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Open Studio Session 3: Storytelling and Narrative Structures + more!

19 Dec 2020

Platform is supporting six stand-alone workshops for anyone aged 16 - 25 years with an interest in performance. Each workshop will have a different focus. Although the programme is responding to feedback from members of the existing Platform Young Company members they are open to everyone aged 16 - 25 with an interest in performance - no experience necessary - simply send us an email to performance@platform-online.co.uk for more information. Workshops are curated by Isabel Dickens - here she explains what happened during the most recent sessions…

Dan Bird is a theatre director based in London who previously working with the company Bad Physics and his workshop this week was based around how to devise and structure narratives. The construction of plot and narrative is all around us in TV shows and films which take up so much of the pop culture space right now so it is exciting to hear from someone who understands how these ideas can be constructed. In the workshop, we were asked to bring an object personal to us and we started with a warmup where we gave a line of dialogue and then step by step explained who had said it, who to and what situation it was in.

We then discussed ground rules for what is ‘good and bad’ idea. i.e. no ideas were good or bad, just what is useful for the kind of story we’re trying to tell, and what is within our ‘taste’, the styles of work we like and don’t like. We then spent time exploring the concept of change in story structures, like who is needed to be part of the narrative if we have a superhero? A villain etc. If you have a social justice activist who else might be in the piece to create contrast? What creates something of interest to the audience? Change or an obstacle or tribulation to overcome.

Then we heard from everyone about their special objects and asked questions about them, for example, Kirsty brought a painting a friend of hers had made of her in the style of a painter they studied in art history. Ewan brought a bottle of sand from a beach holiday where people could get a ride on camels across the beach. Owen brought a toy guitar that his Dad had given to him when he was a child that works as a guitar but is made of plastic and Hollie brought a doll her brother had bought for her on holiday when she was nine years old. They explained the stories behind the objects and we asked questions about them to find out different aspects of them. Then we went into break out rooms and spent time thinking of an object we wanted our story to be about and how that could become part of a story we were telling, for example, with Owen and Kirsty we wondered if the doll Hollie was given could be like a talisman-like the portrait of Dorian Gray that ages with the person who carries it but if it is was ever washed it would lose the magic and the owner would suddenly age.

It felt like a rich couple of hours and it could be good to ask Dan to come back again so we can take the story-building techniques further. In the space of a couple of hours, it felt that we had already got to a point where people were comfortable generating ideas very quickly and then moving on to the next one. That looseness feels helpful in the creative process because you can then shape and form things in unexpected ways and I hope we can carry that forward in the sessions.

PYC Open Studio Open Space….Final Conversation!! 19/12/20

Today we had an open space for which people could bring work they wanted to share or just drop in for a chat. Holly and Owen attended, and we had a full discussion about the work they wanted to create and things they were working on. We talked a bit about the Open studio format, how they felt it was working and what could change. They felt positive about having workshops from external artists as well as open spaces although said that it could feel as if people must have something very prepared to attend. In terms of the Open Studio we want people to bring ideas but at the same time balance it with being open so people can come and also generate ideas for things they’d like to do so I could work on communicating that.

Some of the things that came up were different genres people would like to explore, the experiences we have had so far as members of the young company and working on a different project: the idea of what it is to be an artist. Holly and Owen have both been with the Platform Young Company for at least three years, they have been to Langside college and studied acting and drama and have both been paid to work on creative projects however they disagreed about what made them an artist. One felt that it was just having the creative practices and doing creative things, for another felt like it was more about what paid work you are in and are you doing that 2-3 times a week which would support the idea that being an artist was a viable career choice. I felt that so many artists are out of work and being an artist to me seems like a vocation rather than something you can make money out of. However, this idea of ‘what is an artist’ or ‘am I an artist’ brings up a lot of questions, especially as folks age out of the ‘youth theatre’ space who are looking for a career path. This is a debate or a discussion that it would be great to know more about, how do people going into the arts world view it as an entity? What do we think and know artists to be?

We then discussed a couple of projects that Holly and Owen had in their minds; plays and monologues that they had been thinking about making. For Holly, she was feeling inspired by Pheobe Waller-Bridge style work and had written a lot of text including a monologue based around the concept of age. She shared a short reading of the work; as it was currently written not typed it felt like the next step would be to get it typed up and organise a space to have a few performers read it together and trying out the ideas, which Holly said she would be up for trying out.

For Owen he had a concept of a play he might like to create but finds it hard to dive straight into text. For him, it felt like there could be a logic to working out scenarios he would like to occur in the piece and asking people to improvise or try them out and see what dialogue is generated. This seems like a starting point for one or two workshops next year so we agreed that Hollie would bring a script and Owen would mock-up the scenarios and we would offer the invitation to the group in the new year to come and participate in this process as a workshop. It felt like that could offer a clear structure for members of the group to support each other’s process if they want to.

For the Platform Young Company sharing Holly and Owen had worked on a film together and Owen was talking about how the concept of that was really inspired by the song electric dreams. Hollie suggested he build a playlist for the work he wanted to make as music was a way in for him. It was great to have these discussions about what might help and support someone’s creative process with people that know each other well because an external person would not have thought of that.

Today felt like a good session because the ideas came as much from Holly and Owen as well as much as from me. I would like to keep this balance in mind for the sessions next year and learn more about how to facilitate to support this.

Performance
Platform Young Company

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