It is regrettable to see that many amateur dramatics companies have thrown in the towel over the last few months, and many professional companies following suit. This crazy lockdown has all but crippled so many in the arts with funding not stretching to cover the deposits and the like - and with a lack of government grants and funding specifically to unpick these issues. There is seemingly a new industry sprouting from this. Take it in one of two ways, either its a penny grabbing scheme for the Covid-19 generation, for people to buy into books and schemes to exploit the arts in these troubled times - or its people who are sick to the back teeth of not performing (then you must ask why the price tag?) The internet is now full of ‘Drama games for kids’ at home, Amazon full of ‘Socially Distanced’ literature and Zoom… well, I’m sure we’re all getting pretty sick of Zoom. As lovely as it is to sit as a group of Theatre lovers and ‘script read’ to your hearts content, there is only so much I can take of lagging or muted members, ridiculous background images and the inevitable countdown until the call ends because no one wants to pay for a premium membership. It doesn’t have the same excitement as singing and dancing around with a huddle of like minded people.
The new government guidance allows for groups of up to 6 people to meet (with loads of sub clauses about bubbles and distance and location and masks and what not). So if you feel comfortable grabbing a bunch of friends and going to your local community centre, or even better outdoor space (for some real elemental theatre), be safe and let’s start rehearsing.
The majority of ‘circle’ games are still playable with a step back and a good distance between different players. Vocal and Physical games are paramount to a productive rehearsal or drama workshop - So why not kick start with some tongue twisters, one word stories and passing the clap. Sure it’s awful that you can’t interact, touch or get in close contact with your fellow actors - but at this stage there are ‘way arounds’.
Most games can be easily adapted to allow for a socially distanced rehearsal, and it just takes a dash of common sense and consideration. Here are some examples: FREEZE This improvisation game involves 2 actors in a scene while the others are the audience. The audience call for a scenario for the two actors to perform, until someone shouts “FREEZE”. The two actors freeze and the caller will ‘tag’ one of the actors out and replace them starting a new scene; based on the last scene. You can easily make this game ‘socially distanced’ by calling out an actors name opposed to a physical tap - and actors controlling the scene to avoid close encounters and physical contact.
PARTY QUIRKS Another well loved improv game - excellently done on the TV show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’. In this game ‘party guests’ are given little quips or personality traits to act. Guest interact with each other and the host to display these traits as over the top as possible - it is then the party hosts job to work out what their ailment is; the game is over when all the guests have been identified.
You can easily make this game ‘socially distanced’ by making this a ‘dinner party’ where guests are seated - actors are considerate of each other and their spaces. With good planning on the traits actors are given you can remove any risk from an early stage (for example Man who hugs everyone he meets cannot be a thing, but Man who is scared that everyone is trying to infect him could give him reason to dodge and weave)
Rehearsals will be a new challenge as people learn to perform under new restrictions and new boundaries - but I would rather look at it as a new challenge to overcome as an actor, and use this time to improve my spatial awareness. The bottom line really is that if you are unwell, vulnerable or showing any symptoms then meeting up really isn’t worth the risk - but if you’re healthy and rearing to get back into limelight, then do so, but approach with caution and definitely set out boundaries and a risk assessment with your group to ensure that at no point is anybody put at risk.
If you do fall into an at risk category, cannot find a place you deem safe enough to meet, or have been unfortunate enough to be in a ‘local lockdown’, then you may think “Brilliant, no theatre for me”. Well, the lovely human interaction may not be at your beck and call - but we can still play games and rehearse over video call. there is no need to read every tome of the ginger wonder Christopher Marlowe with an army of morbid voices.
I think a common misconception is that you cannot have a normal rehearsal over Skype. But ask yourself this, why can’t you get up and move about? Why can’t you play some of the games you love? Why can’t you act out a play opposed to just reading it out.
ONE WORD, TWO WORD, THREE WORD, FOUR
In this game, 4 actors are interacting in a scene given by the audience. Each actor is limited to the amount of words they are allowed to say in a sentence - 1 word, 2 words, 3 words or 4 words. This is a simple game many actors play to develop their skills on speech. There is no reason you can’t improvise a scene as a ‘Skype meeting with your boss’ with these limitations. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN
In this game actors must perform a scene only speaking in made up euphemisms.
This can easily be played as a FaceTime conversation or a companies Google Hangout.
All actors are given a strange personality trait or weird ‘Quip’ which they have to use to influence their performance. The company of actors are a news team delivering the news - this can include roles such as ‘Anchor man/woman’, ‘Sports Commentator’, ‘Weather person’ and ‘Special interviews’. Perform the scene as a news report with a set beginning and conclusion. Many news channels are contacting their interviewees through video chat - so why not use this to influence some performance?
If all else fails, you can perform at home, alone. I have spent quite a lot of my lockdown reading, dissecting and trying to better understand Shakespeares Hamlet. Over the last 2 weeks I have performed the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy to my bedroom mirror at least once a night in a different style. There are so many platforms for performers online now: Youtube, TickTock, Facebook, Twitter. Perform little skits & sketches, monologues, how to’s, blogs and what not. If you have written a play, share it with other groups for feedback. If you have an idea for a comedy routine, film it and upload it online. The beauty here is that you can still improve your art over lockdown, or even monetise your work. Don’t allow Covid-19 to put a stop to your hobbies. It is ruining enough peoples days and lives, without it taking away what may be your only 3 hours of joy in a week. Plus you have to think - this is going to be the new normal for a while now, there is no saying that we will all be able to fall back into the ‘good old ways’. Zoom calls and limited meetings may take over a large group in a small community room, so let’s make the most of what we have. If you have any content you wish to share with Elemental Theatre Company, we’re always happy to watch, read, review or feedback. Contact us on ElementalTheatreComapny@Gmail.com