What an experience! I absolutely loved the whole process of the TIE project. Personally I feel very attached to the Theatre In Education performance and the process because so much of the time we had doing this was spent in a way that the majority of us became closer as a group and we worked together so well that everything was completed and finalised before we had to perform the piece at Guildhall Feoffment Primary School in Bury St Edmunds. As a individual contribution to the piece, there wasn’t really a set job title that I had but due to my perfectionism I took a lot on board and I feel this allowed the rest of the group to get on with their own things and get things done quicker. Due to my creativity on a personal level and as a group, nothing really phased me and I was quick to solve the issues that were raised when creating the set, props and costume. I think if I was to give myself a job title however it would be ‘co creative director’.
Individual contribution inception (beginning) –
Thinking back to the very first lesson with Erica for our TIE project introduction we played children’s games I found this really exciting and I was eager to start learning and researching about teaching through theatre to children that are so young. I was interested more so because I think when I was little I think if I was taught through theatre I would have been able to contain more information. Our first tiny project that we had for one of the lessons was to come up with a storyline with a couple of words that Erica wrote down on the whiteboard. The words were based on materials for Key Stage 1 and 2. We were given 30 minutes to come up with a plan of what we wish to do if we had to perform in front of the children right now. We decided quickly as a team and our communication is something that we are better at comparing ourselves with other groups. So we quickly decided to base it upon a fairy tale so it would be understandable and engaging for the audience. The fairy tale that we picked to focus on was the three piglets and the wolf. Sophia, Sian and Scott were the three pigs whose houses which were made out of one of the materials on the board. Tom was the narrator, including the information that the audience would need to know and understand. I was the weather, I made the houses fall down and I showed the audience what would happen if the rain would touch it, the wind, the sun…etc. I really enjoyed it, it was hilarious. Another time that we were creating our own piece we had the topic ‘London’s Burning’ for this we used the song in a round however changed the words around a little so it could relate to the time period that we were looking at. We put actions to this and it all came together really well.
One of the main small projects that we had was researching for the Roman times and working together to create our first song. This is something that I was really proud of and was the first sign of motivation to keep going with the piece. We were all really dedicated and all found a role within the piece to work at so we would get it done in time and together.
Individual contribution development –
Looking back to the start of this process when we were doing our presentations in front of the class talking about our ideas and what we thought would be best to engage the children. I was so nervous about my presentation because it was something I had thought about, it wasn’t a performance and I wasn’t talking about anyone else’s ideas and I didn’t want to be judged for what I decided would be best. To distinguish what I was like there is a major difference in my confidence from now to then. If I was asked to present my own ideas about something as important as TIE then I would sure to go up and talk. Having had confidence issues all my life, to finally have some release it is a lovely feeling and I feel that I could manage anything that I put my mind too.
The development of the performance is a huge part of the project. The development includes everything that we need to create a impressive and education piece. This starts at the beginning where we had to come up with the idea. Once we all heard Tom’s idea about the geography side of things we were all on board. Individual contribution to the whole development I think that I was really key for everyone because I shared my ideas out loud from the beginning. Thoughts containing logical thinking was something that really helped out. From Tom’s suggestion I thought originally that we could do something a little like ‘The Truman Show’ and use a suitcase as the main object to travel the world in our group. Then I realised that for a little child watching the performance it would be a little too difficult to understand. Also, I wanted to create something that would be our own and have our own storyline instead of using someone else’s ideas and then continue to think of layers to go on top, this would of then elongated the process and it wouldn’t make sense with the original storyline that someone else had come up with.
Research was key with this project and I did enough research so that I understood what we needed to do as a teaching perspective and for the individual development in watching the production we set up.
