Reflection on course
I started the course on the Musical Theatre Pathway as I wanted to develop my skills in all three disciplines and regain confidence as a performer, however at the start of second year I decided to swap to the Acting Pathway as I was auditioning for straight acting courses at drama schools and wanted to develop more specific technique skills in voice, characterisation and learn about playwrights in more depth, in preparation for my auditions. I believe this was the right decision for me as I ended up getting recalls for nearly ever school auditioned for and received offers for several Foundation courses as well as being out on the waiting list for the BA courses. While I am not sure whether my ability has necessarily progressed since enrolling on the course, I do feel like my confidence has improved and I have a better understanding of the tools and techniques needed to develop characters in performance and how to apply these to my acting (such as voice, physicality, and practitioner techniques such as Uta Hagen’s 8 questions). Nevertheless, I admit that since moving pathways, my singing and dancing skills and confidence have declined and I feel I need to address this by restarting dance classes and singing in my own time to rebuild these disciplines.
Saint’s & Sinners Commission brief
The theme we have been given as stimulus for our final commission is ‘Saints and Sinners’; this has provoked ideas around the battle between good and evil and more specifically what makes a person ‘evil’. As an actor I feel I should present my ideas through short scenes that explore the ideas, however I would be interested incorporating song and movement in the piece too, as I personally feel I want to include as many of the skills I have learnt over my two years here as possible. I also feel that as an actor wanting to go into the industry the more disciplines one accomplished and well practiced in the more employable they are. For that reason I would be inclined to encourage mixed groups across the pathways as it gives us more opportunity to tap into the expertise of those in the dance and MT pathways, for example, if we wanted to incorporate a movement sequence in a scene we could use a dancers choreographic skills. I also am really interested in using music as a way of linking scenes or as part of the acting, as the actor-musician role is something we haven’t had the opportunity to explore yet and I think this is a skill that is increasingly being used in modern theatre and would be really beneficial to gain experience in – especially as so many members of our year group play instruments or have musical experience. Obviously with the nature of the commission being an assessment we are restricted in where we can perform our pieces and the budget will be working with and thus will all be performing in the theatre space at Conservatoire EAST. Luckily due to the versatility of the black box theatre design we don’t necessarily have to limit ourselves to performing straight on, with the audience in the raked seating – instead we could explore the idea of performing in the round or thrust with a cafe theatre seating style, or create. While we should be able to input ideas towards the lighting and sound used in our pieces, this will obviously primarily be down to the technician student’s as they will be assessed on the production side of our performances as part of their final major project.
My first idea came to my completely coincidentally when listening to a playlist on Spotify and a song came on which so perfectly fit our theme of saint and sinners that it seemed meant to be! The song is called ‘Rebel’ and is by a country music artist called Alyssa Bonagura; naturally with it being from the country music genre the lyrics and music are extremely emotional and almost like the singers inner monologue of their thoughts and feelings (much like in musical theatre). The lyrics are what captured me and caught my attention and really got me thinking about what it means to be human and whether anyone can be completely ‘saintly’ or ‘evil’ or if in fact everyone has these traits within them. The chorus explores the idea of everyone simply being a human trying to figure out who they are, and that everyone makes mistakes, and whether that makes them a sinner? The lyrics to the chorus are as follows: “I’m a saint, I’m a sinner, I’m the sky on the dirt. I’m a human trying to figure out this place we call earth. I’m a leader, I’m a rebel with an unknown plan I’m a believer trying to figure out who I am“. The music was captivating and although it is originally sung as a solo, I could imagine it being performed as a duet, taking turns with the verses and harmonising on the chorus; with one person representing the two sides of a person. When listening to the song I also imagined it being danced to by one of the dancers or MT’s (as the music is so beautifully lyrical and would make the song even more moving and poignant to the audience as well as giving them something to watch). In my head the dancer could represent the central character who is questioning their humanity and whether they are a good or bad person (the to singers symbolise these). I believe that if I was to carry this idea forward it would be really important to include interaction of some kind between the singers and the dancer to tie it together somehow, instead of having these in isolation, as it will help the audience see the connection between the characters and what they symbolise, but also make the piece flow more and tell a story. In the original track their are obvious backing vocals underneath which could open up the opportunity of having a larger group of people who might like to be in a backing choir, however this isn’t necessary at all.
