Preparation, Shaping our ideas
Whilst moving away from our initial stimulus of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream we experimented with the theme temptation. We all chose something that is a big temptation in our lives and wrote a monologue about it. My temptation was food. We experimented using sound-scapes with our monologues by this idea did not develop. What we also did was try and take the temptations and work then into scenes. We started with smoking, which was someone else in the group’s main temptation. We looked at how smoking is presented in the media now, with the shocking anti-smoking adverts and in the past when smoking was thought to be good for you. We devised a ‘cheesy’ musical style song to the tune of ‘My Favourite Things’. We quickly moved away from this idea, as it did not portray the kind of message we were looking for or fit with our eventual structure.
Whilst thinking of material we also had to think of staging the material we were producing, so this has to be decided early on. Our use of set we decided to make Brechtian again. It needed to be versatile as we use it for many different things yet non-naturalistic to fit with the piece style. To begin with we used raised block staging in a ‘c’ shape placed up stage with steps in the middle for easy access to the raised top. The use of this staging was to help us achieve levels whilst acting. However we failed to properly incorporate it into our first few scenes and it acted more as a magnet, pulling us to the back of the stage, than a viable set. So we changed it and instead used three benches which were actually much more versatile and useful in scenes, plus they helped cut the stage space down, moving our action forward as the stage is too large really for six people.
We saw temptations as pulling us away from our ultimate goal, which at the moment mainly is university because this is why we are here doing a-levels and were we need to go to get a degree to get a good job to earn money for a future. To show how we are part of a group working through college towards a goal, university this we experimented with using eye contact which demonstrated focus, walking in and out of each other, looking at one person then changing at intervals then lowering to the floor and then crawling forward and trying to beat each other to the goal.
We found that innocence is closely linked with temptation in that ‘temptation is the fall of innocence’.
We sourced the Bible for the fall of man, as we knew this story was about the innocent being tempted and giving in and made a scene from this taking the words literally put presenting it in a more abstract, dramatic way. When we started with the theme of temptation we thought of how people are tempted and realised that before temptation there is innocence and that ‘temptation is the fall of innocence’. From this we looked up the Adam and Eve story of the ‘Fall of Man’ in the bible passage Genesis 3.
… the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
So God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, …
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring  and hers;
he will crush  your head,
and you will strike his heel."
16 To the woman he said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."
17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' …
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground, …
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."
We based one of our first devised scenes on this passage and from it we got the characters that we decided to carry through the whole piece; Adam, Eve, God, Satan, Tree of Knowledge, and the Temptation/Apple a character that is like the Devil’s ‘Puck’. However, as began to create further scenes we realised we needed a more set structure in order for the scene to have a purpose in the piece. This is where the problem for this scene came. We found that as continued we with the rest of our drama, we lost sight of the temptation idea, and therefore abandoned it, but took aspects we liked form it, such as the characters. We kept the characters because they related to the different types of people there are in society- the ‘do gooder’, the ‘know it all’, the bad influence, the one who wants to be liked, ‘the follower’. There are other types of people of course but being from the bible as well meant they linked well with our religious style.
Our focus also moved to the temptations of Christ, being a Catholic School and it being Lent this was highly relevant and something easily looked into and that we knew a little bit about. However after doing some work based on this we came to the conclusion that it was limiting us rather than inspiring us and providing what we wanted a structure to provide, an obvious system of scenes but creating more questions than it was answering.
We felt desperately in need of a structure at this point, and so we took a step back and looked at our theme of temptation. Already influenced by the Bible and the Catholic environment we study and have been raised in, it struck us that there is a line in the Lord’s Prayer about temptation. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. We then adopted the prayer as a whole as our structure.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
We related each line to our lives using pressure as the stimulus and then based a scene around each. However, we found we were lacking relationships and so decided to put the piece in a family setting, were there are all sorts of relationships such as different kinds of love and the results of different circumstances. As our theme is based on our Catholic family upbringing we decided to look at reasons why families get involved with religion. We found that they usually go to church when a sacrament happening. Therefore we thought it appropriate to link each scene to a sacrament and this added the link to our lives, the relationship development and the flow of the piece as a whole. The scenes did not follow the order of the prayer itself, instead they followed the order in which the sacraments are administered. We started with marriage as we also saw this as a journey through our lives and traditionally, especially within the Catholic Church couples had to marry before they have children, so we showed a wedding and then a Baptism.
