Saturday, 18 April 2015


Hi all!

I'm trying something out on Twitter ahead of my inquiry and would appreciate some help!

Me on Twitter!

So I'm on Twitter at @DaniTougher and I'm using the hashtag #AskTheAudience

If you have seen a new play or production recently (new as in newly written or produced) Can you tweet me a response:
* How did it make you feel?
* Did it make you think about the subject in relation to your own life or behaviour?
* Has it incited a change in your own life or behaviour?

Or if you could just RT, that would be brilliant!

Task 6c: Proposed Award Title and Rationale

It's been a difficult couple of weeks as I had felt completely stuck with my inquiry and process: however, I'm past that now and full of ideas and motivation once more! (Thankfully!)

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Based on previous reflections and the direction my inquiry is taking, I propose the following award title and rationale:

Proposed Award Title
BA (Hons) Professional Practice (Theatre)

I trained in Musical Theatre, in singing, acting and dance. Post-training I worked in many areas of performance including film, television and live-bands before specialising in cabaret; using skills gained through training and work.
Going forward, I know that the performance element of my career in theatre is over, and I am intending to use my expertise and knowledge of performance to forge a career in Directing and Dramaturgy.
I feel that the proposed award title, while broad, takes into account my training, background, performance career, my proposed inquiry project, and my intended future practice. On completion of the degree I hope to take an MA in Theatre and I believe that the proposed award title accurately reflects my learning and will prepare me for the next stage of my career.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Moving Forward

Right, I'm over it! I'm over the hump and have got a new focus, at last! I've been feeling completely burnt out for the previous few weeks and have totally lacked direction. However, I've got past that and I know where I'm going again.

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New Inquiry Focus
After carefully considering the ethics of my proposed inquiry I have decided to alter the parameters slightly. Rather than using interviews with audience members, post show, I will conduct interviews with the creators of theatre itself, gaining their opinions and thoughts on the trend of New Theatre.

I looked back at my early blogs from Module Two, specifically this one and this one and realised that earlier on in my thinking, I wasn't focusing so much on the audience element of new theatre. That train of thought was sparked by a conversation within my SIG and this blog

I revisited my mind-map from the start of the module and have decided to formulate a series of questions for practitioners based on my original points raised from this image.

What Do I Want To Find Out?
I still want to find out why New Theatre continues to be popular, despite times of economic recession and uncertain finances, both personally and in the industry. Why take a risk on something without knowing how audiences will respond? 

* Pushing Boundaries
Are theatres more likely to put on new works as they see it as 'pushing' forwards into the future, rather than relying on tried and tested productions. What are the risks involved in this?
* Challenging Expectation
Maybe theatres believe that audiences don't actually know that they want to see something until they're presented with it? Which new productions have been particularly successful and why do practitioners believe this is? (e.g. King Charles III, The Nether, etc)
* Audience Attention Spans
Audiences in a contemporary society have more demands on their time than ever before, and studies in psychology show that children in particular have less focus and less long-term attention spans than previous generations. Maybe new theatre provides a new stimulus to audiences in that they don't know what to expect and can't predict the outcome of the story?
* Thematic Influences
Again, in a world of connectivity we are exposed to more input that ever before. New plays often deal with difficult or challenging subjects that may be thought of as taboo, but are audiences more open to seeing these stories on stage because we are becoming used to seeing horrific news stories on a daily basis?

What is the popularity of new theatre doing for the wider industry? Is it making it more diverse or more difficult? Short runs of new works are increasingly the norm in both the fringe theatres and the West End - are any of them likely to become 'classics' if they deal with very contemporary issues? Is this a problem; that plays may have a very short life span in the theatre and in society? What does this say about the industry itself, are we looking for the 'next big thing' or that we need constant change and stimulus?

Is it the job of theatre to challenge audiences, hold a mirror to society, or to incite change?

These are the foundations on which I will build a series of questions to ask in interviews with theatre practitioners involved in new theatre.

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I intend to film interviews and will re-draft my consent form to cover this as I may use the recorded interviews in my final presentations and will need to gain permissions from those involved. If permission is given for an interview but not for its further use, I will use the video to transcribe the conversations then delete the hard copy film.

Further Considerations
I am still interested in the effects of theatre on audiences and may still look into this from a different perspective:
The online tool 'SurveyMonkey' allows users to create and distribute questionnaires. I will consider this further but one idea I have had involves creating a small questionnaire, sharing (and asking others in my professional network) on social media, asking for participation from people who have seen a 'new production' in the last week or so. In this way participation will be anonymous and there is no obligation to take part. 
By changing the main focus of the inquiry, this element of the research will become less important but will still be interesting to look at and add into the process.

Any thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? I may have to change the working title so any recommendations for this?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Reflection On Change

I've taken a step back for the last couple of weeks to try and puzzle through the problems I've been having, and I think it's helped.

