A Unit of work based on a Piece of Drama presented to others
Our aim over the period of about ten weeks, was to devise a piece of drama that would give the audience something to remember, and to have them walk away after watching our piece inspired by the themes that were specified in it - A Unit of work based on a Piece of Drama presented to others introduction. ‘Our’ being Ashmeet, John and I. Our original stimulus was the theme of identity crisis because it is such a common issue all over the world and we felt that the audience would be able to relate with our piece. We began by researching identity issues as a single theme and begun to realise that ‘identity’ was actually quite vague because it raises a majority of other themes.
We then started to research the different parts of society in which the ‘identity crisis’ are an issue. We tried identity within mental health and psychiatric identity crisis’ in order to look at loss of identity and the affect it has on someone, like losing their minds. We realised that this was a bit too extreme and would be difficult for an audience to be able to empathize and relate with the piece. So, we started to think of more subtle places in society where identity was an issue and we came up with the world of work.
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I think that the working environment was a worthy choice because it also brings up other themes like power and control. We didn’t have a particular target audience. However, because we decided to explore the world of work to portray our themes, we decided that our audience should be adults and/or sixteen-years-old-and-up students because they will surely understand. Our teacher introduced us to this warming up exercise where a small group of people of about three or four stand facing the same direction (as shown in diagram A for example).
The person in the front was always the person who had control over what movements everyone else in the group does because they imitate the movements of the person at the front. Sometimes the person in control would change if the previous one had turned towards another direction, in which another person comes in front. This warming up exercise became important because it showed us control and power and how it can easily go into another’s hands once you’ve got it.
My group and I thought that this was very much like the world of work because according to our research, large companies or even in small offices, there is usually a battle for power and control over other employees. Therefore, we decided that we would each be employees in a busy company but mainly base the play on each of the character’s lives and how the world of work affects them. After we researched about companies and businesses, we found out that record companies are one the most busiest and competitive types of companies there are.
So we chose a record company and called it ‘Black and White Records’, which symbolizes the instability of the company because it’s either black or white, with or without business. To make the company seem more like a realistic company that is convincing towards the audience, each of us consulted our parents about their careers and their companies. Ashmeet decided to play the character that represented all the power and control, which thereby means that her job at the company would have to be something like a big boss or manager.
Then we had to develop my character and John’s character using the idea of having stereotype roles for John’s character, freeze frames and hot seating for my character. John developed his character using the stimulus we had from doing the ‘power and control’ warming up exercise because we discovered that when we did it as a group, Ashmeet and I, subconsciously, never turned towards John’s direction in order to give him the power and control over us. Therefore he spent the entire exercise doing the movements he was being controlled to do. This conveyed conformity, which helped us develop his character.
We decided that John would be an accountant in the company because accountants work consistently and are always given work to do, and are never independent in ideas or anything because all they work with is numbers. We used the idea of numbers as stimuli for John’s character. At first I was slightly lost when it came to my character, so Ashmeet and John hot seated me a few times and we still couldn’t think of a significant character for me. Finally we tried a random freeze frame with Ashmeet and John’s character personality conveyed in it.
I noticed the Ashmeet was dominating over John by leaning on him and he was kneeling on the floor, whilst Ashmeet stood to illustrate the power that she had. Ashmeet was staring straightforward with a determine look on her face. I think this showed her strength and control, whilst John looking down at the floor, portrayed his frailty and his lack of confidence. I placed myself in the still image and found that I stood right next to Ashmeet at the same level as her but I did not look down or straight forward. I glanced slightly to the side and crossed my arms.
We decided that it looked like I didn’t want to be there, like something else was on my mind. From this we finally came to the conclusion that my character should have strong dreams and ambitions and that she didn’t actually want to work in Black and White records to help make all these singers famous. But instead wanted to be a singer herself, but is too afraid to achieve her dream. We then all made character cards to define our characters. In the character cards we give personal information about our characters from their name and age to the way they move and talk.
With all this information, we tried to be in role as often as possible, even out of the lesson in order to see people’s reactions towards these kind of characters and use them in our play. My character’s name was Caz. I think I conveyed my character’s fear of achieving her dream effectively. For an example when I am sitting on the desk in the office to symbolize how I trap myself there by working in the record company. I also start to sing during my monologue. I sing the well-known tune from “The Sound of Music”, but I change the lyrics slightly.
Instead of, “the hills are alive with the sound of music”, I sing “my heart is alive with the sound of music”, which shows that I want to be a singer. This then transforms into a scene in Caz’ childhood, where Ashmeet and John become her parents and interrupt her singing to represent how they didn’t appreciate her dreams and thought they were ridiculous. By showing the audience Caz’ childhood of how her parents disapproved of her dream to become a singer, it explained to them the reason behind Caz’ fear to achieve her ambitions.
During the performance, we used the actual ‘power and control’ exercise as a dance-drama as an opening to our play, to introduce the nature of our characters in a non-naturalistic way. The name of Ashmeet’s character was Sarah, John’s was Winston and mine was Caz. I think that I was effective at conveying Caz in the dance motif because when it was my turn to control the movements, my movements were relaxed, curvy and soft to represent the creative skills she has because she wants to be a song-writing singer.
When it was Ashmeet’s turn to control the movements, her movements were stiff, straightforward and firm to represent her independence, her power and her strength. This was effective because her movements weren’t flexible which perfectly illustrates her decisions. She has things her way and only her way because her decisions are not flexible. When it became Winston’s (John’s character) turn to control everyone else’s movements, Ashmeet and I just turned right around and ignored Winston and continued to control each other. This characterizes his weakness and his lack of power and control over Sarah and Caz.
It also shows how he has an inability to stand up for himself. Near the end of this dance-drama after Winston walks off because he gave up, Caz starts to disobey the movements that Sarah to for her to copy to convey Caz being a little stronger than Winston and having a mind of her own. Ashmeet shows Sarah’s short and bad temper by storming off leaving Caz isolated in the space. I thought that this opening to our piece was successful in making the audience begin to recognize the status of our characters because they were very distinctive and clear.