Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Girl and the Fox- Week 6: 'The Sorcerer' & Inuit Mask Making

A busy week for our Chameleons! We had our usual Saturday rehearsal this morning, followed by a fantastic Arts Award workshop. We shall try and summarise it all in a brief blog post, but a great deal happened (all of it fun).

The morning started off with practice for the show. This week The Girl and the Fox reach the wicked part of the world, filled with evil spirits and evil people. The group split up to rehearse as usual. The first team staged a scene where the Girl is attacked by dark spirits, represented on stage using green ribbons. The scene was filled with some excellent movements and reactions from all performers.

Meanwhile the second group staged The Girl's meeting with an old man in the dark woods. After talking a while she realises his true identity is that of a wicked sorcerer and finds herself his prisoner. This scene is a long one, as it also includes the story of a lost boy and how Siku came to be banished from the tribe many years ago. It is also the scene in which we meet the Girl's mother, as a spirit animal. A busy scene indeed, but an important one on her journey. Once both scenes had been created we came together and shared them, offering feedback and working on the material we had.

Following the session, we moved to another room for a follow-up workshop. This term we have quite a few people taking part in the Arts Award, a certification for young people celebrating involvement in the arts. The aim of the workshop was simple; to design some Inuit themed masks for the show, as this would help to achieve some of the marking criteria for the award.

Nearly all of our Chameleons joined in and got making some fantastic masks. We focused on animals, as these are what the dark spirits might usually look like. There were also some character masks however. We learned the important role that masks played in storytelling and how sculptors would emphasise on certain characteristics to convey what kind of character it was. For instance, an evil one might be grotesque.

Our Chameleons made some fantastic creations which will hopefully feature in the final show. It was great to see the group there supporting their peers in achieving the award. That will be all for now though (keeping it brief). Next week we aim to finish the play and begin getting ready for the final performance. It's half term this week so we hope everyone has a good rest.

Story Makers: Space Tortoise- Week Two: 'Costumes'

A very foggy morning today, but that didn’t stop us! Week two now of our ‘Space Tortoise’ project, though the move to bi-weekly sessions makes it feel like forever since our Story Makers were last together. This week was also half term, and what better way for it to come to a close than by looking at costumes?

The aim of this session was to discuss the use of costumes in stories and how these help to tell it. We talked about what kind of costumes would be needed if we were to put on a production of ‘Space Tortoise.’ Some of the Story Makers suggested turtle costumes (a solid answer indeed), while others suggested space suits. In the story, the tortoise creates his own space suit in order to reach the other animals in space. Ours would be slightly different, but the group were excited at the chance to make the costumes themselves.

We discussed the idea that costumes can be made from lots of different, sometimes unexpected things. To craft our space suits, we used tin foil. A whole. Lot. Of. Tin foil (60 meters to be exact). Working in groups, one person would make the costume and the other would wear it, then they would swap and create a costume for their partner. This involved a lot of trial and error, with the first few costumes falling off shortly after going on. As the session progressed, however the group began to get the hang of sculpting the foil and these later versions managed to (mostly) stay on. 

For those who didn't want to create space suits, we had space hats to make. Simple to do; just find a paper bowl and cover it in cling film. The trick, our Story Makers learned, was remembering to place a hole underneath for someone's head, or else the helmets would not stay on. With more time, string and pipe cleaners can be added to these to help them stay on and look good. 

In the end we had a colourful array of different space suits and hats. As always we ended the session by sharing what we had made. Some had gone a step further and begun to make space shoes to go with their suits. All in all, it was a simple craft element this week, but hopefully got the group thinking about costumes and how they can be made. Next week we will be looking at scenery and creating a starry sky to use as a backdrop. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Story Makers: Space Tortoise- Week One: 'Characters.'

Story-Makers is back! After a relaxing hiatus it was wonderful to start off a brand new term with our story makers: Sundays have felt empty without it. With a new term comes a new story and a few new faces to the group, and this time we have a pretty cool space theme to go alongside all of the drama. This term we are looking at 'Space Tortoise,' a story by Ross Montgomery about a tortoise who sets out to reach the stars in the hopes of finding other animals. As always, each week we have a particular focus and to get us started we looked at characters.

Characters are an important part of any story, so it seemed a good point to begin with. In a similar fashion to our Chameleon Group, the aim with the story makers is to inspire the development of creativity, but also form the foundation of how to create and tell a story. We began the session with some fun moving games- these were low stakes games, essentially to building up the confidence for both newcomers and long-term story makers. With a new group it is always important to give them time to get used to the feel of the sessions, as it is for those who have not taken part in a while. The Anthos Arts approach is to get everyone comfortable through games. Once everyone starts laughing most nerves have been forgotten.

