Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #2 by David Bridel)

The process of building our script has well and truly begun.

On Saturday May 17th, our troupe of clowns spent the day at the Annenberg Beach House developing improvisations around the Jonah and the Whale story. I'm not inclined to give too much away, but audiences can expect a delicious contemporary twist on this classic tale of a man and a whale! (Actually, it's a fish that swallows Jonah whole. Not sure when or how the whale pushed her way into it...)

At this stage rehearsals follow a fairly simple pattern. After a warm-up that energizes the group, we choose small sections of our source material - this past rehearsal, I simply read verses aloud from my iPad, an Old Testament King James version app (!) - and then divide the cohort into groups of 3 or 4, who each spend about 15 minutes cooking up scenes that tell the story of that particular section. Our clowns, well-skilled at interpreting texts in uniquely creative ways, then demonstrate what they have come up with to the rest of the group in a kind of "show and tell" moment. Usually I find a way to record these demos - either by filming them or by rapidly scratching down bits of dialogue and action, even while they are happening - and then we briefly discuss the pros and cons of what we have seen, before moving on to the next section. It's often fast, sometimes furious, and always fun.

Later, at home or on an airplane (I just flew long-haul to Shanghai and back), I will mull over the various opportunities that the improvs have created, and start to figure out what works best with what, pulling disparate pieces together and imagining them into a tighter structure. At the time of writing, I have a reasonably organized "skeleton", pieced together from many rehearsals; when we return to rehearsal next week, the improvs will continue, but in a more targeted fashion.

This is my favorite way of working on making plays. It's not conventional authorship, nor is it exactly groupthink - it's a wonderful amalgam of ideas funneled into a rough vision, which I hope is both cohesive and expansive by the time it reaches its creative form.

It sure beats sitting in a room.

David Bridel
Writer, Co-Director, Noah & Jonah
Associate Director, Four Clowns

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