Friday, 4 February 2011


Issue: is blocking the equivalent of match-fixing? Do we root it out? How?

Convener(s): Conor Short

Participants: Amelia Bird, Shakera Ahad, Claudia Jefferies, Rod from Red Ladder, Lee Simpson from Improbable, Fiona Drummond, Ewan Downie and others

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

-the connection between 2 definitions of blocking.
1: planning all the moves and setting them in stone. (mainly the definition used throughout session)
2. In improv, where a participant puts up a wall to an offer by an other participant.
-The Whelan tape technique: blacking out the stage directions, recording the dialogue “flat”, playing it during rehearsals for actors to move to then pausing the tape with actors having to keep the scene going without the dialogue.
-Where does blocking emerge from?
*From actors’ impulse and experience (partly their experience of working within the pros-arch space)
*From wanting to create meaning through movement (and potential meanings are lost as possibilities are closed down by set-in-stone blocking)
*From a manifestation of the attitude that the director somehow knows more than the actor.
-But what about technical concerns like getting actors to stand in the light?
Give the actor the choice to stand in the light or out of it. What will actor do?
-The beauty of letting it go wrong, being able to let it go wrong.
-Fits into a (long?) tradition of co-dependency between actors and directors and infantilisation of artists in general.
-The safety of always being told what to do- you can always blame the director: “Did you see what he made me do in scene 3? But what you gonna do, ey?”
-A writer finding the director got in the way between her and the actors. But do you then take on the role of director by replacing him?
- remind ourselves that the director is a role, not a person. A lot of covert directing actually takes place.
-The actor who complains to the dir: “We’re not getting enough notes!” We need to “notice the process”, be aware of it and explore what the actor really wants the note for- perhaps address by saying ok, everyone will get five notes each now, that’s the rule (eve if you have to make them up)
-A lot of it is about training actors to be responsible for decisions. In drama school or in the company.
- The dir as facilitator, the one who starts the dialogue, opens the space, holds the space where people are allowed to take responsibility.
-How to facilitate that?
-KneeHigh’s Madame Giles exercise: Madame Giles is asleep, the servant is washing up, the postman cycles past the window, delivers a package which is take to Madame Giles, who refuses it, the servant must get back the kitchen to throw the package back to the postman before he has cycled past the window.
About developing a feeling for the organics of the scene.
-yet you have to move a sofa at some point- does that kill everything? No, a million ways to move a sofa, just like scoring a goal- you know your objective, you don’t need to plan how you are going to achieve it.
-blocking is a way of making something look natural
-How do we still feel safe within this? Don’t actors need to feel safe in order not to close down? We have to get to a stage where we feel safe within danger, safe feeling vulnerable, because fear makes you close down- which is opposite to being awake.
-Lecoq’s “naughty energy”.
-Commedia del Arte game (?) fighting for the central square
-Brecht and his designer, Casper Meher (sp?) working with Gestus (sp?)
-tottering bipeds, the idea of constantly stumbling
-the possibility and perhaps danger of valuing the disturbance to the extent that we replace one autocratic system with another
-to the actor who wants some blocking, perhaps say ok, I will block you and no one else: the actor speaking to an empty space with other actors behind him.
-it essentially boils down to being Asleep or Awake. But aren’t you always doing something anyway, whether you’re doing it Asleep or Awake?
-So is the question: How do we wake actors up?
-A musician: “How dare you be asleep? You’ve got this brilliant job, there’s the bloody door if you want to be asleep.”
-How working in the round affects a sense of truth and freedom: doe sit make this more truthful because we’re not angling ourselves towards our audience.
-Performing outdoors sending all blocking out the window anyway: flies, horses etc.
- Shakespeare and company not rehearsing-just doing it with cue-scripts. Makes you listen, makes you very awake. How it goes wrong once in The Merchant of Venice.
- Irish director Jo Dowling who now never blocks since one of his actors broke a leg and a brand-new sort of blocking just happened and worked as well.
-Can blocking be the game? How can I find truth and life within the confines of set movement
-Emma Rice: asking you to do something which feels nonsensical (eg jump 3 times) without explanation. Feeling wrong and struggling with it and eventually finding why it made sense to do. How much explanation do we need, is it what we need?
-viewpoint technique (Ann Bogart)-giving lots of suggestions, throwing actions in (eg, 20 seconds of looking up, looking down, speaking fast)

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