For us, the theme or subject of the theatre we are devising always comes from an idea or question we have a direct relationship to or interest in. As a result the process of material often requires us to draw from our own lives and experience and discuss our own opinions and personal points of view. In this way we also call it autobiographical. Devising autobiographical theatre in a collaborative way has led us to develop a number of different approaches to making original material. These are:
- Writing Text
- Movement and Choreography
- Performance Images
When we are creating a new show we find that working in these different ways can help us to better understand our inquiry question from a variety of angles as well as allowing us to build a dynamic and diverse bank of performance material from which to choose. We also find that having a series of distinct ways to approach making material means that members of the group are able to work to their own strengths and area of interest. This allows each performer to utilize their individual learning style and find a form of creative expression that allows them a level of autonomy and ownership and the freedom to best communicate themselves and their point of view. In the past we have enjoyed watching young performers develop in new and unexpected directions as they experiment with different ways to create meaning and present themselves on stage.
Here are two new ways to use with your students when writing text for performance
Questions are our most favourite way to write text for performance. We love the act of asking questions because it feels so integral to who we are as human beings and our process of trying to understand the world around us. As theatre makers we are definitely more interested in questions than answers. Questions are possibilities. They open up our view of things and ask us to re-examine the way things are and the way they might be. Questions are action and dialogue and grappling with the complexity of things. It is actually impossible to find a show that we have made which does not contain at least one set of questions. They are knitted into the fabric of everything we do and everything we care about.
There are also multiple creative options as to how to place questions in a performance. You can ask questions to another performer, to one audience member or the whole audience in general or to yourself rhetorically. You can look for answers or leave the questions open as a text in themselves. The choices are endless.
Ideas for generating text from questions
- Write a set of questions you have for someone in charge
- Write a set of questions you have never asked
- Write a set of questions you don’t know the answers to
- Write a set of questions about big ideas
- Write a set of questions about a subject you know very well
- Write a set of questions you have about love
- Write a set of questions for a friend
- Write a set of questions for your family about you
- Write a quiz on a specialist subject
- Write a test for your teacher
- Write a set of questions that do not have answers to
Letters can be an effective way to focus your ideas and explore your starting point from a particular perspective or point of view. Letters also provide a creative way to bring something of the outside world into the performance. They can allow you to touch on the wider socio-political context of things or a lens with which to view a memory of a different time and place.
Letters can be found or sourced and brought into the rehearsal room; like a letter from a historical figure or a childhood pen-friend. They can also be written as part of the making process to allow you to explore the central inquiry form a different angle.
Ideas for generating text from letters
- Write a letter to yourself when you were 5
- Write a letter to yourself when you are older
- Bring in a letter you received in the last month (bills/junk mail included)
- Bring in a letter you have always kept
- Write a letter you will never send
- Write a letter to a celebrity
- Write a letter to a stranger
- Write a love letter
- Write a chain letter
- Write a letter to someone who can change things
- Write a letter you wish you’d received
This was an extract taken from A Beginner’s Guide to Devising Theatre by Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore. You can order your copy here.