We’re now in the third week of the final phase of the Advanced Course at LISPA, our final projects. At the start of term we put on a show of the best stuff we’d created over the past year. Now, it feels like we’re looking forward rather than back, as this final few weeks begins a transition into the real world.
Each of us (that’s just over 30 people in my “Morning Group”, just over 20 in the “Afternoon Group”) are now responsible for a piece of theatre. We can do a one-person show, direct a few of our classmates in a piece, or be in a piece with them. But the subject matter and the casting is up to us, and while most pieces are going to be devised by the cast of each group, there’s one person who can make the final decisions.
Although we’ve been making new pieces of theatre every week for the past two years, this subtle change — one person is in charge — has made a surprising difference. The first of our three weeks of rehearsal it felt like everyone was having to work out how to be the “director” of something, when we’ve by now become used to everyone being equal within a group. Not that anyone (in my experience) has been a tyrant. It’s more that we’re not used to telling each other what to do and almost feel like apologising for it (although maybe this is a cultural thing…).
It’s also been a bit brain-spinning being in several pieces. It looks like I’ll be in four pieces, including my own (more of which another time), and the first week, when all of them were in embryonic states and everyone was exploring vague ideas and images it was very hard to focus on whatever piece one was rehearsing at a given moment. Now we’re in the third week and pieces are settling down into some kind of structure so it’s easier to grasp what each of them is.
The other new thing for us is that the teachers won’t see our pieces until they’re performed. In the past we’ve always presented our work in progress and received feedback at least once a week. Now, with classes having finished last term, we’ll only see them again on the opening night. So this process does seem like a transition from the comfort of an educational structure into the scary outside world.
Mostly the process has been fun, although it has been pretty tense at times. Our weekly Monday morning meetings to work out the week’s schedule haven’t been a barrel of laughs: 34 separate groups, with many overlapping casts, all trying to get their allocation of rehearsal time. It’s worked but I doubt anyone enjoyed it.
By the time each piece is performed it will have had maybe twenty hours of rehearsal (which is from nothing, no script, just an idea). This isn’t much more than some of our regular “Creation Group” pieces have had, but the levels of tension, expectation, stress, excitement, etc are much more. Each piece will then get performed to an invited audience once, starting this Sunday, finishing ten days later. And then, bar the celebrations, the two year course will be over.
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