Sunday, 10 March 2013

Transmedia & Actor training

Either, transmedia, new media, cross platform, need additional skills which we have to make space for in our actor training.
New technologies mean we have to radically rethink actor training and codify new actor training ideals and methodologies.

Is this a valid question?


  1. I think actors need to be made aware of the space and how this new digital space can challenge, enhance and be used to create a performance- it also has draw backs- too much cgi done wrong can distract from the story , done with performance capture, performed with the same thought and detail as an intimate theatre performance- i think a question could be how can actors collaberate with techonolgists to create a performance and what dual understanding of craft is required

  2. Apart from technical skills, are there any gaps in actor training in our experience? What other skills or environments do we need them to have and work in for the kind of work you make? Claire, as a director, what is it that you look for in an actor?

  3. I think that conventional theatre actor/production relationships and job descriptions are very outdated within immersive performance projects. An actor is now required to have both an in depth knowledge of their character/performance but a deeper understanding of the digital, technical and production side and of both their own performance and the show as a whole. It no longer works to have conventions with people roled under SM, DSM,ASM, or LX AND SND with separate Actors etc
    Cheap as this analogy is, Damian and I discussed this at length and he suggested Dutch football (in the 70s) - everyone plays in every area. While everyone has a specialism, people can play in different roles. It's often impossible for a performer in our shows to stay in 1 position - training is gruelling, and some interventions are much easier to repeat than others- making swapping of positions very likely. They need to be multi skilled - often managing own props/set/interventions and also stewarding audience. They are often cueing others or operating own equipment whether that be sound. light or digital.
    It's this reason why we tend to use performer as a description for this work not actor.It's not a conscious choice but rather a more accurate description, less defined - performers can perform multi functioned tasks as part of the performance as a whole(this includes acting but equally technical performance)

    I am also interested in the levels of improvisation used by performers in this type of work? The old forms of training emerge from 1960s vision of impro as the fool, the clown - but being inventive 'in the moment' is very different when involved in intimate encounters in transmedia.

    Performers often use more direct conversation with the audience - this is not usually part a of a traditional training. Forms like street and stand up have engaged audience interaction but controlled it, used it when convenient and formed achingly familiar put downs and classic lines to stop these interventions. A lot of intimate transmedia work requires a more subtle, intimate and involved intervention with this audience, and appreciation not put down. Balancing that as a performer is a skill not included within normal improvisational classes.
    As to what I look for in an actor, it is someone utterly unprecious, self motivated, and who doesnt think like an 'actor'! Someone who is off centre, huge creativity, up for a challenge, loves interventions and connection directly with audience. Loves extremely hard work in difficult places, is incredibly flexible,can think on their feet, works well within a team and even better if they know how to mend lots of things.
    Audience Conversation Improvisation & Dutch football theatre. Now that's a training I'd like...Like a compelling stranger you meet in a pub who can instantly communicate emotion, humour, humanity and you feel like you have known them a long time.

  4. Dutch football theatre sounds excellent let's do it.
    to instantly communicate emotion, humour and humanity is difficult though isn't it? And to do it using a number of technologies, even more difficult. That is the core of what we do, maybe? training in that effective communication. I wonder and still trying to investigate whether the question itself is a red herring; if the modes of communication have altered, has the substance? i keep trying to reformulate the question. Is there a different presence that the convergence actor needs? And is there a very different idea of modern character that is not addressed by conventional characterisation exercises and techniques?
    Trying to figure out also how much of what you say we try to fit into the foundation degree course at Northbrook.

  5. Thought about this as a starting point:

    I worked with CUT Universidad Nacional de Mexico and made a site specific with all 4 years of acting students in 2008 with a 1st year, Sophie, closely working with us to translate and shadow our techniques.We used some basic transmedia - use of mobile phones etc In 2011 I returned to Mexico working with ENAT at an international student conference to make another site specific as part of the performance programme. In the audience we met Sophie again and she invited us to her degree show as part of the festival.

