ArtLinks Pro Am Theatre Skills byTony McCleane-Fay

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Information about ArtLinks Pro Am Theatre Skills byTony McCleane-Fay

Published on January 3, 2009

Author: artlinks



How to read a play

* Artistic Vision, what is it? Do I need to have it?
* Contemporary Playwrights: McPherson, Roche, Walsh, Kane, Churchill, Ravenhill, Pinter etc.
* Choosing a Play to produce for your group/company

Practical guidance on improving your production values

The workshops are aimed at non-professional or amateur drama practitioners and are designed to enhance your enjoyment of the process whilst promoting confidence in your abilities.


SOME STYLES OF THEATRE Romanticism Faust, Romeo & Juliet Realism Hedda Gabbler, Pygmalion Naturalism Miss Julie, Stanislavski Expressionism & Epic Theatre Brecht, Woycezk Constructivism & Existentialism Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, No Exit Theatre of the Absurd Waiting for Godot, Mountain Language Post-Dramatic Theatre The Wooster Group, Forced Entertainment, Crimp, Handke

Choosing A Play What do I want to say? What do I want to do? Why do I want to do it? Where is it going to be staged? Will I tour as part of a festival? Who will my audience be? How skillful are my actors? Is this a play I can handle? Is the play theatrical? Will it be a creative experience for all? Will it be fun to do? Will it give a fresh experience for the audience?

Choosing A Play Find a playwright you like and read all of their work. Do you have a company of actors already? Are they a bit stale/typecast? Look at open auditions. Go talent spotting to your local Youth Theatre shows/musicals/pantomimes. Read as many plays as you can get. Be bold, don’t just look to the Drama League of Ireland and French’s lists.

How To Read A Play Look at the title. What does it mean? 
 Is the play funny or tragic? What is the genre: comedy, tragedy, romance, etc? Based on the genre, does the play end the way it's supposed to? 
 Look at the setting. Does it seem appropriate? How does the setting affect the overall feel of the play? 
Read some of it aloud. What are the basic plot points? How does the action build up to the climax of the play?
 Does the play have a dramaturgical arc? 
 Look at the stage directions. How detailed is the staging? Do the directions give you a sense of what the play is about and what is happening? Is it necessary to follow the stage directions verbatim? Look at the historical background of the play. What famous works of literature, political and social environments influenced this play? How did this play inspire or influence later works. What is the theme (message, moral or idea) of the play? If you love/like the play - why? What can you bring to the play? What is your vision for the play?

Artistic Vision Simply put, Artistic Vision is the pictures a director sees in his/her head when s/he reads a play. This can take the form of a film of the stage play rolling in your head. Vision: imagination, creativity, inventiveness, innovation, inspiration, intuition, perception, insight, foresight, prescience. You will not have a vision for every play you read, maybe one in ten. Recognising it takes experience. Ask yourself: Is there anything new I can bring to this play? If the answer is ‘yes’ and you know exactly what you can bring and ‘how’ you can bring it - that is your vision.

The Director There are basically four types of theatre director: The Dictator In this style of directing, the director has a strongly assertive role and is very dominant in the process of creating a theatrical work. Rehearsals are more or less fully controlled and predictable, with the actors having little or no say. The Negotiator The negotiator is a style of direction in which the director focuses on a more improvised and mediated form of rehearsal and creation, using the ideas of the production team and actors to shape a theatrical work in quite a democratic style. The Creative Artist The director sees himself or herself as a creative artist working with the 'materials' of dramatic creativity, be they the actors, designers and production team. The "creative artist" wants input from the actors but, as artist, has final say over what is included and how ideas are incorporated. The Confrontationalist In this style of directing, the director is in constant dialogue and debate with the cast and the production team about creative decisions and interpretations. The director seeks out and actively engages in such exchanges. Out of these exchanges, which can sometimes be heated or risky, comes a final contested product. Many contemporary directors use a creative amalgam of styles, depending on the genre of the theatrical work, the nature of the project and the type of cast.

Contemporary Playwrights Conor McPherson Billy Roche Enda Walsh Mark O’Rowe Sarah Kane Caryl Churchill Mark Ravenhill Harold Pinter Martin Crimp Anthony Neilson

Conor McPherson Dublin Carol Port Authority Rum & Vodka Shining City The Good Thief The Seafarer The Weir This Lime Tree Bower

Billy Roche A Handful of Stars Amphbians Belfry Him & Her On Such As We Poor Beast In The Rain The Cavalcaders

Enda Walsh Disco Pigs Bedbound Misterman Pondlife Angels Sucking Dublin The Walworth Farce The Small Things The New Electric Ballroom Delerium

Mark O’Rowe From Both Hips Crestfall Anna’s Ankle Howie The Rookie Made In China Terminus

