Friday, 4 December 2015

Summary of Main Project Findings in 100 Words or Less...

I looked into the relevance of New Writing and New Theatre; I discovered a range of opinions, some deeply personal to those who create theatre, and those who attend the theatre. 

In summary; I found that the practitioners I interviewed were deeply passionate about ‘telling a story’ that they felt would resonate with their audiences, and believed that the response to New Writing was because of this relevance.


While there is a market for ‘escapism’ theatre (i.e. large scale West End Musicals) audiences still wish to see stories of their own experience. One practitioner called this “bearing witness.”

Word Count: 98


Wow, that was difficult to fit under 100 words!

Monday, 30 November 2015

An Evaluation Of The Processes For Doing The Inquiry

Building on the work from Module Two, I identified several research tools that I believed would be of use to me throughout the inquiry 

I knew I was going to be gathering qualitative rather than quantitative data, and decided that conducting interviews with selected participants would yield the most relevant information. Initially I had also planned to conduct surveys or create questionnaires, as I had originally planned to interview audience members after specific productions. However, as the inquiry progressed, my focus altered slightly and I found no longer needed to gather this data.  This was also because of ethical concerns, including data protection and anonymity, and the lack of a suitable place in which to conduct these questionnaires.

I had decided to interview playwrights and directors who are involved in producing New Theatre. I selected my participants based on the productions taking place at the Finborough Theatre during the time allocated for the research portion of my inquiry. I was fortunate in that during this time period many of the productions were appropriate given the parameters of the inquiry. I had decided, during the planning, that I would need at least six respondents in order to gain a good range of opinion and information, and fortunately I was able to identify more than I initially needed due to the particular productions being staged during this time.

This was also fortunate as many of the potential participants were unavailable for interview, due to time constraints and other commitments. I was able to make contact with several of them through social media and using email and Skype, and conducted interviews in this manner, however a couple of those identified were not available at any point during my research.

The ethical concerns of using audio-visual material (video camera) for the interviews were mitigated in this manner, as respondents were able to answer in their own time and were not filmed. For these participants I explained in the introductory email that their responses would be used for the purposes of research and that their names would be kept anonymous throughout. I allocated each participant with a pseudonym, and the cross-reference was kept in electronic format in a secure location.

I found that the planning I had done in Module Two meant that my time was used wisely, and for the most part I was able to conduct the interviews within the time frame I had set out for myself. One of the interviews had to take place much later due to the participant being on holiday during the time period, however this did not affect the gathering of information from either participants or literature sources too much.

Using interviews was effective and yielded interesting qualitative results. Due to the nature of my inquiry questions I was expecting a range of personal responses and an open interview pattern was able to procure this outcome. Due to the challenges imposed by demands on the participants’ time I was forced to be creative and made use of social media and video conferencing in order to conduct interviews at times most suitable for those involved. This enabled me to expand my skills in these techniques which will be useful in future for networking and professional practice.

If I were to conduct these interviews again, I would identify and contact intended participants well ahead of time in order to arrange interview times that were mutually convenient. The season was not announced until after I had submitted the work for Module Two which did not leave me much time for identifying and contacting those involved in the productions that were suitable for my research.

I identified many literature sources that were helpful to my inquiry, including books, newspaper articles, journals and online sources. Many of these were recommended to me through my SIG and professional network, such as ‘Rewriting The Nation’ by Aleks Sierz, which I found extremely helpful in discussing the nature of New Theatre and New Writing over the last ten years during the informal interviews. 


The literature sources I found have been an invaluable source of information regarding current thinking on theatre theory and have enabled me to form coherent and relevant arguments, which I used during the interview process with practitioners in the field.  In this respect I believe I planned as well as I could have done, as the informal style of the interviews, using open and leading questions led to interesting, qualitative results that would not have been possible without an already in depth knowledge of current thinking on the state of theatre in Britain today.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thoughts About The Artefact

What Is It?
For my artefact I have decided to create a manuscript, based on those that theatre practitioners have been writing since the time of Aristotle: they wrote about the theatre of their time, about the theatre practice they observed and created, and debated.

While taking Module Two, I became completely fascinated by the study of ethics. While reading Plato, I came across 'The Republic', in which the characters of Socrates and Adeimantus discuss (amongst other topics) the place of the arts in a 'perfect' society. This led me to a lesser known piece by Plato, called 'Ion', in which Socrates questions the actor, Ion, about the ethics of performance and his place in society.

