This week’s blog comes from Jack Rogers and Orla Reilly, who tell us about their exciting week with NAYD at NYT Lab!
A few months back we got the news of NAYD hosting another NYT Lab event for the end of Summer 2014. Now, you may be asking yourself ‘What is NYT Lab?’ I certainly asked myself the same question on my first hearing of the concept. In my head I thought lab, science, experimenting and long white coats, but in the context of theatre that didn’t make much sense (although nothing is ever irrelevant when it comes to theatre.) The week didn’t exactly involve scientists and long white coats but it did however, involve experimenting and coming up with new ideas, concepts and a lot of fun. The idea of NYT Lab is to inspire a production of whatever play NYT chooses to put on annually (the cast consisting of youth theatre members from across the country.)
This year, NYT Lab had a few tricks up it’s sleeve. Instead of the week just consisting of drama workshops they introduced a ‘Design path’ which was to encourage young theatre designers and enthusiasts to get involved and show that youth theatre is not all about acting. Now, as a duo consisting of an avid puppet fan and set design enthusiast NYT Lab quickly caught our attention and we sent off our application forms in the hope of grabbing ourselves places in the small group of 6 design participants out of 20 youth theatre members altogether, the remaining number being drama participants. As you may be able to tell we got the places and were set to head off to Dublin in the last days of August. The other exciting trick NAYD had prepared for us during the event (I did use plural at the start of this paragraph, I didn’t forget.) was that the Abbey Theatre had commissioned the play and that the playwright Carmel Winters would be attending our workshops and later writing the play inspired by the material and ideas that had developed throughout the week.
So, Monday the 18th, we set off on our adventure and with a map in hand we found the Dance House, the location of most of our activities for the week. Our whole group workshops were lead by the wonderful Dave Kelly who also led the drama path workshops. Of course we began with a few ice breakers to break the tension, and I can say that after playing a rather unusual version of catch and having to bear hug practically everyone in the room, any awkward silences that were present had been eliminated and the beginning of a mighty friendship with everyone was formed. We really were very lucky to have been part of such an amazing group of people. After our first whole group workshop we were introduced to Theatre Designer and Head of the Department of Design and Visual Arts at IADT Dun Laoghaire, Liam Doona. A person whom I could definitely listen to the stories and experiences they have with theatre for hours on end.
Come evening time we headed off to the Marino Institute, our place of accommodation for the week and had dinner. Afterwards we reconvened in the common room (Yes, how Hogwarts of it all, we had a common room) and began our first night of bonding together and dare I say “Bonter!” while even managing to catch a snippet of the Rose Of Tralee.
For the week we were asked to bring an interesting piece of luggage, a random item of choice, a piece of clothing and a picture of a young person. On Tuesday we learned why we were asked to bring such a peculiar mix of things with us as we spent the day developing characters and creating a world in which these characters (who conveniently owned fabulous trunks and bags of various shaped and sizes) lived. At the beginning of the workshop we learnt the importance of personal stories by each sharing the meaning of our name and what item we would save in the case of a house fire; in doing this we then gave our characters their own personal stories and backgrounds. After lunch the whole group were asked by Liam (the design guy from earlier) to roll out long strips of paper in four rows from one wall to the far side, i.e the length of an entire dance room. Trusting Liam and his creative brain we did as we were told and then taped all 4 strips together creating one massive sheet of paper. Then the fun began, we all stood around the room along the perimeter of the sheet of paper and lifted it up, we created wave like motions so the sheet of paper looked like a large white sea, we lifted the sheet of paper higher and higher so that eventually we could run underneath it as it floated for brief periods at a time. Cutting holes in the sheet of paper we then allowed our characters from earlier to enter the picture, imagining the sheet of paper as a sea and our moving of the “sea” creating a storm. Our characters would then go underneath the sheet of paper and pop out from some of the holes creating storylines even though there was no dialogue. Eventually our sheet of paper tore naturally and there were piles of scrumpled worn paper everywhere, making the room look like a wasteland. The storm was over and our characters were stranded (thrown into the ‘deep end’ so to speak) and forced to interact with one another in various improv scenes. After the workshop we enjoyed a Chinese Buffet and made our way to our first night of entertainment, “Heartbreak House” by Bernard Shaw in the Abbey Theatre.
