Tag Archives: research

Guest dramaturg and playwright: David Lane

I received a lovely email from the playwright and dramaturg David Lane this evening, inviting me to share his fabulous blogs on process.

David wrote:

Knowing your love of a deeper analysis of playwriting, I wanted to send you a link to this most recent blog post titled Paralysed by Process: Writing off the Grid (number 4 of 10) that is part of my public engagement promise to ACE, after they funded me with a personal grant for writing a play.

The 10 blogs are reflecting on my funded process from idea to first draft, and this fourth one made me think of you as it’s reflecting on some creative collisions between wearing the dual hats of playwright and dramaturg.

I’m afraid the blogs are crack cocaine to a process and creative junkie like me – I recommend them, but warm you, they can be highly addictive:

Blog 1: Finding Your Writing Voice
Blog 2: Asking the Best Questions of Your Writing
Blog 3: What Happens After Playwriting Research?                                                         Blog 4: Paralysed by Process: Writing off the Grid

It’s always a delight to share work and analysis of a process which often seems mystifying and mysterious.

Many thanks to David for sharing.

starting to write…research, creating materials and scratching out the territory

It’s that exciting time – researching, imagining the territory, scratching out the first traces of what may develop into a character’s voice, journey, temperament, discoveries… I’m starting out on a new play, creating the anarchic, formless, sprawling mosaic of half-monologues, author’s questions and asides, indications of dynamic and interaction in snatches of dialogue, hastily written notes about place and action which eventually come together to create an image of the world of the play…

As a playwright, I’m not a planner. I know all the tricks and approaches, the theories and proposed practices. I’ve read the books, been to the seminars, taken and led the workshops. I know how it’s done and am known for my skills with dramaturgy and structure, yet my own process at the start of a new play is deliberately chaotic and to a planner’s eye, undisciplined. I give myself free rein to follow any wild association that pings in my head, to research in unlikely places so long as there is a chord resounding in me, to scrawl pages of notes and questions and one liners and ‘what ifs’ and scratching outs and a) b) c) d) versions of what may happen and whose emerging voice it may be and what this might really be about…

I read widely and eclectically – a medieval Welsh myth in translation, a misery memoir on abduction and a Victorian botanical primer (with delicious, delicate hand-painted illustrative plates) in the past four days alone. I’ve read about stamens and ovules; the flora and fauna of the New Forest; an American Survivalist’s blog on going off-grid and an Austrian’s guide for surviving trauma. I’ve seasoned this with playlists of new-to-me musicians and composers selected by my nephews and images from photographers’ blogs on remote places and abandoned buildings.

I’m immersing myself in whatever snags my interest or resonates for the perceived journey ahead. I’m not being selective or critical. I’m dipping in like a swift tips the surface of a lake, sampling, trying, flying on, keeping moving. I’ve learnt how seductive research can be. I know how it can engross you, consume you, and become either yet another form of procrastination, preventing you from getting down to the job in hand – writing – or it can weigh you and the project down, words research-heavy, too dense to soar.

I carry my diverse and immersive research lightly, although I abandon myself to its pleasures for a short time. This I think is where experience comes in – knowing when to stop both the task at hand and the whole process itself. It is also important to learn how to notate, to skim off what is of interest and potentially of use to your project, keeping always a little distance from what you are engaged in, however addictive. It is also essential to capture the thoughts that flit across your imagination before they dissipate in the air.

Have always a notebook or computer nearby. Don’t con yourself. You will not remember. Jot it down, and now, and see if the thought can be expressed in the character’s voice – the character not yet invented, nevermind realised – this is our paradoxical task but one which can’t be avoided or put off. Send away any inner critic and don’t worry how and what you write so long as you let the impulse flow through you and into the pen/keys; shake yourself out of research pleasure, which ironically often manifests in idleness. Try shaping into scrawled notes that shapeless thought clouding your mind. Get it down and keep moving – you can come look at it again, later. Travel fast, travel with curiosity and an open mind, travel well.

More on my process of starting to write will follow….

Enjoy.

