The class was split into groups to discus the poem. We discussed what feeling and emotion the author was trying to portray and how the poem made us think about and feel. The poem had a repetitive feel and used the same line ‘I didn’t speak up because….’ and ‘then they came for…’ to end each line. This was insistent repetitiveness, which gave the feeling of time going by. The poem is very matter of fact and simple, which makes it more emotive. From reading the poem I made an educated guess that the ‘They’ that kept being referred to were the Nazis who took power in 1933.
This gave us an idea for the era and social background to the poem. In my group we all asked the question ‘Why did he not speak out?’. We know he was a religious man because of his title, however he hasn’t adopted the Christian duty of speaking up for those without a voice. The first thing that came to mind was fear and oppression. The poem suggests that over time these minority groups, like the Jews, were being taken to concentration camps without much opposition from them or the people in the community around them. The last line ‘ Then they came for me- and by that time no one was left to speak out’ gives a feeling of immense guilt and regret. It creates the image of the speaker being alone and wanting someone to stand in his corner to fight for his case.
We were set the task of creating a ‘freeze frame’ using an idea or theme from the poem. Something that I thought was very relevant then and now was the failure to question so that was our focus.
We wanted to portray something going on in the middle and then on either side to people failing to question. Myself and another character both had our backs turned to what was going on in the middle. In order to show this we had turned our backs to our responsibility. In the middle of the ‘freeze frame’ we had Sarah pointing at Sally who was on her knees. Firstly the different levels portrayed Sarah’s higher status and authority. We also wanted to show Sally looking at me with a pleading look in her eyes because I had turned my head slightly to see what was happening. Both Natalie and I did nothing to help Sally’s character and this linked back to the poem.
Another group’s work, which helped my understanding of the stimulus text, was Jen’s group. They chose the ideas of being alone and ignorance. The group wanted to show the cowardice of the speaker in the poem. On actor was standing over the other and was acting as his conscience, pointing him towards two guards who were taking their victim away. On guard’s hand covered the victims mouth to stop her from speaking out for herself and this should have urged the character playing the voice of the poem to stand up and speak out for her. What ‘the victims’ character was doing gave me the idea of being alone because she was the minority being taken away by to others. She had no family or friends around her and I got the sense of her feeling very isolated and mentally alone. However I did not really see how they portrayed ‘ignorance’. The voice in the poem was not ignorant to the things going on around him he simple chose not to act, which is different from being ignorant.
Stimulus text two – picture
We were again split into groups and discussed a picture, which showed a man, a boy and a woman. Each of the people had a different expression on there face. The Man looked bitter yet I got the feeling that he had been there a long time and had accepted the situation and his fate whatever that may be. The younger boy looked angry and resentful. He looked like he was ready to rebel and fight. I thought that he might have contained some of the spirit the older man had to begin with but had died with time. The woman was placed behind the two other males and I saw this possibly as a protection stance. She had poked her head carefully round the two men to show her interest however you got the feeling that they had been there a long time and she had begun to not care about anything.
We then had to discus what the people in the picture could see and construct a scene using two drama strategies, which we felt, would help convey our ideas best to our audience. We decided that the people in the picture were sitting in a transportation train to a concentration camp and they could see other people just like. We also wanted the voice from the poem to have been rounded onto the train so that the people on the picture would also see him.
Our scene started with three people who were sat very similar to those on the picture. We used ‘freeze frame’ as the first strategy and then the voice from the poem entered. He was on one side, which showed him as ostracised from the group of people he was about to join. We all looked up at him but used no dialogue at this point because we wanted the looks on our face to show the question we were all asking, ‘Why?’
Then we ‘froze’ again to emphasise the importance of the tableau and moved into the second part of the scene, which showed what was going round in Niemoller mind. The main aim was to get across Niemoller’s guilt for not helping these people when he sees them in the state they are in. William who played Niemoller sat in the middle on a chair and the four of us placed ourselves in a circular shape around him. We wanted to use hot seating but in a different way that would make more of an impact on the audience and show the angry of the people on the train. Each of us had a question to ask him that rooted from the main theme Why?
The prison officer had- Why did you think you’d get away with it?
Three prisoners on the train -Why did you leave me on my own?
– Why didn’t you speak out for me? -This was my sentence
– Why did you think you were better than me?
