Friday, 12 December 2008

Community - Is it such a good thing?

As I said, I've been lying in bed dying (okay, slight exaggeration, I had a virus) all week, and without even the energy to turn over and find the remote, I found myself watching anything that came on the channel that I was on. And to be honest, it wasn't a bad move, (it wasn't a move at all actually ;)) as I found some really interesting things about the idea of community from right where I was.

Now everyone knows daytime television isn't the greatest of entertainment, but there is some pretty decent things to watch. Things like GMTV, This Morning etc are both factual and entertaining, but what they exceed at is grasping very different and controversial topics that highlight certain communities around Britain. This actually brings their regular and wide community of viewers together, learning and sharing stories. Then, at times like these, they choose a deserving charity and raise money with the help of the viewers, e.g. this year This Morning built a Day Centre for the local pensioners for Christmas. Very heartwarming Television. 

This type of community is a bit different to the communities we have been discussing in class, as this isn't a community that know each other, talk to each other and share mugs of sugar. This community come together between 10:30 and 12:30 every morning to watch their much loved presenters and feel good or perhaps forget about the fact that they are not at 9 to 5 jobs just for that day or for everyday of the year. Because for them two hours, they are part of a community of viewers who enjoy good entertainment, gaining information about recent topics and enter lots and lots and lots and lots of money competitions. All in the comfort of their own home. Or in their bed, like me.

Just a random different view on community there!

Things about real life communities also pop up all the time on TV, and as you can imagine, it is found mainly in the news. But without dwelling on them, I found I noticed a few things on other factual programmes that looked deeper into crimes and police work. 
For example, I watched a documentary about the murder of Jamie Bulger and when the boy's murderers of the little boy were being taken to court, there were riots and people trying to break the doors down to get to them. The police commented, "There is a strong community within Liverpool which is great for support for Jamie's family, but not good in times like this." Seems like the word community brings so many positive connotations, sometimes dismissing that there are just as many negative. 
Similarly, with police programmes focusing on football hooligans, they are a big community supporting one team, but there will always be an apposing team's fan club to fight with. 

We can all think of 'bad' groups or gangs of people, but aren't these people just passionate about their communities that they are within? Or do they use these sort of instances as an excuse for their actions?

Ahh you big big scary blog.. I've written you!!

Before I start I must apologise for any gibberish that I may write this week, I've been stuck in bed all week with only Jeremy Kyle and the Loose Women to keep my company. I cannot therefore excuse any foul language, rubbish debates or the odd talking-to-myself moment.

I think I've finally got the idea into my head that this blog isn't going to instantly write itself every week. After my essay of a blog in the first couple of weeks, I let myself get a bit comfortable and thought it'd be okay to forget about for a week or so. 

Fast forward however many weeks and there I was dwelling on the fact that I hadn't written anything in a while but still couldn't get my head round why I still wasn't writing anything. Then we had a pep talk with Mark and Molly last week and Mark spelled it out for me.. I was scared. For this light enjoyable exercise has turned into this big bulging dissertation of work (in my head) and for some reason I have literally run for the hills.

I think I was too busy seeing the blog as a polished bit of work rather than a 'scrapbook of ideas' for the semester to come. I do have my fears and weaknesses within this subject, but as usual have some form of fear towards telling people so, hoping they don't notice. But it may be getting to a time now where I should be speaking about these things, as well as any random stuff that comes in and out of daily life too, community or no community.. anything to get me writing!!

My worries are involved in random parts of the course, I worry initially that i just don't know enough within Drama as I haven't very involved within the practical side of things at university, (although at school I was the total opposite), and therefore I don't want this to have a knock-on effect to what I do at the Mulberry Centre. The worst thing I feel I could do is not do them and the performance justice mainly because of an amateur production. I feel out of touch to put it simply. Any words of advice from anyone would be much appreciated! Even any suggestions as to productions to watch in on etc would be a help.

Speaking of help, I think its about time we all got talking within this blogging community and make it just that. Perhaps just a few comments could make us all a bit more confident to keep on typing.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Exciting Stuff

A have an idea. It’s general and seemingly ambiguous, but it’s an idea.

This week we focused on 'Verbatim Theatre'. I hadn't actually heard of this form of theatre before, so was quite intrigued when told its meaning. Translating into something that is 'to the letter', verbatim constructs language within a play to behave, capturing speech, rhythm and ticks. My first thought was the usual 'it'll never work', believing that it is quite morally wrong to take someone’s own words for entertainment purposes. After all, isn't that what theatre is, entertainment?

Discussing this further, we found that many of us had never worked within this type of theatre before, and therefore we quite sceptical as to how successful it could be. A big issue I originally had with it was to do with the ownership of a story. If you take a person's story and recreate it for the stage, whose story is it then? When faced with this question, Mark gave us a great idea to avoid this problem. Get them to direct it. However, does this make it acceptable to present real life content in such a raw state?

We followed this discussion with an exercise that saw us copying someone's actions and that person watching what 'they' do. An easy job, some might say, but it actually proved quite difficult. I was paired up with Char, and knowing Char for quite some time, I was pretty certain of what she was going to do. The tricky thing was getting her action and words in exactly the right order, in exactly the way that she does them. Parody can usually get you far when impersonating someone, but not this time. Trying to remember all what Char was doing was actually a bit mind-boggling.