Because I was looking at Modern Theatre, and questioning what place New Writing has in society, I thought this contrast was perfect; looking at modern theatre and modern society, based on the first texts that codified and questioned the Western theatre tradition.

I have written a first draft, very much in the 'high language' style of many of the translations of Plato, and will work on this for the next couple of weeks, refining and developing it.

I am intending to use an online tool to self-publish it in book format, and I am working with an illustrator to create a couple of pieces of original artwork.

Image Source: teaching.shu.ac.uk
Midnight Conversation - Hogarth 
This is the sort of style of illustration that I am hoping to use!

Who Is Your Audience?
The instructions in the Reader suggest that the artefact should be the results of the inquiry, written and presented for a professional audience, or an audience of peers. I hope that this will be the case!

I intend this work to be of interest to those working in all aspects of theatre, but particularly New Theatre, as I feel that, during the interviews and conversations, I personally have gained a clearer understanding of my professional practice, and the motivations and reasons for those who work within this sphere, and I hope to pass on this information.

Interviewing current practitioners on their thoughts about the current state of theatre in the UK has led me to a greater understanding of the issues (both positive and negative) that surround this niche area of the industry, and I hope that this will be of interest to anyone who works in, or has an interest in, theatre and new writing.

Image Source: simonstaffans.com

Is It a Product or a Work In Progress?
The final draft will be a product, as (as I mentioned) I am using an online tool to create a book or pamphlet-style publication. However, I hope that the conversations I have begun during the research phase will be a work-in-progress for many years!


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Theatre Conversations

While I was reviewing and writing up the interviews I conducted, I found it interesting that many of the respondents had the same reaction to the relevance of theatre:

"All I can do is try to make something that feels relevant to me; that moves and excites me, and hope therefore that it does the same for others"
"I write about... something which fascinates me..."
"I bother because I love it, I care, I'm excited by the people I work with and what they, and we, have to say."

Does this mean that the act of creating theatre is something that is very personal? And does that make it selfish, or honest?

With one of my participants, we discussed, at length, how theatre has been around since the earliest times: the idea that the telling of stories is inherent in our nature, and that the theatre is simply a formalising of the cave and campfire. I found this comparison particularly lovely!

Image Source: blogs.egu.eu

Image Source: frontiers-of-anthropology.com
Believed to show figures holding hands around a central focal point (possibly a fire)

Another comment that I particularly liked was regarding my question as to why people may come to see a very relevant play? For example, there was a recent production that concerned a young couple moving into an area of London that was undergoing 'gentrification'. Many of the people who came to see the play would have either been directly or indirectly affected by the events depicted in this play, and I wondered why they would come to see something that they have already experienced?
The response from one participant was that by making the mundane into a play, it validates the experience of the individual, can make them feel that even the smallest events are deserving of being seen and heard, and that "if art imitates life, then it can make even the most seemingly insignificant life into art."


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Literature Review: Rewriting The Nation - Aleks Sierz

"Rewriting The Nation" by Aleks Sierz - published by Methuen Drama

·         Who is the author/authors/publishers of the text?
Written by Aleks Sierz
Published by Methuen Drama

·         When was the text written?
Published in 2011

·         Where was the text written/produced?
London

·         Who is the intended audience for the text?
The style of writing is very informal yet informative: Sierz is a visiting professor and he acknowledges that much of the discussion throughout the text has come from conversations with theatre students, so I feel that this is the intended audience.

·         What are the authors’/publishers intentions in relation to the reader?
To discuss elements of modern British theatre and develop a guide to new writing in the new millennium
.
·         What is the writers’/publishers’ own position in relation to the subject being written about?
Aleks Sierz is a theatre professor, writer, journalist, broadcaster, lecturer and theatre critic. He has published several books on theatre.

·         What assumptions are the authors/publishers making, and how does this text invite the reader to share them? The initial assumption is that the reader shares Sierz’s passion for theatre and modern theatre in particular. The writing is informative and engaging, using many examples, case studies and quotes throughout.

·         What is the style of writing of the text, and how does this influence the reading?
The writing style is relaxed yet in-depth. The discussion of relevant plays (many of which I’ve seen, so I imagine many of the readers will have also) and the obvious enjoyment of the writer with his subject means that a topic which could be discussed through facts and figures becomes relatable and exciting.

