My roles and responsibilities
We started out by researching fairy tales and other types of stories that could be transformed into a theatrical performance. We each gave our suggestions but decided, in the end, that the most fun to watch and the most practical story to make a play of would be ‘The Magic Paintbrush’, which was suggested by Ines.
Our second performance was a story chosen by Lynn, which contrary to ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ we would perform with a script. The second story only got it’s final name, ‘The Sly Innkeeper’, much later on. Until then it was always called ‘The Table, the Donkey and the Cudgel’ and it was annoying to have to call it that.
Every person had a role in both performances, people who were main characters in one were minor characters in the other; the roles were distributed very equally. I was assigned multiple minor characters in ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ which were: a rice field worker, a tree, a bed, a bridge, a money tree and a clown. However, on ‘The Sly Innkeeper’ story I was given the role of one of the three siblings.
Our budget was low or non-existent so we had to make the props ourselves. Everyone contributed to prop making, even if at first there were a lot of people who weren’t present in prop making because they were rehearsing for ‘Our House’. I was in charge of making a boat as my main prop. It was going to be used during ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ where the emperor asks Ma Liang to draw him a boat.
I spent most of my prop making time thinking and working on this boat getting all the little bits correct as I didn’t want this to crumble apart during the performance. It did have some loose ends just before a performance due to being transported in a car but we managed to fix it.
I managed to turn those pieces of cardboard into a boat that splits in half during the storm due to easily detachable Velcro placed in between the two halves of the boat. A lot of difficulties came up such as the way I should cut it or how to make it firm enough. Even finding the right brown colour wasn’t easy. I had to research how to make browns and having to get the same shade of brown in two different sessions wasn’t an easy task. It looked close enough though because in the end it only appeared during a few seconds in the performance.
Once I was done with the boat, which took me a long while, I had to make a water bottle that looked story-like and with which I could do the trick of no water dropping out of it,
and water dropping when I wanted it to. The first idea was that we would switch the water bottles, one that’s empty and one that is full. However the idea of a water bottle with a cap that you could open and close came up. It wasn’t very story-like though so I painted it brown to look a bit less like it was just bought from somewhere.
The brown didn’t turn out to look too good and it did look a bit like what was inside it was dirt but at least it looked less normal. As long as it looked different, it didn’t matter much because this wasn’t anything that important to the story.
With everyone’s contribution to prop making we left nothing behind and managed to have all the props we needed.
After having had some rehearse periods we had a work in progress showing to the dancers who would be performing their own piece with us. Up until that point we had only rehearsed ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ because we didn’t have enough time to block the other one and still didn’t have the script. However we did have one fully blocked piece and that was very good. It was done. We didn’t have any props yet so we had to mime everything but we had one piece completed, not perfected, but finished.
During the actual show I had the responsibility of placing my own props in the right place: magic coins, clown hat, water bottle, pennies, scarf and phone. But I also took responsibility over my own made prop, the boat. The dancers also recruited me and other actors for some parts in the dance and for prop giving. For the dance I had to dress the red jacket. Then during the dance I had to: give a baby to Bronwyn, take the teddy from Katie, take pillow with crown to Bronwyn, take the sword, take clothes and the sword to Jess and help her change costume. Finally I had no more props to deliver so I join the end of the dance.
Performing in the street and at school – comparison
PERFORMANCE IN THE STREET
It was a cold day and even having dressed up with as many layers as I could that wouldn’t affect my performance, it was still cold and I was shivering throughout the whole thing. The first thing that we needed was an audience that could create a thrust stage, thankfully we had a lot of people from Conservatoire East there to support us. Had they not been there who knows who we would be performing to and if we would even have any sort of stage. The stage that we performed to was also much larger than what we were used to. We rehearsed in a very small stage a lot and in a big one not enough so we didn’t use all of the space we had; we hadn’t rehearsed for it.
On the day of the performance Thalia was ill so Ryan had to substitute her. He played ‘Philomena’ as ‘Phil’. It was a hard change to do in the last day but Ryan managed to improvise a lot of the lines very well. I helped him go over the plot and blocking that Thalia did at the start of the day so that we were ready at the time of performance. We had never ran it with him before so this was the first time and along with this came a lot more problems. Some guy was playing panpipes very loud and that just meant that we had to be even louder than we could. We were as loud as possible and it still wasn’t easy for the people around us to hear us. At the end some people did comment that we were loud enough to understand but a lot was lost for sure just because we were outside and had to deal with the extra noise. On top of that, probably because of all the last minute changes and because we were actually performing now and the stress got to us we skipped one scene and had to do it later. Fortunately no one in the audience noticed when we said. And since we were missing one person someone had to do the things that Ryan did because he was doing what Thalia was doing. We covered it all well enough that the audience didn’t notice anything wrong, and in my book that’s a success.
