Exploring The Dream

We are thrilled to be returning to Tokyo this summer to deliver a series of workshops on Acting, the demystification of Shakespeare and the art of storytelling through Theatre.

Very often, when we think of Japanese Theatre, we either think of its traditional forms such as *Noh, *Kabuki and *Bunraku or we think of high tech, off the wall pieces as demonstrated by a recent blog by Kate Beale.

But our journey to Tokyo takes us back to the very core of what Theatre, for us at StoneCrabs, is all about: storytelling and the personal connection an actor has to make with the world of the story in a very special meeting between the objective/want of the character and their own imagination. And this is what we have been asked to bring to Tokyo, a reminder, I suppose, of the humanity of theatre where the actor, the language and the story are the main focus.

Interact2014 StoneCrabs Theatre in Tokyo

Franko, Kwong and Tereza with the actors – Interact2014 StoneCrabs Theatre in Tokyo. Photo by Alan Figueiredo-Stow

We have had many meetings where we have discussed, planned and devised games, exercises (some old, some newly conceived) towards exploring Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the selected text) with the groups, (we are working with a very young group of actors who are still learning and another group of more experienced actors, some who have worked with us in the past). Our main preoccupation is that the games and exercises we will be using will help us connect with the text in such a way to unlock our imagination and support the creative construction of a new experimental ‘Dream’. Our starting point for the work is always imagery and energy games, as we find that these allow for an interaction that will go beyond language, although language/voice/sound in itself is, for us, very important too – particularly a language that is highly poetic, sonorous and extravagant such as Shakespeare’s; we will play, deconstruct, but we will use the text with the original words.

To quote Cicely Berry “The more techno-speak takes over, the more we will disable our belief in language. Words have the power to disturb, surprise, delight and provoke, and they are happening in the moment – and between people.” – which summarises what we are trying to achieve with our work in Tokyo, to demystify Shakespeare and allow us actors, directors, theatre makers to rediscover the power of the word, and how that helps us to create and engage an audience craving for old tales.

Actors exploring the text with movement - Interact2014 Tokyo

Actors exploring the text with movement – Interact2014 Toky. Photo by Alan Figueiredo-Stow

None of us speak Japanese and the work is carried out through our wonderful translator/assistant director, Ecco-san; Ecco had spent time in London as a theatre practitioner, and this made our work very fluent as with speed, the conduct of our discussions, floor exercises and scene rehearsals were smooth and joyful. However, there might be some nuances and subtlety of language that get ‘lost in translation’, which often resulted in hilarious misconstruction.

We are ‘Exploring The Dream’ through the love relationships in the story: Theseus & Hippolyta; Hermia & Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, and Oberon and Titania, and have thrown in a bit of Puck for some fairy cheek. Our actors launched into the work with great aplomb, excited by the playful energy of the text, journeys of the characters and discovering thoughts, objectives, imagery, and the physicality of text and performance.

It is interesting to hear in Japanese Shakespeare’s text of iambic pentameter, rhyme, blank verse, intense imagery, in a language that has a very different spoken rhythm and sounds from English, let alone Shakespearean language. In the translation we are working from, much of the rhyme is lost, and certainly the iambic. What to make out of this? So, we concentrated on the ‘meaning’ of dialogue, the description of situations (as by Titania to Oberon of their quarrel), the imagery and its connection to the words spoken; we encouraged the sharing out of thoughts to the audience, and immerse ourselves into a world of magic that reflects the world of humankind. In understanding that when we ‘dream’ of things beyond the clouds, our lives take on the world of Oberon and Titania, are connected by Bottom’s ‘change’ to that world.

Interact2014 exploring a dream - miuko (helena)  and yuri (hermia)

Actresses Miuko and Yuri explore the characters Helena and Hermia. Photo by Alan Figueiredo-Stow

The time here in Tokyo makes real our ‘dream’ of taking theatre back to its storytelling roots, connecting the personal to the magical, with a little help from our Japanese friends. The weather has been kind to us too: hot sunny days with warm balmy nights, some bento to warm our stomachs and light sushi in the day to keep us going.

The process of exchanging ideas, techniques and work continues beyond our time here: as we leave Tokyo – we start reflecting on this ‘dream’ and renewing our plans to continue the work when we return in 2015.

