I’ve written a series of posts over the last few weeks focusing on teaching strategies for the Australian text Ruby Moon by Matt Cameron. It was recently removed from the HSC Prescriptions for 2015-2017 but many of you may decide to teach it in Year 10 or 11 so hopefully you will still find this information useful. All the work is located on the Lesson Ideas page.
Today’s post will focus on the last of three workshops, exploring the elements of production.
Workshop 3 – The Elements of Production
The Elements of Production are the technical and visual elements used to manipulate the elements of drama in order to effectively tell a play’s story. Things like, lighting, sound, costume, projections, music etc.
In working through the following activities it is important to remember the three themes (Australia’s Identity, Suburban Paranoia, Fear of Child Abduction) and to continually bring any observation and understanding back to these and how they are shown on stage.
Previously I have discussed how I angle the student’s thinking so that they are looking at drama from the perspective of the director. Ultimately, each student will write a Director’s Concept as to how they would visualise the play looking if they were to direct it. These exercises assist with their understanding of this.
I break my class up into small groups and then have each group report back to the other groups on what they have learned. Each group has to listen carefully because they will need to use the information in their written reflection.
This is a really simple activity which all comes down to the questions you ask.
Make a list of all the lighting effects required in the play and scene by scene.
If you have lighting equipment, try to replicate some of these effects in the performance space. Discuss what effect is achieved in terms of mood and atmosphere. How do they link to the issues and concerns? How long will each one need to be continued for the two actors to make the scene change?
How could you interpret the lines of dialogue and action about night using lighting? What is the thematic and metaphoric importance of this discovery? How could the solitary spotlight (streetlamp) be interpreted?
Make a list of all the sound effects. Assemble those that can’t be made by voices (YouTube is great for this). Make the sound effects for each scene. Discuss what effect is achieved in terms of mood, atmosphere and tension. How long will each one need to be continued for the two actors to make the scene change?
In Sydney Theatre Company’s production, different door knocks were used for each character. How else could we show entering into a new place? What effect does this have for an audience?
When working on the epilogue and scenes in previous workshops I try to incorporate the sound effects when the class is acting extracts out to help enhance dramatic meaning.
In pairs, list all the unsafe images referred to in one scene. Read these out to the class. Select three unsafe images to bring to life. Consider how you might use sound, movement, the performance space and/or interactions with the audience to create a particular environment or atmosphere.
Look at a picture of a set model box from a recent production. What is being communicated through the design and theatrical choices?
Draw a picture of the perfect/fairytale cul de sac. Photocopy the drawing and distort the image to create a fractured fairytale using various shapes, colours, lines and/or textures to create a creepy, nightmarish landscape.
Make a mannequin of Ruby out of a variety of materials. Discuss what effect the models have on your set.
Each character looks out a window. Do they look into the window or is it a prop? What is the significance of this both literally and metaphorically? What is in the dark? Why are all the character’s directed to look out? What does this communicate about the fears, desires & needs of each character? Where is the audience in relation to this?
Draw illustrations of the neighbours based on the playwrights descriptions. Consider the props used in the previous workshop on Character and Transitions. Use examples from other productions as a guide. Consider the practicality and the time needed between changes when designing.
5. Director’s Concept and Reflection
Have each student in the class write a Director’s Concept for the play that they would then present to the actors and creative team they would be working with if they were directing the production. Once they have completed this they should write a reflection using the template in response to the following question:
How do the elements of production help to create meaning, if any, for the audience?
NB: These exercises have been selected and adapted from various sources, in particular the Sydney Theatre Company’s, Andrew Upton directed Ruby Moon Teacher’s Kit. This does not seem to be available online anymore. The one available on their website at the moment is from their more recent production.