; 'WELCOME TO BRADFORD (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) M-acculate Featuring Mik-E' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb6eImo2AIk this is a rap, it also gave me an idea of the feeling around the city and continuing issues/characterizing features of Bradford; 'Interview with Zayn Malik's Mum' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV0ZtcyBias who has a great Bradford accent!; 'How to be a Bradford slag' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX5Nx-m-f0Y which is kind of like a spoof on the way young girls in Bradford do their makeup - it was interesting as an exposure to some present-day Bradford culture?!? I decided to not dress Marie like this because, as she is on heroin, anything marginally of value would have been sold for drug money.

Reflections on RELAXATION in Naturalism, as Result of Character Work
I started to get worried about performing it 'not up to scratch'; which detracts from the ability to 'fit' into a character - like being distracted, when you are feeling one emotion very strongly it is hard to make yourself feel another one, rather than starting with a blank page and painting onto it. Also I found trying to force movement onto her wasn't right, it was like I had to move as her and then feel what was peculiar to the way she was. I don't know any 'derro' people/addicts so I don't really have any accurate idea of what that social status (for want of a better expression) might look/sound like, or the effect that heroin could have on movement or appearance; at the same time I don't want to make her a 'druggie' by stereotype anyway. I also found, in movement, that if I was tense the movement was forced, whereas if I stretched/relaxed beforehand I could 'slip' into the physicality better. It's like if you are not relaxed you have pre-defined tension in your body, and so a pre-defined set of 'twitches'/tics/movements - you cannot make choices about where your body fits, re: movement. If you are relaxed, you can choose exactly where you want to put that tension, and so can dramatically (or at least much more easily) change the way you hold/move your body, because you are not contending with tension that is already there.

Week 13: Workshop


Exercises Thursday 16th May (written Friday 17th May): shake/relax; walk around space, relax, stretch jaw muscles/mouth, be in character, exaggerate it/draw it back, walk with long steps/hugely/take up lots of space/walk with that energy in smaller space, say line softly... loudly, keep voice; projection as character, projection throwing tennis ball (tempting to shout), projection/enunciation of vowels, projection to partner across room. Performances.

I enjoyed the relaxation exercises and found them helpful; 'walking' into character is great for the reasons given above, that it makes 'getting into character' more like embodying a character that already exists rather than making one consciously and deliberately. The most useful exercise for me today was walking hugely and then pulling all that energy back to occupy the same space with that much energy. It takes a lot of concentration and focus and awareness to have that much presence and intensity, I think, especially without making it come off as exuberance or confidence (neither fit my character really I think). Practicing this a bit since then, I have found it helpful to imagine black gas coming out of her and filling up the space around her, like it was filling up with her unhappiness. It was sort of helpful - at least, it was a different feeling from just trying to take up physical space with my body the way we did in class. Something to play around for future characters with perhaps!

The projection exercise was great, it really made me think about projecting more and it was so funny hearing other people's lines! It was also helpful to grow into the voice of the character by speaking our line louder and louder, for the same reason as above. I also found it useful when we did the tennis-throwing exercise, because it separated the loudness-I figured-my-character-would-speak-in from loudness-because-we're-onstage! I think this is partly what Serge meant in one of the lectures early on about the actor being 'overlapped' but separate from the 'character'. the tennis ball exercise helped me project a lot. Also when you shout you are making the loudness part of the character, whereas projecting only doesn't mean the loudness is part of the character... maybe that's one of the generic conventions of dramatic theater, that loudness-in-projection is not the character's loudness, but the actor's loudness!

It was really great just doing exercises that made me think about the receiver more too, like the projection exercise of throwing words to our partner so they can 'catch' them separately to the others. Especially in my monologue, you are really throwing your piece to the audience so that they can 'catch it', not just throwing it into the air. I found that performing my monologue this week really fun and 'loud' somehow, because I was aware of people listening to me and it felt like I was pulling them in, weaving a story around them, around the whole room instead of simply the stage, which is how I am normally when I act if am focused enough to be aware of the stage at all. While last time (duologue) I tried to focus on the person I was acting alongside, at the expense of being aware of the audience, this time I was much more 'tuned in' to the fact that the audience was listening to me, it was more like a conversation, a more personal relationship between me and the audience. I think maybe both are appropriate depending upon the type of performance you are wanting to create, but it was different from how I have felt acting in the past and it was very enjoyable. I felt like I owned the space. I decided not to be scared of feedback, I existed in myself. No fear. Everyone was captive to my story, I had everyone's ears. Or that was what it felt like anyway.

Week 14

PRESENTATION of Monologues

I liked presenting today; I wasn't as comfortable with presenting today though as I was last week. Last week I felt like I really owned the whole audience, whereas today I was scared more and not as connected. I find that when I get really into a topic and really care about the issues /lives it portrays, I can act things with a lot more presence and feeling, whereas if I allow myself to become disengaged from something I become much more mechanical in my presentation of it. It is a challenge to keep it fresh; maybe I can find some related reading material that I can dive into every so often next time I am doing something, so that I can keep interested in/caring about the character, and so that I can stay focused and 'alive' in the character more easily. 'Trainspotting' would have been a good one for Marie.

It was also interesting seeing my monologue being performed so differently by someone else: it's fascinating to see how differently someone else can interpret something, how they can bring a completely different life to it... I enjoyed the comedy aspect of Alex's piece very much, however I thought Alex's Marie was less human and accessible than the character could have been and more stereotyped. I am not sure if mine also came across this way but I was aiming for something more human and personal, someone that the audience could connect with as vaguely similar to them, or who they could empathise with. I wanted also to respect the courage and trust of the real woman who had been interviewed and who actually spoke of her lived experiences. I wanted to be aware that what I was acting was someone else's life: Robin Sloans said in an interview, of the writing/interviewing process, "I remember what Chris told me at the bail hostel, he said, 'don't forget it's somebody's life'" ('Resource Materials' 2000, p145). I am not sure how well I achieved this, but I wish that that I had reminded myself more of the reality of the situation for Marie, before the presentation, so that I could have held this more truthfully when I was acting her out.

I spoke to someone that afternoon. A rally for sex worker rights came up, and they said their sister had been a sex worker, and was mother to three kids. But then she had become addicted to heroin. It felt real all of a sudden. I wondered what had lead her to this, and I wished that I had portrayed Marie with more respect and less ordinariness/callousness. I wish I had remembered more that she was a real person.

HD Lovely journal. Intelligent, critical and personal. I liked the detail and the critical rigour of your reflection on workshops especially, and also on your process as an actor. Your comments on the monolkgues at the end were very perceptive, especially about your own performance. A joy to read. Thanks.