This is one of the most useful texts I have come across in relation to my study; in tandem with other books I have read, which provide background and context to the time period I am looking at, this book is directly relevant to the decade. The writing is informative, exciting and the writer is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his subject. I have underlined so many useful passages throughout this text!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Reflections on Working Collaboratively Using Social Media

I've found, over the duration of this course, that I have begun to appreciate social media in a way that I didn't previously.

As a performer I made use of Social Media; I used my pages on Facebook and my Twitter account to promote myself and my work, often posting teasers of acts and costumes, and to advertise myself and look for work.

Recently I have been doing a lot of work using social media as a promotional tool for other organizations (and apparently I'm awesome at it - not my words! Honestly!) and I have realised the power of social media to make connections beyond my immediate groups. For example; I am currently working on a festival of new writing, and the production team were at a loss to explain why the opening night had sold out yet the following night was nearly empty. We realised in the morning of the performance that the ticket-sales website had glitched and it was urgent that the links were reset and this information was disseminated immediately and widely. I used Twitter to announce that tickets were still available, making use of hashtags and scheduling tools, and by the time the play began the venue was three-quarters full.
I'm not going to take sole responsibility for this ( :P ) but I feel that by harnessing the power of social media, the message was received and promoted through likes and retweets (honestly, my phone was bleeping constantly throughout the day as people shared the message far and wide!)

Image Source: gsmnation.com

I know this tale isn't necessarily relevant to collaborative working, however I feel it is a good example of the ways in which I have begun to understand the power that social media has as a promotional tool, beyond "look at my pretty costume, book me for work."

I have found that my SIG on Tumblr is a very useful tool as it allows me to make contact with users who share the same interests, again through the use of relevant tags. I was able to follow accounts, and they were able to follow me, despite not knowing each other directly. The information shared on Tumblr is directly relevant to my interests and my inquiry, and the interaction allowed between users enables me to ask or answer questions that have expanded my thinking on the subject I am investigating.

My SIG on Tumblr: danitougher.tumblr.com

The Facebook group is really handy for asking questions and posting thoughts and updates on progress, and obviously the Skype is handy for group chats and one-to-ones with peers and tutors!

I have also found, in my professional practice, that Google Docs is becoming increasingly useful. I don't know whether this is officially 'Social Media' however it does allow multiple users to work collaboratively on a document or spreadsheet which is handy!

Which Social Media Tools are you finding the most useful?

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

BBC Theatre Season

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this!


The BBC has commissioned a season dedicated to British Theatre, across television, radio and online. It comes at the perfect time for me as I will be writing up my research, drawing conclusions and beginning to summarise my findings and this is simply perfect, considering I'm looking at modern theatre and new writing!

I know it sounds a bit daft, but as I'm coming towards the end of my degree and taking the next step in my career in theatre, this (along with a couple of other things that have happened over the past couple of weeks) makes me feel more secure in the big decisions I've had to make recently, and in the choices I'm going to have to make in the weeks to come.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Theatre Thoughts

Time is flying by, isn't it? I can't believe we're at the end of October already!

Image Source: mommynotions.com

I've been having plenty of discussions within my SIG and professional network, and, combined with the reading and research I've been doing, this has led to some very interesting conversations around my inquiry topic!

I am looking into the place of modern theatre within modern society, and it is fascinating to hear people's point of view on this: some believe that theatre is a force for change, others that it is an educational tool for enlightenment and the presentation of different viewpoints to our own. Yet others think that theatre is simply for entertainment and escapism.

This is why I am looking into this topic. Theatre can be all things to all people; who is to say that educating yourself can't also be entertaining and make you think??

I was speaking with an artist a couple of nights ago, who specialises in contemporary art from across the middle east. She was presenting at a gala opening for an arts festival and she said something very interesting: "The role of the media is to make monsters; people need something to be afraid of, to fight against. The role of art is to make the 'other' familiar."
This is a paraphrase as I can't remember her exact words, but it struck me as especially pertinent given her area of expertise; if we take 'art' in its broadest sense, to include theatre as well, then she is saying that by presenting something that is 'other' than our own experience, then we can find areas of this 'other' that we identify with and therefore it allows us to see things from this 'other' point of view.

This is a standpoint I've come across both in my discussions and in my reading.

What do you think??

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Reflection on Feedback From Module Two

The feedback from Module Two was quite positive and I am happy that I am investigating the right subject in the right way for my intended future professional practice.

