RDS7: Behind the curtains of The Selecta

Posted on July 22, 2014 by Basement

Last year when I heard that The Basement was holding a festival showcasing Auckland’s young artists the biggest question rolling around in my mind had to do with how this community would receive the young – how would the adult theatre-goers relate to what the young artists had to say and how they were going to say it?

This year my questions all had to do with process. What did these young theatre makers and first timers take out of this opportunity to create? To begin answering this question I first sat down with respected poet and first time theatre director (Skin), Grace Taylor.

Grace Taylor: With Skin, my main goal was to experiment with finding how spoken poetry could be flexed and stretched by using the dynamics that theatre has to offer. Not just putting spoken word poetry into a theatre and letting it exist as it already is, but seeing how movement can be used and dance and lights and projections and things like that.

Dawn Glover: Was there an “Aha” moment in your process?

GT: Totally. I had quite a lot of them actually. The first one would have been when Lynne Cardy had a session with me to what she calls “take out of my brain” what I was thinking and put it down into a blueprint for the show. So that blueprint mind map that we did was this massive moment of “so this is the show!” from there, there was pretty much “Aha!” moments every week.

DG: Was there anything about this process that surprised you or caused you to fall in love with theatre more?

GT: I think previously I had seen theatre in a box of what it was and who it is for and now I see theatre as being completely limitless. As a performance poet I now see how theatre can provide the aesthetic for how you want your poetry to be received, and how you want to perform it and present it to an audience. I have fallen in love with the process of being a director.

My query next took me upstairs to the playfully cluttered dressing room/set of, Giant Teeth where I had the chance to chat with Stage Manager, Natasha Lay, Assistant Stage Manager, Todd Waters, and young actress, Keirron Diaz-Campbell.

DG: As Giant Teeth is a devised piece and can change from performance to performance how did this affect your backstage processes?

Natasha Lay: On top of doing rehearsal reports we did notes for the directors so that they could remember what they were doing that day and what little gems popped up in the rehearsal. We recorded (on video) what happened so that we could go back through it and transcribe scripts out of it.

Todd Waters: I’ve never been in a production where every night they come off stage and get notes to refine stuff and make it better. Generally once you go live it’s locked in and it’s concrete. It’s a really cool benefit for them (the cast) to be able to improve and change stuff but from a production side suddenly your cues are different, and they want twelve party poppers and not six anymore…it’s a lot of hard work but your job is to make their job easier so you say “yep, I can do that,” and then you have your freak out.

DG (to Kierron Diaz-Campbell): Do you feel like you have more ownership of this piece because you were a part of devising it than you do when you do something that is more scripted?

KD-C: I think I feel more proud of it. More like “look at our fabulous creation” rather than “look at the way we are presenting someone else’s work.”

DG: Did you have an “Aha!” moment in this process?

KD-C: Early on in rehearsals we did an activity of making frozen scenes from one word or a phrase and I was surprised on how well I did with that because generally I don’t work well in groups. This has been a surprising process as well as an exciting one.

I ended my night at the festival by having a post show chat with the cast of DNA (as this was a group discussion, some of these responses are a bit paraphrased). Several members of this cast sat down with me and talked me through their experience with working on the only scripted piece in the festival.

These young performers had quite the process, from character gender changes, to script rearrangement, to lead actors in the hospital and last minute fill-ins. It was great to just sit there and listen to them muse with one another on the questions that I had for them.

DG: Was there anything in the rehearsal process that stuck out to you?

DNA Cast: The “Teddy Bear” exercise! (It was an exercise that helped them find how their characters could get to the places that they go in the play. To understand how someone could emotionally get there.)

Brittany Lowe: The time we spent working on the text.

Cast: The Seven Stages of Grief that we took the characters through.

Jessica Stubbing: The list of movies that we were given to watch.

Matthew Kereama: Discussions on democracy, autocracy, and dictatorships.

Hamish Sealey: The intensity.

MK: The Contrasts that would be more obvious from rehearsal to rehearsal.

DC: The way that the change in genders and names affected the play itself.

MK: Learning to really listen to what was being said.

DG: What were your “Aha!” moments in this process?

DC: When we first came into (The Basement) space Ben gave us each a provocation to work with. I was playing my characters as a bit of a push over but my provocation was to play her as someone who thinks everyone was beneath her.

MK: Experiencing the show in a run. Seeing how it pushes through.

Geneva Norman: Adding all the new elements: the set, the lights…how these elements just topped things up.

JS: My character doesn’t talk much through 80% of the play so I do a lot of listening and when we did the run and I wasn’t just listening from scene to scene it just put things together for me.

There was so much that the young cast of DNA had to say and it was clear that this process really grew them as artists. I was thrilled to hear these actors talking about the importance of really listening to every line from rehearsal to rehearsal and performance to performance.

Clearly, this festival is not only a showcase of talent but a wonderful development of artists. A training ground for artists who will not only be enamoured with the thrill of a performance but also cherish the time that they have to discover and fall in love with what they will present.