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Drama

Approaches to the written paper

Staging the scene

Question 4b on the exam paper asks you to explain your design ideas for a specific section of your chosen play.

You will need to cover the following areas in your answer:

  • Your chosen production style and how it is linked to your choice of stage
  • Your choice of set
  • How you use colour to create atmosphere
  • Any other ideas you might like to include

Don't forget:

You must remember to concentrate and refer to the specific scene - not the whole play.

Revision bite one: Even though you won't know which scene will come up in the exam you can prepare your ideas before the exam and adapt them.

Revision bite two: Each play has important factors that would influence the staging.

Use the grid below to help you decide on how you would stage scenes from your chosen play.

Crash

Style and staging

Written for Theatre in Education. Lots of different locations would suggest minimalistic style. The audience must feel involved in the action in order for the message to have an impact. Theatre in the round/Traverse would be effective stages to use.Only three actors might suggest a more intimate acting space.

Set

Twelve different locations ranging from bedrooms to cliff tops. The playwright states: “The playing area on which all the scenes are played should be bare. Only the smallest of changes, of minimal props, costume and furniture need to suggest location.” A floor-cloth designed as a newspaper with articles/facts about teenage drinking/car crime could be effective.

Colour to create atmosphere

Contrasting moods in each of the scenes from the bright colours and happy atmosphere of the disco to the bleak desolate atmosphere of the cliff top. Make a list of the key colours to use in each scene. Main use of colour will come through lighting.

Other ideas

Because of the minimalistic style, lighting and sound effects are key in helping to create colour, mood and atmosphere. The use of gobos [gobo: A lighting device that creates patterns of projected light on the stage ] could help to create location in a simple but effective way. Depending on the choice of stage, projected images could be used to suggest location or present key facts to the audience.

Dr Korczak’s Example

Style and staging

Written for Theatre in Education. Lots of different locations would suggest minimalistic style. There is a strong Brechtian influence throughout this play and the audience are directly involved eg in the final scene. This involvement is crucial in order for the message to have an impact. Theatre in the round/Traverse would be effective stages to use. Only three actors might suggest a more intimate acting space.

Set

Lots of different locations - it is imperative that scene changes are swift to keep the action flowing. Minimal set should be used to suggest location. In the original production dolls were used to represent the children but don't be afraid to experiment, lots of theatre companies have eg one company used old tatty boots. Once again a floor cloth could present a powerful image eg a huge swastika. Don't forget - if you are using theatre in the round, the space above the stage can be used. Think about what you could hang from there

Colour to create atmosphere

Although the play deals with a dark time in history, the play takes place during a very hot summer suggesting bright colours. Some scenes are indoors; the orphanage is quite poor so others take place during the night. Sometimes colour is used symbolically and as a direct contrast eg the bright colours when the children are taken to the station and the yellow stars fall to the ground. Make a list of key colours in each scene and how they are used.

Other ideas

Because of minimalistic style, lighting and sound effects are key in helping to create colour, mood and atmosphere. The use of gobos could help to create location in a simple but effective and dramatic way eg in the final scene when the children are taken to the station, the sound of trains stopping and then moving into the distance would be a powerful sound image of the terrible fate of these children. Depending on the choice of stage, projected images to suggest location or present key facts to the audience would be effective. This would tie in with the Brechtian style of the play.

Stonecold

Style and staging

Originally adapted from a novel this play has lots of different locations and a fairly large cast. Almost a cinematic feel to the play. This play lends itself to lots of different staging ideas. Shelter's house is important because this is where the murders take place. Would work well on Proscenium or thrust using levels to create different locations. Depending on the scene, could be naturalistic in style - others could be minimalistic.

Set

Lots of different locations. Some areas (like the café) could be simply suggested by using tables and chairs. If Shelter's house is a permanent fixture this could be quite detailed. Remember - his house is an important symbol. It should look warm and cosy, in direct contrast to life on the streets but ultimately this hides the horror of what happens in there. If you decide to use a proscenium arch or thrust stage you could use a facade of house fronts at the back which stay permanently.

Colour to create atmosphere

Colour is dependent on location. The scenes on the streets could be quite drab to suggest the loneliness and seediness of these people’s lives. Shelter's house could be in bright colours as a contrast. Make a list of the key colours in each scene and how they could be used.

Other ideas

Lighting and sound are key in creating mood and atmosphere and can also be used symbolically eg in scene 11, initially the light is bright to suggest a warm, comfortable location but, as Shelter lifts the knife, lighting could be used symbolically and change to red as he raises the knife. Projected images would work well in this play.

Sparkleshark

Style and staging

A detailed set is described at the beginning of the play, which would work well on a Proscenium Arch Stage or Apron Stage. The style is naturalistic. However, don't be afraid to experiment eg this play would work in theatre in the round with a floor cloth representing a huge satellite dish. Think about presenting scenes symbolically. Only one location throughout the play.

Set

The area is abandoned and disused - the set should represent this. Also the objects chosen need to be used in a variety of ways eg boxes for seats but also think about how these objects could be used in the stories.

Colour to create atmosphere

The day is bright but the actual area is quite grey and bleak. Colour could be used to great effect during the stories. Make a list of the key colours in each scene and how they could be used.

Other ideas

Lighting could be used to great effect during the stories as the children are transported to a different world. Sound could also be used to great effect eg the sound of the televisions at the beginning of the play to suggest actual location as well as more symbolic use of sound during the stories.

Death of a Salesman

Style and staging

There is a fusion of styles found in this play from expressionistic -the towering buildings at the back of the Loman house; symbolic eg the Loman house representing the American dream but also with elements of naturalism th9e fridge etc.) Lots of different locations and flashbacks. This play needs a fair amount of space and would work well on a Proscenium Arch stage.

Set

The set you would use would depend on the location within the given scene eg When he is in the motel with the woman, a bed could be brought on to the front area and bright neon signs could be flown in above. The house remains on stage the whole time. Remember - this is a play rich in symbolism and each piece of set you choose should have a very specific meaning.

Colour to create atmosphere

The play shows many key moments from Willy Loman's life, some hopeful eg when the boys are young; some bleak eg Requiem. Make a list of the key colours in each scene and how they could be used.

Other ideas

Lighting is key to mood and atmosphere; it is also key in defining the flashbacks to contrast with real time. The recurring sound image throughout the play is the flute which is adapted to suit the mood. Sound effects could also be used to great effect eg the car crash at the end of Act two.

Revision Bite Three: Dos and Don'ts to remember when answering the staging question:

  • Do concentrate your answer on the section of play specified on the exam paper.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment as long as you show an understanding of the scene in performance.
  • Do make specific reference to the scene when you are making reference to a sound/lighting cue.
  • Don't forget that the audience needs to be able to see the action.
  • Don't forget that you are designing for the stage, not television.
  • Do use your imagination. Examiners like original ideas!

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