Friday, July 10, 2009

Random Thoughts from Theatre

Play builds community: I've spent a lot of time this week trying to figure out how to fit the content that I want into what I'm learning in this theatre workshop. But the other day Michael Rohd (artistic director of Sojourn and workshop leader) commented that playing builds community. I realize he is right, especially with theatre play. Playing in general requires people to acknowledge one another, to communicate with one another, to enjoy each others' presence. Play that asks people to create a story or an image together goes even farther. In these games you share a common goal which requires the cooperation the people you are playing with. If the game involves improvisation, you must listen closely to the other people, be willing to change in response to whatever they say, and trust that they in turn will react to your statements. Laughing together may often be more profound than praying or philosophizing together.

If theatre is a combination of oral and physical performances, it seems that historically it has primarily been the oral performance which is recorded and preserved for future generations (that is to say, the script). Physical movement is left to each new production to imagine in totally new ways. Must this be so? Why couldn't physical movement such as blocking or choreography be preserved and each production insert new words to fit their context? It seems through time the words people use change, but the basic motions which our bodies go through always stay the same.

Sojourn does a lot of theatre that is done in non-traditional locations and/or is interactive. One of the things they talk a lot about is how people are invited into an experience for which they may not have any clear notion about the social rules or expectations. They make a point to "articulate a contract" with the audience about what the company will do and what they will ask of the audience. This is done in their promotional material and through instructions throughout a performance. But a large component is also setting the mood of the event prior to the beginning of the performance. How do churches articulate a contract with parishioners about what is expected of them, not just with instructions printed in the bulletin, but the whole mood of the event? How do churches that follow non-traditional models of worship communicate what will be expected to newcomers?

Another technique that Sojourn uses frequently is having small groups within the company create work separately, and then having the different groups watch each others work. After watching each others' work, they then are asked to take elements from other people's work and either incorporate it into their own or expand it into something new and larger. This means whatever final product is eventually produced, it contains components imaged and shaped by everyone in the ensemble. Thus the work is simultaneously created by each individual and the community as a whole. It is seems like this could be a useful model for understanding scripture, both how it was created and how we can use it today.

1 comment:

MFConnection said...

I am finding the men's weekly breakfast to talk about the scriptural lessons of the week to allow people to talk about the important issues that are on their mind. Then the synthesis you speak of visibly happens there, at least sometimes, as people seek to find points of contact between their ideas and others. I sense that the group meets a strong need to share deeper thoughts and feelings with others.