Recently, I started a second series of posts on the text Stolen by Jane Harrison which is on the prescriptions list for 2015-2017 in the Contemporary Australian Theatre Practice section of the syllabus. I wrote about how I introduce the text here. This post and one to follow is a breakdown of two workshops that I have put together for my students.
Admittedly, I’ve always found it hard with Stolen to try to combine an understanding of the themes and the characters with an effective link to the dramatic techniques and conventions. I’ve never quite felt like I’ve gotten it 100% right. In saying that, this latest update of my program that I am sharing with you feels like my best one yet. Hopefully you find it useful. All feedback is appreciated.
Activity 1: Structure, Style and Language
Before I begin the experiential exercises I provide the class with some notes on the structure (form), style and language of the play with a basic run down of the dramatic techniques and conventions used throughout the play. These form the structure of the experiential exercises later on. In particular I focus on:
- The episodic, non-linear structure of the play. It moves backwards and forwards in time. Therefore the stories are not chronological and are blurred and lack structure in terms of plot and character development.
- Very few stage directions are given leaving the transition between scenes open to interpretation and to connect the past and present in a moment that appears to be suspended in time.
- There are five different narratives to highlight the fact that the experience was different for every member of the Stolen Generation.
- Some of the techniques and conventions used include monologues, storytelling, transformational acting, direct address, chorus work, song, music, sound and vocal effects, multi-media projections, symbols and lighting. I use these as the basis for creating the experiential workshops so that students are exploring both the themes and the techniques at the same time.
Activity 2 – The Power of Language
Themes Explored: Racism, Discrimination, Persecution, Lack of Respect, Identity
The language and dialogue used in the play is shocking, disturbing, provocative and racist.
What is the effect of this on the development of the characters as individuals and for the audience?
You will now explore a possible answer to this question through the following exercise.
1. Make a list of all the derogatory words used in association with Aboriginal people in the play. Pay particular attention to “Racist Insults” on pg 32.
2. In groups, great a soundscape/montage using some or all of these words. Explore the use of volume, pace, repetition, pause.
3. Create a series of tableau’s or physical movements to compliment the use of the words.
4. Perform your piece for the class. Discuss the effect for both the actors and the audience. Answer the question posed at the beginning of the lesson.
Activity 3 – There’s No Place Like Home
Themes Explored: Forced Removal, Loss of Family, Heritage, Culture, Isolation, Extermination, Identity.
The word “home” is referenced frequently throughout the play.
What is the effect of this on our understanding of the characters and their experience in the play?
1. Read the opening scenes “Arriving” and “Adult Flashes.” Follow immediately with the final scene “Sandy at the End of the Road.” What does it establish for the audience?
2. Look at the quotes from the play about home. How is the word used in the play?
3. Why is the word used so often?
4. Is a child without a home homeless forever?
5. Use the answers to questions 3 and 4 to help answer the first question posed at the beginning of the exercise.
Activity 4 – A Day in the Life
Themes Explored: Stereotypes and Authority, Conditions within Institutions, Abuse (Physical/Sexual), Exploitation, Mental Illness, Impact of European Occupation.
1. What is the effect of the off stage voices in “Hiding Sandy” pg 3, “It Rained the Day” pg 4 and “Shirley Never Gives Up Searching” pg 21? Where is the dramatic tension? What does is suggest about authority?
2. Perform the “Line-Up” scenes in consecutive order: “Line-Up 1″ pg 5, “Line-Up 2″ pg 13, “Line-Up Age 12″ pg 17, “Line-Up 3″ pg 20. What is the effect on the characters and the audience?
3. Look at “Cleaning Routine” pg 3, “Cleaning Routine 2″ pg 17 and “Ruby’s Descent Into Madness” pg 24. What elements of drama, dramatic techniques and conventions are used? What is their effect on the audience? Explore the scenes using real cleaning products and materials.
Activity 5 – Workshop Reflection
Using the workshop reflection template answer the following question:
What are the key themes in the play and how have these been explored by the playwright through dramatic techniques and conventions?
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