The reactions of the audience were slightly different to what I expected, having made all of it with the thought that kids would be watching it we focused on the lowest age denominator. Our audience in the street was mostly 16-18 year old’s and some jokes didn’t get a laugh like “donkey, poo some pennies!”, but others like “go to college” did. This was expected, what I didn’t expect was people to actually boo the inn keeper and have so many reactions to everything that was happening and make them very clear. For example when mother kicks the children out everyone said “aww” very loud and I didn’t expect that. We knew how to deal with each reaction because we rehearsed with it in mind, I just didn’t expect it to actually happen.
After performing the three pieces once we performed them a second time, which many people were disappointed with but unlike some people I was in the 3 pieces and had to perform 6 times in a row. The second time we performed we had even less of an audience and the mood and reactions had dimmed down to nearly nothing. Parts that required audience interaction were anticlimactic to us, especially after having had a performance that was quite successful. We did however perform it with less mistakes this time.
PERFORMANCE AT THE SCHOOL
Unlike the street performance everyone could hear us well, we even had to control our voices to not scare the kids. This audience was exactly to whom we had planned most of our pieces to so they loved the “donkey, poo some pennies” bit because it’s something they wouldn’t expect. The teachers unfortunately instructed the kids to behave and stay quiet. We knew how to deal with them because we were ready but the teachers don’t trust us and expected chaos if they left the audience to be dealt with by us. Kids have no filter so they would say anything to actually help the good guy and would not think that they would interrupt the story; we were prepared for that though.
A lot of the kids wanted to interact and stand up and join in at a lot of the parts but they weren’t allowed to. ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ did make them interact though and I wasn’t expecting them to be that enthusiastic. A lot of them raised their hands to try to guess what it was that Ma Liang was painting and they did guess. We all became a lot more interactive with the kids as well because they were willing to be interactive unlike in the street. The street environment didn’t allow for much interaction anyway due to the noise and distractions.
It was very easy to get the kids to collude with the good characters, they were very happy when Ma Liang was in the scene and they just wanted to be his friend. Getting kids to collude with a villain is nearly impossible and not a very good idea anyway.
In the street a lot of people were booing the villains, while in the school there was no sound except for a few low and frightened “ooh’s”. The people playing villainous characters enjoyed the street performance more too because of that; because they got more audience interaction.
I preferred performing in the school because it was much less confusing and I knew people were listening to me, I knew I was heard. I also knew we wouldn’t lose our audience at any moment and it was warm inside. Then again, I was a hero character and as the norm goes heroes preferred the school.
Something we all need to learn is when to continue talking after a laugh. There is no point in trying to talk when everyone is laughing because no one will hear what you say. At a certain point during the laugh it starts to die out and that is when we need to talk because then people will listen.
In the end I wish we had tried rehearsing in a bigger space, and different shapes too because then we would have known how to adapt to the shape of stage the audience made. A better organisation of props would have also been good because at all times people stressed about where their prop was. Finally, if we could have somehow performed in a different space a bit further from the person playing the panpipes or at a time that he wasn’t playing then that would have made the street performance much more enjoyable for everyone.
Role performance evaluation
When we were researching fairy tales I found a story about frogs that climbed up a tower. The moral of the story was very nice and meaningful but thinking back performing it wouldn’t have been as fun as ‘The Magic Paintbrush’. It would have been shorter and we would all be frogs so there would have been no different characters.
During rehearsals something that was hard to get right was the flow of ‘The Magic Paintbrush’. When we transitioned from being a bridge into trees or when we entered as trees it all looked as if we were just people running in and then becoming trees instead of magical trees that appear. We did some exercises on getting a better flow but in the end we lost most of it. We still moved in a much more elegant way but not up to the standards that I was expecting for myself.
I spent so long on making the boat prop that I only had time to make only one more prop: the water bottle. This was slightly disappointing for me but I’m proud of the boat I crafted. I had also assigned the boat to be one of the props i set into place but at the school I forgot to place it, thankfully someone covered it and we didn’t just go dry.
To become ‘Joey’ the character and for me, Sabrina and Thalia to feel like siblings we spent a bit more time together and did some thinking of how our relationship would be. It was clear for us what type of characters we were from the moment we started discussing it and so we developed on that. On the day of performing in the street a bit of the connection was lost because Ryan replaced Thalia and even though Ryan is a very good friend of mine and he does fit the role of ‘Phil’ it still didn’t feel right.
After performing and analysing I realised that a more fast paced performance is more effective in the street because it is so hard to captivate an audience and have it stick around until the end. If it’s fast paced and there are no words for people to mishear or not understand then it’s more likely that the audience will stay.
These pieces were perfect for the kids, they loved it as it was designed for them. With a few jokes put in just for the grown ups too. So of course the most effective place to perform was the school because it’s audience was exactly who we were targeting.
I’m happy with the character that I made of Joey. An adventurous lad who ends up loving his donkey for more than his money. I did struggle with lines a lot until the end. I don’t know why some of the lines were very hard to memorise. Probably due to the fact that they are repeated so many times along the play that I kept getting confused. I should work on finding a way to learn to memorise lines more effectively for the future.
It was a mostly enjoyable experience. And I would love to perform anything in front of kids now.