The feedback indicated that my inquiry plan was "well structured" and said that the initial research was good, but additional research questions were suggested in order to relate my research directly to my intended future practice in dramaturgy. This is something I have already considered and will continue to think about as I compile my research.

"...when working as a Production Dramaturg it is very often on new productions or adaptations that they are called in to assist." Fortunately I have since had the opportunity to work in a production role (although not as a dramaturg) on a couple of new productions, and have taken on a role within the Literary Department for the theatre, where I am directly involved in reading, viewing and assessing new plays and productions.

The feedback suggested allowing enough time in the planning to "...develop the implications of impact from your work in Module Three" which I have recently begun planning for through the use of GANTT charts, as suggested in the handbook for Module Three.

It was indicated that my proposed inquiry tools may be a little "all encompassing" however since beginning the planning for the research, time constraints (both my own and of others!) have meant that I have had to be a lot more concise with my interviews, so hopefully this will mean that my findings will be more focussed.

The literature I identified as part of Module Two was considered relevant, so I hope that the newly identified literature is equally appropriate. I am sure it will be useful for my continuing research as many of the books and articles have been identified through the 'Further Reading' sections of the original literature.

Regarding the ethics of my inquiry, I have been advised to "...continue to discuss and monitor this" and suggested approaching the theatre itself for any information that has already been gathered regarding audience feedback, stating that "...finding usable datasets is also valuable..." However, as previously mentioned, elements of my inquiry are changing slightly, which may mean that as the research continues, this part of my proposal may no longer be needed. I am hoping to focus more now on the dramaturgical elements of the inquiry as opposed to the reactionary elements (as I had originally intended to do.)

The feedback suggests that I now "...look at what [I] hope to accomplish, and define and focus this..." I have also begun to conduct the interviews with those identified at the theatre as being relevant to my inquiry topic - this is where I cam up against the time constraints of others, however while I was planning the interviews I identified several more participants than I originally required, so despite several of them being unable to take part, I am still able to gain feedback from more people than I originally planned for!

Overall I am pleased with the feedback and felt it was very constructive (and quite complimentary!), and I am confident in beginning Module Three. I have been advised to continue blogging, keeping my journal, contributing to SIG's, and engaging with peers both on the course and within my community of practice (which, thanks to the theatre, has grown significantly since beginning Module One!)

Monday, 21 September 2015

Literature Review: The Theatre Makers - David Chadderton

The Theatre Makers: How Seven Great Artists Shaped the Modern Theatre - David Chadderton. Published by Studymates. Kindle Edition

·         Who is the author/authors/publishers of the text?
Author: David Chadderton
Publisher: Studymates

·         When was the text written?
It is copyrighted in 2013

·         Where was the text written/produced?
Chadderton is based in Manchester. The publisher is based in Abergele.

Who is the intended audience for the text?
Theatre practitioners, researchers, teachers and facilitators.


·         What are the authors’/publishers intentions in relation to the reader?
“… to bring the practice and theory back together using practical examples to aid understanding of the theoretical principles.”

·         What is the writers’/publishers’ own position in relation to the subject being written about?
Chadderton holds a theatre Masters degree, and is Head Of Education for a youth arts company in Manchester. He is also an editor and broadcaster on the subject of theatre and works in various capacities across the country advising and lecturing on theatre.

·         What assumptions are the authors/publishers making, and how does this text invite the reader to share them?
The author makes no assumptions on behalf of the reader, beyond an interest in theatre practice. I feel as though the text is aimed mainly at Drama teachers and facilitators, however it is accessible and interesting.

·         What is the style of writing of the text, and how does this influence the reading?
The style of writing is informal and informative. It is written relatively simply but goes into more detail on occasion, and this allows for an easy read and quick, if not in-depth, understanding and assimilation of the information.

Highlighting notes 


I used this text in order to investigate and consolidate information found in other literature sources, as, during my reading I have come across numerous references to theatre practitioners who have influenced, and continue to influence, the theatre of today. I found this book extremely useful in aiding my understanding of the core theories of several of these practitioners, and the bibliography has provided me with further reading material if needed.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Literature Review: Theatre In Crisis? - Maria M. Delgado & Caridad Svich

'Theatre In Crisis? Performance Menifestos for a New Century.' Edited by Maria M. Delgado & Caridad Svich. Published by Manchester University Press, 2002

·         Who is the author/authors/publishers of the text?
There are several authors of the various manifestos throughout the book, however the credited editors are Maria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich.

