Dramaturgy Workshop 2023 ---讓「我」成為城市 Review
Updated: Oct 5
The workshop design is based on my residency experience in Belgium. Instead of sharing my own journey, I unveiled my creative practice and invited the participants to follow this structure to create their own work. I call my research journey as “site-inspired”. Different from site-specific work, I emphasize the transformation from the site-specific idea to the other presentation space. Since the presentation space is happening in the studio, the context and form have to be adapted to the space of happening.
In this two weeks workshop, participants are welcome to develop their own idea, which is based on a site. When they applied for the workshop, I asked them to state a place that intrigues them, which can be real or imagined, in memory or in reality. Hosted by Dr. Evelyn Wan and I, we positioned ourselves as an artist-dramaturge combination to assist the participants in developing their ideas.
In the first lesson, we shared the workshop background and how we transformed our practice to this open workshop with a key dramaturgical concept, deep mapping. I also shared some exercises with space exploration, connecting the body and studio, and dramaturgical creative practice, asking the right question. These exercises prepared them to get the body and mind for their own creation. In the second session, we demonstrated the practice with San Po Kong. After sharing some background information, each group was required to do their own keywords to research through observations, feelings and questioning. Then they further embodied the place into their studio practice. At the end of this lesson, participants were asked to conduct their own research. So the session in the following week was a one-to-one consultation session. Participants could choose to present their work and seek dramaturgical advice, or a group discussion with their research, or simply join the session as spectators. And then, at the end of the workshop, participants are divided into three groups. A total of 12 performers presented their work in front of their classmates and close friends. On top of that, we also experimented with a series of evaluation procedures, establishing a communication format for constructive feedback.
After this workshop, the participants express that they enjoy the diversity of performance. And throughout this process, they also raise good questions on the role of dramaturg, especially on how dramaturgy can be applied in the creative process.
Insight 1: Breaking the boundaries of performance
Starting from a site, participants explore the elements on it and expand to different contexts. The background of the participants varies, (E.g. aged 20-55+, from professional dancers to infrastructure workers, writers, psychology professors, housewives… etc. Their concerns also provide a wide range of possibilities to explore. For example, their inspirations cover:
North Pole- living and dying - from a middle-aged woman
Taxi- relationship- from a 20s female dancer
Sing Mun Reservoir - trees and Identity- from a Beijing-Hong Kong dramaturgy student
San Po Kong- memories and Fear- from a English literature writer
Underbridge- meaning of working- from a late 20s art-industry worker
… and more
These 14 people work with their experience and observations and turn it into a studio presentation. The presentation is neither dance nor drama, as the reflection from the participants, it’s “performance”. According to the “post-dramatic theatre”, Lehmann stated that this format came after the dramatic theatre, of which text was no longer the primary element; and then followed with a pre-post-dramatic period, where Peter Brook happened; and then goes to the post-dramatic period, which every element staged shared the same status for the performance.
By breaking the perception of the art form, participants are encouraged to open up their imagination towards the presentation, not necessarily binned by the script of movement steps. How they observe the original site, connect to themselves, and hence transform into an experience for the audience become key matters in this workshop. Throughout the presentation, they shared scene work, meditative experience, on-site performance, creative idea pitch, miming, video-live performance, etc. And to extend from this, I would like to further reflect on why and how this variety of presentations can take place, apart from the reason of diverse participants' backgrounds.
Insight 2: Dramaturg-led collective practice
During our workshop, some of the participants asked this question serval times. “What is the difference with devising theatre? When we were delivering the workshop, we emphasised the interruption of individuality in the work and the wholeness of the “universe” created by the maker. As dramaturgs, we supported the participants in developing their idea covering performance format, research methodology theories, tailor-made consultations and facilitation for feedback sessions.
What is the role of dramaturg in devising theatre?
What is the difference between dramaturg-led and director-led devising practice?
Different from devising theatre, the approach we chose as dramaturgs would never provide an “answer”. The artist should decide their pieces for themselves. They are constantly aware of their position and the universe they are creating.
Connecting this practice with my creative journey in Belgium, two weeks is a good length to develop and test their ideas and thus transform them as a prototype for their creative journey. Despite a one-off showcase, the participants expressed that the dramaturgical support helped them to develop their “voice”. Cooperating with my directing and choreographic background, I sometimes suggest ways for the participants to explore themselves, such as movement coaching for middle-aged actors, contextualisation for movement actors, immersive experience suggestions for theatre amateurs… Participants also reflected that this experience not only helped them to find their agencies but also challenged their normal practice. The ownership of the piece belongs to the creators themselves.
“De-hierachization of theatrical means is a universal principle of post-dramatic theatre.” (Lehmann, 2006) this workshop intended to create an open space for all creators to explore their own agencies. They expressed that we give space to their own: re-discovering the curiosity in the space, the city they live in. They tried to discover their own perspectives and also listen to themselves, as well as push themselves to ask further questions. Meanwhile, they also give space to the others, they treasured their conversation partners within the group. It was a precious chance for them to create together instead of wandering themselves.
To conclude, this workshop provided the participants with a space to give voice to the participants to find their agency. We feel that we were delivering a “master class”, not that we are the “masters”, but everyone is their own master. Hence, the role of dramaturgs is more like facilitators, coaches, curators, and creative partners.
For further Development, I would like to explore establishing it as a regular workshop so as to provide the participants with a chance to evolve their creative skills. This creative mindset focuses on the creator’s growth rather than pushing for productions or actors/dancers' training. The variety of post-dramatic performances would be further developed through a longer, planned workshop. More importantly, through archiving the participant's work, we are also mapping the issue concerned in our era.