Structuring the Devising Process

The creation of a new piece will be a roller coaster: some days enormous amounts of material worth keeping will be created, while other days everything created seems useless. Remind students not to give up, not to be discouraged as this is all part of the creative process! It is precisely through creating material that does not seem to work which will help define more clearly where the piece is going. Sometimes it is just as important to discover what does not work as it is to create material that does work.

Usually students will have a long time during which to develop a piece (usually in short, sporadic lessons over 10 weeks). This is good news: it means they can experiment with ideas, dedicate sessions to developing character, incorporate the research gradually into the piece… you name it. But in order to keep the process fluid and give themselves room to experiment and play, they need to be extremely well organised.

The first thing to encourage is to set themselves some deadlines for the completion of the practical aspects of devising, such as the costume and set designs and a written script for the sound and light operator. Ask the students to set some deadlines and stick to them – after investing all their creativity in the piece, they probably do not want the practicalities of theatre to get in the way of their greatest enjoyment: the performance.

Different groups work at different speeds. In any case, remind them to use their time together productively. It is no use allocating a lesson to character development, where everyone sits down and writes their character profile individually, when this could be done at home.

Remind them that their time together as an ensemble is incredibly valuable and limited. Similarly, ask them to use your contact time with you and other tutors wisely. If they show you a section of the work during one lesson, they must make sure the next time they ask you to watch their piece, that section has been developed further.

If the students need a script for their lights and sound operator but there is little or no dialogue, they will need to describe what is happening on stage and how the plot is advancing. If there are specific visual moments to act as cues for lights and/or sound, remind them to describe them in detail in their script.

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