    We found ourselves in front of a 'Mexican Tourist Board' Outdoor Film Projection screen with promotional banners promoting Calderon's (president of Mexico) vision for Mexico's new centre of eco tourism. The film featured George Bush, Tony Blair with Calderon at the most famous places in Mexico - climbing tehotehacan and ending their day at an eco centre in the Jungle.

    The film ended. We were invited in pairs to enter the mobile travel agency, where student actors were playing the hosts. There was no sense of performance or character, they were simply dressed as travel agents. They presented us with a website of an eco centre 3 hours from mexico City. Here you could stay in the middle of the jungle with hot spa etc and know you are investing in eco tourism. They used web, digital mapping and print, posters to 'sell' us the experience.

    Then they showed as different tours online - jungle walks etc .One of these was a night run. In this, the village where the eco centre was based, re created the experience of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the US border. Each member of the village played different roles - border guards, police, other illegal immigrants and you would find yourself in any situation - perhaps being interrogated, perhaps successfully crossing- the experience was as real as it good be and lasted 12 hours.

    Many of the village now live in the USA - some crossed illegally, some officially but they strongly believed that they needed to share this experience with tourists, to create debate and to bring true issues to the fore alongside the beauty and tranquility of the eco centre.

    Sophie then asked us, were we willing to go on the night walk?
    She then either signed you up and you exited, or you left- and then you went to meet village members selling their own craft products. She asked us finally, is what the villagers are doing an act of theatre? They play characters, they create immersive work, they make props, set - they have fake borders and police cars to use. They have scripts. It is surely theatre?

    As we left, the Director of UNAM and also the Director of ENAT asked us as international artists - was this theatre to us? Did we think it was an actual performance? Because the students were not using any characterisation, and their whole show was a promotional exercise for a village - was it brave or arrogant?

    I was convinced they had made it all up as I found the idea of the night walk was too fantastical- bit it is actually true.

    Personally, I thought it was brave and I still ponder it as a student show - it was simply the best transmedia provocation I have received. Because they did not perform. I know that their training is extremely traditional at UNAM so how they produced it I don't know. What it needed was for the students to use their training to NOT perform , to have the self confidence in their own abilities to allow the idea or provocation to shine over individual performance. That is not always popular with young actors, however I believe that is crucial starting point to the training.

    1. Needed to say This is not a new concept - Boal's ideas came from provocations, Artaud wanted theatre to create actual change,etc
      Clowning starts with -'for gods sake don't act just be' - it takes from these methods and goes further?
      The equipment students need is knowledge of a how to facilitate an idea/provocation, and intervention training?

  6. pondering this and will respond more later. for now i'lm stuck in the same problem. is transmedia a new manner or a new situation?
    Also, realistically, in a two year foundation degree for example, can we realistically fit all of this in? the traditional skills, and the technical skills, and the cross discipline skills, and the new knowledge, and the old knowledge? And all in a healthy educational setting? i know we try.

  7. I think transmedia is a new world, which looks and feels like the old world if viewed from the traditional... but if explored and torn apart, spun around and flipped over, because it offers 'real time' performance and interactivity, on a global scale with more audience members than can fit in a space, the performance has the opportunity to become grand in scale, with the minimum of cost - only creativity and vision in the wall.

    to put this into perspective - we are currently crowd sourcing quite a few projects at Future Artists, this enables us to share our story with an audience, market the project and also allow for those willing to enter our digital performance space/lad and get involved, every comment on facebook, every tweet and every video created by the community expressing the development of the project, I view as a performance, as the audience is expressing themselves - and the more they let go, the more they contribute to the story or the creativity of the project, the more they become part of the team and the because of the transparency of the social media platforms we use, they enter centre stage, and can be seen by all....

    I use crowd sourcing on social media to take me as a performer and a director to the next phase, which is to create tangible work (video / theatre / art) and then take it back to the social media audience, either by asking them to join me on a liner experience (watch) or collaborate (watch / share / interact) - by engaging this way, and bring in, different phases into my production, using transmedia, I am able to grow faster as a performance artist, and have an active audience.... it is opening up so many possibilities, almost too many!