Every time we went round our voices would get louder and more aggressive to convey the anger building up inside us for the fact that he did not speak out and also because the guilt and the thoughts were rushing around faster and faster in his head. We then stopped abruptly and went back to the same scene as the beginning. We wanted to show what the people not only sitting on the train but all those who had been unjustly treated wanted to say to those who didn’t speak up and help them.
An other group thought that the people on the train were looking at some concentration camp. The had set up a cell and had the picture on a chair looking in on them. In the cell there are two prisoners. One is obviously mentally disturbed and this was conveyed by his gentle rocking and because he had items of clothing missing to show his poor state. The second wants to be taken away as she thinks this will set her free. This showed naivety and this gave an idea of the young age of the character because I assumed that as they were in a concentration camp they would only be taken away to their death. This in a way is a sort of freedom from the pain and the
oppression of the situation but is not the freedom the character is imagining. The two strategies they used were ‘soliloquy’ and ‘split focus’. These worked well. In the beginning a ‘soliloquy’ was used to set the scene and give the audience a brief background to what has happened. ‘Split focus’ was a good strategy to use because the audience could follow to important sub plots almost simultaneously and this allowed for a better understanding of the main contents of the scene.
Stimulus text 3- Teacher in Role and Student in Role
At the beginning of the lesson four students were randomly chosen to be involved in the third stimulus. They were given their characters and the main gist of the scene, however they relied mainly on their improvisational skills. The characters were: Mother, Father, Two sons, and State/Government official.
The scene began with a family sitting at the table eating. As the scene unfolded you realised the family wasn’t as normal as it had first appeared. The son had to be hid as he was four months over the age of sixteen and at sixteen he should have been taken away to the labour camp. An intimidating government official bangs violently on the door and enters to take the hidden son away. After a status battle between Father and official he is finally taken.
The fight for status between the two characters was very interesting to watch. Every time one did or said something the other would come back with something to raise his status and match the attempt of domination. One thing that sticks in my mind is that the state official demands a cup of tea, answering to his request the Father makes the tea but slams it down on the table in front of the Official. This does not go down well and the Official takes one sip and spits it all out. Eventually the Official wins the battle and takes the son away however it was an impressive way of showing how the smallest things can convey status and yet keep the character so real.
We were split in half and asked to respond to any one or all of the stimuli we had worked on. We were then given a drama strategy to include in the piece of work and we were asked to mark the moment. We used the drama strategy to highlight the status battle between the official and the Father. After the TIR/SIR we really wanted to explore the status relationship between the Father and the Official. We chose just to have the two characters of the Official and the Father and used the rest of the people to show the emotions running through their heads. We chose four main emotions: Compassion, Fear, Aggression and Spite.
Each time that particular emotion got stronger the volume of word, which we repeated, would increase. Spite and Aggression, which stayed mainly around the official, were very angry and arrogant. Fear cowered behind its owner, the Father. We marked the moment at what we felt was an important part in the dialogue, when the Father says ‘I love him.’ (referring to his son) and we did this by the father standing up and all of the characters freezing. This was important because we wanted to show the strength of love. There was also a strong white light used. This was used as white is a colour usually associated with goodness and purity which fitted with the love of the Father to his Son. There was an upsurge in the music from a minor to a major key, which showed the change from something evil and intimidating to something good. The music we used was Requiem Aeternam and it worked really well because of the way it gently grew and expanded from something that sounded quite sinister to something that showed hope and love.
The audience seemed to grasp the concept of having actors on stage to represent emotions and I think it helped deepen the understanding of the status battle that we saw previously between the Father and the Official.
All the Stimuli linked together because they all focused on oppression and injustice. Pastor Niemoller who wrote the poem spent time in a concentration camp, the picture was of people who looked like they had been in a concentration camp of some kind and also the TIR/SIR focused on the idea of taking the son away to a labour camp.
We were split into three groups and each group had to explore
* The Fathers proudest moment
* The Mother’s nightmare
* The Daughter’s secret.
My group were given ‘The Mother’s nightmare’. We choose a ‘freeze frame’ to focus the audience’s attention on the scene. This also worked because it almost felt like time had stopped in the horror of the ordeal. We decided that the worst thing the mother could imagine or ever dream of was her son becoming a murderer. Basically becoming like the government official and becoming dehumanised by the ordeal. In the scene we used levels to convey status. The government official who was really the source of the nightmare stood up tall behind the boy and even though he did not touch it he had an air of control over the boy. There was a dead civilian on the floor that the boy had killed and then I as the mother sat on the floor. I was at this low point to convey my helplessness of the situation.
