Skills Audit – M21PA – Reflection 5

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It’s great to take stock and reflect upon your individual skill-set to identify areas of strength and to highlight further opportunities for development. In response to the final blog provocation for the M21PA module I used the suggested online skills audit health-check survey https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/skills-health-check/home to review my skills online. The survey generated a report based on my responses and compiled a list of suggested job families, personal strengths and aptitudes and skill-sets that could be refined and developed.

After reviewing my answers the survey suggested I was most skilled in ‘Working with Others’ and ‘Creative Thinking’.

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I would like to think that this is a fair assessment of my strengths. I feel I am adaptable as an individual and can mould myself to the dynamics of a group as required. During the M20PA Advanced module I judged situations where I needed to take a lead as a co-director and identified instances where I needed to be more passive or supportive in my approach. I championed and supported an ensemble and collective approach in rehearsals and offered my co-creators respect and gratitude for their work. I was validated for my openness in rehearsals and feel that this characteristic has supported positive working relations with others.

I pride myself on being a creative thinker and someone that is capable of offering innovative solutions to tackle creative problems, challenges and obstacles. I can have an abstract way of overcoming and approaching problems, which can yield some very successful results. It can in itself also become a challenge sometimes to articulate my thoughts however, which leads me on to the areas for development that the report threw up.

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Whilst putting forward creative ideas and solutions, I do believe communicating these ideas convincingly and carefully is a skill area I must improve in. When impassioned about something, I can have a tendency to become quite animated and I will consider how clearly I am communicating ideas and the audience I am addressing. The other area for development suggests I feel I do less well in learning new information easily and quickly. Whilst I think this is partly true, I disagree completely with the report in regards to technology. I would have said learning new technology systems was an area of personal strength and is actually an exception to my struggles with processing new information quickly.

Processing new information rapidly is a skill area I am aware I need to improve. I found learning new choreography during the M20PA module incredibly challenging. I suppose this is something that can improve the more I undertake this sort of activity. I also found it difficult to respond to new material and ideas quickly, often needing more time to process and think things over. I felt this could have been frustrating for others and at times read as a lack of decisiveness. That said, successful collaborators know when to give space and time where needed. I will however try to be more mindful of this in future projects.

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Unsurprisingly the job families that the survey suggested were most allied with my skills and interests were both arts based. I’m really interested in where art-forms collide and crossover and am interested in working in combined arts settings in the future. A more surprising suggestion was the Journalism and Publishing jobs family, which the survey suggested I may be interested in. This sector hadn’t really crossed my mind if I’m honest, although I am very interested in new-writing and I do appreciate good journalism and reporting. Hopefully I can continue to commit to using this blog as a tool to document and report on my own progress as this course continues on into my final proposal and project.

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Artist Statement – M21PA – Reflection 4

I create live immersive performance events that propels audiences into unimaginable places, unconventional spaces and active and enlivening participatory theatrical worlds. I believe that making and spectating theatre should be visceral, exciting, and experiential – if you can’t smell the performers, why wouldn’t you go to the cinema instead?  I’m passionate about big work in small spaces; I want to fit big ambitions, big ideas and big stories into spaces that connect an audience with the performers and with each other in the magic and power of a shared experience or moment.

My working practice focusses on ensemble experimentation, drawing significant influence from the methodologies and collaborative practices of Jacques Lecoq and Frantic Assembly. I’m particularly interested in how work can be generated and born from a point of playfulness, openness, physicality and from adopting an outward-looking approach to the world that exists around us. Everything moves! Everything has the capacity to shift and switch and I’m excited at where following an impulse can take you. I’m committed to working in fluid collaborative contexts, where shared practice galvanises and enriches the creative process.

As an educational practitioner I’m most interested in empowering actors-in-training to collaborate and develop work for themselves, this being a core requirement of the contemporary industry landscape and one which I am very sensitive to in regard to ensuring that actors-in-training are prepared with a relevant toolkit for today’s industry upon entering it.