Marriage fitted with the line ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’. The idea of the line is that life is pressured and every body wants their will to be done, or things to go their way. This is appropriate for a wedding scene because at weddings there is normally lots of people with different motives and reasons for attending, people who want different things. We show this through the bride and bridegroom’s families. In this scene we used the technique of freeze frames to portray photos.
The line ‘Hollowed be thy name’ related to what is important to us. We each contributed a photograph of a precious moment and wrote a monologue about what makes this moment special. This scene was very simple to construct and yet I feel one of the most poignant. We projected our pictures and sat looking back at them while one by one we told the audience about our precious moment. Between each we repeated the line “Hollowed be thy name”. The sacrament associated with this scene was baptism because babies are precious and baptism is about purification, something totally pure is very precious too. By coming out of character, a Brecht technique, to add our own very personal input we wish the audience to think of their own lives, as Brecht would have wanted.
Following this we used the line ’forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’ in relation to conflicts we have in our lives. The DV8 physical theatre influenced the idea of this scene as one of there sketches was of someone being left out and others at a party avoiding this one person we experimented with this, using hugging as our avoidance technique. We added lines from ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ to give it another level of depth and this part worked but the movement looked too chaotic and did not portray the idea of conflict so we kept the lines but altered the situation to be a fight in the common room. This worked better aesthetically. We turned to the back of the stage at this point and played the song ‘Ye Jacobites By Name’ which itself is about conflict (for more information see the bibliography) and used projection again to show pictures and photographs that portrayed the message of conflict. This is quite a political scene in that it gives the audience the chance to reflect on conflict and that the world is in your hands, there is very little difference between students fighting in the common room to leaders of countries only the later have recognised power. This links to the sacrament confession through our intrinsic moral value that makes us feel fighting and killing is wrong but through the fact that we still do it we should be sorry. To show this we turn and repeat one of the ‘Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ assume position that are symbolic of confessing in a confessional.
The next line we used was ‘give is this day our daily bread’. We linked this to the sacrament of communion, quite an obvious match through the reference to bread. When we thought of communion we immediately thought of making our first holy communion as young children. When you are that young it seems like the biggest day of your life so we wanted to show a group of children on making their communion. We based the scene on the bible story of the wedding at Cana in John’s gospel where Jesus turns water into wine as this is often used at communion masses as it talks about Jesus’ power to turn water into wine like the priest’s power to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ which is which communion is about. We all became children acting the scene out.
‘Our Father, who art in heaven’ followed. We thought this related to tradition. We found that in our own lives we are made to do certain things more because they are a tradition than something needed. For example briefing on a Monday morning and General Studies. At first we worked with the idea of briefing but then changed to general studies as the majority of our group are not that opposed to the idea of briefing and do not mind going, whereas General Studies we all thought was a waste of time and we only were made to do it for the good of the school. We used the school database to find a lesson we could base the scene on and found a power point containing Martin Luther’s famous speech about “I have a dream”. The lesson went to have students write manifestos on what they thought was important for college. At fist we had lots of naturalistic dialogue in this scene and two people read out their manifestos, however we changed it to be linked to the Ten Commandments thus maintaining continual connection to our religious theme, and the feeling of having to “jump through hoops for teachers”. We each had to manoeuvre our bodies one by one through a small hoop and say a “thou shall not…” for what we want to get rid of through our manifesto and a “thou shall…” for what we want to bring in through our manifesto. We then adopted a stance to hold once we had been through the related to what we said whilst going through. The scene was the further developed when we tied in the sacraments. The sacrament that correlated with this line of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ and the scene we made to go with it was confirmation because both the sacrament and scene are about being assertive and accepting tradition in that being part of it will make it go further and change towards the future.
Our final scene was the sacrament of the sick, traditionally the last rights. For this scene we used a funeral atmosphere and used the benches as coffins, putting them in a crucifix shape. This demonstrates the importance and influence Christ has in our lives whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. To subvert the atmosphere we play the song ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which is about being optimistic. We then chorally say the lines “Don’t look back with regret, look forward with optimism”. The line of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ that fits into this scene is ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ and so we use bits from all the scene that have gone before so it turns into a wake where people celebrate the past. This also shows you can be lead the wrong way, and how you can get caught up in the past, but that we should not let it be like this.
