Improvisation: A Love Story in Kilkenny by Jack Synnott and Eimear Thornton

This July, 8 very lucky members were chosen to attend NAYD’s National Youth Festival in Kilkenny College. We were asked before we travelled down which workshop we would prefer. We got to chose from Viewpoints, Clowning, Improv, Acting for camera and Character Development. We were not told until we had arrived, which group we would be placed in. Both of us were put into John Delaney’s improv workshop.

The first day we all learned each other’s names, given that there was over 20 of us this was not an easy task! But we managed and soon enough we knew everyone’s name. Next we played the classic game “charades” we worked in teams and we had so much banter. Over the week we played many excellent games, we devised scenes and learned what makes a good story and what you have to include in a play. Towards the end of the week, with the final showcase looming over us, we began on fine tuning our improv skills. We would be given the opening sentence and we would have to just let the scene flow. The first time practicing improv was so daunting, you have this fear of you have to always be funny.

However the reality is, you don’t, so long as you accept offers given to you by your scene partner and you relinquish control, the scene will look good. We had the most amazing experience working with everyone in our group as well as our facilitator, arts train Jack, and a special thanks to the absolutely magical workshop facilitator John Delaney, who made the workshop an ever pleasant environment and bestowed so much improv knowledge unto us all.

As a wise man once said “Don’t be afraid to fail, in improv you’re going to fail, you just go out there and fail spectacularly.”

Our performance took place on Sunday and involved 21 actors playing 2 different parts. We were each assigned a number from 1 to 21 and, beginning with a number chosen at random by a member of the audience, two performers began a random scene outlined by John there and then. The one chosen by John on this occasion involved one actor playing a shopkeeper and the other a disgruntled customer.

Every 20 seconds one of the performers would stop to ask the audience a question, giving them 2 different options for what they intended to do to keep the scene moving. For example, the actor playing the shopkeeper might say “I’ve just been given a complaint, should I offer the customer a refund or try and argue my way out.”

The audience would vote for what they wanted the actor to do. During this time the other performer would swap places with another person in the class, meaning that the performer asking the question was returning to see a different face playing the same part. This was a really challenging format to work with but was also hugely enjoyable. It meant that we all had to think on our feet and work together to make the scene as good as possible. It built on and required many of the skills we had learned during the week in our workshops and was a great experience overall.

All in all, the week in Kilkenny studying improv was an experience we’ll never forget. We’ve learn things we couldn’t have imagined, made friends we’ll have for life, and above everything else, had a hell of a lot of fun!

had to think on our feet and work together to make the scene as good as possible. It built on and required many of the skills we had learned during the week in our workshops and was a great experience overall. All in all, the week in Kilkenny studying improv was an experience I’ll never forget. I learn things I couldn’t have imagined, made friends I’ll have for life, and above everything else, had a hell of a lot of fun!

Animate Manipulate and Play

This week on our blog we have our puppet master in chief Jack Rogers tell us everything there is to know about his love of puppets, and the excitement it has brought him!

I am very interested in Puppetry. Most people would consider this an odd interest, and I really don’t blame them. Puppetry is a very specific and strange interest compared to the everyday pastime. But nevertheless, I am interested in it.

The interest started in third year when I saw a play called the Fantasist, which was a about a woman with schizophrenia. Her illness was embodied by a series of puppets, each with a different personality to depict the main characters feelings and thoughts. It struck me so much. The puppets portrayed things I couldn’t have imagined actual humans doing. They had such complex characteristics and emotions. It was incredible.

Now flash forward three years. I am in sixth year and I most likely think about puppets every day. On top of thinking about them, I read about them, make them and talk about them to my friends to their dismay. I have learned how to sew, to carve foam, make clothes and design characters all because of that play. As brilliant as this sounds, I am still a beginner. I learned this after attending Liz Walkers (of Faulty Optic) puppetry workshop: Animate Manipulate and Play.

Before the workshop I was deathly nervous, because I had never properly met anyone with an avid interest in puppetry before. But I drank my cocktail of anxiety and excitement, and jumped head first into the workshop. We began with a warm up and then we animated small latex heads wrapped in black bin bags; giving them their breath and letting their character show. And from that, interactions started unfolding. It was so interesting to see. I stated at an interval how funny it was that our puppets knew each other better than we did.