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Reflection

This artistic statement has evolved dramatically from the first I wrote during the M18PA Introductory module. At that point I’d never really composed an artistic statement and looking back it focused to much on the themes and stories I was interested in at that point as an artist. It wasn’t implicit in outlining ‘What I do’ as an artist and it certainly didn’t address ‘why anybody should care’. Through research, reflection and self-discovery I have realised what I am most passionate about as an artist and what kind of work I want to make.

My initial statement discussed heavily my fascination with technologies and the impact that digital and social medias are having on society. Whilst this still really intrigues me, I feel this curiosity as manifested itself in a very different way. In many ways I feel my affiliation with immersive and experiential work is as a result of this fascination. I think many people like myself crave an active and engaging experience from live performance, as so many mediums are so available and instant in our modern and technologically advanced world. That said, I’m still very interested in how I can utilise emerging and immersive technologies such as VR in performance and am keen to pursue this in the future as part of my practice.

At this juncture I’m really comfortable with what my statement says about my practice. I feel it reflects what I do as an artist and offers clarity on my intent, aspirations and ambitions as an emerging theatre-maker. I feel I have made a strong case for why this is something that I and others should and could care about!

 

Proposals – M21PA – Reflection 3

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Photography by Katie C Photography

At the end of the introductory module M18PA we were issued with a series of images offered up as stimulus to respond to and form a project proposal around. These proposals were reviewed by Frantic Assembly, who ultimately selected the most promising project to be taken forward and developed into a twenty minute piece of theatre at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. I found almost immediately, that I had shared a fascination over one particular image by the artist Duane Michals with Merel Van’t Hooft a peer on the course. We decided to explore this connection over a series of Skype conversations and committed to submitting a joint proposal around our mutual interest around the themes attached to ‘Memory’.

The actual process of developing and generating the project proposal was a very collaborative one. Merel set up a Google Docs document, a platform, which I’d never used before and we were both able to add content and ideas to a ‘bibliography of inspiration’. We then reviewed these ideas and combined them to put formulate the final proposal itself. This process was a very organic one and worked because we recorded our meetings and conversations effectively, which enabled us draw on this information when actually writing the final proposal.

Personally, I think I was particularly effective at adding to our pool of research during the proposal generating process. I drew on a variety of source material that helped push forward the work and incite further conversations that led to the shaping of the final project proposal. Merel was excellent at extracting the key points of our discussions and scribing them down to form the skeletal structure of our proposal. My role was then to review the information and colour in finer details and flesh out the responses to the proposal questions.

Working in a partnership had an interesting impact on our line of enquiry. It kept our proposal very open, which ultimately strengthened our application I feel. Writing the proposal in collaboration prevented it from being steered into a place that felt closed down and too specific. We were still conscious however to be refined enough that our project felt focused enough for us to fully realise it.

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It’s fascinating reading back this proposal, especially in light of my previous blog post, which discussed my interest in creating immersive work as an artist. It’s clear that subconsciously the creation of work that is experiential is something that is very important to me as an theatre-maker. We referenced this consistently throughout the proposal and it was evident that there was a definite ambition to create something that provided an engulfing sensory experience for the audience.

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In reality, it was probably unrealistic to fully embrace and pursue this artistic interest. Although the parameters of the brief were fairly wide and open, there was defiant sense that the proposals that were focused towards creating a piece of work specifically for the Lyric studio space were the most successful. Finding a balance between being ambitious and realistic was incredibly important. Taking into account the resources available, but also being innovative and industrious with what you intend on doing with them is appealing for a commissioning body. I feel this was definately another key factor in why our proposal was selected.

M21PA – Future Thoughts – Reflection 2

Provocation 2 – Successful Artist Statements

So it’s fair to say the M21PA module has kickstarted some pretty hefty thoughts into the future. It’s made me consider the many pathways that are presently in front of me as an artist and its jolted me into questioning, which routes I want to explore and pursue.