Published by Manchester University Press.

·         When was the text written?
The various manifestos have been compiled over the last years of the 20th Century and the earliest of the 21st: the book in its present form was first published in 2002

·         Where was the text written/produced? Published by Manchester University Press

Maria M. Delgado is a Reader in Drama and Theatre Arts at Queen Mary University, London

Caridad Svich is an international theatre practitioner and is a member of New Dramatists in New York.

·         Who is the intended audience for the text?
“…those people who practice theatre to have a dialogue with those who think and write about it… The books in this series are aimed at students, scholars, practitioners and theatre-visiting readers.”

·         What are the authors’/publishers intentions in relation to the reader?
         “… [to] encourage reassessments of periods, companies and figures in twentieth-century and twenty-first-century theatre history, and provoke and take up discussions of cultural strategies and legacies that recognise the heterogeneity of performance studies. ”

·         What is the writers’/publishers’ own position in relation to the subject being written about?
Maria M. Delgado is an editor of plays, has edited Contemporary Theatre Review, and co-edited several publications for Manchester University Press on the subject of theatre. “She is the author of numerous articles on contemporary theatre practice and a translator of dramatists… [and] A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts…”

“Caridad Svich is a playwright-songwriter-translator.” She has worked in theatre across several continents and “her work has been seen at theatres in Britain, Belgium and Canada. She has taught playwrighting… [and] is the co-editor of…” several contemporary theatre anthologies, magazines and compilations.

·         What assumptions are the authors/publishers making, and how does this text invite the reader to share them? The fact that the book is published by Manchester University Press indicates that this is aimed at a more intellectual level than the casual theatre observer. The articles and manifestos cover several different styles, points of view and cultural influences, leading to no one assumption or conclusion, but a rounded investigation of the various implications of theatre and its practice across society.

·         What is the style of writing of the text, and how does this influence the reading?
The writing is very academic, pitched at the level of serious students or investigative research. The reading is quite in-depth and requires a level of serious focus. However, due to the large amount of relatively short manifestos or articles, it was easy to read in lots of short bursts.

Making Notes!


Despite this book being published outside of the specific time period I am focussing on, it is useful for me to gain an insight into the thoughts and theories that were emerging prior to the decade I am looking at. This book has enabled me to understand different points of view from different practitioners across theatre (including directors, performers, and critics) and allowed me to think about the subject I am investigating from other angles.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Literature Review: New Performance/New Writing - John Freeman


'New Performance/New Writing' by John Freeman. Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2007


·         Who is the author/publisher of the text?
John Freeman – published by Palgrave Macmillan

·         When was the text written?
2007

·         Where was the text written/produced?
“Freeman is Senior Tutor for the School of Arts at Brunel University…”

Palgrave Macmillan is based in Hampshire, UK

·         Who is the intended audience for the text?
“…those wishing to explore… innovative approaches to writing for performance.”

·         What are the authors’/publishers intentions in relation to the reader?
          “… [to] provide both practical and theoretical support for drama and performance students…”

·         What is the writers’/publishers’ own position in relation to the subject being written about?
“Freeman… has written extensively on contemporary performance and new theatre writing, with recent articles published in the Guardian, Contemporary Theatre Review, and the Journal of Higher Education. He is the author of Tracing the Footprints and the former editor of Performance Practice.

“Palgrave Macmillan is a global academic publisher, serving learning and scholarship in higher education and the professional world.” (www.palgrave.com)

·         What assumptions are the authors/publishers making, and how does this text invite the reader to share them?
The backgrounds of both the writer and the publisher lead the reader to assume the book is targeted at those who have a deep interest and understanding of theatre and contemporary performance practice.

The book itself does not lead to any assumptions or conclusions; it is an investigation into modern styles of performance and theatrical presentation, taking into account movements in art and technology, and even politics, to explore how performance is influenced by, and can influence, society.

·         What is the style of writing of the text, and how does this influence the reading?

The writing is very academic and often uses obscure words and references, although case studies are featured throughout and shed some light on the main body of text.

I found it quite difficult to read in parts, due to the constant references, quotes, and occasional forays into other subject areas such as psychology (when discussing the surrealist movement), however the writer is obviously very passionate about his subject and this translated well.