On a personal level throughout the process my contribution towards the piece is really strong. I did all I could to make it the best I could. I thought about the production as my own and I think that is the reason I was so motivated to continue with it. Spending time working on the set on my own when the rest of my group had gone home was something that I chose to do rather than being forced to. The help of listening to musicals and learning more about them really helped me focus I believe. At first I decided that I wanted to paint the pictures for the show however I knew that my dad would have loved to be apart of what I was doing and so I asked him if he wanted to do them instead and he did then to a high standard and everyone loved them. Having taken on the responsibilities of getting certain creative pieces done before the deadline was something that I loved. I have always been a creative person and personally when I set myself tasks I make sure that I do them and so then putting the two together I completed the creative tasks efficiently and affectively. My favourite part of the process was finally putting all the set together, thinking logically and creatively on how I could make the holes small enough for the zipties to go around the backdrops and the bar that we hung them on was a task in itself. At first I thought it would be best to put a hole-punch through the material so that way the holes will be perfectly in line and it would look synthetically pleasing. However, trying this out on extra material it was too thick for the hole-punch and it wouldn’t go down low enough for it to reach the designated place. Therefore I thought of a great idea to use a Stanley knife and measure out where the holes should be, mark it out with a small pencil line and then make a small incision with the knife in a cross. This worked perfectly, we made sure that they were all lined up and perfectly straight. Applying this to all of the material was not as time consuming as t would have been if we used a hole-punch.
Individual contribution refinement (removing impurities) –
This process of individual contribution refinement has been throughout the whole of the TIE project. At the beginning of the piece there were generally a lot of things that we had to consider as a group. The script was one of the hardest parts for me personally because I had never created rhyme before and I felt a lot of pressure to get it correct and make sure that it all goes smoothly. Having this in mind I had to make sure that it made enough sense so that the audience could understand it and follow the entire plot. Another little impurity that we had to look into at the beginning was the names of the two genies. We wanted something that would sound magical and something uncommon, to the point where the children will admire the character and not think about another person when hearing the name because this could of created a negative impact. The original name for Emryss was Hermes. Tom thought it would be hilarious to call the character ‘herpes’ every time and because we all thought about it when his name was said allowed we decided that it was inappropriate and we needed to change it. Tom then decided on the name ‘Emryss’ this worked out well because its an uncommon name and sounds extremely powerful and magical.
Looking at the evolution of the script we had around 6 different versions. Each had a different sort of storyline and in the end we had to put an end to keeping on making changes because we were running out of time to put the production together and learn for it. Having a listening ear has really helped the group because as I was listening to the script I pointed out certain parts that didn’t sound very good or didn’t make sense in a character perspective. For example, in the final script that we learnt and used for our performance there was a section that Griselda spoke that said that she wouldn’t give the paintings back ‘because they are hung on my bland old wall’ this doesn’t make sense because she has told the kids (our characters) that she has hidden them in places all around the world and so if they are on her bland wall then there is no point in travelling to these different countries because they won’t be there for us to collect.
Individual contribution performance –
The performance was time consuming as a whole and so preparing for the performance so it would be perfect was something that was really important that I made sure I did. As we all had main characters there wasn’t a lot of conflict and so we all got on with we had to do. For the performance side of things on the day of the performance I made certain that everything we needed was in order and ready including putting all the props and costume we needed into Scott’s car. When we arrived at the school I took on board the set up of the whole production and agreed that we should place the clock on the other side of the stage so that we will be able to move without it being in the way and it looked better because it was all put together beforehand and it opened up the space that we had in the hall. I made sure that we all opened the space and I personally made eye contact with the little ones on the far left which was where I was placed a the beginning of the piece so they felt involved.
The performance was really enjoyable and I loved every minute of it. Although some of it went wrong I carried on and whispered one sentence to Tom so he could remember his rhyme for the cues of Sian and Scott. I didn’t know whether this was the right thing to do however the audience didn’t notice and the flow of the piece moved forward once I did this. It all comes down to opinion on whether this was the right thing to do or not but I just used common sense in the situation that I was in and decided that it would be best.
I performed to the best of my ability at the school and I made sure that I wasn’t undermining the audience by the way I was using my voice. I didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable and withdraw from our piece instead I talked in a way that my character would but in such a way that the audience understood and engaged with.
My growth & progress as a TIE producer and performer
I have never done anything quite like teaching in education. It’s been a learning curve and I have really enjoyed the experience. I’ve heard about teaching in education before due to my church and a couple of people who attend are part of groups that tour around schools and prisons teaching about the love of God or teaching about stories in the bible in a new modern way, through performance. I have created and written songs before but I have never written something based on factual content before. The difference between writing a song for yourself and writing a song for someone to listen to is that you need to make sure that it makes sense, it has to have facts that matter in the song and the music structure has to be written correctly. Producing the first song was based on the roman roads as a practise for the TIE. This was the first song that we created as a team and I really enjoyed the process and discussions that followed. Following the first song it was easier to think of lyrics and follow the different steps we were advised by Paul and B to find words and melodies.
