Bright Sparks Theatre Arts meet our members every Wednesday morning for their Drama Group. The sessions are fun and inspiring with up to 30 members attending from various services across Leeds. But what do they get up to in Drama Group on a Wednesday? Carry on reading to find out more……
By Guest Blogger: Elaine Walton
One thing about drama is that we always enjoy it. We have fun times and also serious times. We have to be serious when we are rehearsing for a play but there is always the enjoyment and reward of creating a good show. It builds people’s confidence and some, who have never performed in front of an audience before, start off a little scared but end up going onto the stage, facing the audience and acting as if they had always done it. And at the end of the show every person comes off stage with a big grin on their faces, having done a great job.
There is a lot of learning done and confidence built in the weeks before the show. Some who are a bit shy don’t even want to do anything in front of us in the hall we use to rehearse in but, as they watch some of the others doing things, they just join in. Within a few weeks it’s as if they hadn’t been shy at all.
The first thing we learn is that there is no right or wrong. Of course, things have to be done right in the show but if someone makes a mistake, ends up in a different part of the stage than where they should be or says something different to what we rehearsed, it doesn’t matter. We just carry on and no-one is blamed. Everybody makes mistakes. When anyone new comes along the members are keen to point out that if anything does go wrong it’s John (the director) who is to blame, not them.
Another of the first things we learn is that we have to listen to each other. If it happens that a lot of people are talking at the same time someone just puts their hand on their head to show that there is too much talking and they don’t like it. Someone sees it and does the same, then someone else and then, quite soon, everyone is stood quietly. We have to listen because, if we don’t, our shows would not run smoothly.
In drama we also have to learn to concentrate and focus our minds. We practice this by playing ‘Magic Mirror’. Soft music is played and we copy what our partner is doing with their hands. It also calms us down after our excitement of doing Magic Box. There is a lot of ‘magic’ in our drama sessions. We start our acting by walking through an imaginary park. Marc plays nature sounds and we have to react. It can be sunny, with bird sounds, or raining, with rain and thunder sounds. We have to act as if it is really happening.
We are always looking for new ideas and in what way we can explore them. We all enjoy learning new things so when something called a tableau was introduced, everyone was keen to join in as much as possible (a tableau is sort of ‘still action’). It is like stopping the action in a film; putting it on pause. We have done this by trying to see what water and fire would be like if we froze the action. We were asked to come into the middle of the room, one by one, thinking of the shape of what water would feel like to us and, when we got to the middle of the room we had to freeze that action. We ended up with a group in the middle making a scene with ‘still action’ – a tableau. And then we did the same with fire.
We also divide into two teams and choose a subject for our ‘still action’ and then decide who is going to play each part. Then each one gets into place and freezes in the position they would have had if the scene was moving. The other team has to try and guess what it is that is being frozen.
At the end of the day’s practices we usually finish with a good dance around to shake away all the thinking and plotting and acting we have done. ‘Grease Lightening’ is a firm favourite.
After a few weeks of these practices we usually start thinking about the actual show and start rehearsing for it. There will be an idea already there but everyone is encouraged to put their own ideas forward. We also start using props fairly early in rehearsals so that the cast can get used to them such as James Bond guns and getting Freddie Mercury in full costume.
Eventually the rehearsing becomes more serious and there is usually a lot to learn in a short time. And then, suddenly, the time for the actual show arrives. Nerves are high but we all cope well. In the past, we have performed our shows two or three times at The Stage at Leeds University. This year, as well as using The Stage, we also performed it in the foyer area at The Leeds Playhouse.
Performance at The Stage – Leeds University
Performance at West Yorkshire Playhouse
After the last show everyone was awarded a medal for their brilliant performances.