This book has provided me with a deeper understanding of the background to contemporary performance and theatre; the case studies and bibliography have given me ideas for further reading and investigation into theatre theories, and has clarified, for me, some of the thinking about current theatre practice.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Looking Ahead To Module Three

It's getting closer to the start of 'term'; I've been looking through the UniHub site, and I have also downloaded the Module Handbook and Reader Seven in preparation.

My initial reaction to reading through the two documents was one of feeling overwhelmed by how much there seemed to be to do and consider! However I have taken the time to read through them both again, making notes as I go, and I have realised it's actually not as scary as I thought it might be to being with!

Over the Summer I haven't blogged very much, and I have to admit I thought I'd find it difficult to get back my focus. I have, however, been keeping my Journal, and, reading back through it, realised I've been thinking about my research more than I initially assumed I had!

 

 
Extracts from my Journal

I took the advice in the Reader and looked up GANTT Charts as a way of planning my time and my schedule. I found this resource very helpful in working out how to compile my own; https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/gantt-chart/

I tried to use a resource called 'Smartsheet', which is an online Gantt chart creator; however I found it incredibly complicated and elected to make my own using Microsoft Excel in the end!

My basic Gantt Chart!

Due to the topic of my inquiry, I had to start the interview and research phase quite early in order to make sure that the productions I was using for the case study matched the parameters of my investigation. I have also given myself extra time outside of the research phase (consolidate interview information) in case of any obstacles to gathering all of the interviews during the time I have allocated myself.

I have already begun gathering literature, working on the basis that I set during Module Two (Literature Review). However now I have decided on the direction of my inquiry I have started locating sources that are directly relevant to New Theatre and New Writing, along with theories on theatre and its practice. I'm keeping a bibliography as I go, so I don't forget any of the sources that I have used, even if I don't end up directly referencing them in my Critical Review. Over the next couple of weeks I will blog my Literature Reviews, using the guidelines in the Reader.

Some of the books I have read/am reading!

Over the next couple of days I will look back at the feedback from Module Two, using my knowledge of the direction I will be taking throughout Module Three.

I'm getting myself back into 'uni' mode, and I'm excited to really get stuck in now! Maybe it's the change in seasons, with it being September, I'm really ready to go Back To School! 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Looking Ahead

I've been thinking a lot recently about what I want to do in the future, where I see my life going, etc. Like everyone, I'm sure, I read those online articles about "What I Wish I'd Known When I Was Younger", "What I'd Tell My Younger Self", and the like, and they all say along the lines of 'pursue what makes you happy,' 'follow your heart', 'find your passion', or similar sorts of pseudo-motivational messages.

However, it's true. Life is too short to be doing things that you're not passionate about, so with that in mind, I wrote down the things that I am passionate about, the things I can talk about for hours on end and the things that really excite me.

I then looked at these elements and tried to think of ways to combine them; ways in which I can work that excite and motivate me. 

What I am Passionate About
* Theatre and New Theatre Development (Drama, Dance, Cabaret)
* New Artist Development (Mentoring, Development Schemes, Outreach)
* Supporting Children & Young People (especially disenfranchised, at risk or in need)
* Empowerment through Creativity
* Charity (especially MySmallHelp)

What I Want To Do
* Combine my passions
* Work as a dramaturg to support, develop and create new writers, artists, performers and practitioners and push the boundaries of theatrical experience.
* Co-ordinate through artist development within an organization (or by creating my own organization) to liaise and create opportunities for performance, development, outreach and cross-cultural exchange.

There was more that I came up with but some of it was deeply personal or a 'pipe-dream' so to speak, and I don't want to make everything public! :D

So, feedback, ideas and suggestions welcome; which careers or routes will allow me to combine my passions, and what do I need to do to get there?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Research

Having chosen the productions relevant to my research I have begun interviewing the Directors and Writers of those plays.

I had intended to do this by conducting video interviews with open ended questions, however time constraints and logistics have proved this to not be possible so far. I have, however, been able to communicate with them by email and they have, so far, been able to provide some interesting insights to my questions.

Image Source: topnews.in

My reading and analysis is turning up some interesting stuff: through my research I decided to go all the way back to the very first theatre practitioners, the Ancient Greeks: Aristotle is widely recognised as being the first writer to speculate on the nature of theatre and its practice and place in society (what effect theatre has on those who take part in it and view it.) This led me to read more from the Greek philosophers, and in particular Plato: in Plato's Republic he speculates, through the characters of Socrates and Adeimantus, on their ideal city state and what does, or doesn't, have a place in this supposed utopia. In one chapter they discuss the place of the mimetic art and that of the rhapsodists in the republic and decide that all art which depicts the 'less than perfect' should not be allowed.

