Please Be Seated: Three words.

November 23, 2011

The performance season of this verbatim play for young audiences about love is now over. It proved very popular with the three audiences, who communicated their pleasure quite vocally at its closed showings in the smallest performance studio at QUT Drama, here in exotic Brisbane. You can see a short montage of images from the show here.

As a director I felt the show was a success, and the cast seemed to really enjoy playing it. The members of the devising cast,  whose personal stories comprised the spoken text in the work, and whose concepts shaped the original version, all seemed quite ecstatic about how the show turned out,  as weird as it was to have a bunch of actors play their stories back to them.

Caitlin dancing

A brief program note written by the Assistant Directors pointed to the provenance of the text, and included some detail about the music:

“There’s a chance you’ve arrived here with no back-story, so here goes: Please Be Seated is a new theatre work for a large cast of young people. It’s a verbatim piece about love, framed by movement sequences, which utilise the chair as a symbolic device. That’s probably the least interesting way of explaining it.”

In Semester 1 of 2011, a group of students devised a monologue-based performance constructed on their shared notions of love, adrenaline and transitions. As part of the Production 2 unit, the performance was an honest, feminine take on the cast’s own experiences with love. This performance is a retelling of these stories, with the text reworked by David Megarrity to fit the requirements of Production 1. All text used with permission of the authors. Please Be Seated sets out to explore what happens to the emotional value of this verbatim text when it’s performed by an entirely new cast.

 This production includes the music of Sun Kil Moon, Shugo Tokumaru,  The Unthanks, Charlie Moorland Trio,  Lunasa, Temper trap, Jonsi and Alex, Marvin Gaye,  Gotye, Sufjan Stevens and the Commodores. Pre show is Sun Kil Moon and Red house Painters. Post show is Divine Comedy and Ray Lamontagne. If you liked the music,  please purchase it from the artists

Kara

Most people who saw it, I should think, even if they hadn’t read the program,  would have had a sense that this was a verbatim work. But I could be wrong.

Anyway, how can you know how well (and indeed how) a show ‘works’ for an audience? For a play based in verbatim material derived from interviews, it would make a lot of sense to record and transcribe conversations about the audience’s experience of the show. But that’s not what you’ll find here. Anonymous written surveys aren’t the juiciest way of collecting this sort of data, but it was all we could manage at the time,  so here are some selected thoughts from the audience (anonymous,  and used with permission) about ‘Please be Seated’,  interspersed with some images from the show.

Sarah

 How did the ‘verbatim’ nature of the performance text effect your viewing of the work?

Felt a lot realer [sic] and more touching.

 It felt very realistic, which brought a personal touch to the work. It felt as though I knew them.

It was great to experience monologue based script rather than standard script based text.

Opening Scene of 'Please Be Seated'

 Which moments stood out to you as highlights of the work?

Contrasting innocence, love, heartbreak and sex

Choreographed inter-chair relations

 The male character’s through line

The gazing of the shooting stars.

The scene without the chairs was particularly touching, perhaps because it was the only scene not to use chairs. Good choice.

Zac Efron. Ha Ha! [a reference to one particular monologue] and chair imagery combined with music & chairs telling the storylines, filling in the gaps.

Opening Scene of 'Please Be Seated'

 Any thoughts or feelings on the use of music in the show?

Amazing! Selection was perfect to create both the funny and the emotional parts.

Awesome. Drove the performance. However sometimes it seemed like the music was the reason why it was emotional. Would some of the scenes be as emotional without the music?

Nick performs as the 'Work Experience Assistant Stage Manager'

Nick performs as the 'Work Experience Assistant Stage Manager'

 Any aspects you thought could be improved?

More individual antique chairs (wooden, metal) – the plastic chairs didn’t work for me.

 I would like to see/hear more from the male character – what’s his perspectives?

 A complex dynamic – I felt we were supposed to emotionally engage and connect with the chairs & their stories (we transplant our own projections onto the inanimate) but the verbatim nature of the text often creates an objective distance. I think that dynamic could be more subtle and clear… Why chairs. Why not carrots? Or washing machines?

Monique in the birth of a theatrical moment

Monique in the 'birth' of a theatrical moment

Could you describe the show in three words?

Honest, touching,  meaningful

Chairs. Love. Life.

Funny. Honest. Refreshing.

Chairs. Music. Verbatim.

Warm. Inviting. Intimate.

Cute. Quirky. Me.

Organic. Original. Beautiful.

( Note: The most statistically popular descriptors were honest, funny, and cute, followed by a constellation of descriptors around deep/meaningful/authentic.)

Abbie

This blog was created to keep all the stakeholders of the project up to date with how it was progressing. It’s fulfilled that function, but also gone beyond it to capture a particular process where a devised verbatim piece is redrafted by a playwright and re-presented by a new cast. It’s taken around 40 people almost a year to do it. I thank them all.

I think the project worked. It was artistically successful. It was both fun and meaningful  to make, perform, and watch. We were able to finish it within the time and resource constraints that surrounded it.  Importantly, the project was able to capture voices of young people, to dynamise them in performance without losing the authenticity that made them interesting in the first place. This voice spoke loud and clear,  with commitment, wit and wisdom in the devising,  writing and performance.

And I’m not sure what the next step will be. The real test of the script will be if it’s performable by a completely new set of performers.  I’ll update here if there’s any more news. All I know is we made something beautiful, and I’m rather proud of it. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to continue the conversation in some form. Thanks for reading.

Please. Be. Seated.

Only. Three. Words.

Until. Next. Time.

“Please Be Seated” written and devised  By:

Courtney Ammenhauser, Zoe Cobon, Virginia Difrancesco, Laura Duncan, Tahlia Holt, Renee Hunt, Sam Sheldon, Ella Livesey, Christene McPhee,  David Megarrity, Rebecca Robertson, Hannah Sutherland,  Stephanie Tandy, Amy Wilkosz.

Playwright: David Megarrity

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