Michael J. Allen

Class of 2016 - 2017

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Project Period

In many ways the show is the culmination of much of the work we've done all year in Language, in Math, Art, in Music, in Dance and Drama.

It's a summary and celebration of our journey together academically, socially and creatively.

Here are some notes about the process and the journey.

Come and see the results of the journey...

 

Introductory Phase – set design and getting started!

The process for our end-of-term event begins with brainstorming potential story ideas for the group to develop.

The work is based on Literature we have studied in the first term.

Once the concept, genre and title are decided, the next part of the process involves set design and production. The idea is that the whole room needs to be converted into a set for the drama. The audience will literally be surrounded by the story: every aspect of the room will be designed and decorated to become relevant to the idea.

The problems we have to first address are:

 

Having settled on the overall design for the furniture in the room, the students now reorganize the classroom according to the agreed plan:

Once the room is roughly organized: most unnecessary equipment is stored and there is maximum work space available for large scale art work, the students break into design teams. There are four main design spaces to be considered:


The students join design teams, each assuming responsibility for one of the design areas.

After brainstorming and sketching sessions, the group convenes to discuss overall design concepts for the whole room: color schemes, conceptual frameworks, such as for example, silhouettes, black and white, cartoon imagery, 'cityscapes', etc.

Group decisions are made for the whole room concept, then design teams make final sketches for each of the design spaces.

Students form fluid teams to execute the designs. Usually a team coordinator is nominated who assumes organizational responsibility for the specific design. Work then begins on the murals:

Once the main murals are completed and rolled up in storage areas, the project moves onto its next phase. This phase involves the formation of new fluid teams:


The Writers Team:

The Writers team will start to design and problem solve the story idea. The membership of the team will be flexible with students entering and leaving the team as they feel inspired. The teacher is often to be found at the hub of this team keeping a written record of the decisions made. As the story starts to develop, the whole group is periodically stopped from their activities and updated on the story and its evolving aspects, especially as the characters start to emerge and important plot aspects are created, resolved or pondered.

The process in the writer's team usually begins with creating enough characters to satisfy the class and their desire for acting parts. The process is:

This group will continue working until a story has emerged that is coherent and strong enough to resolve almost all plot questions raised against it by the group.

 

 

The Music Team:


The Music Team has two aspects to their work:

The music team considers overall conceptual options for the music. Themes, for example, might be; only orchestral, only 'live' music, only techno, only acoustic, rhythm oriented, etc.

In the first phase, the group composes music to create specific moods or feelings using the various tools available. Usually the students compose two or three candidate pieces for each mood. Moods may include things like:

When there are two or three candidate pieces of music in each category, the Music Team presents the music to the whole group who then decide which pieces survive (we call them 'keepers',' weepers', or 'sleepers') and get used in early rehearsals.

The group has an initial fluid membership. As time goes by the group needs to settle into its final shape: two or three students to run the control center: mixer, computers, software, other machines, plus live instrumentalists. The group usually has between three and five members at the final event.



Set Design Team


The set design continues during this phase. There are two parts of the Set Design team:


Work begins on designing and making the 3D set. Once design ideas have been created they are shared with the group and a final decision is taken on the 3D set that will be developed. This group has a very fluid membership.

A job list of required objects or projects is created. Student teams 'sign up' to work on the various objects.

Work also continues on the second phase work on the 2D set areas. Similarly, a job list is posted to which students sign up in self-selected groups.



Image and Lights Team


The Image and Lights Team now form. Their first job is to start designing and collecting images that will be used as the backdrop to the drama. Images will be projected using a video projector onto a background screen. The Image and Lights team will be providing the visual background to the entire drama. The group starts to search for candidate images that we can use as 'sets' for the emerging story idea.

The group tries to suggest unifying themes. Examples have included; black and white only, cartoons only, futuristic, vibrant colors, etc. The group hears the options and chooses the theme for the Image and Lights team to pursue.

For each potential set needed by the emerging story, the students find a collection of candidate images. The whole group will choose which candidate images will be kept and used in the final drama.