I started off thinking I was sort of on par with everybody, but as we progressed I saw how little I actually knew. Besides being the youngest in the group and obviously less experienced, it made me feel a little bit sad that everybody seemed so much more proficient than me. I felt inadequate. I tried to keep up with them but I stumbled quite a few times. We took lunch and I plodded away feeling angry that I wasn’t better than I was, but I realised. Every one of these people have been doing this their whole life to some capacity. They’ve been around the world working and performing and making before I could even spell puppetry. This is their life. I couldn’t possibly be on their level yet, and I was a fool if I thought I was. So I decided I would let myself learn instead of pretending I already knew. What was the point of coming to a workshop if I knew everything there was to know? But I felt better none the less.

I decided I would try and show everything I knew about puppetry performance, and I would let myself be corrected. I wanted to see what I was doing wrong. I think I benefited most from this. The little things like, forgetting to breathe with the puppet, talking with a puppets hand instead of his whole body, letting a puppets voice dominate the character, forgetting to watch the puppet, letting the audience see the thought process’ etc. Small little tricks of the trade. I enquired as much possible because who knew when I’d meet actual puppeteers again?

But the workshop ended and after tides of questions to all of the participants from myself. I left with a massive grin on my face. I was happy with where I was and the prospect of puppetry in the future looked brighter than ever. While it still gets to me that I’m not as good as I hope I would at this point, I keep reminding myself that I just need to let myself learn. I need to give myself time to learn. Because no matter what, you will never ‘know everything there is to know’. It’s impossible. You have to let yourself keep learning.

Musings of a late Newbie at DYT By Daniel Duma

 

This week on our blog we have Daniel Duma recount a thrilling tale of adventure, punctuality problems, and joining a youth theatre!

 

Monday, the 6th of July. My first day at DYT. I have to say, I was sort of nervous. … OK, I was REALLY nervous. After going home to get the summer camp form signed (which apparently included in its legal code “No chopping off of fingers.” Because of course it did.), I came in half an hour late that day. After walking to Stockwell Theatre for the second time that day, I handed the form to the receptionist and went in to the stage.

As I went in I had no idea what to expect at all. What was the teacher like? What were the other people inside like? What exactly would we be doing? And above all else, would we be able to create something interesting for the showcase in only 5 days?

I come in and see a mass of people, seemingly (and actually) just walking around in circles. After Christina, our “teacher”, briefly greets me, I jump up on stage. We all greeted each other in the ways that Christina told us to. After that, the rest is history. But if you weren’t there or can’t remember…

RECAP TIME!

What we produced for the showcase during the summer camp was a collection of skits all linked by the idea of TV. Whether it be Jeremy Kyle meets sports TV with a DNA test to see if Corruption is FIFA and Sepp Blatter’s daughter, a very special sketch involving the JML Air GuitarTM and its many, many extras, the Droichead Whispers News and the grand finale of Droichead’s Got Effort with our famed host Jack Synnott, everything we did was insane, hilarious or both. And yes, we did think it all up in the 5 days that I had been there.

It wasn’t all work, either. We played various games, the most memorable of which was “The Mafia”. In it, people took on various roles to protect as many people as possible from the 3 Mafia members hell-bent on getting the village killed. The village voted who among those present looked suspicious and promptly hanged them at the end of the day. It’d be safe to say that every time we played it, a lot of innocents were hanged…

Then comes the next term, lasting for the rest of the summer. This took two main forms: the “Lab”, where we cooked up our own pieces and sometimes prepared things that had already been written, and a workshop with another member of staff, Barry. It served what is best described as a mood whiplash, where we looked at the Holocaust and how it affected the Jews in a larger amount of detail than I had previously covered it. We also had another showcase at the end of this term of the works which had been made in the Lab and it went significantly smoother than the previous one.

Now comes the main point of this article/writing piece/blog/thing: Join DYT and join soon. And I’m not just saying this because we desperately want your money. We want you as well. Everyone is welcome here, regardless of background, race, sexuality, home nation/planet, et cetera. A drama society cannot live without members and strangely enough, after a while members cannot live without a drama society either! So whatever your reservation, throw it away and come to DYT: “Havin’ fun since ’91.”