To round the piece and anchor it to our initial stimulas of ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ we produced a prologue and epilogue to introduce and end the piece with conviction. The Prologue gave us the opportunity for a dramatic entrance and a chance to say the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ in its entirety, introducing our theme. We also intertwine the tradition and modern, in that the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is a very old traditional prayer and our group is attempting a modern interpretation using the prayer in conjunction with our experiences. We did through actions and music. The song we used at very important point, as it set the atmosphere and first impressions of what was to come, was ‘Credo’ by the Hilliard Ensemble. We chose it because it is traditional sounding church like music yet has a modern twist with the incorporation of the saxophone. It has repetitive rhythm that builds up the audience expectation of what will follow. Also it is two minutes long which id just about right tolerance for the audience. Every one starting with a modern action, such as mobile phone texting, freely moving and one by one we change to traditional actions such as the sign of the cross in a more confined space. These gestures are made to be strange to create an alienation effect with audience which is Brechtian, He believed that if the action is not like real life then people will not think get too absorbed and will look for deeper messages. We all change except Fran who gets encircled by the traditional and eventually brakes out saying “But what does this mean to me?” This is to suggest that we look at religion as a scary, old taboo and find it hard to relate to but we want to show the audience how we access it through the rest of our piece. The epilogue is much shorter and once we walk forward for the end of the last sacramental based scene saying ‘lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil. Amen’ Ben steps forward and delivers the monologue Puck gives at the end of ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here,
Whilst these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.
The purpose of this is to demonstrate to the audience that we are only actors and this is the theatre so they do not have to feel obliged to believe any of what they have witnessed. This was how Brecht wanted this to be clearly portrayed in all his plays.
My Development as an actor
To develop myself as an actor in this piece I decided to really ground myself in my character. When developing characters we were very fixed on the Adam and Eve scene and so took characters from that. Although we did not include it in the final piece we kept these as bases for characters as they were staple characters that relate to people in our lives. I was the ‘God’ like character at first. As God is pretty ‘out there’ and a rather big thing to quantify and not someone I can say I have met, I took some of His qualities and transposed them to what a ‘God’ like figure in the sixth form would be like. I decided head girl, someone who has good intentions, does the right thing, is confident and well thought of by most and looked up to. To keep drive I kept the character all the way through, though sometimes it was as a teacher or a parent, but I tried to keep these qualities to give me grounding and base as an actor. However were came to the conclusion after some more development that having a female ‘God’ was wrong for this piece as it is quite a feminist statement to make and as this is not recognised or developed at any point in the piece we thought it incorrect. To solve this problem the person playing Satan, Chris, exchanged with me to play God and I to play Satan. I developed this new role in the same way I did with God. The characteristics of Satan I decided were manipulative, cleaver, self-interest, and pursuit of the wrong thing. I found using Satan as a character base a lot harder than God because Satan is a much more complex and hard to define character, furthermore on a personal level I am more of a ‘do gooder’ than ‘bad’ so it did not relate as closely to me for a believable portrayal. Thinking into this further we decided Satan is also someone who possibly feels misunderstood, that he thinks what he is doing is better and it annoys him that others always think he’s wrong. This I can relate to on a personal level and playing Satan became easier. I say ‘he’ whilst describing Satan and yet I changed roles as God for the reason the God was classically male, but this does not matter as greatly as for God because women are often portrayed as the devil, for example ‘the scarlet woman’.
In relation to other characters, Satan or Lucy as I decided to name her to make her a more feminine sounding name, to make it less obvious the origin of the character and also so that it relates better to the conventions of our society i.e. more like sixth form, she does not really totally like anyone. She gets on best with Robyn, who is like Puck is to Oberon in ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ – my character as Oberon. She also hangs around with Eve who herself likes to stay towards the ‘wrong’ things, but Eve is involved with Adam is around him most. Lucy is ‘frosty’ with God, being the polar opposite in character to Him, and likes to wind Adam up. Proximally she separates herself and is not overtly interested in other people altogether.
Vocally I decided my character would have a level middle of the road emotional range, as she shows annoyance and anger but does not ever take it to an extreme, as she does not want to appear to let her emotions get the better of her. The pitch is quite low because she is serious and her timing is even, she only talks when she feels she has something important to say does not talk through nerves or to fill silence, plus she has a clearly audible volume as she feels people should listen to her because what she is saying is important. For example in the conflict scene she leads instigates the argument, seeing a chance to manipulate and through here convincing truthful tone the others believe her, its only once the fighting starts and it gets violent she decides to take the moral high ground like she is disgusted.
