Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Quick Afterword

After requests from people both inside and outside of the group, I have spoken to the ladies at The Mulberry Centre and I am looking to lead another course of workshops in the summer!

p.s. I haven't quite finished my workshops, got one more left then a closing session the following week, so I will make sure I post what goes on anyway!

Looking back... Over my Workshops

It’s amazing how much you can learn in such little time. I am coming to the end of three wonderful years at St. Mary's University, and I can honestly say I've learnt more in the last 3 months than ever before. Because for me, I've learnt so much more than any lecture, book or essay can ever teach you. I've learnt skills that, as well as to produce what I believe to be my best work, will help me so much for when I finally leave.

Focusing upon my community project, learning how to teach and lead workshops with adults has been an exciting and fulfilling task. Working out how to plan, structure and evaluate workshops to suit the needs of a diverse group was a gradual learning process, and it definitely got easier with time the more I got to know them. Initially I thought it would be hard to work with people that are ill, only because I saw myself as a very sensitive person and thought I would easily get upset. However, because I got to know them as individuals, I didn't label them by their illness and did not allow that shadow to hang over their head.

The project has certainly given plenty back to the community, primarily a new activity they didn't realise they would enjoy. Drama can also have a stigma attached to it, being pushed aside for stuck up thespians to execute and middle-class communities to enjoy. However, I hope I have proved to this community that there are so many different ways the realms of drama can be of service, and this is one of them. As I have mentioned in previous weeks, their confidence dramatically improved, and it has given these people a chance to explore, take risks and above all, enjoy themselves. I hope they have learnt all different things about themselves too; including how proud they should be that they were brave enough to take part, and how proud I am of them to put their problems aside and to let themselves go.

As much as this project was intended to give to the community, The Mulberry Centre has actually given so much back to me. As well as believing that every town in the world should possess a ‘Mulberry Centre’ of their own, this community has shown me that not every part of having the disease is all death and dismay. There is a huge sense of hope and possibility that fills each room with warmth and comfort, and I only hope that my project has added to it’s magnificence.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Workshop 5... It's Assessment Time!

So after a rocky 4th workshop, I decided it was wise and best for everyone if we stick to the safe structure that we had been following throughout the course and carry on with plenty of games and warm-ups, followed by improvisation and devised small performances.

By this point, I have rung dry all of the resources I have been using (we have played over 40 games in 4 sessions!) and was getting quite worried as these games had been so successful. However, Mr. Google aided me to find even more brilliant and exciting games and exercises to carry on with. I found out that I was going to get assessed this week, but I wasn't sure who by. I'm going to be honest, I was very anxious and annoyed that I wasn't going to be assessed by someone who a) hasn't taught me before, and b) I had never met before. I have put so much hard work and passion into this project and was so worried that whoever came to watch me wasn't going to both recognise my efforts and see how much the workshops are benefiting the people involved.

The objectives I set for this week's workshop were:
  • Focus upon the following elements of drama and performance that we have introduced and developed: (I then drew a mind map and asked everyone what elements they believed we had worked on) which included imagination, concentration, communication, voice projection, delivery, body and audience awareness etc.
  • Explore Improvisation using "motivation", "climax" and quick thinking.

I had a lovely surprise when I arrived at the centre to see that a boy that had come to the 1st workshop but had been unable to attend the rest, had come to join us again. He is much younger than everyone else and I was worried that because of this he wouldn't come again, but he was really excited to catch up on what he had missed and get stuck in with the fun.

We started the workshops as we always do by discussing what we had done the week before and getting everyone thinking about what we have actually achieved over the previous weeks. As we began to start the games, I thought it might be nice for Matt (who came to assess me) to get involved. The group were more than happy for him to do so! We played with rhythm, impulse thinking and voice projection to start with, and one of the games was called 'You', where we sat in a circle and one by one pointed at someone and said 'you'. This person had to do the same to someone else a bit louder and more gesture. This carried on getting louder and louder with more and more gestures and movement. It turned into somewhat of a slanging match with the louder it got, the more vicious and angry they became, which was so amusing to watch!

Another game that they loved with 'Yes, lets!" We had the theme of getting ready for a party and everyone got so into it. We were all running around like 6 year-olds and were knackered afterwards!!

