Sound and Lighting – (space, colour, light and sound):

In this weeks workshops we focused on lighting and sound, how to add light and sound to our performances in a way which would enhance the intentions behind them.

I found these workshops extremely useful as I have never had to put together my own technical arrangements in the past, I had always done it as part of a group or had it done for me by my director. Learning about different lights, lighting techniques and the semiotics of certain technical arrangements really made me aware of how much freedom I have when devising my final performance. Learning about how to portray memory and imagination was something I found particularly interesting as I am considering using memory in my final piece. I also found learning how to portray the passage of time on stage very useful as I want my performance to be set over the course of a day, so this is something that I will potentially explore further for my performance.

After discussing different lights and the effects that they can create on stage, I began to consider my own piece, starting with my pre-set. As my pre-set will be the first thing the audience see when they enter my performance space, there are lots of things to take in to consideration such as; the atmosphere that is created, the initial information that they receive, what do they see when they enter my performance space and also how do I want them to feel when they enter the space. Taking all of these things in to consideration helped me to view my piece from the perspective of the audience, which I think is extremely important, especially when working on a solo performance, as throughout the development and rehearsal process, there is no one who can view my work from a third party perspective.

After taking note of the importance of an effective pre-set, I began to explore ideas of how I can transition in to my first lighting state. We were shown examples of different lighting and transition techniques and I think that this will be dependant on the mood I want to create from the start of my performance. Throughout developing the tech for my piece, I think it is important to constantly view the piece from a third party perspective and not just my own, this will ensure that my performance is being portrayed in the way that I intend it to.

Technical Exercise:

After discovering what technical options were available to us and learning about the semiotics of different lighting states, we were put in to groups and asked to create an opening section of theatre that sets an atmosphere and eventually builds in to a radical change. We were asked to do this using both lighting and sound, including silences and avoiding a narrative for the piece.

My group had the idea of starting with a primary blue wash on an empty stage, once the audience were seated we wanted the sound of crickets to begin playing very faintly. Our intention was to create the atmosphere of a pleasant summer evening. Over the course of one minute, the cricket sound began to get louder and louder until it was uncomfortable and almost unbearable to listen to. Simultaneously, the blue wash began to transition to a red wash, conveying danger and power which complemented the increasing sound of the crickets. As the soundscape had reached its peak and was about to cut off, we had a member of our group enter the stage, taking slow and steady footsteps from upstage left and in to centre stage. When the actor reached centre stage, we had a spotlight come on to reveal that he was holding a cup upside down. We did this as we wanted to create the illusion that there could possibly be a cricket under the cup. When the actor lifted the cup, it revealed a babybel placed in the palm of his hand. The reaction from our audience prior to this changed to laughter at this point and then we went to a black out.

When hearing feedback from our audience, a comment was made on the effect it had when the washes of colour transitioned at the same time as the volume of the soundscape increased. As blue has connotations of a calm and cool colour while red has connotations of danger, the slow fade from blue to red along with the increasing sound of crickets gave the illusion that something bad was about to happen. Having the actor walk slowly towards the centre of the stage in silence suspended this feeling and created tension. Relating this back to my piece, it made me realise the extent of the way lighting and sound can effect an audiences perception of a performance. Without the tech that we chose, our performance would have simply been an actor walking on stage and presenting a babybel to the audience, however with the light and chosen soundscape, we created a piece of theatre that displayed both tension and humour. This is something that I will definitely keep in mind when devising the technical aspect of my performance.

Week 3 – Practitioners:

Karen Finley:

Karen Finley is an American performance artist who claims to have a varied and eclectic mix of influences including Billie Holiday and Adam Ginsberg. Finley’s art includes music, poetry and books which she uses as forms of activism. One thing I noticed about Finley’s work is that she uses hysteria very well, particularly in her singles Lick It! (1988) and Jump in the River (1988). This use of hysteria and extremely explicit content is something I don’t think I will use in my performance as I to create a more naturalistic piece of theatre. Despite Finley’s work being something that I wouldn’t explore further personally, I can see why people would enjoy her art as it deals with themes of female dis empowerment, a topic which is not commonly addressed.