In particular, lots of thoughts have been whizzing through my brain this week in regards to immersive theatre. I’ve attempted to make immersive work in the past and really enjoyed exploring the medium. Ive been thinking about what actually qualifies an immersive piece, as immersive? I realise that many have reservations about the genre, as there are so many cheap imitations and shoddy productions in quirky locations that label themselves as ‘immersive’ when in fact they are maybe just site-specific? I’m also interested in why there has been such a spike in the popularity of immersive work and why people crave something beyond the normal theatrical experience?

Ive also been thinking alot whether or not making immersive is something that I do? Or if it’s something that I want to do? Linking back to my takings from Percy Emmett’s symposium and the questions he implores artist to ask themselves.

Mindful of these thoughts and aware of this weeks provocation to research and reflect on artists statements, I decided to research into and focus on companies that specialise in creating immersive work.

In doing so I came across a company that I hadn’t heard of before called Theatre Rites.

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I appreciated how concise and clear the companies artistic statement was. Again, relating back to the questions Percy posed: What do I do? Theatre Rites, summarises this in their opening statement “Theatre-Rites is a field leader in the creation of experimental theatre for children” The other question, why should anyone care? Is addressed with the company identifying a need to raise production values and the standards of children’s theatre to be in line with adult productions. I really admire the values of the company, as I agree that children’s theatre can sometimes be seen purely as a ‘cash cow’ and a way to make a quick buck. This company has much more integrity, respect and holds faith in delivering a unique and high quality theatrical experience for its audience.

I’ll be sure to try and check out this companies work in the future! I was also well over awed by their trailer of work.

The second statement I discovered and admired deeply was produced by differencEngine who are another company that create immersive work. This companies statement is successful as it also conveys very clearly what the company do and what their differentiator is:

“Central to the company’s ethos is creating theatre that immerses a participant into a world where they are both protagonist & hero whilst exploring the boundaries of technology in performance.”

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Another aspect I found successful, was how the stamens provided a clear narrative as to how the company arrived to where it is artistically. How its origins have shaped it’s course and influenced it’s trajectory. I think it’s important to let people know how an artistic outlook has been formed to help others understand an artists identity.

 

M21PA Provocation 1 – 3 ‘Take-away learnings’

My top 3 takeaway learnings from M21PA Professional Studies Module led by Jackie Elliman, Percy Emmett and Anna Moutney (Producer – Frantic Assembly)

1 – What is it that I do? Why should anybody care?

Percy Emmett commenced his first session by posing two central questions: What is it that I do? And why should anybody care? The first: What is it that I do? Relates to how we perceive ourselves as artists and also how we want others to perceive and understand our practice. The second: Why should anybody care? And, asks an individual to consider what benefit(s) they can offer to another.

In reference to the first question: What is it I do? I found it interesting to hear Percy discuss how sometimes, its not always necessary, about what we do, it’s about others  perception of whether or not you capable of it. This reminded me of how important it is to market yourself and how key it is to have understanding of what others may want you to do. Sometimes you can worry about how you actually do ‘it’ afterwards.

Although, these two questions are fairly simplistic. I feel, that clarity in the answering of both, has the strong potential to lead to success for any artist. I found it extremely difficult to answer both of these questions with the specificity I think Percy was asking for. I don’t think i’m not alone in finding this a huge challenge to boil down and answer concisely. I do however, recognise the need to reflect upon both questions over the course of this module.

2 – Funding is very formulaic

This take-away relates to my first. Funders, whoever they are, whether it be a community council, the Arts Council or any other body, all potential funders, need to know and understand how your ideas are for themAgain, at face value, this observation seems relatively simplistic, but a clarity in what is consumable and how your ideas are edible to a funder is key.