Then when asked to perform, feeling pretty confident, we went outside the room and the first task was to enter the room in the right order. I hadn't taken any notice what order Char had come in. Which then lead to becoming dazed and confused as to what came next. Regaining my professional stance, I managed to remember what else Char had done, possibly not in exactly the right order but close enough. Afterwards we spoke about the exercise and it seemed that everyone quite enjoyed either watching or performing. I feel the most important thing came out of it was the recognition of how complex we actually are and how difficult it can be to mimick someone to a tee.

In my notes, I have actually written, 'Do I like this yet?' in between this section and the next, which shows I was still unsure about verbatim theatre. However, I was definatley open to suggestions as how it could be used and what it could achieve.

Mark then went onto talk about different plays that use verbatim theatre. Among them was a play called 'Cancer Tales', a moving story of five different women and they're journey through cancer. This immediately caught my attention as I have been volunteering at, 'The Mulberry Centre', a cancer support centre, for nearly a year and have recently been trying to think of way I could incorporate my work within uni and my work within the centre. Then Mark mentioned that Trevor Walker actually directed this play. Wanting to probe this idea further, I went to speak to both Mark and Trevor after the workshop, which sparked a big idea for a final production; to work with the community of the centre to create a production similar to Cancer Tales.

It was obvious that before even beginning to think of ideas I had to do two things; read Cancer Tales and talk to the centre. I have read the play and agree that is so moving and unique. And the thing that surprised me was that the reason I loved the play so much was that it was verbatim theatre. Using the women's stories in this raw state really grasps the emotions and reality of their experiences, and potentially can help both medical professionals and fellow cancer sufferers through both diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

The play itself has no punctuation, allowing the script to be unprocessed, unrestricted and free; ironically apposed to what the character (if you can call them that) actually are. The stories are unique to them yet intertwined, both as a collective community of people and a constructed piece of performance. This play brings strength, love and will to overcome into the foreground and is an inspiration to both those who have been in their position and those who concentrate on the medical side of the disease. Seeing and hearing what they go through presents how professionals handle their patients and how difficult it can be for carers and relatives as well as the patients themselves.

Moving forward from this I have visited the staff at The Mulberry Centre, and some trustees and volunteers actually went to see the play at The Royal Society of Medicine and loved it. I haven’t been able to talk to these just yet but I will be!

The other staff think that this sort of work could be great for several reasons:

- Bringing people together, and learning about oneself through the observation of others
- Acceptance - a sense of belonging and being valued
- Having ownership and a degree of control of a personal finished 'product'
- The feeling that views and opinions are being listened to
- Sharing experiences and a sense of Altruism - one can be of value to others
- Universality - one is not unique to one's problems

Hearing these positive views has made me confident that this work can bring so much to this community. However, there are lots of ethics within working with this community and these will be discussed with the trustees and directors of the Centre. This is obviously not a solid ground just yet but knowing that it is a possibility is a great thing to hear.

I have such passion for this community and to work with them would be amazing. I have a long way to go with this process, and am very excited to do so! Learning of Verbatim and Forum Theatre has shown me that theatre is so much more than entertainment. It can take you places the media never could and can above all be such an educational experience.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Getting to Grips: Part 1

I have been a bit behind with my blog entries the last couple of weeks and I can honestly say I have got myself a bit worked up.. not just with community theatre but 3rd year in general. But after much deliberating with myself that I WILL get through it and I WILL do the best I can, I have managed to get to grips with the course and began to think about what I would like to do next semester.

I am going to write this blog about last week's workshop and then continue tomorrow about this week and what amazing progress I have made!! (If i do say so myself!)

Last week we spoke about 'Cardboard Citizens' and what forum theatre can achieve within performance. As I didn't see the play, I was intrigued to hear what people thought about it. There seems to be mixed feelings about the performance and forum theatre in general. It was clear that everyone could tell they were 'amateur' actors and were open in telling the audience they were or had been affected by homelessness. The debate that led from this touched upon the idea of causing offence. Because they had been affected by homelessness, it seemed to give them the right to create a performance around it. Does this then mean that you have to have experience of something before you can create a performance around it, in order not to cause offence to those who have? 

The idea of forum theatre allows the play to be both open and flexible, allowing the audience to make the changes they feel necessary. Therefore, the issue of causing offence surely has to be by-passed. A way forum theatre can monitor this is how well it is structured. If the outlines of the play are clear and defined, whichever way the story goes, the actors can handle the adjustments and the audience are still grounded to what is happening.

Toward the end of this session, Mark brought up a great point, and I can't actually remember how it came up or what it related to!! However, reading back on my notes I still want to add it here, as I remember strongly agreeing!!
There are two kinds of people:
  • people who judge you for every action
  • people who see what you intend to do
Whatever, it related to, I thought it was so true!!

I have little experience with forum theatre and from what I have seen it is great within workshops for team building, character development and improvisation. Without seeing a performance using this technique it is hard to judge whether it would be good to use within a performance of my own, but would like to try out plenty of techniques like these before making a decision.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Kick Off

So hey and welcome to my blog!

I've never written a blog before so this may take a few weeks to get used to. The nearest I've got to anything similar is witty status's and sarcy comments of Facebook, so actually making a progressive diary of community theatre should be a lot of fun and hugely different from my other bits of work.

I think it's a great idea, actually getting to the heart of student's thought processes and a great way of learning how others are doing throughout the course.

The first lecture gave my a real insight to the kind of work that will be expected of us, and it's great to see a great deal of enthusiasm and talent within the group. To what kind of work I will want to work in is still to be thoroughly thought through, I have no idea what I want to do!!!

Until next time....