A link to the song is below:
My second idea was based around the idea of creating a satirical dark comedy sketch where each of the seven deadly sins are personified as one of the characters in the piece, and thus take on these traits as personality qualities. I wanted the piece to be satirical for several reasons: Firstly, I am concerned that lots of the ideas people come up with are likely to be quite dark and morbid as they are focusing on the sinners and therefore the stories and atmosphere of the performance will be emotional and intense, so the audience would be appreciative of something slightly lighter. Secondly, I personally feel the notion of labelling people as ‘saints’ or ‘sinners’ wrong as I don’t believe someone can be all good or all bad, and equally what one person deems as good or bad is different to another’s.
My final idea incorporates two separate parts which I imagine working well together as part of a whole performance. Not only did I think of an idea for a featured act in the show, but also considered where and how it might fit into the ‘saints and sinners’ review as a whole performance, to ensure it flows and the individual pieces are related and fit together in some way.
I took inspiration from the support group scene in ‘RENT The Musical’ as it allowed so many different characters from various backgrounds to share their stories and experiences (which may or may not include other people from the group). I thought by having one common setting/scenario that ties all the characters together would be a really good way of linking the acts together but still lends itself to allowing the luxury of having separate acts and characters featuring throughout and sharing their own stories throughout the show, while still having the opportunity to have big group numbers too. Obviously we don’t have to take direct inspiration from RENT and base it around a HIV support group, however it could be a similar idea in the fact there is a common problem that is uniting these people, perhaps it could be a community support group or meeting which offers stability for people. In the musical RENT the support group scene appears several times throughout the duration of the show and revisits a recurring song or variations on this – the songs featured in these life support scenes are ‘Will I’, ‘No day but today’ and ‘without you’.
I thought it would interesting to have a recurring motif of song that is dispersed amongst the whole show as a way of tying the separate acts together. We could use a song such as ‘will I lose my dignity’ as it is fairly simple and allows many harmony parts and interesting textural singing devices such as rounds etc.
Idea 4 (3b)
I also thought of an individual act I might be involved in as part of this whole idea. I really want the opportunity to perform a scene/song from ‘DogFight The musical’ as I feel it would challenge me to combine the skills I have learnt over the last few years in both acting and musical theatre, particularly as the songs are complex and the action style is needed is really naturalistic and genuine. Furthermore, the situations the central characters experience are really relatable and ‘normal’ in the sense that the characters don’t do awful things that would deem them as ‘sinners’ however the whole notion of a ‘dogfight’ is really horrible. A dogfight is a competition amongst the marines where they compete to find the ugliest girl to bring to their party – but the male characters fail to see the inhumanity in this and just view it as a bit of fun, thus highlighting how easily people can do bad things without realising the consequences of their actions. This whole idea leads back to the message I want to emphasise in this commission, that no one is all bad and no one is all good, everyone makes mistakes as we are just human.
The musical Dogfight has many options for parts we could take scenes from, which could feature solos/duets as well as bigger group numbers; as well as the scenes surrounding this to give some context to the audiences and give us as actors an opportunity to explore and portray the characters .
One song I’d like to include would probably be the duet ‘first date/last night’ which takes place after the dance or the song when Rose and Bird go on another date. Although this may appear a less obvious choice I believe many of the lyrics lend themselves to the theme of ‘saints and sinners’ as it explores the idea of what really makes a good or bad person, and the fact that people can change. I also felt it linked back to Oscar Wilde’s quote: ‘Every Saint has a past and every Sinner has a future’.
Some of the lyrics such as ‘doing shit you’d never do’, ‘yeah you made her cry, why do you care?’, ’cause people can surprise you…or not’ demonstrate these qualities in the character Eddie.
While a song such as ‘Hey Good looking’ could be the boys number; in the song the marines are talking about the Dogfight competition and are taking the Micky out of asking the ugly girls out.
Alternatively I would willing to work on this idea as a solo and use the isn’t ‘Pretty Funny’ which Rose sings in the show after experiencing the dogfight and finding out how she was picked as the ugliest girl and the affect these actions has on her.