I've completed several workshops over the last couple of months and now's the time to write them up. My own post event thoughts are bookended by .
Amanda Graham: Networking
Amanda gave tips on how to network better:
- Believe you belong
- Building your network
- Be resourceful
- What can you give
- Believe you have something to offer
- Listen and find connections
Nancy Medina: Tobacco Factory Masterclass
Nancy told us about her fascinating career making theatre in New York and about her move to Bristol. She talked about the differences in the two scences and how her she used her entrepreneurial nature to make theatre here. She spoke about being passionate and sticking to your guns, particularly when pitching.
A tip she regularly used when directing a new piece was to ask the writer to read their script to her. Most agreed. Nancy found this was a great way to determine the personalities of certain characters which might not be apparent on the page. When breaking down a script she considers it on 3 levels:
For example, Half-God of Rainful, a Nigerian play would be split as follows:
- Mother and son
- Gender, sexual assault, sport
- Europe's rape of Africa
Feel then think. She'll create a table and for each scene write notes under each heading. These include:
Consider the world of the play. What does it say about power hierarchy, gender, money, social codes, work, religion.
Has the work been translated. If so, has anything been corrupted. Use Pinterest to gather images.
Choosing a Team: See their work beforehand.
Consider natural elements, thresholds. Use these delineations or descriptions and check them throughout the play.
Horizontal: good for roads, fields
Vertical: trees, buildings
When you pull these out they become 'design poems.'
When reading a script, focus on emotional response first. Use images to storyboard.
Auditions: 20 minutes normal, 40 min possible. Do excercises. Don't require them to learn lines beforehand.
Can feed them to them so they don't have to hold scripts. Move away from the table.
Need to provide mental health support throughout the process.
Oladipo Agboluaje is a British-Nigerian playwright. He was born in Hackney and educated in Britain and Nigeria, studying theatre arts at the University of Benin. The topic of his workshop was Deep Structure.
We discussed what we thought about structure in relation to stories. He referenced Downstate by Rufus Norris as an example of a complex play where you examine a problem through different points of view. He defined deep structure as being composed of three elements:
If you can set up the religion, state structures and familial norms in your world, the story can often drive itself.
We used the Doll's House as an example work. Act 1 is long and expositional. It's about 42% of the play. We see where the main characters are coming from. We learn about characters through:
- What they say
- What they do
- What others say about them
We did some writing excercises. We had two people speaking to each with each sentence dropping by one word. We realised it does set up a natural rhythm of conflict as well as an inherent beginning, middle and end. We wrote stories to our past and future selves. If you struggle with structure, focus on emotions and follow that line through the play.
The Doll's House covers themes of patriarchy and societal norms. Their marriage is at stake. Who can you tell the truth too? Society can force a protagonist not to reveal their true intentions. The audience becomes the third party. Gaps in knowledge can lead to:
- Revelations: audience knows less
- Privelege: audience knows more
If your character is unique their journey will be too. [This plays back to recent discussion on protagonist's oftern being outsiders].
The topic of David's workshop was Making the Back Story Active.
We began with John Yorke's description of exposition:
- Information that no one knows
- Informations that the characters knows
Treat the audience with respect and remember that they are cleverer than you and will go at the speed of the smartest member.
We did some fun writing excercises, writing a scene with bad exposition. He referenced Robert McKee's advice to use exposition as ammunition. So we use drama to make it more pallatable.
David realised from watching many plays that the audience experience goes through this loop
So when is the best point to do exposition? Certainly not in 1 although we have seen that happen in the Doll's House. He said the best time is after 2, the Event. [This is something you see in the Marvel films really clearly. After a big fight, they shove in the exposition.] Exposition can be past events or off-stage action. Exposition can also be as late as the end of a scene or even the story [e.g. Sixth Sense}.
We then had an enjoyable Q&A/Discussion. I proposed this tactic for exposition:
- Anticipation - discuss future events
- Event - discuss present events
- Aftermath - discuss past events
We talked about monologues and how these tend to be more focussed on the internal journey. They work best if telling a story.