Percy, made the point that funding applications can be very formulaic. He meant that there is a real art and precision to writing these kinds of applications. Interestingly, Percy also pointed out, that there are actually individuals who can write Arts Council applications on your behalf, in exchange for a fee or renumeration from the funding itself. This reminded me that collaboration can extend beyond a creative idea and how important it be to engage with people who can activate your ideas!

3 – Anna’s 15 Top Tips 

I realise, I am slightly cheating here by using all 15 tips for one take-away, but they are all very affirming, refreshing and vital to consider in moving forward as an enterprising artist.

1.      Making art isn’t easy and it takes a long time to make good art. Don’t be impatient  
2.      Never stop learning. You can’t make art if you know nothing
3.      If you do something, do it fantastically well
4.       See stuff 
5.       Talk to people 
6.       You don’t need permission to do what you do – it can’t be granted
7.       Learn from your mistakes
8.       If you’ve got no money find another way 
9.       Care about people
10.     Remember who you are
11.     Work hard and when you get tired, work harder
12.     Get organised
13.     Demonstrate don’t proclamate  
14.     Make a difference 
15.     Don’t bloody moan 

My favourite was number 13. Here I think Anna meant it is vital to show what you can do and to do it. It links to both my other take-aways nicely actually. I think the first action I need to ‘demonstrate’ is to achieve clarity in answering Percy’s question: what do I do as an artist? And to start research and engaging with the people that should care!

 

Assessment 1 – Self-Study – Key Learnings and Practical work Video – M18PA

“My first goal is to research into theatre companies that champion equality and who make work to promote diversity and break the mould of under-representation in the arts””

I have begun my exploration of this goal through self-study and research into the work of the following theatre companies: Smooth Faced Gentlemen, Tonic Theatre and Tamasha.

From this research I have become even more aware of the absolute immediacy and urgency that there is to address the balance of gender-equality within the industry at present. There are some incredible companies, that exist, whom are leading the way in tackling this problem, but there is still a great deal of work to be done! I’ve learnt that irrespective of gender that we all have a stake in abolishing the gender-gap. I’ve been particularly inspired by the industriousness of the Artistic Directors of Smooth Faced Gentlemen. It can be so easy to be apathetic, but I admire that they have taken things into their own hands and decided to create ambitious work that firmly puts women’s stories centre stage.

I’ve learnt that small actions can make big changes. Lucy Kerbel and Tonic Theatre have taught me that trying to take on the issue of gender equality single-handedly spells inevitable failure. Collectively we are stronger, more creative and more formidable.  I’ve realised that there are others that share my distain at this lack of parity in the industry. I’d like to work with these individuals and I endeavour to have a definite focus within all of the work that I produce towards bridging the gap. I can’t wait for the advanced collaborations and am conscious of how I can be part of small actions that will eventually have a bigger impact.

As practitioner I always want to be in a position where a significant proportion of my work is in actor training. At present I am enjoying the rewards of working with FE and HE students. As such, I can see how more pioneering programs such as Platform can be more widely implemented utilised within actor training. As an educational practitioner I personally will commit to utilising this excellent resource of new-writing and commit to producing work created by writers commissioned through this innovative program. I will also be purchasing myself a copy of 100 Great Plays for Women by Lucy Kerbel

I’ve also found Tamasha’s work incredibly and equally as pioneering as Tonic Theatre’s. From researching into this company, I have seen first hand the obvious benefits to representing ALL cultures on stage. Tamasha has played a key role in this and really revolutionised theatre for any group under-represented on stage through their Developing Artists program. The company’s history has left me well over awed and their impact on creating positive change in society well documented. Since its flagship show East is East was first performed the company has constantly responded to the industries’ inequalities and placed itself at the forefront of change. The companies verbatim work in education also looks really inspiring and I really want to find out more about this next.

.”..my second goal will be to commit to a daily strength and stamina training program. I will be undertaking TABATA style interval training workouts that are geared towards strengthening. I’ll record my progress to measure my development over the self-study period and beyond”

I commited to 1 round of TABATA training once per day.

