Monday, 7 September 2015

1 + 1 = 2! (Building Up To Devising)


Getting started in a devising project can be difficult. A group of students who are given a broad stimulus or a task can have trouble getting past the ideas stage and into making.

Here's my 3-step tip for drama teachers to get their students kick-started into action:

1. One Is The Loneliest Number
Start with individuals spread out around the room, sitting or laying comfortably in their own space. Present them with your stimulus, topic or idea and allow them their own time to think about it. What does it mean to them? What images come to mind? Which words would you associate with that?

The more time students have to visualise at this stage, the easier ideas will come to them when you begin. 

After sufficient reflection time, ask them to prepare, on their own, a short response. I usually ask for one sentence of dialogue or a list of 3 words and a movement or frozen image. Keep the response simple, easy to manage. Playing music during this time helps students to feel like they can stand and speak to try out their ideas. Give them 2 minutes to come up with something.

2. One Plus One Is Two
Pair students up and ask them to share and then combine their material. They shouldn't add or subtract too much material at this stage, just find an interesting way to structure their material. For example, they could complete their movements simultaneously while reciting the list of words. Or alternatively, they could repeat one movement 8 times, then follow it with a mini dialogue constructed out of their sentences, etc, etc. 
Give students a short amount of time to do this 4/5 minutes is usually enough. A deadline speeds up progress. Their material does not need to be polished as it's going to change again in the next step.

3.Two Plus Two Is Four
When their time is up, pair up pairs and ask them to present their material to each other. Then they start to build a 1 minute presentation from their material. At this stage they can have more creative control over the component parts. Developing and building the material they previously made, they can use this list of verbs to help them process their ideas further:

(for more like this refer back to my post on Richard Serra's verb list)

Perfection at this stage should still not be too much of a concern. This is about organising some initial ideas into a format which can be viewed by other makers in order to receive feedback and after to develop it further.

After 20-30 minutes, ask the groups to present (informally) their compilations. The audience should give feedback on what the presentation made them think about, what they liked, what they would like to see more of, etc.

Your students should now have got past the stagnant discussion phase and be kick-started straight into the generating/developing ideas stage! Now let them work more intensively on their devised performances ...


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