“I have had a dream, past the wit of a man to say what dream it was” – Bottom

Franko Figueiredo, Kwong Loke & Tereza Araujo

*Noh is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 13th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Noh Theatre

*Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. Kabuki Theatre

*Bunraku is a form of traditional Japanese Puppet Theatre, founded in Osaka in 1684. Bunraku Theatre

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Fear and Magic in the rehearsal room

I’ve run rehearsals in the past for very small projects; I’ve been an Assistant Director sitting in on rehearsals and taking notes, giving feedback and providing all manner of support. But nothing is as terrifying as directing your first proper play with a group of experienced actors, in a professional setting, to be showcased as your directorial debut to your peers, colleagues, mentors, industry and the public. And that’s exactly what I felt, terrified, as I headed towards my rehearsal venue, (the fabulous Theatre Delicatessen!), for the first day of rehearsals one Monday morning.

Jude Evans in a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop led by Kwong Loke, Joint Artistic Director, StoneCrabs Theatre Company

Jude Evans in a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop led by Kwong Loke, Joint Artistic Director, StoneCrabs Theatre Company

The reality is quite different. Actors and Directors are both human beings, and together, through trust and support; fears and anxieties are allayed. Once in the rehearsal room, I found myself much more relaxed and all set to go; if you’ve done your research, know your text and have planned your rehearsals then the door is truly open for collaboration, teamwork and the generation of ideas. There is a common goal shared by everyone in rehearsal room: to create a piece of theatre.

As a Director, the key is to be prepared, to have faith in your ideas and trust in your approach. If you have nothing, or very little to go on, how are your actors meant to put their trust in you? If you have no idea how your day will go, what units of text to work on and what point you want to be at by the end of the day, how will you get there?

Jude Evans leading a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop on Laban Viewpoints

Jude Evans leading a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop on Laban Viewpoints

My own rehearsals involved a few hours preparation during the weekend before, allocating a rough amount of time to chunks of the text – it allowed us to focus on everything from language and subtext, to character development, to movement around the space. But what that planning also gave us was the freedom to break from it, to ask questions and to explore uncharted territories. With preparation comes freedom and openness.

Openness also relates to your approach in the rehearsal room throughout the whole process. It’s unlikely that any production will benefit from a solely Stanislavsky-based approach, but nor will it flourish with a wholly physical, movement-based approach. Being open to bringing a variety of techniques and exercises to the process is beneficial to all involved, and it will only help with keeping things fresh and moving the production onwards.

Jude Evans rehearsing with her actors for 'Thirst' by Eugene O'Neil

Jude Evans in rehearsal with the actors cast in ‘Thirst’ by Eugene O’Neil, which was staged at The Albany Theatre in February 2014

With a text like Thirst by Eugene O’Neill, it was absolutely necessary to have a balanced approach, very much text and movement, and I found myself discovering new ideas and techniques as I went along; including *Chekhov’s ‘Psychological Gesture’, peacocks, *Agwe (used to develop the character of the Sailor) and *Edgar Degas’s dancers (used to develop the character of the Dancer). Otherwise, we might all have drowned in weighty, dense language…

With all this coming into play, the process constantly moves forward, with discoveries and excitement pulsating through. Our final rehearsal, a day of Points of Concentration to keep things alive and fresh whilst consolidating and building on all the work we had done, was a fantastic and inspiring day as we could see all our hard work coming to fruition.

From the initial, pre-rehearsal thoughts to the final day, through trust, sharing, collaboration, preparation and openness, what once seemed terrifying becomes pure, indescribable magic.

 

Jude Evans

2014  StoneCrabs Young Director Graduate

Director of Thirst by Eugene O’Neil

StoneCrabs Theatre Company

 

*Chekov’s Psychological Gesture is a movement that expresses the psychology of the character. Chekhov defines the psychology to consist of the thoughts, feelings and will of a human being. Hence, the Psychological Gesture is a physical expression of the thoughts, feelings and desires of the character, incorporated into one movement. Chekov defines gesture as a movement that has intention.

*Agwe was a sea god in West Indian mythology.

*Edgar Degas was a 19th century French artist. He painted and sketched several dancers whilst they were preparing and/or rehearsing for a performance. For more information on Edgar Degas, please click here.