As a performer I feel that I have grown through how I improvise and how I judge the audience. For example, when we had to include the audience and ask them to sing with us I talked to them every so often to remind them that they can join in with the chorus and to get them to engage and shout for ‘Griselda’ I made sure that it was seen as helping out the kids in the show. Talking to them excitedly and enthusiastically really helped how they reacted and shouted for the bad genie. I think I have learnt more about special awareness throughout this process and I have grown in maturity as I have taken on board certain tasks and completed them without being asked; I just got on with it. Also, as a musicality perspective I feel that I have grown in such a way that when I write songs at home I have to think about the timing, the key, the reason for the song and all the little things that I have been taught by Paul and B.
Individual learning and personal development and how this will help you in the future?
For future reference I feel as though I will take on board all the skills that I have learnt throughout this project and use it towards the oncoming projects to come. Maturity comes with time and so to finally feel like an adult I have a different outlook to certain situations. I will therefore cope with certain things maturely rather than how I have managed previously. Common sense is something we all have and yet I feel that this project has really opened that door for me.
Musical theory is something that I have always been interested in. I received an A* in music and theory was a fundamental aspect that we needed to learn and understand about. This is one thing that I want to continue to learn about when I move on with the projects still to come and what I want to learn at drama school after college.
The effectiveness of your groups TIE piece taken out to local schools
I think that the TIE project was really beneficial for us as performers and for the children as the audience. For us because of the interacting side of the performance and how hard the audience is. Our normality is performing for adults rather than children and so we have had to change the way we talk and where we direct our speech. This is smething that was hard when we did our performance because we were the only group where another group of Year 2’s were watching at the back of the hall. This then switched the way our brain worked and we knew that our audience didn’t just end at the back of the children sitting on the floor but the Year 2’s sitting on the benches at the back of the hall and there was a huge gap between them. I then naturally looked up at certain points of the show and I tried to ignore it for the most part but for me that was one of the most challenging things on a whole.
As for the children/audience, they learn key facts and information that is needed in a certain topic that they are learning about in classes and they are containing this information in a way that is engaging and is something different so there is more of a chance that they will remember.
For the workshop, I thought that it would be something that we would fall on because we hadn’t prepared as much as we should have done. Erica started out with creating gestures for each of the characters in the show. She started by asking each of us to come up with a movement and so the children so they could follow us. Once we introduced the names again and presented the actions and we went round in the circle and called out the characters names, the children then responded by doing the actions. As Erica had to leave to help the other group before their performance we continued for a bit and then decided as a group that we would teach them a song. We asked the children what their favourites were and they all said the chorus. So we went through the song and chose to let the children come up with 5 gestures all in all or each line. As Tom was explaining this to the group one little girl asked me to tell her what he said because she didn’t understand. So as I explained to her we started to collect the gestures from each of the children. The first one was their right hands going up and down (as a paintbrush), the second was using both hands creating a square shape (as the painting), thirdly the action was putting their hands in circles and putting them over their eyes (as binoculars). For the section that sings ‘my sister stole my painting’ the children decided to do an angry movement and so we shook our hands and stamped our feet (this was due to them being annoyed at Griselda) The final one was the same as the third. The children seemed to pick this up really quickly. I was really impressed with them all.
Once we had done the actions and the song we decided to ask the children some questions about the piece and ask what their favourite parts were. We asked questions along the lines of these below:
- What colour was the Taxi? – yellow
- What is the other name for a Taxi? – cab
- What did Eleanor see out of the window in New York? – the empire state building
- What did the children in the show ride on in Egypt? – camels
- What is the capital of France? – Paris
- Who was the lady in New York? – the statue of liberty
- What was she holding? – a book and a torch
- What is a tandem? – a form of bicycle
- Where did we go after Egypt? – Paris
- What did we see in Paris? – the Eiffel tower
These were all answered correctly when we asked them. It has blown me away. The fact that Erica had told us that they notice and listen to everything and to have asked them these hard questions, considering that they were only 5-6 years olds I didn’t realise the extent of their concentration.
What Erica said to us, that is on the recording above is that she said that all of the children we engaged the whole time and there wasn’t a single minute that they weren’t watching and learning. I thought this was really nice feedback.
I asked Erica for some personal feedback and she replied saying,