Sample (2011): Experiment #3 - Loop

2019-04-23T19:43:56Z (GMT) by Sanjin Muftic
Experiment #3 – Sample #4 - Loop

Devised as part of the research project on developing planetary theatre through bricolage and theatrical images.

Performers:
James MacGregor
Tj Ngoma
Katherine ten Velthuis
Joanna Evans
Max Starcke

Performed on 12 June 2011, Hiddingh Campus, Cape Town

The LOOPED dramaturgical style brings multiple performers into a space where they limit themselves to a single piece from their performance history (such as a character from a play). Together with a theatre-maker, the performers choose relevant samples in response to the stimulus provided and form a general outline of actions which can be repeated several times. This allows the performers to find their own impulses behind the selection of responses. In this situation, the theatre-maker provides the stimulus and the container for the performance during the rehearsal process. The theatre-maker also refines the selections that the performers make.
The initial objective for the LOOPED experiment was to find a way to connect characters from different productions into the same space, as well as to experiment with mimicking the musical process of a DJ placing samples together to develop a cohesive song. My initial idea was to focus on the ways in which each of the diverse characters that the performers brought to rehearsal could be arranged to make them seem part of a family. Family relationships are archetypal, in that they follow certain bonds that are derived from the relationship between mother/father, daughter/son, and so forth. The image of a “dinner table” was given as a stimulus to unite the performers and influence their choice of characters. This image, of a family gathering at the end of their day to share a meal, is also representative of the family home everywhere, for the notion of a family unit is something that is shared across cultures worldwide even if not in exactly the same way or form. While being aware that each culture might view this family structure and dinner table differently, the common gathering point to meet, socialize, and connect was found in this simple piece of furniture – the table. The container for this experiment was therefore simple, and allowed interaction between performers to take place, while also serving as a key image for the audience as a way into the piece.
The four actors who were part of this rehearsal process (Katherine Ten Velthuis, Joanna Ruth Evans, James MacGregor and T.J. Ngoma) were given the instruction to bring a character who could easily find themselves sitting around a dinner table. Of the family roles present there was a grandmother, a father, a son, and a daughter, each of whom could of course place themselves around a table. This was how the rehearsals began: the first instruction on the floor for the performers was to re-discover the physical body of their character through Anne Bogart’s work on Viewpoints (2005) – focusing on everything from the tempo of their walk, shape of their body, to the duration of their actions. The performers were then asked to slowly begin re-vocalizing the words of their characters, first within their own space and then sharing it in front of the other performers. Already each performer was bringing certain circumstances to rehearsal that would make them unique, such as the grandmother who only sat during the play and was thus limited in her movement.
While three of the four characters were part of English language performances, the father character was taken from a Xhosa text and so was his dialogue. This introduced a necessary discussion, where not only his character, but the other characters, too, had to discuss the context from which they came, thus allowing the other performers to have more of an understanding of their respective circumstances. This was done in the hope that such a discussion might facilitate the uncovering of potential points of connection between the characters around the dinner table. The first step was to simply allow the performers to explore sitting around the dinner table and to respond to each other only through the performance of text or actions that they had done within the original production.
The performer impulses were reactivated and could only be expressed through the lines and dialogue they had performed before. Their feedback on this initial improvisation was illuminating. A few of them expressed how the lines and the physical pieces of action just returned to them organically. However, the process of listening to the other performers and attempting to understand not only what they were communicating, but then making split-second decisions as to how to respond, was part of an incredibly active and present process. The re-performing of their performance pieces was now happening in a new context, which led them to develop a new meaning as the new piece was being created.

Within the context of this improvisation it is interesting how the selection of performers and their pieces can undergo a huge shift, particularly as three performances were in English, while Ngoma was speaking Xhosa. As none of the other three performers could speak Xhosa, their responses to Ngoma were purely based on his tone. Once again, as a person who doesn’t speak Xhosa I was also ignorant of the full implications of the piece, and this kind of interaction highlighted the potential complexities of bricolage, where sources can jump across languages and point out the issues around the cross-communication that can take place. What it does suggest, however, is the beginning of a planetary landscape, as the mise-en-scène extends outwards to culturally diverse sets of references.
This LOOPED experiment led to a further dramaturgical development, where I asked the performers to repeat the chosen sequence from rehearsal several times in performance. While I made specific choices prior to the performance, the performers could adjust their choices as they replayed each version, allowing them to adjust the quality of their performance. In this case, each version of performance was received, felt, and understood differently as a result of its shifting dramaturgy – both by the audience and performers. However, by making the choices in selection as a starting point I was laying out a blueprint of juxtapositions that were taking place. This was an experiment in searching for a sequence of actions that could tie into a narrative about a family around a dinner table. These juxtapositions later become theatrical images on their own.

Sources:
Performer: James MacGregor as Moritz Stiefel
Text: Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind
Performance: UCT Production 05 – 15 May 2010, directed by Christopher Weare
Performer: TJ Ngoma as Tatu’Gaba
Text: Devised from Ukhozi Olumaphiko by Ncedile Saule
Performance: UCT Production 27 Apr - 02 May 2010, directed by Mwenya Kabwe and Mandla Mbothwe
Performer: Katherine ten Velthuis as Caitlin
Text: Devised from Last Contact by Stephen Baxter
Performance: UCT P4 Adaptation Project 2010, directed by Oskar Brown
Performer: Joanna Evans as Fidelia
Text: Workshopped - My Name is Cumby – by Mandisi Sindo, Shariffa Ali, Lipalesa Baduza, Lihle Mananga, Joanna Evans
Performance: UCT P2 Melodrama Project October 2010, directed by cast
Performer: Max Starcke
Performance: Stroompie, Edge of Wrong 2009


The process followed was as follows:

PROCESS SampleTrack (Director, Stimulus, Performers)
Director INVITES Performers;
Director INTERROGATES Stimulus into Container;
Performers EXTRACT Sources;
Director SELECTS Sources TO FIT Container & LAYER into Performance;
PERFORM SampleTrack
LOG Comments on SampleTrack from Director, Performer, Audience