Recently I have been working with my students on Greek Comedy with a focus on ‘The Birds’ by Aristophanes. In the process I wanted to implement the use of more technology as part of the collaborative planning stage, so that the students could work together BEFORE coming to class, so that the class contained ACTION rather than too much discussion.
From page to stage
1. Preparation (Theatre in the World) – Students were divided into groups to research previous productions of ‘The Birds’ and to read a handouts of and links to information about Aristophanes. Students were guided then to answer specific research questions, and use specific types of sources (websites, DVDs, books and magazines) to answer their research area. Areas included:
- Types of costumes used in productions of ‘The Birds’ across the world
- Interpretations of the set and props for ‘nothing’ and ‘cloudcuckooland’
- Greek comedy performance techniques of the main characters and the chorus
- Political parallels in the play and jokes about prominent Athenians
2. Sharing (Theatre in the Making and in Performance) – Students shared their research with others in two forms: as a market place where each group had power-point presentations and youtube clips to share, and then on line, where we posted all their work on the school Portal so the students had access to all the research. (All material had to be sourced – The research acted as practice for the RI, variety of sources, as well as to instill consistent sourcing habits)
3. Action (Theatre in the Making and in Performance) – Having read sections of ‘The Birds’ the class decided to stage the first meeting of the whole chorus of birds and their encounter with Eulipides and Pisthetairos. The ACTION PLAN was then written and roles delegated for performance and production. Below are the notes that the producer (delegated student) gave to the class/production team (there were about 4 students in each group):
- Costumes – will collaborate with the dramaturges on Thursday, working out costumes on Thursday as well, they will come up with some way to unify the costumes.
- Dramaturgs – are working with each group to research the things they need to apply in performance, going to get examples of set for the set design crew by Thursday, will provide evidence of applied theory
- Set Design – the location has been decided (third floor stairs), XXXXXX needs to check if that is available and what we are allowed to put in the space, next the design needs to be drawn
- Directors – the scene has been divided into sections, each person is individually coming up with ideas for their sections and they will collaborate on line before Thursday, XXXXXX will change the birds in the script and share that with the group ready for Thursday.
4. On line collaboration (Theatre in the Making, World and Production) – At this stage the students had their jobs, and collaborated through email, googledocs and voicenotes to make all the necessary plans in preparation for the next class. All students make their own masks and apply their own aspects of theory.
5. Final rehearsal and Performance (Theatre in Performance) – The final performance is done in class time and then collaborative reflection is done on the googledoc after initial discussion in class. Journals include all production notes, moments of struggle/learning/development and applied theory.
During the process students have:
- Taken on several roles: researcher, actor and designer or director
- Worked alone on character development and mask making
- Worked as an ensemble in the collaborative planning, rehearsal and performance
- Constantly reflected on their work and the process of performance
- Applied research and theory that they have researched alone and as a group
- Watched previous productions and interpretations of the production and taking inspirations from these productions then formulated their own concept.