Aberystwyth’s Theatre, Film and Televsion Department provides creative and innovative minds with a wealth of opportunities to stimulate and promote expression, through site-specific work to multimedia productions. One of the most popular opportunities to do this in the Drama and Theatre Studies and Scenography courses is the Performance Project. This is a second year 40 credit module that gives students the opportunity to become actors, assistant directors, stage managers, lighting and sound technicians and costume designers in a production led by one of the courses inspiring lecturers. Past productions have included multimedia plays, contemporary plays, Shakespearean plays and devised ensemble performances.
When I did this module, my group worked with our lecturer Professor David Rabey to help the contemporary British play Pomona, by Alistair McDowall, come to life. We had 144 hours of rehearsals to get the performance polished so it could performed in one of the Universities many performance spaces available to students, the Emily Davies Studio. Our lecturer decided to do use side lighting for this production and also made each character have two performers playing them onstage at the same time apart form the main character who was in search of her missing twin. For me, this created a clever effect of alienation for the main character in this dystopian work because it seemed like she was missing part of herself.
After a week of intensive rehearsals the casting had been done and we began to work on our characterisation and topography of the scenes. I immediately felt supported by the students and lecturer involved in this project, because we all praised one another’s effort and gave constructive criticism that helped us develop and reflect on the process. The short weekly diary entry also gave us a great opportunity to reflect on the experience and the things you were learning. This was useful of the end of the module because you could easily remember the different steps in the rehearsal process when you came to write the reflection piece at the end, giving us great practice in critical thinking, a desirable skill for many workplaces.
The 9-6 workshops were hard going for everyone but we always managed to find some fun and it was a great way to experience what working in the theatre, film or film industry might be like (very long hours!). It gave us a great opportunity to learn about different warm ups and games that suited everyone, loosened the body, increased focus and helped everyone get to know each other. It also meant we could put into practice some of the techniques we had learnt in the previous modules, like the three hour physical workshops in first year, to prepare ourselves and try explore new ideas.
One of my favourite things about this module that is different to what other universities offer, is that the role you are given doesn’t restrict you to that area. The staff involved make sure you are aware of all the aspects that go into putting a performance together. Although I was an actor I got to assist in the design of the teaser and final poster for our performance, as well as learn about the health and safety steps that must be carried out, the design of brochures, cost of rights and the preparation of equipment and the body/mind before a performance is carried out.
My favourite memory of this module was getting to see the Costume Wardrobe and go through the many items of clothing (trying a lot of things on, especially the hats) to find an outfit that suited my character perfectly. It was hilarious trying such a mish-mash of fashion over the years and laughing at one another’s choices, or hiding between the racks and waiting to jump out and scare one of the team. One of my favourite costumes was made by the costume designer, who was able to create a great up-cycled costume for Cthulhu (a cosmic entity created by the writer H.P Lovecraft-google him, he’s cool), which was made from old zips, an old leather coat and mask, by going on a lifelong learning course in the university for free.
At the end of the performance I felt like I was part of a family, we had spent so much time together and experienced a wealth of memories that we all still enjoy laughing about. This created one of the best memories I will ever experience: graduating as part of a big Drama and Theatre family, not something many courses can say they do.
In the Drama and Theatre/Scenography course you will have an experience that cultivates the curious and creative while creating lifelong memories and friendships.