Sarah Kane Blasted Phedre’s Love Cleansed Crave 4:48 Psychosis

Caryl Churchill Top Girls The Skriker This Is A Chair Fen Icecream A Mouthful Of Birds

Martin Crimp Attempts On Her Life The Country Fewer Emergencies Face To The Wall Cruel and Tender

Harold Pinter The Dumb Waiter No Man’s Land Ashes To Ashes Mountain Language The Lover One For The Road

Mark Ravenhill Shopping and Fucking Faust Is Dead Pool(no water) Some Explicit Polaroids Handbag

Anthony Neilson Normal Penetrator The Censor Stiching The Wonderful World Of Dissocia

Rehearsal Techniques When do the actors need to be off-book? Before Rehearsals? After specific Workshops on the themes of the play are conducted? Whenever they can?

Rehearsal Period Professional theatre productions usually rehearse for four to six weeks (Mon – Sat 10am – 6pm) in accordance with Irish Actors Equity Agreements. There are many ways and methods one can use during rehearsals but usually rehearsals are split into three sections:

Professional theatre productions usually rehearse for four to six weeks (Mon – Sat 10am – 6pm) in accordance with Irish Actors Equity Agreements. There are many ways and methods one can use during rehearsals but usually rehearsals are split into three sections:

Rehearsal Section One : Trust your casting, if you have a problem with an actor – recast NOW, don’t leave it any later; select two actors (don’t tell them!) as barometers – one whose response is high and one whose response is low this way you will be able to guage your own pace; get them to look at each other rather than the script; start to set character and blocking – but don’t nag them! Mark out set.

Rehearsal Section Two: the digging period; the actor brings characterisation the director adds to it; all off-book now; no messing about and talking; directors energy should be high and obvious; director should be excited and hungry to see a run; don’t stop run thru’s, make notes; blocking and business should be complete.

Rehearsal Section Three: Polishing, discipline, full-runs, some if not all costume / make-up. Dig deeper on relationships, character, objectives etc. This section includes the Tech and Dress, right up to the opening.

Rehearsal Tips Warm the cast up; Swap Roles; Run scenes at different paces; Run scenes in different genres; Insert acting exercises into rehearsals; Play around with blocking; If an actor uses a prop and you don’t yet have it, use a substitute; Sing some scenes; Do ‘spot’ rehearsals; If actors are ‘shuffling’, hold their feet; If actors are ‘holding on’ to the furniture, play the scene with their hands on their head; If actors are not projecting, play loud music during their scenes and get them to project over it; Attempt to take actors out of their comfort zone early on.

Design: Most professional productions will employ a number of designers; set, sound, lighting, costume, make-up, sfx etc.

Set: The 'stage picture' is the 'look' or physical appearance of the stage for a play, whether in rehearsal or performance. It reflects the way that the stage is composed artistically in regard to props, actors, shapes and colours. The stage picture should express good principles of design and use of space. It should be visually appealing for the audience or should express the show's concept. The stage picture is also crucial for the creation of atmosphere for the audience.

The set designer is responsible for collaborating with the director and other members of the production design team to create an environment for the production. Set designers are responsible for creating scale models of the scenery, renderings, scale elevations and scale construction drawings as part of their communication with other production staff. There are basically two types of set naturalistic and abstract. If the play is set in a kitchen and living room the design of a naturalistic set will be those two rooms re-created on stage, an abstract (or nonpictorial, conceptual or nonrepresentational) set will more than likely be designed around the themes of the play or the ‘vision’ of the play. Your budget may be better spent on a hiring a sculptor or visual artist rather that recreating the kitchen sink.

Costume: You may wish to produce a restoration play or a play set some time in the past but be put off by the complexity and expense of the costumes. Consider setting the play in modern-dress, as a choice this may inform your telling of the play in that you may find contemporary parallels which you can examine. Make-Up: Should compliment the costume, characters, tone of the piece. Try to get the same person to do it each performance.

Sound: Great for setting tone, atmosphere, ambience and effect. Try and get a whizz-kid who’s great with computers and produce it yourselves. You can get sfx on the internet. Works best when the score is original – do you know any musicians/composers who would do it for nothing?

Lighting: Essential. Many shows look flat and uninteresting because they are lit purely from the front. Experiment with angles, colour, gobos etc. Theatre is primarily a visual medium – and you control what the audience sees and how you want them to see it.

Actor Tips C haracter R elationship O bjective W here Accents & Dialects Timing Drying Corpsing

Production Tips Marketing Friends Scheme Previews Auditorium / Foyer Warm Ups - physical & mental Line Runs Speed Runs Re-Blocking Following: simple & effective stage design examples

4:48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane

Conspiracy Theory by Devised

This Is A Chair by Caryl Churchill

Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh

Babes in the Hood by Devised

Beaten by Ailis NiRiain

Beaten by Ailis NiRiain

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