Physically she is not intimidated by others and thinks that if she were in charge she would have something much better to do. I demonstrate this well in the General Studies scene where my posture is slumped in an informal way and I pay attention to my nails rather than the discussion.
For costume we decided to dress as if at a wedding in light of the characters we play the scene. This was because we have scenes of two weddings and a baptism and so it makes most sense to base costume around the most appropriate scenes. I dress conservatory and this helps me adopt the role of an older person as the mother of the Bridegroom and Godmother at the baptism.
Personal strengths and weaknesses and of the group as a whole
In my opinion I felt the group worked very well together and enjoyed working with each other, which enhanced our own focus on the task. We were committed from the out set to producing a piece of highly original piece of theatre to a very high standard. This at times did affect us though as we had a tendency as a group to take to long thinking and discussing things rather than getting up on stage and truly improvising. This meant the rate at which we worked could be slow and ineffective. We were enthusiastic with our own ideas and not afraid to voice our opinion. Also our group work could be disjointed in that we did not all come with the same focus and enthusiasm and energy. This did however give different members a chance to take the lead so responsibilities were shared. We are all friends outside of the theatre studies setting and had worked together on the production of ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’. Our pre-built relationships helped us work faster and be economical in who to ask to do what contribution wise. As time progressed we became aware of our problems and counteracted by reminding each other that the exam date was getting closer and closer.
Personally I found my own weakness in group interaction. I am a natural leader and if someone else takes over I have a tendency to shrink back. I can also appear bossy and this may have had a negative effect on one or two with in the group who’s instinct was to act against it. I also find my strength in my leadership quality as I always kept sight of the end and this helped to channel ideas in the right direction, saving time and energy. I was very pleased with the way I used my acting skills and ability to subvert my character into many roles such as friend, student, Godmother, Mother. As a friend and student I did not bother to notice the problems of those around me and as a mother I was a bitter and resentful finding fault in the bride and her family.
Health and Safety
Throughout rehearsal and preparation for our drama, as a group we have had meticulous concern for health and safety. This process involved analysing each prop and item on set as a potential danger. Our aim was to prevent hazards from occurring and to ensure our safety as a group.
The lighting in our drama theatre was rewired last year, so now it is in keeping with new government safety guidelines and has the approval of qualified electricians. The person who would provide our lighting in our piece also verified it as safe, and met their needs without any cause for concern. Furthermore all lose wires were taped down and lights secured with safety chains.
Onstage we were aware of safety by checking sharp edges and ensuring that relevant scenery was securely weighted and stable. It was to our advantage in this area that our choice of scenery and prop is so minimalist, but we still had to take extreme care with the benches we were using as they were old and made of wood that was starting to split. We kept ourselves out of danger by ensuring that the worst affected bench was not in the middle, the one that is used most for standing on. The curtains surrounding the stage are all fire proof and are therefore safer to work around. We ensured no material came into contact with fire or hot surfaces at any time.
Backstage the balcony surrounding the stage presented a hazard for us as students on occasions as it has become cluttered. If we were attempting to find a prop or set item, we had to take extreme care when walking along the raised area as we may trip over a protruding object. Also we had to ensure fire extinguishers are in relevant places in case of fire.
Conclusion and Evaluation
I am pleased with the evolution of our piece from the starting point of ‘A
Summer Night’s Dream’ to our modern interpretation of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. If we had more time there is lots more we would have done. We wished to use pre-filmed clips and photographs of the rehearsal process, plus there were still some scenes we had ideas for that we did not get to used such as a revamped version of the Adam and Eve scene which would have represented the line ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. However we found ourselves severely limited by time and had to make sure we could perfect what we had done and no ask too much of ourselves.
It has felt like a long and difficult process to reach a final piece, especially as I have worked in this way before with such high stakes, yet I am confident in what we have produced and feel able to act in it with conviction.
Music: ‘Credo’ by the group The Hilliard Ensemble which we used in the opening, ‘Ye Jacobites By Name’ sung by Eddie Reada (Jacobites were Scots who were loyal to James II. The song is from the Jacobite (civil) wars in Scotland. Robert Burns, who was sympathetic to the Jacobite cause, rewrote the song and toned it down substantially, making it more of a general anti-war song than a political statement at the time), and also ‘Auld Lang Syne’ sung by Eddie Reada.
Text: from the Bible John 4 the ‘Wedding at Cana’, lines from Shakespeare’s ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’.