Thursday, 30 October 2008

Say NO to sensorship

Im starting to re-think my ideas about how and what i want to use community theatre for. I had a lot of worries and stresses about what i could do for this module, and up until a few days ago i was really scared about doing anything.

After seeing The Help, and discussing forum theatre with the class, i thought that it would be so difficult to do anything without offending someone. I was so worried that anything i might like to do: i would not know enough about, and would constatly be worrying that i would upset somebody.
In the discussion after the show, a few people asked similar questions about how to go about making forum theatre without offending people. The cast did not understand why we were so concerned with how not to upset any audience members. They answered us by asking whether anyone in the audience had been offended or upset by their performance. When everyone relplied no, we realised that we had just answered our own questions.

I think we have been brought up in a society that is so sensored, and covered, that we are so afraid of doing anything which might upset another person. We are so afraid that there are certain things that we cannot even menion in the news. But with theatre, if you are not offended by something, and you about it in the right way, theatre can allow you to show these subjects without causing offence.

Therefore, i have decided to not get myself wound up in thinking about how not to offend people. But instead to think carefully about how to show things to people which interest me. By doing my research and not being ignorant to the subject area, it is possible for me to successfully produce a piece of theatre which is not sensored in any way.
There are things in the world which people need to know about and if theatre is the only way that these things can be shown, then so be it, we should not have to constantly worry about who we might upset!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Verbatim theatre

I did not really have a clue, once again, about this type of theatre, so i came into the lecture with a very open mind as to what to expect from this session. It took me a while to fully understand about how verbatim theatre works, but once i did, i found myself trying to pick apart all of the issues within it.

Verbatim plays have rightly been credited with galvanising political theatre in Britain. But the process is fraught with concerns about the veracity of statements and the way that material is edited. It seems that whereas most of us are quite aware when we watch a reality TV show that what we're seeing is strongly shaped and filtered through an editing process, when we watch verbatim theatre we quickly lose sight of that mediation. The result? We accept what is presented to us as true without questioning how statements have been selected and organised, or even how the interviews that elicited the "evidence" were conducted.

Setting aside the fact that verbatim theatre often deals with material that is already heavily mediated in the first place, what these plays offer audiences is an open door into a subject whose density might otherwise be difficult to negotiate. The strength of a piece such as What I Heard About Iraq lies not in its staging, but in the way it presents its material in a fashion that makes the audience question every single word it hears. It sends you out of the theatre and back into the world determined to question every sound bite you hear and newspaper article you read. That's very different from a great deal of verbatim theatre which functions in a way that cajoles you into accepting that piece's particular bias as the truth and nothing but the truth.

What began to bother me about this form of theatre is that the outcome can be unfair, depending on what order and how the interviews are shown on stage. It can also be very difficult to show the opposing views about a subject, especially if you already hold strong views about it. An example might be if you are researching about religion and terrorism, and you strongly disagree with everything that your interviewee is saying. Your questions may change throughout the interview, so that you reach an outcome which supports your own views, or what you in fact intended to show.

But in order to use verbatim successfully, you must accept that it is not about yourself. You must have an open mind about the outcome, and not try to manipulate your interviewees. The best way of showing verbatim theatre so that you avoid offending or upsetting people is to show both sides of an opinion. However, should you want to show only one opinion, you may take the interviews which best support these views, and disregard others for the sake of your work. You must accept that there are many other views on the subject, but that you have chosen to use only a few of the many.

I think that verbatim theatre could have quite a strong impact on an audience, especially if subect area is quite current. It allows the audience to access information which they can not often access, and it gives them an insight into real people's lives and opnions, without making them up.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Forum theatre and Cardboard Citizens

Having never heard of this form of theatre i was quite aprehensive about what it was going to be like. All i knew was that there would be some sort of audience involvement within the piece, and that it was being performed by people who had all had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

I think that this was in fact enough information to go in with; because when the performance began, we were given more of an insight into how forum theatre works, and also more about Cardboard Citizens themselves. We were not required to have a complete understanding of forum theatre before we attended the perfromance, making it a lot more accessible to audieances.