Diary of a collaboration….

Sunhee Kim, Jing Okorn-Kuo, Regina Crowley, Bernie Cronin and Jeungsook Yoo in The Llanarth Group's Studio. [Playing] The Maids

Sunhee Kim, Jing Okorn-Kuo, Regina Crowley, Bernie Cronin and Jeungsook Yoo in The Llanarth Group’s Studio. [Playing] The Maids

What an astonishing and intense eight days research and development…

The end of August 2013 has been marked by a week of making, playing, devising, scripting, montaging, collaborating and sharing work in progress with two audiences of [Playing] The Maids, a collaboration between three companies and nine artists from four countries: South Korea (Theatre P’Yut), Ireland (Gaitkrash), Wales (The Llanarth Group) and Singapore.

Each collaborator brought ‘entry points’ to devising, informed by their interpretation of themes from Genet’s The Maids. This may have been a piece of music from cellist Adrian Curtin, or a sound environment created by Mick O’Shea and Adrian for the performers to respond to and dialogue with; sometimes it was found or created text, images, choreography or traditional dance from the individual’s cultural background. The points of entry into collaboration were each explored and shared, and by mid-week we had a list of thirty possible structures (‘scenes’ or components) we could develop further.

At a dramaturgy meeting mid-week Sunhee Kim, Phillip Zarrilli, Bernie Cronin, Regina Crowley and I sat down and worked through the list Phillip and I had compiled, as outside eyes, of the list of raw materials. We identified different compartments including Text, Structured Improvisations, Physical scores/ choreography and ‘mixed’. We then revised each structure, prioritising some for further development that week, and shelving others for future development in a later part of the project. Already some elements were coming together as possible sequences, which we scheduled for montage and further exploration the next two days.

By Saturday, our sixth day together, we had approximately 80 minutes worth of material, some scripted and choreographed, others improvised, which we shared with a small invited audience in the Llanarth Group’s studio in west Wales. It was an informal presentation to artists and those predominantly working in performance, talking through part of the process and putting very raw work up before an audience for the first time. This part of the procedure was immensely fruitful, but not one I would recommend for inexperienced practitioners or a ‘general’ audience. The work can be very delicate so early on in development, and it takes robust, experienced practitioners and knowledgeable, supportive audience members to ensure the work isn’t bruised by such early exposure. Our experience was extremely helpful and informative, and we instantly learnt lessons about the work, the montage, and areas for further revision and development.

[Playing] The Maids performers with Mick O'Shea, Y llofft, Chapter Arts Centre

[Playing] The Maids performers with Mick O’Shea, Y llofft, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Sunday morning we drove in convey to Cardiff and our second informal sharing at Y llofft, Chapter Arts Centre. Informed by the sharing the day before, we revised the structures, trying out new formations and dynamics in a new space. As the larger invited audience arrived, we showed three sequences, in some cases trying out new things for the first time, which was an exhilarating experience for the company as well as the audience. We received extremely positive feedback from the audience afterwards, who were also predominantly made up of those involved in live performance – performers, practitioners and educators. It was an affirming and triumphant end to an extraordinary week, and the company members dispersed to the train station, the night ferry, and Heathrow airport affirmed and extremely excited about the next phase of the development, scheduled for 2014.

Fragile? Symposium: Dance, Arts, and Visual Impairment.

Fragile? Sympoisum. http://www.fragiledance.com/

Fragile? Sympoisum. http://www.fragiledance.com/

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I’ve been invited to give a presentation about some of my work at Tallinn University in Estonia next month, as part of the Fragile? Symposium: Dance, Arts, and Visual Impairment. I’m going to speak about ‘Silent Rhythm’, a project I co-created with Denise Armstrong and Alison Jones for the Liverpool International Live Art Festival years ago, where we used our sensory impairments as the starting point for collaboration and the source of creativity. Details of the event, plus the international contributors follow:

Symposium / Dance, Arts & Visual Impairment

TALLINN UNIVERSITY, ESTONIA 20 – 21 April 2013

http://www.fragiledance.com/

The FRAGILE? Symposium is a European wide gathering of practitioners, participants and academics engaged in the fields of dance / art and visual impairment.

