August 24, 2013

Week 2

By Robert
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So welcome to the shiny new weekly blog! Things have begun to settle into a nice routine at DSL and everyone’s getting to know each other. Here’s a rundown of the last week:


First up on Monday was Voice in which we were introduced and explored more exercises, this time engaging the voice and working on the diaphragm. We also ran in circles making loud noises a bit.

Stagecraft saw us discuss the more technical side of acting and the kind of questions we should be asking when starting to read a play or research a character. The reason behind our ‘research 1955’ homework was made clear; we were about to start studying Towards Zero by Agatha Christie, written in 1955. By the end of our 90 minute lesson we had thoroughly analysed the first three lines of stage directions. Our prep: don’t read the play. Nice.

In Approaches to Text, we continued to work our way through The process of analysing the action of a scene and the ‘units’ within it. The challenge today was to try to boil the Units of Act 1 of Uncle Vanya into just the key dramatic event (keeping it entirely factual), such as ‘Vanya talks about how the Professor has changed the household’s routine’ or ‘Sonya and Yelena’ enter. It was surprising how difficult it was not to start analysing why things were happening and just stick to facts.

Our first Acting class involved exploring an exercise which took us through 7 Energy levels (from nothing to hysterical). The most fun part was the level where we were trying to set up the chairs in the room according to our own system while everyone else tried to move them according to theirs. Very frustrating!


Once again, Tuesday morning was Movement. After the lengthy and exhausting warm-up routine and failing to remember last week’s routine sufficiently, we spent the rest of the class learning a ceilidh-style folk dance and we’re told we would need to remember it perfectly next time. We would definitely need to practise…

Improv included some more spontaneity exercises and exploring the concept of a sort of group ‘hive-mind’ when the group collectively control the direction and flow of an improvisation. After a fun couple of rounds of ‘one word stories’, each person taking one word at a time, it was clear how quickly the basic elements of a story come up and how important it is to pursue those and not let the narrative meander. We did a similar thing in 6-person groups for made-up sayings and each other’s future epitaphs. Examples included:

Laughter wasted on the stupid humans


She would never eat food considerately

After that we were back to the Greeks in Theatre History with a focus on Oedipus and Antigone. I was also retrospectively awarded the entirely fictional honour of Miss Bridlington 1975. I’ll be adding it to my CV soon.

In Radio, we recorded another monologue, working on the feedback from last week. I revived Mozart’s speech from Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. We were also given a duologue to work on with a partner for next week. I was given half of a scene from Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions.

After school, we had TV homework to do: watch Holby City on BBC1 and Top Boy straight after on Channel 4 after which we should write an analytical response. Several of us in Group 1 joined forces to watch them together and complain about having to miss the first episode of The Great British Bake Off!


Singing started our Wednesday and brought with it more vocal exercises and a cappella singing. Next week we’re going to start working on devising our own arrangement of something.

Class Scene Work is the name for the ‘rehearsal’-based class in which we prepare scenes for performance to the rest of the class. Part of the process involves us being given parts that we would not necessarily choose or get cast as in order to stretch us. We’re using Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife, and I was given a scene in which I play a man who is having an affair with his wife’s married friend. He and said friend are worried they have been found out.

In Approaches To Text, we started looking at specific characters in Uncle Vanya, compiling the facts (not other characters’ opinions!) about their life and personality in order to help us build a fuller portrait of them. The task raised more questions about them than it answered!


In TV, we discussed what we watched on Tuesday. Then we analysed a scene in Atonement where there is a very long steadicam shot and discussed what a logistical nightmare it must have been. After than we practised hitting marks whilst talking to someone else in the scene. It’s really hard!

In Acting we worked on the seven energy levels further. The main exercise was an improvised scene (the morning after the party) in which everyone moves through the levels (from nothing to hysterics) at their own speed. This created some hilarious dramatic moments as the different levels clashed with each other.

In Class Scenes Work, we started using a technique of ‘actioning’ the dialogue in our scenes. This involved applying different verbs to our lines to give us a way of performing the line (such as ‘I encourage you, ‘I patronise you’ etc). That way, we avoid just reciting the line. Hopefully next time we’ll get a chance to try it out in performance.

Theatre History class revealed that all blockbuster Hollywood films are very closesly derived from The Oddysey (from The Wizard of Oz to Inception. Literally everything. It’s amazing!)


We couldn’t believe it was already a week since we’d performed our speeches to the school. We were already a quarter of the way through the term! Our first class was given by one of the Equity careers advisors who was also a DSL graduate. We were given advice on getting headshots and publicity shots, what to do when we get to the shoot, what to do with the photos afterwards and where to send them. I’ll be getting the headshots that will be used in all the graduating publicity material etc in a couple of weeks.

In Stagecraft, we finally finished working our way through the stage directions and scene-setting at the start of the play and explored how to use an internal monologue to help us demonstrate the right kind of reactions and emotions when there are no lines. This was then followed by working on our awareness of our kinaesphere and personal space.

Approaches to Text saw us learn about the objectives and super objectives of a character (for example super objective: get home, immediate objective: cross the road). This is designed to stop us thinking about what our character is doing later in the play and concentrate on ‘playing the moment’ (look at me! I’ve got all the lingo!)

Our final lesson of the week was Voice, and the feedback on what we do with our voice and our breathing and posture when we speak and act. It wasn’t the most positive end to the week, but it gave us loads to work on!

To finish off the week, we all headed up the road to the the pub and looked forward to our Bank Holiday weekend. Lots of homework to do before Tuesday though!

Until then, cheerio!

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