Layers and Process

 

Blog: by Nadine Dimitrievitch ~ Artistic Director ~

It is astounding how much work is put into the creation of a show. From the very first idea to the final product there are so many layers involved. I’ve learnt that being organised and scheduling is crucial in being successful in producing a work.

After my first production EXODUS, which was performed as part of the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival, I had a period of reflection on what my process was of putting together the show. EXODUS was a devised performance that was written in rehearsals over a period of five months. The production I recently produced (playing at Revolt Melbourne until the 11th May 2014) LA PESTE was developed over a period of only two months.

I was able to refine the creative development and produced the work by structuring the two months with a process that I am exploring and developing.

Concept and Anchor

Morgaine Presser - La Peste - Bone Marrow Theatre
Morgaine Presser – La Peste – Bone Marrow Theatre

I had a concept for LA PESTE before jumping into the rehearsal room: to explore an essay written by Antonin Artaud ‘The Theatre and The Plague’ and look at how this text could be used to create a show (using object manipulation, images, circus, music and light) and how it could fit in context of today’s society. However I had no idea what the story was going to be about, leaving it fresh to explore with the performers and dramaturge.

Research

Researching and analyzing this text was the first stage. There are a myriad of references to the plague in this text and through my research I discovered some very important stimulus material including a painting by Hieronymus Bausch that became a prominent image for the aesthetic vision of the production.

hieronymos bausch - the plague

Images

The first rehearsal the company and I brainstormed ideas and themes we would like to discuss anchoring around one concrete and simple aim: ‘To make the audience question their morals’. The first few weeks we focused on creating loads of images and pulling out text and references from ‘The Theatre and the Plague’ Artaud

Structure and Strategy

Then from these rehearsals I started to form a structure. Working closely with my dramaturge we came up with a structure using the stimulus text and images created in rehearsal forming a first version script, keeping in mind our original aim and including a strategy:

Identify the plague through the decay in morality by showing the lack of compassion in both cases. Focus on the plague and presenting it as a disturbing mirror image of moral decay in society – Bone Marrow Theatre

Continue developing structure

La Peste - Development - Bone Marrow Theatre - Directed and Designed by Nadine Dimitrievitch
La Peste – Development – Bone Marrow Theatre – Directed and Designed by Nadine Dimitrievitch

 

Each rehearsal we started off with a group discussion so that all ideas can be discussed and put on the floor. We then continued to develop the images which were still relevant or that we wanted to work towards, and play with improvising scenarios.

Filling in the gaps

As rehearsal’s continue, I discuss with my dramaturge what has been working and what hasn’t, I start to fill in the gaps, creating the story around the structure using text from improvisation and the stimulus text and any other references.

Music

There is a live cellist who creates music and the soundscape for LA PESTE. We had meetings together to discuss the aesthetics of the play. Then I gave her some stimulus music that I thought suited the aesthetics of the production. From there she went away and started composing a rough musical score, which we then continued to develop before integrating her into rehearsals towards the last couple of weeks before the performance. Integration required a fair bit of musical direction as we had choreographed the majority of the play. But as I choreographed and worked closely with the musician it didn’t take long to match the score with the movement. Exploring and adapting write up until opening night.

Lighting and object manipulation

The introduction of lighting has come in at an early stage for this production, I wanted to explore object manipulation using a range of hand held lights which have been untilised since day one of rehearsals. These light sources are attached to umbrellas and are being used as objects to create images also.

Tissu

There is a tissue aerial apparatus in this production and after brainstorming how and why a tissu could be incorporated we blocked in scenes but waited until late in the rehearsal process to choreograph (having rehearsals in the actual space towards the last couple of weeks).