Moving onto the performance section, I got everyone into pairs and gave them a line each they had to say, which they had to make up a situation they could have said them. For example, one of them was, A: "Stop It!" and B says: "Make Me!". They all came up with brilliant unique situations and you could see their improvements from how fast they were thinking of them. I was giving them a minute and a half, and they were ready in 30-40 seconds! One particular pair that were brilliant involved one man (who is 77) and a woman. For these lines, the man started jumping around with his hands up in the air like a child while the woman tickled him!

Before they started this exercise, I began to explain that I wanted them to consider the motivation of the character they were playing in order for them to really push their performance. Also, I said I wanted to see a 'climax', or a pivotal point in which the two motivated forces collide. When allowed to get on with it, I went round to each group and made sure they understood exactly what I meant. These rules applied to the next exercise too, and the difference in the standard of work they were producing was amazing. What I had been worrying about the past weeks trying to get them to devise more solid performances was banished just by introducing these simple ideas. Some were so inventive in their climaxes, they had Matt taking a cameo role as an Alien!

This week went so well, and just flowed so naturally. I think its safe to say the group are so comfortable with each other now and really enjoying what they are doing. They are taking risks and being ever so creative with both games and exercises. They are willing to do anything for fun and this makes the workshops so easy and fun to lead. Its a shame they're coming to an end!

It was obvious that this format was what the group needed and would be staying for the remainder of the course. I agreed with them that for the 'performance day', we will play everyone's favourite games and exercises, and whoever wants to perform can do so. I have said that they may invite whoever they wish to come and see what we have been doing, (I know quite a few people around the centre, families and friends have been interested) and they can bring food and drink too.

Just before we finished the session, one of the men asked if we could all have a photo together. Matt kindly agreed to take the photo and we all sat on the wall outside in the sunshine. I asked him why he wanted the photo so urgently and he said his doctor wanted to see it. A bit puzzled, I asked him why. He told me that since he had been visiting the Mulberry Centre his health had improved dramatically, (in his words, before he came here, he was 'almost dead'), and his doctor couldn't believe his transformation. This just proves that it isn't just drugs and surgery that help someone to get better, their well being is equally important. And if we can help someone revive their happiness and health through drama and laughter, there is a happy home for it at The Mulberry Centre.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Workshops 3 & 4... Time to realise what we're here for.

Good Afternoon Bloggers! I hope everyones projects are going well now we are edging so close to the end!!

I have had an absolutely mad few weeks to say the least what with all my 30 credit modules (I did 3 of them!!) assessments in one after the other, however my community project has still been going on every Friday afternoon. Its actually been a lovely break from the dark and stuffy mac rooms to get out in the sunshine and play, laugh and have fun in the workshops!

After a tough following, workshop 3 went swimmingly too. We concentrated on 'body awareness' this week, getting everyone up and moving. Our objectives were:

  • To reintroduce old and new members (some had been away so had not met the new member from the following week)
  • Introduce the concept of 'body awareness' and how this affects our audience
  • Learn how using our bodies can project just as much as dialogue
  • Express our creativity through actions
  • Develop idea of 'improvisation'
  • Look to develop work through depth and movement

We started the session with a few exercises that we have played in Uni such as 'You are walking through...', where you pretend you are walking through something that makes you walk a certain way e.g. 'You are walking through sticky mud', and 'Group Shapes', where we had to get ourselves into a shape that could be seen from an aerial view, e.g. 'a diamond'. I have one person in my group that really struggles to walk around, let alone play these type of games, so I set him the task of Host, where he had to call out the commands. I started him off with a few examples then asked him to make up the rest. After we had finished the games, as well as asking the group how they felt about it, I asked the person who had been Host how it looked and whether we could have done anything better. He felt very confident to give feedback and thanked me for giving him this role.

After a few more similar games like this, we went onto to play 'The Lost Key'. the game involves a very simple plot to be acted out twice, once in a very naturalistic manner, what Stanislavski calls acting "in general" (artificial acting), and perform it again using mime in a very melodramatic manner. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun with this task, and there were lots of laughs to be heard throughout. When watching the performances, it was easy to see that some people took to mime very well and some saw it as only taking away dialogue. However, when asking afterwards which type of performance they preferred, one or two did say they enjoyed the mime more. So from now on, I will say that with whatever they are devising that they may using whichever genre they prefer.