On Wednesday to the delight of our own Jack Rogers we began our first real Design Workshop which was a full day of learning, interacting, making and playing with PUPPETS. We made our puppets from the leftover ‘sea’ of paper that we made the previous day. We joined limbs and made joints using masking tape and discovered that even though each puppet was entirely made from the same materials, they each looked entirely different and even had their own personalities. We may have been sucked into the crazy world of the puppeteer which was described by Liam as getting far too attached and not being able to let the puppets die…We learned how to make our puppets interact with their environment using simple movements and we learned how giving your puppet a centre of gravity gives you a world of opportunities that stay within the boundaries of realism. Our interesting pieces of luggage made another appearance and we learned how to make our puppets sit, stand up and sit back down. By doing this we created a short skit involving a bowler hat and a hat box that we later performed for the drama participants. During this workshop we also learned about projection in theatre design and how it is becoming increasingly more popular. We even projected Jack’s face onto an open suitcase as if he was trapped!
After our busy day of creating and observing we headed back to the Marino and we all watched the first Harry Potter film together, which is surprisingly hilarious when you end up ignoring the movie completely and instead focusing on the quote-off and jokes occurring throughout the room. Although towards the end of the movie we did have a few heavy nappers here and there…
When we thought Wednesday was a busy day we were in for a shock on Thursday which was jam packed with moving from locations, sharing opinions and learning about new theatre-y things. Our morning was spent with the other design participants at a trip to the Peacock Theatre and the National Gallery of Ireland. At the Peacock, we visited the set of ‘Maeve’s House’ written and performed by Eamon Morissey. The set was being put together as we were there and we learned about the meaning of the different aspects of the set and the hidden metaphors and clever designs. That morning we also learned about the fundamentals of set design. We learned that the most important elements of being a designer and working with design in theatre is collaboration, time, an open mind and to be open to change and adaption. We learned that no set for theatre can be rushed and must be carefully thought out and involves many early stages such as small models and scales to eliminate any possible failures. We still had some time to use up before lunch when we finished in the Peacock theatre so we visited the NGI. With a quick fly around the building we managed to see some truly great and thought provoking pieces by Jack B Yeats and even Picasso!
After lunch we joined the whole group for an afternoon workshop and we started off by playing a fabulous new game which is very similar to our familiar warm up of ‘Zip Zap Boing!’ which I personally can’t wait to introduce to everyone in D.Y.T. We spent most of the workshop splitting the room into an Agree side and a Disagree side. Carmel Winters asked us for our opinion on various statements like “would you rather be kind than brilliant” or “I believe there is an afterlife” and we had to cross the room to a side depending on whether we agreed or disagreed. Statements then developed into telling a lie or truth about ourselves and everyone having to judge whether you agreed or disagreed with it or not and it was interesting to see how well we actually knew each other only after a few days. Later that workshop we learned about playback theatre and a ‘Jack’, no not Jack the person, a box shape on the floor that looked similar to the union Jack. We made ours out of masking tape and in 3’s or 4’s we would all walk along the lines of the Jack and we discovered that without dialogue storylines and different interpretations ensued. As Thursday was our last night together we spent the evening in Dublin City Centre and were free to roam around and have a bit of retail therapy before returning to the Marino for a rather interesting night of Hair Dyeing, ‘DMC’s’ and more bonter.
Friday turned out to be a rather emotional day towards the end but we definitely didn’t have any time to waste by being sad about leaving during the morning as we were to finish off the week by making a sort of showcase to show close friends of NAYD. We decided as a group that we worked best when we didn’t know what exactly was going to happen so we all picked our favourite parts of the workshops that happened during the week and smushed them together and managed to make a showcase that always left room for the unknown and improvisation. We created a smaller version of our paper sea, we gathered the remains of dead puppets and repaired them, we performed a slow motion race (something that the drama participants had played with earlier on in the week.) and us design students put on our “creative risk taking” caps and created large Georgian princess- like dresses out of, surprise, surprise.. paper! The showcase was a success and we had the best fun showing a handful of the public a taste of what we had been up to during the week.
After the showcase the time had come for us to bid our farewells and goodbyes to those departing different ways from the dance house. A sad experience to say the least, We can both agree that there wasn’t a single person there that we wouldn’t consider a friend now and that NYT lab wouldn’t have been as great as it was if it wasn’t for everyone involved and all the incredible organisers and facilitators. Later that day, we discovered that the Sligo train practically goes to almost every county in the country and that most of the NYT Lab population were making their way home on it and as we performed a complete Hollywood worthy moment of running after the train as it sped away with luggage in hand screaming goodbye at the top of our lungs we definitely realised that our week at NYT Lab was an experience that we are never going to forget nor are we going to forget the friendships we made during the week.
Your favourite arty duo- O +J