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:
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.

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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:

Image Source:
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?

·         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!