The FRAGILE partners (BÆRUM KULTURHUS (Norway), VO’ARTE (Portugal), TALLINN UNIVERSITY (Estonia) and SALAMANDA TANDEM (England)) have united together to host this stimulating FRAGILE? Symposium in the beautiful city of Tallinn.

The Symposium runs from 19th April to 21st April and will consist of over 18 separate participatory experiences, inclusive presentations, exhibits and performances. Events will be presented by an exciting array of visually impaired and sighted experts from all over Europe debating, showing and performing their work in response to the symposium themes.

Isabel Jones, Artistic Director of Salamanda Tandem, is the symposium curator, and in shaping the themes has devised a programme, around interests and questions arising from the FRAGILE project, from her 30-year of practice in this field and beyond:


•    Art: an inclusive aesthetic
. How inclusive is dance as an art form for visually impaired people? What are we doing to make it more so? What affects are there on the ‘Art’ of an inclusive aesthetic?

•    Training and Work: routes and barriers
What shifts are needed both attitudinal and physical, for visually impaired people to enter the performing arts as professionals? Where, for whom and how has it been done well?

•    Wellbeing: Value and Appreciation. 
Is dance / art valuable to visually impaired people and if so, how? How far does this value extend, and does it extend to audiences?

The symposium is suitable for visually impaired people, teachers, artists, scientists, therapists, performers and researchers working or interested in the specific field of dance, arts and visually impairment.

Throughout the FRAGILE? Symposium, we aim to encourage debate, participation, provocation and appreciation, of the contributions of visually impaired people and their collaborative partners to the fields of dance / performance / wellbeing / and art.

The FRAGILE? Symposium’s list of contributors includes:

Lee Sass – UK

Mick Wallis – UK

Kjersti K. Engebrigtsen – Norway (KED)

Ana Rita Barata – Portugal (Vo’Arte)

Sarah Kettley – UK (Trent University)

Ajjar Ausma – Estonia

Isabel Jones – UK (Salamanda Tandem)

Delphine Demont – France (Acajou)

Said Gharbi & Ana Stegnar – Belgium

Jose Luis Pages – Spain

Dijana Raudoniene – Lithuania

Mickel Smithen – UK

Gregor Strutz – Germany

Per Solvang – Norway (Oslo University)

Maria Oshodi – UK (Extant)

David Feeney – Scotland

Rachel Gadsden – UK

Kaite O’Reilly – UK

Read more about the FRAGILE? Symposium and register on www.tlu.ee/fragile

LeanerFasterStronger: collaboration between science and the arts

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Dr Dave James welcoming the company to the Centre.

It’s the first week of rehearsals for LeanerFasterStronger at Sheffield Theatres, and director Andrew has organised a company outing to The Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

The project is a fascinating collaboration between scientists and theatre practitioners, part of imove, the Cultural Olympiad for Yorkshire.

In posts last year I wrote about the research residency Chol and Sheffield theatres had at the Centre for Sports Engineering Research, getting access to the motion capture lab’ and other sports science technologies, exploring movement and our attitudes to our disabled and non-disabled bodies.  https://kaiteoreilly.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1034&action=edit

Now, we’re back – the actors who will be portraying the characters I created informed by my research here and elsewhere, supported by the ever-enthusiastic Dr Dave James.

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Entering the lab’

The meeting is a crash course in Sports Science and human enhancement for the actors. It’s a context I’ve become familiar with over the past twelve months and Dr Dave James fields questions on blood doping, enhancement, and other issues the script touches on.

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Morven 

It’s fascinating seeing lines which I wrote informed by bioethics becoming dialogue between diverse but credible characters. When Chol first approached me with the commission, I never thought saying yes would lead me to a biomechanics and sport engineering laboratory.

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It has been a rich experience, collaborating with so many partners, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the challenge of taking academic material regarding human enhancement, placing it within a sports context, and endeavouring to make theatre from it.

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Kathryn in the gym

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