My hands were placed on my ears as I was trying to block out the nightmare as I prepared for the sound of a gunshot. I was sat in the middle to show that the nightmare was all around me and I could not escape although I was not actually there. We wanted to show that the boy had killed once and was now preparing to kill again, but to make it more sinister he was going to kill his own mother. The labour camp had desensitised him and this was what the mother feared. After discussing the scene another person from a different group was added to she if it would work with another person and/or if it would change the meaning. The daughter was added and she was trying to pull the son away from shooting the mother. This kept the basic idea the same but it gave the mother some hope that she still had family who loved her and wanted to protect her.
Another group did the daughters secret. The daughter had the central position with three people lying on the floor in a circular around her. Two were already dead and one was dying and reaching out the front for help. The daughter did not know how to help and this was portrayed by the guilty helpless look on her face. The bodies conveyed how she felt suffocated and trapped doing something that she no longer could do with much success anymore. The fact she was standing showed that she no longer felt close to the patients anymore and she felt somewhat isolated. What was also very interesting was that the one person who was alive was not reaching out the daughter for help but instead the audience which showed that the patient did not trust the daughter as a nurse and carer anymore.
Session 2- use of gesture to develop character
During this session we were to work on how to build up our chosen character from the outside as we had a pretty clear idea of how the characters were feeling but not of how their body would be perceived by others. We were each asked to come up with a gesture that belonged to our character. My character was the mother. I thought how paranoid she would be always worried about her next son being taken and I wanted to convey this unease that I thought the mother would have. I wanted to use a fidgety movement that the mother did but did not even realise she did and I thought of twiddling my skirt around my finger.
It showed the frantic unnerved personality that I felt the mother would have. We were then asked to set up a scene with other people that showed all our gestures. My scene was very simple and showed the mother worried because her son was out on the street at night with a friend. After the mother had exited with the son the government official appeared and placed his hand on the friends shoulder. I kept the same gesture of the skirt twiddling and this again enhanced my worried and uptight persona. The son had the gesture of placing his hand on the back of his neck this showed him as a laid back person and gave him a sense of being quite aloof. In one of the other groups the mother had the gesture of curling her hair around her finger, this was also taken up by the daughter, which gave a generational link to the two characters.
When I later went on to perform my monologue I used the gesture, which I had picked up in this session to make the character more real and give her more of a presence when performing.
Were asked to keep to the characters we had chosen throughout the past few sessions and create a monologue based on an object that had a symbolic relationship with the son. My character was the mother and my chosen object was a photograph a young boy (my son) who had been taken. I wanted to use the photograph to represent his presence in the house. I felt as the mother that every little ordinary thing around the house would remind me of him and a random photograph that any family would have typically lying around would be the source from which my monologue would develop. My scene was set in the mother’s house and during the monologue I walked around a lot and never stayed in one place very long in order to show how uncomfortable I felt being in the house. I also used the gesture picked up in the previous session. I used pauses to give the audience a chance to take in what I had and also to give myself the time to think and not rush through important points.
Another group used one item and ran a sort scene with each character stepping out to do their individual monologue. They used a red letter that was relative to all the characters and they could all relate to it in some way. The lodger was an interesting monologue to watch because she was not part of the family so the letter represented her ostracisation from the family unit. The son had the letter representing the end of life, as he knew it. The use of a whole group using one object was interesting in comparison to the individual monologues, which we all preformed. We discussed the group monologue and decided that it did not work and had restrictions, so the people from the group had a chance to re-do the monologues using an object that was specific to them.
We were given the information that the sister had found the body of the son in the morgue. He was unrecognisable apart from his shoes and a birthmark on his ankle. We were then split into to two groups to create a piece of drama using the TIR/SIR as a major influence. We decided to concentrate on how the sister has to come home and tell the family that the son is dead. The music had a minimalist influence, which went well with the pace of walking. The first scene was very simple with little dialogue. We had the shoes, which were the last physical memory of the son. We used unrealist drama at the beginning when the daughters on her way home from work. We wanted to show the shock of what had happened on her and as it was on her mind we had everyone who she passed in the street only using the words ‘he’s dead’ or ‘he died’ in there normal conversation.