Set, Lighting and Costume

Scott Jackson - La Peste - Bone Marrow Theatre - Directed and Designed by Nadine Dimitrievitch
Scott Jackson – La Peste – Bone Marrow Theatre – Directed and Designed by Nadine Dimitrievitch

This is the first production I have designed. I had a very strong concept to begin with and a very interesting space to utilise (a long loading dock in a large warehouse), the space was an integral part of my Mise-en-scène. The lighting was also integrated into the set design as well as the performers movement. I drew up the design concept after a month of development and had a lighting consultant draw up a rough floor plan for lights, then had the set built and installed two weeks before the production, where I supervised the process. I then wrote up all the lighting cues and states that I required for the show before the plotting session in production week that made it ‘easy’ to plot and tech.

Scan 7

 

The costume design became apparent to me fairly early on in the development and was sourced throughout the development process. There are ‘plague monster’ costumes, which we started exploring from early on in the process, I had to create prototypes to explore in rehearsal and created the final costume which are easy to put on (the performers are constantly on stage creating images so don’t have much time for costume changes).

LePeste [Preview] - Plague Monster= Bone Marrow Theatre - Nadine dimitrievitch - physical theatre

Direction and Choreography

The works that I create are highly stylised and image based. I look at telling the story through movement, believing you should be able to see the story unfolding without having to rely on text.

I work with the performers to create images giving them room to explore their own gesture, movement and improvisation, devising and writing collectively. From there I use what the performers have explored and add choreography and work at integrating the text and images created. I am also a strong believer of being able to continue developing the show throughout the season. We (the ensemble and I) are still finding new things and working at building the chorus strength and rhythm throughout the piece.

LA PESTE runs until the 11th of May 2014 at Revolt Melbourne Artspace. For more info please click here

La Peste - Directed and Designed by Nadine Dimitrievitch
La Peste – Directed and Designed by Nadine Dimitrievitch

© 2014 Bone Marrow Theatre – All Rights Reserved.

Notes on Making Theatre

A seed is all it takes for the beginnings of a creation. Little by little it evolves. Sometimes it is scary to think what it might become or more so what it might not become. But sometimes it is wonderful to see your creation grow and if you’re lucky enough, you might just be able to share it with others.

la pest umbrellas

 I am currently in the midst of producing, directing and designing my second show ‘La Peste’. It is a devised piece where we started with an idea, five performers and a great essay written by Antonin Artaud,  ‘The Theatre and the Plague’. I like to start the development process with the ensemble by walking into the space with just an aim, for us it was ‘To make the audience question their morals’. Then, as Jacques Lecoq said, ‘The only thing to do is to remain silent and something will happen’. When I was studying at Lecoq in Paris, we had an assignment to create a mysterious bouffon. I was playing with form and the human body and created a monster from objects I found from my wardrobe, and discovered that coat hangers and stockings can create the most fabulous shapes. From here I started to create an image of a terrifying parasite, I was joined by a peer of mine in this creation and we started to experiment with excerpts of ‘The Theatre and the Plague’, and created an image of society giving birth to the plague. Two years later and after a lot of thought I decided to continue with my idea and develop it into a show. After holding workshop auditions to find collaborators that could move expressively, who were open to sharing ideas and open to developing on the floor, I found some excellent and diverse performers to work on this project. We started rehearsals with an empty space a bunch of umbrellas, torches and some funny looking prototype monster costumes. I might have lost two cast members that day (not sure if it had anything to do with the monster costumes) but hey, found a new collaborator, the rest have stuck with it and we are enjoying rehearsals… maybe a little too much at times!

plague monster
Exploring in the Grande Salle at Jacques Lecoq

One of the hardest things in running an independent theatre company is finding collaborators who are committed, disciplined, and passionate in creating new theatre. During this production six people from different departments have come and gone. The only way to deal with this is to think pragmatically, keep going, be organised and find the people who want to create with you! After all the show must go on! We are now five weeks into the development, with only three weeks to go until we open! It is amazing to see what we can produce in such a short amount of time. I’m enjoying learning from the experience of putting on another show and designing for the first time also! By Nadine Dimitrievitch