Annie Sprinkle:

Annie Sprinkle has taken many career paths throughout her lifetime including pornography, television host and writer. Sprinkle now works as a performance artist and sex educator with her most famous piece of theatre claimed to be Public Cervix Announcement (1992), a piece in which Sprinkle asked audience members to view her cervix to symbolise celebration of the female body. Sprinkle and her wife also identify as ecosexuals and are authors of The Ecosex Manifesto which states that ecosexuality is a love for The Earth. Sprinkle and her wife Beth Stephens perform ecosex weddings, weddings in which ecosexuals marry the Earths natural creations such as the Sea and soil.

To take inspiration from Sprinkle’s work for my performance is something that I doubt will happen, however, I really enjoy Sprinkle’s art and after watching this video I felt happy and uplifted. I can say that Sprinkle’s art is something I may possibly explore further in the future although probably not for my performance.

Week 2:

Marina Abramovic:

Despite studying Abravovic’s work in previous modules throughout university, I still found learning about her various performances extremely interesting. In previous modules we had looked mainly at The Artist is Present (2010), a silent and durational piece in which Abramovic sat with a chair opposite her and the public were welcome to come and sit in the chair for as long as they pleased. This performance sparked many different reactions from audience members, with many becoming emotional and even shedding tears. A performance of hers which I was not previously aware of was Rhythm 0 (1974), where Abramovic wanted to test the limits of performer and audience relationships. In the performance, she had a table of 72 objects which audience members could use in any way that they chose. At first, the audience were cautious and modest with the objects, however, as this piece lasted 6 hours, the audience began to act more aggressively with the objects as time went on. I find the idea of exploring the relationship between a performer and their audience a very interesting one, this performance could have of course ended terribly for Abramoic as at one point an audience member pointed a gun at her head, while another took it away. This shows a level of trust between the artist and the audience, which is necessary for a performance like this, despite whether the audience betray that trust or not. I think that the concepts and notions behind Abramovic’s performances are very interesting and although I don’t think that I will take inspiration directly from her performances for my final piece, I have realised the importance of a performance having a solid concept behind it. This is something that I would like to think I will take inspiration from.

Traverse Stage Exercise:

In the workshop we were put in to groups and given a different type of stage to develop a solo performance from. My group were given a traverse stage to work with which initially gave us the idea of creating a form of fashion show or runway walk. We wanted to have a screen at the back of the ‘runway’ which would show something contradictory to what was happening on stage, for example, if the performer was walking to an upbeat song that had connotations of happiness, then we wanted the screen at the back to display something that was the complete opposite. After playing around with this idea for a bit and discussing it further, we decided that it might not work so well as there are only so many opposing emotions that can be portrayed on stage and through multimedia. Our second idea for a traverse stage was to do something in relation to Brexit. We decided it would be effective to have one side of the audience represent ‘remain’ while the other to represented ‘leave’, this would create a sense of tension between the two halves of the audience. We wanted to focus on the negatives of the arguments for both remain and leave as usually, in the media, it is the positives that are more openly voiced. Focusing on the lies as well as fake news, we wanted to create a piece of theatre that was politically bias yet still thought provoking to an audience.

My Ideas So Far:

I’m still looking to develop further my ideas around creating a performance focusing on homelessness, however, after this weeks workshops I am very open and willing to explore different ways of staging my piece. I had never considered anything other than a proscenium stage, however, I think it would be effective to stage my piece in a different way. I am now considering either a site specific performance, as I think it would fit the concept of the piece well, or I think it could be interesting to explore a birds eye stage possibly performing in the dance studio with my audience looking down on the performance from the windows above. This will create the idea of homeless people being looked down on, both physically and metaphorically. These ideas of staging are something that I am excited to explore further as I think it could add an extra element to my piece, if I decide to go with the idea of representing homelessness in my final performance.