A Tabata workout consists of 8 fully committed rounds of strengthening exercises. It works simply by identifying 4 focused exercises that engage a specific aspect of physical fitness i.e. core-strength, dynamics or conditioning. These are then simply repeated. Each round should consist of a 20-second committed burst to the selected exercise followed by a 10-seconds of recovery time. So 8 rounds in total.

Sometimes I have completed this program independently  and at points incorporated the workout into a warm-up in rehearsals as part of an undergraduate project I am currently directing (See Darknet post). I’ve focused on developing overall aerobic fitness, by undertaking exercises that hone in on the key areas my body that I felt needed conditioning and strengthening the most. TABATA style interval training has definitely improved my overall core-strength and I also feel that as a result of committing to the program my ability to shift and lift, which I noticed through my demonstration and facilitation of lifts learnt as part exercises I having been sharing during Darknet rehearsals. I’ve also improved my arm and leg strength and measure this from the amount of reps I was able to complete within the later cycles of the training program.

Completing TABATA became easier and I’m now in a position where I feel I could undertake twice the amount of rounds to further enhance my overall strength.

I also looked a little into the science of TABATA and learned that the theory of TABATA was developed by scientist Dr Izumi Tabata. His research concentrated on the National Japanese speed skating team in the early 1990s when he – along with the team’s coach Irisawa Koichi – observed that short bursts of intensively hard exercise seemed to at least on a parallel with moderate exercise, if not greater.

Tabata explored this with a clear and concise experiment. He asked one group of moderately trained students to undertake an hour of steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week. Another group were instructed to complete a 10-minute warmup on the same stationary bike, followed by four minutes of Tabata intervals, four times a week – plus an extra 30-minute session of steady exercise with two minutes of intervals.

The group that undertook the program designed by Dr Izumi Tabata’s formula found that they made significant gains to their overall anaerobic capacity and to their VO2 max, which is a key indiction to cardiovascular health and aerobic power. The other group following a moderate plan did find that their VO2 max, but nowhere near to the extent that the group with Tabata’s plan did. Another interesting finding was that the moderate groups efforts caused no impact to individual aerobic capacity.

To support me through this program, I created a playlist of tracks I found on Spotify (Below) Having the timings embedded within the track enabled me to measure each round. I’ve also been really inspired by Joe Wicks’ (The Body Coach) online content. He posts daily suggestions to exercises that can be undertaken. I’ve found this really useful in my facilitation as I’ve been able to offer alternatives and ensure that I am undertaking more challenging adaptations of exercises to ensure that I push myself when undertaking Tabata style training.

“My final area of focus will be to see how I can apply ‘Building Blocks’ and the ‘Crooked Path’ approach to my own practice as an educational practitioner. Part of my role as a lecturer in a Higher Educational college involves me directing undergraduate work. I am just about to commence rehearsals for a production of Rose Lowenstein’s play ‘Darknet’ In it I imagine there to be some particularly physical sequences and I’d like to see if I can apply some of the learnings I have made from the Introductory Module within the rehearsal process.”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed designing project specific exercises such as creating movement from code, exploring interfaces and ctrl-alt-shift. All of these exercises have been developed employing the method of creating through ‘Building Blocks‘ making movement material step-by-step. The presumptions of this material has been challenged, interrogated and explored. The results have been very fruitful, rewarding and the outcome has meant that as a company we now have a cabal of movement vocabulary to draw upon in rehearsals and in performance.

