Luxembourg European Annual Theatre Summer School
GRAEME DU FRESNE
Course title: Songs That Go Bump In The night
“I dream of painting, then I paint my dream” - Vincent Van Gogh
This course will focus on singing skills. We will work on breath support, control, release, articulation and resonance. We will combine all this in some part songs consisting of 2,3 or even 4 part harmony arrangements. We will be looking at songs inspired by dreams and songs about dreams. Paul McCartney claimed that he woke one morning with the melody and harmonies of YESTERDAY in his head. Similarly, Billy Joel wrote THE RIVER OF DREAMS following an inspired night’s sleep. Brian May of Queen experienced vivid dreams during recovery from illness and THE PROPHET’S SONG was the creative result. Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife woke her husband out of what appeared to have been a nightmare. In fact, it was a dream that formed DR JEKYLL & MR HYDE; Frank Wildhorn & Leslie Bricusse wrote the stage musical version from which we will probably concentrate our efforts on ‘Façade’, the ensemble number at the beginning of Act One. SIT DOWN YOU’RE ROCKIN’ THE BOAT from Guys & Dolls is the song in which the gambler Nicely-Nicely Johnson invents a dream about being saved from hell in order to bring together the members of the prayer meeting. Tom Lehrer’s ELEMENTS patter song is a take on Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev’s PERIODIC TABLE . Mendeleev is quoted as saying: "I saw in a dream a table where all elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper, only in one place did a correction later seem necessary."
Course Title: What dreams may come
Dreams, visions, and fantasies are prominent elements of many of Shakespeare’s plays. Audiences around the world delight in the humour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the nightmare of Macbeth, and the ominous presence of ghosts in Hamlet and Caesar, but where does that process start? How does an actor pick their way through the dense forest of Shakespeare’s language to arrive at a lively and immediate performance? Drawing on a wide palette of skills and techniques we will access Shakespeare through play. Games and a variety of (non-strenuous) physical tasks will be our route into the text. There will be the opportunity to unpick the language at a more intellectual level but first and foremost we will gain an understanding of the relationships and status battles between characters through playing games. Shakespeare needn’t be daunting! Prior knowledge of the play is not essential.
Course title: Dreams Made Flesh
‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on…’ - William Shakespeare
Dreams - where the banal intertwines with the surreal and sometimes the visionary. Dreams - the intersection of story and psyche, conscious and unconscious narratives. This course is inspired by the dream-like paintings and surreal stories of artist and author Leonora Carrington. There’ll be various activities and approaches. Using Leonora Carrington’s wondrous paintings (and also contemporary cutting-edge photography), we will literally step into strange worlds - closely observing, then embodying images. We will see what discoveries we can make about character, emotion and intuition. We will work with some basic physical theatre techniques (Laban, Lecoq) and with mime, so that we can fly, glide and ‘run in honey’ as we all do in our dreams. We will also adapt Leonoras’s stories as scenes to play and use actual dreams or other dream-like stories as jumping-off points for small theatre works. We’ll experiment with filling spaces with the strange atmospheres and dynamics of dreams. So; there will be text work, physical work and improvising/devising. We will also explore some full-face mask work. We will also work using prompts and interventions from a specially designed Artists’ Tarot deck. This course is a magical mystery tour where we explore the surreal power of images and non-naturalism to speak to and of the human psyche and emotions.
Course Title: Finding your Directorial Voice
17th October, 1896 “Performance of my ‘Seagull’ at the Alexandrinsky Theatre. It was not a success”. Chekhov in his diary.
Chekhov called The Cherry Orchid a comedy. Stanislavski insisted it was tragedy. Given how much is open to interpretation, it can be a challenge for the director to honour the supposed original intention of the writer yet also have a strong directorial voice. How does knowing about the life of the writer and gaining an understanding of their world feed into your vision for the play? Is it at all necessary to know their intentions? Using Chekhov’s diaries as a starting place and The Cherry Orchid to explore ideas, we will look at how a director shapes their version of a classic play.
We will be looking at how a director prepares, how research can be fed into rehearsals, how to draw out ideas from the text and shape them practically in the space, and most importantly how to find your creative voice inside a classic piece of writing. How do you unearth what speaks to you in the play and make practical decisions to make your concept a reality?
Breaking down a text, structuring rehearsals, creating trust and openness in your cast, and ways to adapt rehearsal exercises to the needs of your production will all be explored. We will also look at staging and how it is vital to making your concept work, to the relationship between actors and audience and to maximising the space you are working in. At heart of the course is a belief that Direction can be dynamically and personally creative.
Theatre is a collaborative act too and as part of the course you will participate practically, observe, direct and also act at times, to support all the participants in their explorations.
If you think you might be interested in doing this course it might be handy to have Michael Frayn’s translation of The Cherry Orchid with you. This is not essential but a suggestion.