Image Source: hannahrendtcenter.org
I first read Plato during the Module Two section on ethical practice, when I became a little bit obsessed with the study of ethics!

I began thinking about this in relevance to my research, the 'why do we bother' question. With so much modern theatre depicting very brutal or unsettling scenes, or events that may hit close to home with the audiences, what place does this art have?

So I've decided to change the title of my research, from the working title of 'Why Do We Bother? An Investigation Into The Impact And Effect Of New Writing' to 'What Place Does Modern Theatre Have In Modern Society?' 

I feel this is a relevant title for the research I am conducting. And I may pop a subtitle in there of 'Why Do We Bother?' just for the hell of it :P


Monday, 17 August 2015

Planning Pseudonyms

During Module Two when I began my research for Module Three (and thinking ahead to final presentations/artefacts!) I planned to identify productions taking place at the Finborough Theatre that fit within my specifications:

The specifications I set myself when planning research

Given the specifications, within time constraints and other commitments I was able to identify five productions taking place within a relatively short period that fit within my requirements and provided a wide scope of styles and performance/production elements within the stipulation of 'the last ten years.'

In order to protect the privacy of those I am interviewing regarding these productions, I have decided to ascribe pseudonyms to each person. Since I have a tentative plan in mind for my final artefact, and since Ancient Greece is credited with being the birthplace of theatre as we know it (and for my own, geeky, amusement) I have assigned names based on Ancient Greek mythology.

Pseudonyms used during research

For the purposes of data protection I have created a locked file on my computer that contains the cross-references, name for name.

I haven't yet decided whether to assign names to the productions I am using as well - what do you think?

Monday, 3 August 2015

Updates

It's been a while since my last blog post, so I thought I'd write a quick update to let everyone know what I've been up to!

I'm still working full time, and still volunteering at the Finborough Theatre, where I am also working as Literary Assistant. I am planning on beginning my research in mid-August which will allow me time to investigate several different productions (more on this in my next blog!)

At the 30th Birthday celebrations for Dancia 

Through the Finborough I have been able to gain experience of different areas of working on a production: a couple of months ago I was Press Assistant for a new play, and I am currently Assistant Producer for a show that is having its European premiere at the end of August.

Pre-Production image for This Heaven - Nicole Lecky as Sissy

I blogged a couple of months ago about the charity I support, MySmallHelp, and thanks to some lovely people who donated, I was able to send two aid parcels out to their earthquake relief fund. 

In my spare time I'm working on a story that I've had in my head for over a year (I don't want to say 'book' or 'novel' as I think that sounds a little ambitious at the moment!) I'm really excited about it as it's based on my experiences as a performer, with obvious dramatic license taken!

Image Source: Wikipedia

I've also got a few more projects that I'm trying to get off the ground for next year, fingers crossed though, as these are only in the very beginning of the planning stages!

And speaking of planning, I've been reading more and planning for the research I'm going to do as part of Module 3: I've read quite a few books and articles relating to the subject of my investigation and I can't wait to get started!


Monday, 20 July 2015

Theatre Thoughts: It's A Drag

I came across this article today.

If you can't be bothered reading it, in a nutshell, Glasgow Free Pride have decided on a blanket ban for Drag Performers at their inaugural event.


In all honesty, having read a bit more about it I kind of get what they're getting at, so to speak. I understand the point but not the point. I know, it doesn't make any sense, but bear with me. I'm going to speechify...


“The decision was taken by transgender individuals who were uncomfortable with having drag performances at the event. It was felt that it would make some of those who were transgender or questioning their gender uncomfortable. It was felt by the group within the Trans/Non Binary Caucus that some drag performance, particularly cis drag, hinges on the social view of gender and making it into a joke, however transgender individuals do not feel as though their gender identity is a joke."

Right, okay, fair enough. I understand that. However, I do have a few major issues with it: Yes, drag performance hinges on social views of gender, and present these stereotypes as a joke. But that surely means the joke is on everybody, yes? A drag queen, a drag king. Both of these set up a gender stereotype and subvert that for comedy or to make a point.


