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We are a group of friends/parents that run a not-for-profit cultural association in Spain.
This is our (bilingual!) blog about our theatre workshops for kids...

martes, 29 de noviembre de 2011

Getting Inspired... with photos II. From photos to ideas

To turn an inspiring photo into a staging idea, you need to first pinpoint what it is about the photo that moves you. It might be something as concrete as the subject matter or it might be more subjective. For example, when we were in the process of adapting 'Puff The Magic Dragon', we used photos for physical details like the design of the pirates' swords:
And we also used them to get a feel for the 'atmosphere' of the pirate fight scene. We had no access to special effects (so no atmospheric smoke and mist to be had) and our students wore basic black costumes with just a head scarf and an eye patch (instead of full blown costumes like the ones shown), but photos helped ground us in the ideas we wanted to communicate, the key ideas in the scene.
In the case of the pirate scene in Puff, the key idea was to convey a sense of the energy and aggression behind a clash between pirates. The choreography needed to be fierce and dynamic, so we focused more on choreographing a fight than coming up with a dance.

To show you what I mean, I've taken three photos I find inspiring and I'll show you how I might go about developing them into staging ideas. The plays we produce tend to be very representational. We use no fixed scenery and very little in the way of costumes. The children either add or take off elements as the scene dictates (like the pirate swords and head scarves) and a sense of the physical setting of a particular scene will be created in a few minutes by children holding up or moving different elements. I've chosen the following photos because I find them dramatically suggestive in some way or another and when I look at them, ideas pop into my head. Not for any other reason.

This one, suggests height, expanse, emptiness, cold, loneliness but also breathtaking beauty. So I would try to root any staging ideas in these key concepts. Although it physically shows a sky-and-mountain scene, I might use it to inspire me for a different type of setting entirely. A stormy sea, perhaps, or the Arctic. It also suggests smoke to me. 

Materials that spring to mind immediately are chiffon or lining material in whites, silver and lighter shades of greys. White bin bags unrolled in long sheets or cut and gathered into giant, swirling pom poms. Painter's plastic unfolded and used, parachute-style, to create billows of smoke or cloud or waves. Swirls of white or silver netting attached to headbands to create an undulating effect as the children move. Here is how we portrayed a storm at sea in Puff:

 This photo depicts a late evening at the beach but for me, the colours are suggestive of autumn and there is an unsettling ominousness in the gathering clouds in the background that would lend itself to a storm scene of some kind. In terms of staging, with the right kind of music, I can see children wearing beige tunics ('organics' bin bags even?) wafting strips of material or plastic in browns, reds and ochres; older (taller) children advancing ominously with cardboard storm clouds held up high in a layered effect. I can also imagine using this photo for a scene involving fire or a rushing river, even perhaps a volcano.  

I love the colours in this photo. It reminds me of technicolor films from the 50s and the diffuse light gives it a dreamlike quality. I can imagine using this photo as inspiration for some kind of fantasy scene, a land made of candy perhaps (licorice trees and candyfloss blossom perhaps?) or as the backdrop to a fairy tale. For me this photo is more about mood (dreamlike, fantasy), than a specific location, like this 'technicolor' scene from Puff, where the dragon and the boy 'fall in love'.

These three photos are featured in:

Getting Inspired... with photos

I spend a lot of my time browsing the internet looking at photos. It's a great way to trigger ideas for staging a scene or for finding inspiration for props and scenery (largely because someone else has done all the hard work for you - the framing, the colours, the details, the light are handed to you on a plate - you just have to come up with the idea). So, for anyone looking to be inspired or wanting to get creative, here are some of my favourite sources for photos:

  • Google Images: just add a keyword or two and get looking... It's a great way to think outside the box - get creative with your search terms and see what you find
  •  Steve McCurry

  • The Photo Argus A resource for photographers, you can find really unusual collections of photos (like '25 images of coffee', for example) and you never know what you might find....
  • ffffound A collection of photos posted by users. Invite-only to post but anyone can browse.
  •  Links tother good collections of photos:

Where do you go for inspiration? Let us know of any websites you think should be included!

lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2011

La obra....el qué y el como

El otro día alguien me preguntó de donde sacamos las ideas para las obras que hacemos. Me parecía muy buena pregunta, sobre todo porque estamos ahora mismo buscando ideas como locos - y sin mucho éxito - para nuestra siguiente obra. Da igual las vueltas que damos al tema y las veces que 'llueven' ideas, estamos todavía con la página en blanco. Así que a mi también me gustaría saber ¿de donde salen las ideas?!

Lo único que sé es como nos han llegado en el pasado. Y la verdad es que suelen venir de la nada, y de sopetón, un día. Cuando vamos a empezar a escribir un nuevo guión, me suelo empapar de fotos, cuentos, poemas, canciones... durante varias semanas... sin saber realmente que es lo que busco. Y luego, el día menos esperado veré un cuento en la biblioteca ("Dónde Viven Los Monstruos") o oiré la estrofa de una canción ("El Dragón Mágico") y ¡alá! tenemos idea por fin.

Dinosaur Exhibition BeijingImage by via Flickr
Lo que se busca realmente es un tema central chulo - y universal (me refiero a que no sea solo para niños) - que viene "empaquetado" de una manera que llama la atención de los niños. En "Donde Viven Los Monstruos" teníamos... claro... monstruos. Y en "El Dragón", piratas, tormentas y el mismísimo dragón. Para "La Escalofriante Maldición" decidimos empezar desde cero pero no tardamos en pensar en el tema 'fantasmal'. A los niños les encantan los fantasmas, los esqueletos y demás y como tema, da bastantes posibilidades para la comedia.

A later print of a 15th century joustImage via Wikipedia
Otros temas que me parecen llamativos para niños y que se prestan al teatro son:
  • la jungla (animales salvajes, exploradores, las tribus, posibilidad de 'mensaje' educativo sobre recursos naturales etc.)
  • el fondo del mar (tiburones, ballenas, peces etc. muy visual y colorido)
  • los volcanes
  • los dinosaurios
  • los superheroes
  • los caballeros
  • las brujas y magos
  • la prehistoria/el futuro
  • un sin fin de 'lugares imaginarios' (estilo: la isla de los sueños, de los caramelos, de las nubes, de los gigantes, de las mentiras etc.)

Steve's Bommie- Yellow TailsImage by icelight via Flickr
¿Se te ocurre una buena idea? ¡Añádelo abajo!... Yo voy a empaparme de fotos de........ dinosaurios..... a ver si me llega la inspiración!

viernes, 18 de noviembre de 2011

Getting going... finding the right idea

While I'm on the subject of inspiration, I thought it might be a good idea to start making a list of songs, poems and stories that would make good children's theatre scripts. I'll get the ball rolling (but please chip in!).

So, based on our own personal experience, I can thoroughly recommend:

Both have:
  • a clear structure
  • the possibility for varied scenes/settings
  • lots of visual potentia
  • underlying messages that are relevant to young people but which adults can also relate to (they have universal appeal)
Other sources for theatre scripts that occur to me:
 In the Night Kitchen cover by SendakImage via Wikipedia
  • Still on a Maurice Sendak theme, In the Night Kitchen. Tthough this has always been a controversial book, I loved it as a child and it has that same magical feel to it as Where The Wild Things Are (though perhaps best to avoid the nudity issue!)
  • The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)
  • Storybooks like Simon Bartram's Man on the Moon (a day in the life of Bob)

  • Modern classics like Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt (perhaps changing the objective of the hunt - ghost, monster, treasure...?)

In terms of songs, perhaps:
  • Space Oddity (David Bowie)
  • Pierre (Carol King, but sung by The Dresden Dolls)
  • The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie (Mewithoutyou)
..... I'm open to suggestions! So fire away......

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