Week 1:

In the first week of the module, we began by looking at Matt Chewiwie’s Artist Statement which I have attached below:

When watching this video, I found that a few things jumped out at me. First of all, when referring to himself and his own work, Chewiwie states how he views himself as an ‘entertainer’, going on to explain how entertainers make people laugh and excited, possibly suggesting that this is something an artist can not do. He then goes on to contradict himself by repeatedly using the phrase ‘as an artist’, despite suggesting that he is more of an entertainer after defining the way he views each word. Chewiwie follows the phrase ‘as an artist’ by listing many desired reactions to his work including happiness, laughter and entertainment, among a list of many other positive emotions. Following this video we were asked the question ‘to what extent is Matthew Chewiwie an artist?’, personally I felt as though I was in no position to comment on whether he is an artist or not and that if he views the material he creates as art then who I am to say that he is not an artist? This question was difficult for me to answer as, in his Artist Statement, we don’t really get to see any of his art as it is more a video of him describing his art to us, as opposed to showing it to us. Despite this, focusing on the extent that Chewiwie is an artist was a question that I found easier to answer, expressing that as he only desires to make his audience feel something positive, he maybe isn’t as much of an artist as someone who creates art which has the ability to make an audience feel an array of feelings, not just positive emotions but also deeper ones such as sorrow, guilt and pain.

Writing Exercise:

After discussing Matthew Chewiwie’s Artist Statement, we moved on to a writing exercise which would help us with coming up with ideas for a solo performance. We were asked to think of a series of elements that make up a performance and write those down, including space, what the audience see when they first enter, lighting, any sounds which may be playing as the audience enter, where I as the performer will be in relation to the audience, our first line of the piece and also a title for the performance. After we had written all of these down we had to use them to create a monologue which would ultimately be our solo performance.

I thought about doing a piece on homelessness in the summer, as the audience entered I wanted a bright light and the sound of birds chirping, something that would imitate a hot summers day. My first line would be something that completely contradicted the mood, for example a statistic on homelessness in the UK. I feel as though people tend to view homelessness as a huge issue during winter because of the cold weather and the aspect of danger, however for someone who is homeless, they are living on the street all year round, even on a hot summers day which tends to be viewed as peaceful and bliss, homelessness is still a huge epidemic.

I thought that this was idea I could take in a lot of different directions as there is definitely a stigma surrounding homelessness and I felt as though it could be an interesting topic to address for a solo performance. After the workshop I looked at various testimonies from the homeless and found that each one had a different reason or cause for ending up living on the streets. This is a topic that I definitely want to explore further and possibly consider doing for my final performance as I feel it could impact an audience in a way to inspire change and abolish the stigma that there is around homelessness.

Spalding Gray – Swimming to Cambodia:

We watched Spalding Gray’s performance of Swimming to Cambodia which seemed to be an autobiographical piece, I enjoyed this style of performance as it was fast paced and entertaining and I was engaged the whole way through. I hadn’t seen any performances done in this style before and it is a definitely a style that really interests me. Throughout Gray’s piece he uses a lot of repetition which works well with his fast speaking pace, which frequently changes and is always eased by a transition, either a drink of water or a lighting/sound change. Swimming to Cambodia appears to be almost split in to two halves, the first where he is telling us a story, creating a relationship with us as the audience before going in to more of a political monologue. His reasoning for this could be to create a positive relationship with the audience before expressing more political views which, whether personal to him or not, it is likely people will disagree with what he is saying. By creating a relationship with the audience first it allows him to express his political views in a way that means the audience are more likely to receive what he is saying with ease as opposed to getting defensive and taking his opinions personally. This style of performance is something that I would be interested in exploring further as I believe that it can create a very entertaining, engaging and powerful solo performance.