PLEASE BE SEATED: THE ORIGINS OF THE WORK

July 27, 2011

Working with 2nd year drama students, this was initially a ‘Production 2’ project, the aim being to collaboratively devise a work, this year I supplied the following starting point:

“Last year David created a monologue-based work, ‘Duty Free’ for production in P1. The starting point for  this year’s P2* is to collaboratively create a monologue-based performance around an issue of deep significance for the group. As well as a live outcome, the aim is to create a script that’s performable as part of P1* 2011.”

(*P1 models a standard,  text-based theatre production process – P2 is focussed on modelling collaborative processes. Both are compulsory units of study in a BFA Drama at QUT Creative Industries)

There was the option of a ‘music driven work’ offered, but no real decision was made – eventually ‘please be seated’ combined both.

Looking for content, in a brainstorm, we isolated ‘love,  adrenaline and transitions’ as a content area with a shared interest –these  themes emerged from personal story telling games and exercises,  rather than being pre-identified. .I wanted to experiment with verbatim forms for the first time, not knowing where it might head,  so this is what I did, and the group seemed happy enough to go along with it. If it hadn’t worked, we would have dropped it and tried something else.

My overarching aim has been to create new works for large casts of young people to perform.  It can be really hard to find scripts for young people that don’t well…’suck’ for one reason or another.  So, in my role as university lecturer/playwright/process facilitator/director  I might talk about the background to this project before I go much further…

It can be hard to find works for 10 or more people of a range of genders and abilities that don’t require extensive redrafting.  In the past, in the role of writer/director I’ve adapted poems (the Roger Mc Gough sequence UNLUCKY FOR SOME  – adapted 2006) adapted short stories (THE LITTLE PRINCE, 2002) and written my own works.

GATE 38 (2007) was initially commissioned by McGregor High School, through the Queensland Theatre Company’s  artists in Schools  program. There was some limited development of the work by the cast who were to perform it, but this was generally related to workshop-based discussion around  how the cast identified, responded and related to my proposed themes for the piece. This involvement, also dictated the staging and theatrical form of the work, as there were a lot of dancers in the group.

This was performed by the original cast in a local bowls club, to great acclaim by their community and carers. I then rewrote and remounted the work here at QUT, and it seemed to go down well. It was then published as part of the Australian Script Centre’s Large Cast Anthology, and continues to be produced in other Australian schools.

While this kicked a modest goal in terms of ‘publication’ I was compelled to keep on creating creating new scripts for this purpose, and exploring and experimenting with  the potential that a large cast offers.

LINES DOWN (2008) told the story of a group of young people finding themselves in a university drama class. It was , of course,  performed by young people in a university drama class, so that was fun. it also involved parodying the tired old drama scripts that are trotted out on these occasions.

DUTY FREE (2010) was a monologue-based take on the overseas travel that young people often do in their ‘gap year’. It was deliberately ‘open’ in structure and meaning, and involved some experimentation in the production with underscoring monologues with music. Many audience members assumed it was a verbatim piece, which it wasn’t .

So,  this little corner of the web will be the place where I explore the year-long making of a new work for a large cast of young people, studying Drama in a tertiary setting. I’ll draw in the responses of the students I’m working with as appropriate  I’m not going to spend a lot of time ‘cleaning up’ my writing as I go. While I’m not that confident about ‘blogging’ it’s intended as a (temporary) place where I can progressively record my work on the project,  and share it with the creators of the source text, so they can be as involved as they want to be without me chasing them,  or bothering them on Facebook.

I may also turn it into a paper later on,  but for the time being the creative practice will be driving what I do.

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