The Image team can find as many images as they want. The team is encouraged to use their imaginations to expand beyond merely literal sets - images for Kitchens, Rooms, Gardens, Castles, Jungles, Deserts, etc, to incorporate more imaginative and unusual, abstract or other approaches to the design of the background scenes. This job is a critically important job in the whole project. The background images will be projected onto a large screen and will comprise the backdrop to the entire drama enacted by the actors on the stage.

The Lights team coordinate their lights color schemes with the background images. The net effect of the background images and the lighting choices describes the way the final drama will look.

The Lights Team usually assists in the collection of images in the early part of the work. Eventually the team will split into two:

Usually the teams have two members in each part, four students in total.

 

Other Teams:

Costume Design – interested students can take on responsibility for designing/finding costumes for the acting parts. They coordinate with specific actors. Each potential design is paraded before the whole group for final decisions.

 

Clean- Up Crew – a roving band of students who are tasked with occasional introduction of bouts of order: reorganizing supplies, ensuring that adequate supplies are present, keeping control of paint stations, etc.

 

Dance Team – interested students start to choreograph and rehearse dances that can be incorporated into scenes later in rehearsal. This includes fight scenes, chase scenes and dance scenes in all dance styles.

 


Rehearsal Phase


Up to this point, Team memberships have been flexible and very fluid. Students have been able to move from team to team: as long as they are contributing at each team, they have been free to roam: from music composition to image collecting, from painting on a mural, to working with the writers, from designing a 3D set item, to working on Clean Up Crews or Costume Design Teams.

Broadly speaking, the first half of the available time for the Event is spent on Set design and all the preliminary tasks described above.

During the second fifty percent of the available time the process evolves and changes:

From the start of the rehearsal phase, each group now starts to acquire its stable membership. Within a few days of this phase starting, Teams need to be finalized and stable.


The Actors


Students, at this point (roughly fifty percent of the way through the entire process) need to really start thinking about what they each personally want to get out of the Show:

Once the 2D and 3D sets are under way, the early music and images are being composed and selected and the story itself has started to form, we assign acting parts to students.

The choices we need to make in this phase are:

 

During this phase the actors start designing the improvised scenes that will eventually become the final event.

The actors who are involved in Act 1 S1 now work together to create their rough draft of the scene. They are aware of the main things that need to be achieved in the scene as arrived at by the Writing Team (many of the main actors usually are deeply involved in the Writing Team).

Once they are ready, they present the work on the stage to the Director who then, along with interested students, edits and improves the scene until it achieves all the goals described by the writers.

While Act 1 S1 team is on the stage, Act 1 S2 team is rough drafting their work. Soon they will bring their work to the Director and the stage. Act 1 S1 team continues to edit and rehearse. Meanwhile, Act 1 S3 starts the design process. Once all of Act 1 has been rough drafted and tested on the stage, the first attempts are made to get through all of Act 1. Also, around this time, the early attempts are made to start to integrate the other teams: the Music Team, the Image and Lights Team.

Things get extremely organic in this next phase: metamorphic changes in the plot come about as a result of excellent acting performances, leading to cascading changes across the whole team - set changes, music changes, etc. Scenes shift from Castles to Kitchens demanding new images. Chase sequences lead to new drama and new music to support it. Acting roles change from Main parts to minor parts and back again. Students performances provoke changes in the script. The drama is improvised, but in the end it settles into a form that the whole group integrates in with.

As the work evolves, more and more of the whole group gets engaged in the rehearsals. Set design – the final aspects – continue as an alternative to engaging in the rehearsals.

As the drama evolves, the teacher's goal is to interrupt the rehearsals less and less with directions.

The final goal, once the whole process is approaching fruition, is the 'silent rehearsal'. During this rehearsal, the teacher may write notes about the issues that come up during the rehearsal, but is not allowed to actually interrupt the rehearsal, even if the rehearsal goes completely belly-up!

After a successful silent rehearsal, the next step is to find a test audience to play the show for.

After receiving feedback from the test crowd, all that remains are the final adjustments and the final launch of the event at its intended audience - that's right, at you, dear parents!