One last game that went particularly well was called 'Picture Prompt', where I gave all of them the same picture of three people (see above). They then had to discuss what they believed was going on at the time the picture we taken and to re-enact it. One particular group were very good, they took on the characters as well as the situation, talking with mock italian accents and using plenty of gesture and projection. Everyone enjoyed watching it and they want to present this again in the last week!

After the workshop, I stayed and had a cup of tea with some of the group members. They were asking me all about University and how I got into drama etc, and one of the ladies said, "I would never had dreamed of coming to a workshop like this before, however Cancer has made me do things I never thought I'd do. I push myself to do everything now and really enjoy myself!" This just showed me how much these workshops have given to this community and how much good it does them. For them two hours a week, the workshops have given them the space to leave their worries at the door and hopefully for a short time forget where they are and just enjoy themselves.

Overall a very good week! The following week I wanted to move on from this, and I had planned to use most of the session time to focus upon coming up with solid ideas for a more in depth performance that we could work on and perform in the last week.

So, onto workshop 4, where the objectives were:
(which by the way, not sure if I have mentioned it before, I put these objectives up on a flip chart before every workshop and go through them before we start the workshop)

  • Introduce the importance of voice projection
  • Incorporate 'the voice' within our performing
  • Begin to build structured performances
  • Use stimuli to help encourage imagination
  • Have some fun in the sun!
We started this workshop by doing a few voice exercises, including warm ups (ahhhh, eeeee, oooooo, mmmmm, ssssss etc), gradually getting louder then softer etc. Then we developed this by talking in pairs whilst walking away from each other, projecting our voices more as we move away. I explained to the group about places like The Globe Theatre and how the actors had to be able to project their voices in order for the audience to hear them.

I then asked them to choose an advert from a page I had given them from the yellow pages and, with everyones else's eyes shut, read the advert to the group, making it as interesting as possible. From here, everyone got into groups and chose their favourite. I asked them to make a one minute advert that visualises the words and really sells the company or business. Everyone works really hard on this and came up with some really good ideas. The centre has a beautiful garden and as it was a lovely sunny day, the groups practiced and performed outside! One man was really convincing as a doctor and actually made us all want to visit a cosmetic surgery for one his his consultations (and even told some of the audience they could do with a little face lift!)!

During the second half of the workshop I asked everyone to get into two groups and, with the help of the stimuli I had placed onto the floor, to come up with an idea for a 5 minute piece. It took a while for everyone to think of something, so i went round to both groups and tried to help them by asking them questions about the items, e.g. "Where is that necklace from?", "Who are them people in that picture?" By using improvisation and hot-seating, it became easier for the groups to come up with ideas. After 15 minutes or so, the groups had come up with an idea. One group were using a pearl necklace as a object of 'desire', a piece of drama about two love affairs in paris. The other group were using a small pot off honey as a means for change with 3 character's lives. 

However good these ideas were, some members of the group were a little worried about missing out on developing the ideas as there is usually at least one workshop that they cannot attend. This then halted the idea of getting these performances ready to perform at the 'performance day' and made me think on my feet to how to move on from this week. We ended the workshop by showing what we had already come up with and gave me plenty to work on for the following week; what we were going to do for the remainder of the workshops and what we could do for our 'performance day'.

I looked back on what we had done over the past few weeks, and what people enjoyed the most. One thing I have learnt by leading these workshops is how much everyone has enjoyed playing and creating small pieces of theatre to show to the group, and generally having a good time, and this made me reevaluate my purpose and drive for this project. 

I think I had been too worried about what we were going to have to show for ourselves, and not reflecting on what we had already achieved. These people are having so much fun and laughs, surely that what drama is all about? Just because we don't have structured, professional performances, doesn't mean we haven't been successful in our journey. This group have made a phenomenal transformation already, you would think they have been performing in front of people for years! Their confidence and imagination has soared, and they come every week to enjoy themselves... For me, I couldn't wish for anything more. So, that is exactly what we shall do, carry on with plenty of games and exercises and just enjoy ourselves!