I blogged last time about feeling stuck regarding the ethical dimensions of my proposed inquiry and I think the best way to go about it is to change tack slightly regarding my inquiry questions.

I still want to investigate New Theatre and new writing and think about the elements of impact, but I feel now that the best way to investigate this ethically will be through conversation with those professionals involved in the creation of new theatre, rather than bringing in the audience interview element, which was raising too many ethical issues for me to be comfortable continuing this aspect of the inquiry.

So: I intend to go back through my blogs so far in Module Two, and approach the inquiry planning process from this new point of view. I believe that the inquiry title will still be along the same lines but I will not focus so much on the 'audience engagement' element. Instead I will conduct my research through interviews with Directors, Producers and makers of new theatre, gaining their insight into the popularity of new writing and what they think this is doing for the wider theatre scene in the UK.

I will investigate this further by revisiting some of my other blogs over the next couple of days.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Well, it's happened - I blogged a while ago about having too many thoughts in my head and feeling super productive, and now I've hit a wall!

After I spoke on Skype with Paula last week, I feel a little bit stuck as she wasn't too sure about the ethics of the way I was hoping to carry out the Inquiry.

I have spoken at length with my professional network and SIG about this, and wanted to find out other people's opinions as well.

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Basically, I was planning on conducting Audience Interviews, in the bar, post show, using a video camera. My reasons for this are as follows:

* I don't want to pre-prep the audience, or ask for volunteers, as I believe there is a certain 'type' of person who likes to volunteer their opinion and I am much more interested in the effect of the play rather than what people may have thought about it. It is similar to my response to an art-work that I spoke about in a previous blog. I don't care whether they liked the play or not; I want to know what they took from it.
This is one of the main sticking points of the ethics, I think: the issue of non-consent. I have created consent forms for the participants to sign, which contains full details of my inquiry and how their information will be used. I will guarantee anonymity and the forms will have my contact details shown clearly so the participants can, at any time, request access to their information or ask that it be deleted. 
My approach will be polite and professional, asking people whether I could ask them a few questions regarding the production they've just seen, and if they say yes I shall ask if they mind if I video the interview, explaining why I am doing it this way.  

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* There is nowhere else in the building for me to be able to conduct the interviews; the theatre room itself is closed post-performance for cleaning and re-set or to set up the next show (there are always two productions on rotation at the theatre) So I can't ask people to stay behind in the auditorium itself.
I think one of the ethical issues of this is to do with the involvement of alcohol in the area I would be interviewing subjects. However I would consciously avoid those who appeared to be drunk or past the point of making sense, and I would hope that, as the audience will have just left the auditorium having seen a play, that they wouldn't be completely inebriated at the time of interview!
I raised this issue with the Artistic Director of the theatre and he said that often groups of people would congregate in the bar to discuss the play (he mentioned one incident where two groups ended up in a heated argument over the indirect message of the particular production, leading to a very interesting debate that the writer and director also joined in on as they too were staying behind after the play!) He felt that people would be more willing to discuss my topic with me in an informal setting (the bar) and wouldn't feel so pressured into thinking that they had to volunteer an opinion.

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* I want to use interviews rather than questionnaires as questionnaires are pre-set. I intended to use an open interview technique, using one of a variety of opening questions that would be dictated by the production (such as 'Was there anything about this play that you feel particularly strongly about?' or 'Was there a particular message you took away from this production') then form my following questions based on their response to this.
The issue of this might be that the audience member has NO response to the play or has taken no message from it. However I still don't want to use questionnaires as the interview technique will enable 'discussion' as opposed to 'response.'

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* I was intending to use a video camera to record the interviews: the environment of the bar may be noisy, in which case I will be able to *see* what the subject is saying, as opposed to a dictaphone which may not give the best sound quality. It is also for me to observe non-verbal responses. I don't want to take notes as, again, if the bar is busy I may not have anywhere to lean to write, or I might miss something, misquote the subject or forget to write a response. The camera will be used for my reference only, to transcribe the interview from, accurately.
I thought about the ethics of this, and Paula, and a couple of members of my SIG also mentioned that people may not be comfortable on camera. I do understand this, and have created consent forms that will detail exactly how the information will be used and stored. The forms also contain my contact information so the participants can email me to request access to their interview videos, and can also ask me to delete anything they are not happy with. Beyond the use of the video for transcription, their information will not be seen by anyone and will not be used for any other purpose.
I have seen others at the theatre conducting audience interviews this way; for a previous production they had a video camera set up in the corner of the bar, post show, and asked among the patrons for people who would be willing to answer a few questions to camera about the production. I don't know what the purpose of this was, but I am aware that this has been done.


So those, I think, are the main objections and my reasons for the methods of conduct. What do you think? I'd love to get other opinions or suggestions.