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.

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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.

Building Blocks – Blog Provocation 5 – M18PA

Even before M18PA I had previously engaged with Frantic’s practical work in the form of a beginners workshop and also from studying many of the outreach and educational resources that the company posts online. What drew me to the work then and probably one of the fundamental reasons as to why I wanted to join and study on this Collaborative Theatre MA – was the accessibility of the work. I have an uncontrollable urge to move, but often feel constrained in the medium of dance. I either feel overloaded with counts and choreography or conscious that my technique is not at the requisite level. However with the exercises that I had experienced in the past such as: Round-By-Through, Chair Duets and Hymm Hands I’d always felt liberated and able to engage with the creation and process of developing meaningful physical work.

What has been most inspiring for me has been, being afforded the opportunity to revisit the above mentioned exercises and many more. Being able to examine the mechanics of these exercises and developing an understanding and appreciation of whats behind processes themselves.

Work created using exercises such as: Round-By-Through, Chair Duets and Hymm Hands is shaped, developed and created using the ‘Building Blocks’ process. Building Blocks is a term coined by Frantic as a method used for building up work, layer-by-layer, brick-by-brick. Significantly, the process empowers creators, by enabling them to break the overall ambition for a sequence into smaller tasks, which could be informed by words, numbers, patterns, body-parts or a specific theme. Each could offer a way of generating a string of material that can then be built on, challenged, developed and embellished as appropriate. Subtle switches to a string of material such as altering pace, focus, location, scale and or music can have an altogether profound impact on the material created.

If an open approach is adopted during the creation of material, surprises will happen, new ideas will follow and break-throughs will be made. This of course requires, trust, patience and a willingness to walk the crooked path and to be vigilant to the walkways that open up as a result of travelling into the unknown.

The other important thing I realised with this process was that it was the individual creators ‘Break-throughs’ and ‘unlocking-moments’ that were the very mortar that builds these ‘Building Blocks’ into something more construct and substantial.

Building blocks allow us to make something “…beyond my imagination, beyond theirs.” (Scott Graham)

Developing an understanding of this process has prompted me to try to develop, apply and explore ‘Building Blocks’ in my educational and directing practice. Read about my progress below.

Darknet – A Journey on the ‘Crooked Path’ M18PA Self-Study

The First Steps ‘Crooked Path’ Part 1 – Darknet – M18PA – Self-Study

The Next Steps ‘Crooked Path’ Part 2 – Darknet – M18PA – Self Study