I also understand that a cis drag performer may be considered offensive to those who may be confused about their own identity. However surely that performer is celebrating sexual ambiguity, not mocking it?


Image Source: Vogue
Andreja Pejic

The friend who shared the article posted it with the following statement:

"I feel (this) widens the discussions we all seem to have been involved in a lot recently. Lots of people have been involved in the cultural appropriation argument, many of whom are on either side of this conversation. I wonder whether we should be distinguishing between cultural appropriation and gender appropriation as different issues. Or indeed if we need to find a way to free up all of the limitations and prejudices. Many people would be horrified if I blacked up, but few seemed pissed off when I pop a frock on. Where do we draw these lines. I am truly intrigued by this.Similarly I am worried that we will, through our own attempts at liberalism and political/social correctness, destroy our ability to express or more importantly, satirise anything. Surely satire and comedy as commentary/reaction is one of the strongest tools we have as human beings. It's always been considered, along side teaching and learning, a key tool in the explanation of the changing world around us and a necessity to cope with life."

Going through this step-by-step:

- if we make something taboo, something unacceptable, even in the context of theatre, it becomes something unknown, and surely that is worse for marginalised or discriminated-against communities? From what I've seen, drag performers are deeply embedded in the cultures they are, in the opinion of the original article, mocking. So if they mock, it is with a deep and true knowledge and appreciation and love of the community that has fostered this performance.

- there have been a lot of conversations on my Facebook feed throughout the years, increasing in frequency, on the subject of cultural assimilation/appropriation/misappropriation. I remember a module on this in a theatre course I took and it intrigued me...

Can 'gender' either way identify in some way as a culture, and can a gender identity therefore be misappropriated? In what situation would this be the case? Drag, I suppose. Adopting the cultural (sexual) elements of a marginalised community (culture) could be seen as misappropriation. Where does this end? With straight, cis women not being allowed to wear trousers any more as these are traditionally 'male' elements of clothing? Reductio ad absurdum, I know, but still.


So if that's where it ends, where does it begin?


Men have been dressing as women for thousands of years for the purposes of theatre and entertainment. In England especially, women were forbidden to perform on stage so young men would dress up and play women. Commedia dell arte, yes they had women in the casts of travelling actors, but often young men took the roles. Later in Pantomime the character of the Dame became one of the main comedy points of a production, or the Ugly Sisters. Both parts are men dressing as women and parodying femininity grotesquely.

What is 'wrong' and what is 'right' in this context? Would a ban on drag performers, if it became common for fear of causing offence to the trans community, extend to pantomime, or television characters like Lily Savage or Dame Edna?


Image Source: londonist.com
Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage as a Panto Dame...


One of the comments on the post included this:

"Why is David Suchet playing the part of Lady Bracknell when there are plenty of fine female actors who could do it? For the same reason Maxine Peake can smash it as Hamlet; there are many parts in theatre that, more than others, slide the scale of animus and anima. I think we can be sure that David will not be camping it up in mock femininity, just as Maxine didn't soliloquies about death with her hand thrust down the front of her kecks, grabbing an imagined nut-sack.On this specific issue I have little to say other than surely the wider course of action would be that if individuals don't want to see Drag, that they don't attend drag shows... blanket banning can only ever lead to feelings of discrimination."


Yes, yes, and yes. I love this statement.

However, while, yes, there are many fine roles that have been taken in recent years by women (I loved Helen Mirren's Prospero, despite so many people hating on Queen Helen!) However is there a difference between a woman playing a traditionally male theatre role and a drag queen in a cabaret show? I think there is, and the difference is intention.


The intention of drag is to shock, to make us question our own identity and our view of the world; what is acceptable to do and say as a man or as a woman, and how we choose to present ourselves to the world.


I personally find drag fascinating; these performers, male or female or straight or gay or anything inbetween, how they create the character they wish the world to see and how they present this fearless, flawless fascia to the world. If it is offensive to people, maybe that's a good thing.


Image Source: Huffinton Post
This image was accompanied by the tagline "Why drag queens are better role models than Disney Princesses..."


The intention of any form of theatre is to make us react; if there was no reaction, whether for or against, then theatre is not doing its job. We need to take offence to make us ask questions. We need to ask questions to find answers, find out information or points of view we have never considered before, and once we start seeing things from other points of view, then maybe everything will actually be okay.

Or maybe not. Theatre would be boring without a bit of scandal every now and then...