The issues that were addressed in the performance were issues that some people may come across in their lives. The aims of using forum were so that people could offer suggestions about how to deal with the situations, and also to show these suggestions.

The performance was great, but i was more interested in the discussion afterwards, where the audience members were allowed to ask the cast questions. Questions asked were about their lives, or about forum theatre and how it can be done.
Here, we learnt that all the cast, with the exception of one, had not had any experience with acting before joining Cardboard Citizens. I think that this was quite noticeable, but did not bother us as an audience of 'actors-in-training'; if anything, it made the audience more comfortable with going on stage and performing with the cast.
Another thing that we learnt from the discussion with the cast, was how little we knew about homelessness and the amount that it would cost to stay in a hostel for a week.

But did they tell us about them all having experienced homelessness for a reason? After the performance ended we discussed during our lecture, how important it was that they told us about their experience of homelessness? Did this allow the audience to buy into the stories on stage more? Were their life stories being forced upon us?
These questions should be discussed if we were to ever use forum theatre; performers should know their intentions with the piece. They should discuss how important or relevant their lives are in relation to the performance, and weather the audience needs to know this relation or not.

In conclusion then; as a form of theatre that can can be used within a community, it could be a great sucess. However, the performers must have a deep knowledge about the issues which they intend to address, before creating any work! If this primary research is carried out, and carried out well, i imagine this form of theatre can be very effective within a community.

Saturday, 18 October 2008


Ah now for this lesson i felt like a little child. And i absolutely loved every moment of it; being read a story, almost falling asleep letting my imagination run wild. Then 'SIT UP PROPERLY', a voice shouts in our ears. Is this a joke, i thought to myself; i jumped straight out of my childhood self and became Cara, the 20 year old university student once again. I remember thinking at this point that i am not a child so why am i being patronised like this. I did not like having my freedom taken away as soon as it has been given to me.

An array of thoughts floating about in this little blonde head of mine you think, but for a perfectly acceptable reason. When asked at the end of the story to re-tell it, many people remembered the first half really well, including lots of minor details. But the majority of people only remembered parts of the second half, because it was told in a very fragmented way; the story lost its significance when the storyteller had to stop to tell people off, or ask us what the morals were within the story.

I have decided that if you were to use stories as a part of community theatre, you must make sure that you allow your audience to use their imaginations, and not force any thoughts upon them. The way that you tell a story can have a massive impact on how it is received. You must look at the importance of whos story you are telling, even if it is your own, and the importance of how you tell it.

Other stories we looked at were our own, about a night out. We thought of a story we could tell about a night out, then got into partners and had to tell it in two different ways. One way was to tell it in an interview style, only telling the parts of the the story that the interviewer asked for. The other way was to just tell it how you wanted. These two styles produced very different stories, one being quite fragmented, and the other being very flowing and easy to follow.

When lookin into personal stories in particular, we must remember to be careful about how we re-tell them. People may be offended about how you tell it, and others may want it told in a very specific way. So if we are going to look into one persons story, we must ensure that they are kept happy about the way it is being told.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Thoughts about drama in the community

What excites me about drama in the community is the thought of being able to go out into different communities and find out about people's lives. I am very interested in how people's lives differ from my own, and how attitiudes can be changed by using drama.

My thoughts that at the beginning of this course about what community is, was quite narrow minded. I thought that a community had to be a group of people who had the same beliefs or religion, or race. But i have learnt that these are only a few of the thousands of ideals that make communities around the world. Communities can actually range from small scale to grand scale sizes, and that everyone belongs to at least one community. I found that i belong to many different communities, University being one, Women being another, Cheerleading being another, and many, many more.

When playing the warm up games i did not realise the relevance that they might have to a community. We explored teamwork and friendship building within the group. We had to get to know each other very quickly, in order to help each other with the exercises. As well as these being quite fun and involving, we discussed how they might be useful to establish characters within each community. They are simple but effective starting points for a workshop with a community, because thay are a way of getting everyone involved and ready to develop the work.

In conclusion, i am very excited about this module and about finding out about different communities. :-)