Panel 2: “Learning the References”
Thursday 19th January – 11:50-13:20 – Rehearsal Room 7
- Referencing as a rehearsal tool for reclaiming a feminist text (Sherrill Gow)
The titular protagonist in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908) is a verbose, red-headed orphan and proto-feminist, sent to a small community on Prince Edward Island by mistake. In Spring 2016, I directed postgraduate students at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in a public production of Anne of Green Gables – The Musical (1966). The musical resembles the novel in many respects, but also presents problems undermining its feminist potential: it omits key moments demonstrating Anne’s intelligence and strength, and grossly accelerates the romantic relationship between Anne and Gilbert. In so doing, the musical shifts backward to the heteronormative boy-meets-girl narrative characteristic of many 1950s musicals, rather than forward to the often female-driven musicals of the 1960s. By referencing the novel and Montgomery’s childhood, we set out to reclaim the musical as a feminist text throughout the process of mounting the production.
Anne of Green Gables references L.M. Montgomery’s own childhood: a semi-orphan, unwanted because she was not a boy. Using various strategies to engage with the novel and Mary Henley Rubio’s 2008 biography of Montgomery, we drew links between the author, her novel, the musical, and students’ personal experiences. Our process, rooted in principles of feminist pedagogic practice, oscillated between analysis and action; the personal and political; and imagination and intellect. This combination, facilitated by referencing as a rehearsal tool to stimulate thought about gendered experience, encouraged reflexivity and offered a critical approach for students to consider social problems. This in turn arguably gave our production more texture, depth, and political intention. Referencing—looking back to move forward—became an important rehearsal strategy in re-reading the source material, recontextualizing and re-writing the musical, and ultimately reclaiming the story as a feminist text.
Sherrill is a research degree candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and Senior Acting Tutor and MA Supervisor at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
- Reflective Practices in Doctoral Research: The Music One (Helen Price)
The investigation into the benefit of using acting pedagogy with musicians began in October 2013. It is a concept which has been further developed over the years within my research. Currently there are only a very limited number of similar collaborations which connect instrumental music performance to acting. Ford drew a comparison between music and acting students in their approach to performance (2013). Barker and Coombs explored how pianists can use acting in their performances in The Actor at the Piano (2013). Rea examined ‘what classical musicians can learn from working with actors’ (2015).
The practice involving flautists preparing and performing solo pieces took place in June 2015. The flautists were filmed preparing and performing using their normal routines and practices. They attended an acting lesson, taught by Sinead O’Connor. Then I taught and demonstrated how to connect characterisation and narrative to the score in the same way an actor would approach a script. Music represents/imitates events, emotions, sounds, words. It is capable of communicating more than words. The music played in this practice is brought to life through the decisions the performers make. If there are no clues as to the composer’s intentions, e.g. programmatic music or notes for the performer then the flautist creates/invents the narratives, characters, inner monologue etc. When investigating into the benefits of acting in instrumental music performance a question arose as to how much the research/writer should engage in the practical element. It was important to consider how to objectively reference a performance. The decision was made to take a back seat as much as possible in order to focus on the data gathering, analytical process. Once they had learnt some skills the flautists attended a session which demonstrated how acting can be used to interpret the score and add expression to a performance. The flautists and audience members were provided with questionnaires to reflect upon their experiences after the two performances. The rehearsals, workshops and performances were all filmed to enable reflection on the practice after the event.
Doctoral research which involves a practice element provides students with a challenge, how to, reflect, critique, describe and reference a performance. In the experiment involving flautists it was necessary to write analytically about the practice after the event. During the course of the practice it was necessary to take on several roles that of PhD student, acting teacher, flautist and performer in order to demonstrate what was required. The student who appears onstage may be referred to as the ‘reflective practitioner’ and can face the difficulty of referring to the practice in an objective manner when they are writing about it. Some doctoral students are able to reflect-in-action but this method can lead to difficulties, such as, interfering with the action. There is often a gap between the real action and the descriptions of those actions. There are many resources which offer guidelines, examples and possible solutions in this area. Candy, L.(2006) reminds us that Practice outcomes must be accompanied by “textual analysis or explanation to support its position and to demonstrate critical reflection.” Many benefit from keeping copious amounts of documentation in the form of notes, aural recordings, videos, diaries etc.
Helen enrolled on a PhD at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in October 2013. Her research examines the synthesis between acting and music performance, with a special interest in Higher Education courses. She was appointed Associate Lecturer in Music at the University of Chichester in 2007. In September 2016 Helen began working as an Associate Lecturer in Theatre and Acting teaching Voice. In January 2016 Helen enrolled on the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and is working towards becoming a Fellow of The Higher Education Academy.
- Referencing Audiences: An exploration of the Public Sphere as a tool for training actors for devising theatre. (Evi Stamatiou)
Helen Freshwater suggests that audience reception cannot be predicted or generalised (2009) because it depends on the multiple identities of each audience member and also on the influence of the moment. Such unpredictability might overwhelm a theatre-maker that enters the devising process with the aim to engage with the audience, maintain a cohesive relationship with them, draw them in the physical performance and consider them simultaneously as a whole, distinctive groups and individuals. In the process of preparing for this, the theatre maker needs to decide who are they speaking to. This active choice is guided through specific modes of reference which are rooted in the social experience of the world by both performers and the audience.
In an attempt to construct a conceptual framework that would train actors on how to reference an audience within theatre-making, between 2013 and 2015 I constructed two actor training projects. For the construction of the projects I used Aristophanes’ theatrical devices for audience engagement, which immediately resonate with what Christopher Balme describes as the ‘theatrical public sphere’ (2014). In order to theorise how the trainees looked to reference specific audiences, I critically reflected on the projects using Jugern Habermas’ concept of the public sphere (1964). Reflecting on the process, I observed that the trainees’ attempt to reference audiences triggered an awareness of how the private and the public work with and against one another both in theatrical and political life. Such an awareness of the private and the public offered to trainees the opportunity to find and explore their own agency within theatre-making. It also offered substantial insights on how the consideration of the trainee’s multiple identities within referencing audiences may enable them to make bold and conscious choices about how they want to relate to a whole audience, specific audience groups or individuals.
Evi is a director, writer and solo performer that has presented her work in Greece, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Estonia, South Africa, Brazil and the United States. She is a member of Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab, NY.
She is currently a Lecturer in Musical Theatre at the University of Portsmouth and a Fellow of Higher Education Academy. She is a PhD Candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, constructing ‘Frogging’, which is an actor-training and theatre making method that can enable theatre-makers to make bolder choices about how they wish to be represented on stage, and develop new work. She is dedicated to nurturing new talent, especially social groups that are underrepresented on stage, like women and ethnic minorities.
See more about her work at www.evistamatiou.com