The Art of Collaboration

Posted on October 24th, 2011 by

The Devising Theatre Workshop is an explorative and creative process for the 7 students involved as we strive through the fall semester to write, produce, and perform a full-length play by December 9th. Every Tuesday and Thursday we meet with Professor Cory Hinkle and discuss what we believe the play should include or if a particular aspect or character needs elaboration. The workshop also examines other devising theatre companies such as the Wooster Group, the SITI Company and Theatre de Complicite. Assignments usually consist of writing scenes or finding something that inspires them (poetry, real life situation, etc.) and sharing them with the group. We then take what we find useful from these sources and proceed with experimentation.

What do I mean by experimentation? Experimentation, in this class, includes many different things. In the beginning of the semester we did a dada exercise in two different groups and then switched scripts with the other group. The result was one group’s film noire-esque story about a missing plant and the other group’s tale of a baseball manager who trips out of a plane and has her spyglass stolen by a gorilla. Another time I gave a presentation on Anne Bogart and the SITI company and everyone (including Professor Cory Hinkle) reacted positive to the idea of writing a composition that must contain a certain number of unrelated elements (our compositions were to include ABBA, a theme from the wild west, and a dance movement among others) and within a few minutes we were already coming up with short plays about Peter Pan fighting Hades in the style of a video game and a threesome behind a stage curtain.

It is quite interesting and beautiful in regards to what comes out of the group’s experiments. At the beginning of the year, no one expected to see powerful scenes such as two prisoners reminiscing about home and making a violent escape or a series of shadow silhouettes depicting a relationship that turns to brutal murder between a man and a woman behind a linen sheet. During one class four of us just walked around campus improvising stories about what happened to a recurring character named Luke. We told the story from the eyes of a criminal, a schizophrenic, a love interest and a woman in denial that she might have been raped. There have also been many moments where we do something and afterwards say in unison “Now what?” Hitting these walls is inevitable though and the only thing we can do is put what we did aside and try something else.

We have yet to compile a complete script (or a title for that matter) and that factor is wonderful as we are limitless in the work we can do. It is also one of the biggest frustrations within the group because, come December, we need a show. It is terrifying and exciting not having a script; an experience I can only compare to the first time I went to a walkthrough aquarium and I saw a massive shark swim over my head. Who knows where the next class experiments will take us? For all we know, everything we have so far could be scrapped and the show will be re-written from scratch.

Written by Rob Ward


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