In early December, artists from Project Humanity (and creators of The Middle Place) came to give an in-class workshop.
In PART ONE of the workshop, Andrew and Antonio distinguished between documentary and verbatim theatre. They had the students watch TV interviews with actors Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner (leads in Twilight films). Students were asked to write down three words that they felt characterized the interviews. The class shared their words with one another, and there was quite a variety. Andrew and Antonio then handed out a transcript of the interview, and had students read the interview. It was an interesting initial illustration for the students of going from interview to performance.
In PART TWO of the workshop, Antonio led discussions and exercises designed to help students turn transcribed material into performance, including these two exercises:
Punctuation Walk. Students (and the researchers and teachers) are given a text, and are asked to walk around the room as they read it. They change their movement when they reach a punctuation mark:
period = full stop
comma = turn right 90 degrees and keep walking
ellipsis = slide/skate (a shuffle forward)
dash = a lift (up tiptoes)
Students each do a walk, and the exercise illustrates the importance of punctuation in capturing the rhythm of speech and movement. The slide/skate drags out certain moments, and doing the lift on the dash leads some to raise the volume or pitch of their voice. (Kathleen comments: “It’s interesting how you have to make something artificial in order to make it natural again.”)
Floor Pattern. (See video below!) Antonio asks the students to take note of how they’re naturally standing as they listen to him – this will be their neutral position. Then asks them to articulate different parts of their body in different ways: the feet, the hips, arms, etc. Then asks students to find a position (a set of positions of these different body parts) that is as different from their neutral position as possible. Notes that it isn’t about presenting an idea, or showing anything, “only the 1% that you’re willing to show.” Then find out how that new position ‘travels.’ How does each part move – is it a swagger, determined walk, etc. Encourages them to discover the movement, rather than decide on it beforehand. After this, figure add a sound to the movement that seems to fit. Then find a ‘floor pattern’, a repeatable phrase of movement, small distance that this ‘character’ travels.