I have attempted to tread the ‘Crooked Path’ by not always being implicit in outlining what the movement being created will used for. It wasn’t until after we had created movement using coding and programming language that it was revealed that this would utilised for the Hackdolz characters in the piece. I have also slowly introduced tracks with increasing BPM to provide a scaffold for performers to climb to enable them to reach the peak of the sequences potential. Movement created with the idea of futuristic interfaces and a lifting workshop has served us well for creating a rich movement vocabulary and furthermore for the last exercise that we explored ctrl-alt-shift. I will continue to employ this approach within my work as practitioner and look forward to navigating further down the so-called ‘Crooked Path’

Below is a video that outlines the practical work explored as part of my self-study assessment 1.

Hackdolz Version 3.0 – Building Blocks Crooked Path – Self Study – M18PA

This week I’m really happy with the progress that the Hackdolz sequence has made. Watching Marshall Davis Jones’ performance poem ‘Touchscreen‘ really solidified the ‘Glitching’ reference and also from watching back the videos of the previous 2-weeks helped the performers realise actually how little the pace had increased. We also revisited a Pussy Riot track here and drew from that the intensity and aggression required, so that the fast pace and change in gear could be made. Below you can see a progression of the piece (which is still a work in progress) to see how the work has developed.

Moving forward, I’d like play with the performers focus. We will be presenting the piece in the round and therefore the formation that the work is in currently set in will have to be adapted. I also hope that we will be able to progress further down the ‘Crooked Path’ when we introduce the frame into rehearsals. I hope that we can transfer some of the movement onto the frame and that more surprises and doors will open as a result.

I’m conscious of providing a scaffolding for performers to climb and will wait for performers to fully develop and become accustom to the current level of pace, before introducing the faster track ‘overclock’ – By Algorithm which has a higher BPM than the track ‘Riot’ by Dance with the Dead as featured in the last 2 videos. I also realised having focused on this task as part of my self-study that I forgot to place less emphasis on ‘unison’. I feel the performers have worked well to achieve unison in the movements. But I distinctly remember Scott discussing this during the introductory. I recall him saying that an audience is more likely to pick fault at unison, when that becomes the key focus and objective for a piece of movement. Instead he implored us to worry less about this and encourage performers to enjoy the moments that do come together. I will try to carry this forward as rehearsals progress and for when we begin creating as part of the Advanced module.

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To round of this week and to generate further movement material I wanted to run an exercise I have aptly named ctrl-alt-shift I’d wanted to run another exercise that utilised the ‘Building Blocks’ approach. I wanted the exercise to hold relevance with the piece and to some of the other work we had been exploring. I wanted to push further the exercise completed the previous week on imagined futuristic interfaces here and to build on the lifting explored in the same session. The basic idea was to build a string of 12 moves using the idea of controlling, alternating movement and shifting weight. See a short clip below of performers building up their strings of material and exploring the exercise.

Having explored the exercise and built up a string. Each pair, considered their character relationships and played with appropriate attitudes and dynamics. Some excellent material was built up. I feel like we have added more material to play with and incorporate within the show. I feel that a lot of the strings created can be challenged further still. One thing I realise I haven’t incorporated or played with is the use of props within a sequence. I recall asking Chloe and Charlotte to add a book to their created Chair-Duet on the introductory and it having a profound impact. I also feel I could play with scale more in forthcoming rehearsals. See examples of the created work below.

I was particularly impresses with the above sequence. The dynamic of the two characters was captured really well and the performers really considered how the exercise could be played with as their individual characters. In the play. Allen (Joe in the red tracksuit bottoms) one of the central protagonists, is a spokesperson for the giant tech data company ‘Octopus inc’. He is dominated in many scenes by one of the companies directors (Ryan black tracksuit bottoms) This idea of control was particularly well implemented and explored in the sequence.

Kyla (Kayleigh – white top) and Jamie (Luke – red t-shirt) are also very central to the narrative within the play. Kyla wants to befriend computer hacker Jamie to access the darknet so that she can obtain methadone for her drug addict mother. Their friendship is unlikely, endearing and very sweet. Although the sequence would benefit form more flow and less pre-empting of the shifts, the movement has a lovely quality. I feel focus could be interrogated to move this piece forward.