We wanted to have the daughter on a train because the train represents life everyone gets on for the journey but everyone at some point has to get off regardless of how long or how short a time they’ve been on there. When she gets home the coldness from the family is shown from the beginning as they blame her for why he was taken away. On returning home she places his shoes back in the families row of shoes to show that his spirit is now with the family where it belongs. Many years had passed since the day the state official came to their doorstep but we felt his presence was somehow relevant and important in this final part of the drama. The walking stick that he used was still presence and it brought back chaos. We also wanted to focus on the responsibility the daughter felt she had being a nurse. At one point she places the stethoscope on the table and it is thrown back at her by the neighbour on her entrance this was to show that she could not just throw away her responsibility when she wanted to.
The other group also used lights and music. There story took an unexpected twist as the mother kills the youngest son so that she does not have to face loosing him like she lost the elder son. There group used soliloquy, which worked really well to get an idea of what was going on inside a characters head.
Throughout the workshop I gained a higher level of understanding to how explorative strategies could be used to convey a meaning. I now feel more confident in using less dialogue, as it is not also the most useful or effective way to get some thing across. For example in the response to the picture when we had to show what the family could see. We each only spoke one short simple sentence and yet I felt the meaning came across a lot more efficiently than if we had simply speech in a planned improvisation. As they say a picture speaks a thousands words and I feel that I appreciate that more and can apply it to my drama work where appropriate.
I don’t think I realised how taxing keeping a ‘freeze frame’ could be and the discipline it requires. Over the course of the workshop I got more used to staying in the same position for a long period of time.
The use of gestures was one of the points in the workshop that I think will have a significant affect to the way I approach a character in the future. It was unusual for me to think firstly of little personal traits that a character would have as I was so used to thinking inside out. In the future I think I will really pay attention to the little things that make a character realistic and alive. Adopting a gesture gave a sense of working from the outside in and this made me concentrate not only what was going on inside the characters head but also the little things that physically makes a character who they are.
The group always works well together, which does make the whole experience a lot easier and more enjoyable. I was really taken back by how one scene could be interpreted in so many completely contrasting contradictory ways. I expected obviously for there to be differences of opinion but when I was in a smaller group and we would have a clear idea of what we were trying to get across the audience and it was surprising that it could perceive it in a completely different way.
When I choosing my item for the monologue I do not think I could have chosen a more appropriate item. The picture showed the child and so was more of a reflection of him and object. If I were to repeat the exercise I would possibly use an old school report or a medal the child had won. This way it would still be personal to him and would still affect my character but I think it would work better. The group monologues did not work and I think this is because the other characters on stage restricted the one who was performing. I think they restricted each other because they felt that all the things they said had to link together. Also the presence of other people on stage when you are trying to connect with the audience on a personal and emotional level may have made it difficult for them. Having the same item also made it hard for an individual to really connect with the item. The letter was relative to all of them but I think something they had personally chosen would have been better.
The workshop on a whole really made me think of misplaced authority, which had a negative outcome. Straight away I thought of all the infamous dictators, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and more recently Saddam Hussin. I compared these people to the tyrannical authority of the government official. I researched Hitler’s rule in Germany from 1933. He ruled people with fear and made examples of those who did not conform ‘Aryan’ or not. This tied in very closely to the Holocaust and concentration camps. The poem was written by someone who got taken to the camp Dachau in 1938 and so I felt the characters would have a similar fear that the Jews, Catholics, Communists and so on must have had. Fear was a dominant theme in the workshop and oppression thrives from fear.
When I looked back through history I never understood why no spoke out for those being oppressed not even Christians, whose duty it is to speak out for those without a voice. Taking part in the forum theatre really made me have a glimpse of understanding to why many did not speak out. Not only was it the easier option but also these people were ruled by fear. My research also made me realise that if some one spoke out against Hitler in Nazi Germany they would not only be risking their own lives but the lives of their family and friends. In modern terrorism the enemy and the victims are the people most of whom are innocent. This workshop explored how it is not just soldiers who are evolved in war fair but also normal everyday people. Everyone is affected by the way one-person acts or the choices that one person makes.
Nowadays people are very secluded and less trustworthy of others. The sense of community is gradually being lost. This is the wrong way to go because in order to fight terrorism and to prevent children of the future growing up with that hatred in their hearts, which can turn then down the path of terrorism we must educate each other out of ignorance. The culture around us is so rich and diverse and yet we exclude and disapprove of what we don’t understand. People like to stick to their own groups and if we do not try and mix we will never fully understand each other and we will miss out.