The games we played focused on moving. The group always enjoy a game where they can move around a lot and be a tad silly. The exercise I prefer is the opposites game, where the group have to do the opposite of what they are told. If they are asked to walk, they stop, if they are asked to jump, they clap, etc. It's a familiar game to those who have worked with us before, but effective and, importantly, amusing. We next moved onto a favourite game played by entry level dramatists and experts alike. The group have to pretend to be something from a specific place; for instance pretending to be a bed in a bedroom, or if the setting was a garden, something found there. There are always a few wild card dinosaurs here and there, but the aspect of the game that is important is having everyone involved and pretending. There's no wrong answers in our group!

Onto the story then and we read it together. Afterwards we discussed characters and what a character was. Some very good answers came from the group and we agreed that a character "was someone in a story." Some members of the group even gave examples, such as a narrator. The challenge for the story makers then was to create a character card. When deciding how to explore characters, character cards seemed a sensible route. Again, it was something accessible for the group that everyone could enjoy, but not something demanding (as it was only the first session back) of them.

The story makers could create a character card from the story, or create their own character. We had some fantastic creations, both of the tortoise from the story and some completely original ones. Featured in the lineup were Puss in Boots, Elsa, a space-kitty and, outstandingly, a space-bin. All fantastic examples of characters and great to see. We sat as a group and asked everyone to share their creations with each other. Another step in building confidence is to create a space where everyone feels they can share ideas.

Lastly, at the end of the session, we sat down to meet Anthos Arts latest friend. For a project about a space tortoise, it seemed fitting that we should have our very own turtle to help us week to week. The group were asked to name him and we had some incredible names put forward. In the end it was decided that he would be Timmy the Turtle (though it was a hard decision indeed.)

A wonderful but wild first session. It was great seeing our story makers from last term and meeting our newcomers. The group suddenly feels a lot bigger and our room much smaller. Over the holidays I had forgotten how much energy and creativity these guys had, and am super excited for this term to continue. The story is a great one and there are sure to be lots of fun sessions exploring it ahead!

The Girl and the Fox- Week 5: 'The Big Mouth and the Featherpeople.'

A very special week with the Chameleons as it was rehearsal number five; meaning we are officially halfway into the project! The group have been working so hard this term so we wanted to mark the occasion with something special and decided to have a pyjama day. Drama in pyjamas. It was as comfy as it sounds. The Chameleons all came in pyjamas, onsies, slippers and comfy clothes and we celebrated their hard work with some nice swiss-roll, party rings and pringles. Meanwhile, there was still a show to be made and the journey of The Girl and the Fox continued amidst the bedtime backdrop.

This week we had added some colourful characters to the play. Some required movement, while some required teamwork to bring to life. We started off the rehearsal, thus, by playing a quick round of shape making. We wanted the group to work in units of three (and later six) in order to create various shapes. In some cases the shapes they made had to both move and make noise; an extra challenge for everyone.

When it came to scenes this week, we divided the group in two. The first half worked on scene four, where The Girl falls into the lake and meets the Whale, which she aptly names 'Big Mouth.' Staging the underwater scene was fun; we utilised the chorus as colourful underwater creatures. Sometimes something small can have a big impact- our Chorus used small finger lights to represent the fish under the water, which dance with the Girl before the whale appears.

The Whale itself was another challenge. We wanted whatever mechanism we used to present it on stage to be simple and easy for our Chameleons to use. We opted to use pillows to represent different parts of the whale, emphasising the need for our Chorus to show how it moves through the water. We also talked about what the whale might sound like and the importance of it being a voice one can maintain on stage (without was pretty funny).

The second half of the group went to work on the following scene, in which The Girl and the Fox encounter the Featherpeople: a race of bird-people who live up in the mountains. Some wonderful acting from our feathery chameleons in this scene. It was great seeing the group take on their roles as birds physically and vocally. With their queen; Lady Brightbeak, we focused on how to present character. How does a queen stand? How does a bird stand? How does a bird queen stand? Again, some wonderful work went into this one.

As mentioned earlier, we also sent some time aside this week for games and cake. The story of The Girl and the Fox is a lot of fun, but the plot is big, the characters diverse and the challenges of turning it into a show have been bigger than our last projects. It was important for the cast to have some time together to have fun and stop to appreciate the work they had put in. We have asked a lot from them this term; Inuit culture is fascinating, but not something they are familiar with. In five weeks we have asked them to embrace and learn about this culture while making a show. Not easy at all. This week was well earned by the whole group and was lots of fun!

With yesterday's session behind us, we are now officially over halfway! Tickets have gone on sale for the show to family and friends and now it all seems very soon. The fun continues next week as The Girl comes face to face with the villain of the play and we learn just why the Featherpeople warned her about the dark forest. Until then, here's some snaps from rehearsal this week.

Theseus and the Minotaur/The Odyssey: Week 6- 'Down in the Labyrinth/ Circe's island.'

A quick blog entry this week- as we are neck deep into rehearsals now and at that point in the term where there's little to say abo...