LEATSS

Luxembourg European Annual Theatre Summer School

2014 Theme Projects

All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That's what makes theatre live. That's why it persists.

Stephen Sondheim
(composer and librettist)

Theme Project Work : TAKING LIBERTIES

A few years ago we tackled the theme of WAR at summer school and with this year marking the centenary of the start of the First World War – the ironically named "Great War" – we felt we needed to reflect in some way this momentous event without repeating what had done before. The outcome has been an attempt to retain some element of what is inherently threatened by war, namely freedom and liberty, but to look at these issues in a wider context.

Each tutor will confine their work to a particular aspect of freedom/liberty, based on plays and musicals that have freedom as an essential plot line such as the so-called holocaust plays: Arthur Miller's Playing For Time and Sobol's Ghetto, or that deal with the yearning for freedom as in the prison-located drama Kiss Of The Spider Woman. Another aspect of freedom/liberty is the master/servant or master/slave relationship dealt with in plays such as Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters, Churchill's Cloud Nine (masters, servants and Victorian values in 19th Century Africa) or Shakespeare's Comedy Of Errors. Tony Kushner's Angels In America deals with freedom to express one's sexual orientation and what he sees as the 'American Dream' fallacy. (Kushner wrote "The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it.")

Other aspects of freedom will be explored in courses that range from work that develops physical, creative, emotional and performing freedom to acting processes designed to look at creating and building a character in new and freer ways.

You might have noticed that there is no reference to the 1st World War amongst the plays mentioned above. This is deliberate. We will focus on that war in The Student Project (Project 3). For those of you unfamiliar with summer school, please refer to the web site for details about this project.

THEME PROJECTS

Graeme Du Fresne (Singing and acting): Tunes of Tyranny
The withdrawal or denial of freedom and liberty is central to the subject matter of this year's singing course. We will be working on songs from various sources but mainly from musical theatre. A few of the possibilities that we will be working on are : A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Stephen Sondheim's early comedy about slaves and masters; Pacific Overtures (imperialism and invasion of a sovereign country); Parade (anti-Semitism and wrongful conviction of a prisoner); Cabaret (set against the background of the Nazi rise to power); Ragtime (racism and the American dream); Blitz (the 2nd world war as it affected the bombed communities of London's east end); and Kiss of the Spider Woman (torture and imprisonment).

I shall be using techniques and processes I have developed over the past year combining the influences of Laban and Stanislavski whilst maintaining a daily routine of singing warm ups and techniques. The structure of the course will allow for solo singing, small groups and ensemble work.

Janice Dunn (Acting): Play to Play the Play
This course will examine both personal and creative freedom via play texts and performance styles. We will begin the course with an investigation of the "secret" play, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, written by Nassim Soleimanpour, an Iranian writer trapped in his own country. The play is only ever performed by any actor once. They are handed an envelope containing the script onstage, open it and perform there and then, as instructed. The play is Nassim's gift to other artists, and the world. It was smuggled out of Iran and has since been performed worldwide.

Other texts may include Manifesto (concerning the Norwegian murderer/political activist Anders Breikvik), Pallach (about the Czech self-immolator Jan Pallach), The Laramie Project (a verbatim play about the gay-hate murder of a young student in Colorado), Three Sisters love (dealing with life, longing and suffocation), Singer (about persecution and redemption), and possibly some Arthur Miller.

We will use elements of solo and ensemble work to examine the texts, some of which will include environmental approaches, performance art techniques (such as interventions), montage, stand-up, cabaret, and possibly multi-media (steady on chaps.) It will be playful yet also thoughtful, with an emphasis on experience and experiment; held within a safe and supportive environment. There will be new discoveries and acting challenges for both the experienced and newer performer.

It sounds terribly worthy doesn't it? It will actually be challenging and lots of fun, and will allow participants the space to examine the more potent, anarchic, and fundamental elements of their inner performer.

Peta Lily (Acting/Performing): Three Colours Freedom
This course aims to be a confidence-building spring-clean (or summer school clean) of the relationship between your own voice, physicality, emotions, imagination and the performing space.

I will be sharing exercises that have been fuelling my theatre performing and theatre making career for many years, including approaches drawn from eclectic fields such as Keith Johnstone, Augosto Boal, the Sedona Method, the work of multi-discipline master Arnold Mindell and Five Rhythms dance practice, yet always in an atmosphere of play and with the right balance of support and challenge. Plus practical exercises like Dealing with the Inner Critic.

Freedom to feel : Tap into a wider range of emotions with greater ease and specificity as we use safe and non-threatening ways to grow our ability to express a full emotional spectrum and portray emotion more visibly and believably. Performance becomes more compelling and authentic.

Freedom to be different : Students are invited to bring a piece of text (approx 2 mins) to be used in a number of different ways. Choose a speech for a character you might not normally expect to play, or something that would stretch your physicality or emotional range such as Medea, Falstaff, Kafka's Gregor, Hedda Gabler or Hamlet. Feel free to make a bold choice.

Freedom to create : If we were inventing a show about Freedom, what would it include? Using key ingredients of Freedom (curiosity and follow-through) we will also turn for inspiration to scenes from the film trilogy Three Colours by Polish film-maker Kieślowski.

Philippa Strandberg-Long (Acting): Freedom in Action
Having found that a lot of students struggle with the concept of Actioning* (or Verbing) a text while still keeping performance spontaneous, I decided to find a way for students to understand and use Actions in a freer way.

The notion of 6 Basic Actions was used by The Group Theatre in New York in the 1930's but was never formalised within actor training, just passed down by a handful of acting teachers. They believed that these six basic actions incorporated the human response to all situations, to a greater or lesser extent.

Through experimentation and my own research I have come up with a series of exercises using these actions, which keeps the actor still plotting their actions but instead of feeling confined to the word they have chosen, it now gives them a huge freedom within the text to make personal choices and create a purely spontaneous performance over and again.

By using plays like A Doll's House where the text, genre and given circumstance limit the actors' choices, I aim to show that by exploring these six basic actions within the subtext of each scene, we can unlock truly connected and surprising performances. Other texts we will be working on during the week include Angels In America by Tony Kushner.

* For those of you unfamiliar with the term; ACTIONING is a process developed by Konstanin Stanislavski. You will find a brief outline of the main points of the process here.