English Drama in Pune

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How to write a novel or play - II

Posted by deepakmorris on September 7, 2016 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Let's go from "Pygmalion" to "My Fair Lady" to "Miss Congeniality" now:

I've already explained how Shaw took the legend of Pygmalion and turned it into a successful play and then movie, "My Fair Lady".

The morphing doesn't end there.

In the year 2000, Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas wrote the screenplay of "Miss Congeniality", which was then made into the film of the same name, with Sandra Bullock in the title role.

It featured a transformation - FBI hard-candy agent Bullock being forced to be all goody-goody and mouth stock phrases like "World Peace", after being subjected to a bikini wax and other indignities in order to prevent a crime.

Since it would be creepy to have Bullock's trainer, Michael Caine (far, far older than she), fall in love with her, Caine was turned into a (probably) gay man and the one to fall in love with her was her "handler" in the FBI.

But it's still "raw --> then polished --> then romantic angle" and that's what Pygmalion can be boiled down to! And that's how Pygmalion can inspire a thousand more plays / movies!

Cricket in China

Posted by deepakmorris on November 8, 2015 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

This script is available free of charge to be performed wherever one wants:

(The COACH and PLAYER are talking)

PLAYER: Hey Coach, I hear they tried playing cricket in China

COACH: Really? How did they fare?

PLAYER: Well, they tried it with Yu bowling, Mi batting and Shi fielding

COACH: Me bowling?

PLAYER: No, Mi batting

COACH: You just said I was bowling

PLAYER: No, Yu was bowling

COACH: That’s bad English

PLAYER: Concentrate, Coach, we aren’t talking of billiards or snooker. There’s no English in Cricket

COACH: That’s bad grammar AND bad history. The English INVENTED the blinking game innit?

PLAYER: What does that have to do with Yu, Mi and Shi?

COACH: Who’s she?

PLAYER: Fielding

COACH: She’s fielding?

PLAYER: Yes

COACH: But who’s she?

PLAYER: The fielder

COACH: The fielder’s a she?

PLAYER: Yes

COACH: When did cricket become a mixed game?

PLAYER: It was always mixed up if you ask me. You have two sides, one out in the field and one in

COACH: Correct. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out

PLAYER: Absolutely. When they are all out, the side that's o..........................................ut comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out

COACH: Crystal clear. So what was the problem?

PLAYER: It was Greek to the Chinese

COACH: The Chinese were trying to learn Greek?

PLAYER: No, Cricket

COACH: Greek Cricket?

PLAYER: Is that different from regular cricket?

COACH: I don’t know! I only know regular cricket. And these new-fangled Premier League things. Just not cricket, if you ask me

PLAYER: Yu doesn’t speak English. And why would he ask Mi?

COACH: Who?

PLAYER: Yu

COACH: Me?

PLAYER: Mi speaks a bit. But Yu and Shi are terrible

COACH: Me and she?

PLAYER: No, Yu and Shi

COACH: What’s wrong with my English?

PLAYER: Well Coach, I’ve seen your Snooker and your English is terrible

COACH: You’ve seen me play Snooker?

PLAYER: No I haven’t. I’ve seen Mi play cricket

COACH: How can you see you play cricket?

PLAYER: The same way I see Mi and Shi play cricket. On TV

COACH: You and she play cricket on TV?

PLAYER: All do. Yu, Mi and Shi

COACH: Ayeeee!

PLAYER: Ai’s the umpire

 

 


Suspension of Disbelief

Posted by deepakmorris on October 13, 2015 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Whenever I teach mime, I keep emphasising that, once you identify an object for an audience, it EXISTS for that audience and you must NEVER break that illusion.

Audiences want to believe. That is why they suspend disbelief. That is why a couple of crooked upright sticks on stage are willingly accepted as full grown trees by the audience. The audience is not interested in scenery that is distracting. It wants the scene to be suggested and then it wants to know what the ACTORS are going to do.

Or rather, the CHARACTERS. In live theatre, there are no actors. There are only characters. Swooning over a tall, dark and handsome actor rarely happens with stage actors. 

Accent (dialect) and the actor

Posted by deepakmorris on June 13, 2015 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I use the word "accent" here to mean the Indian equivalent of "dialect", as in, "Swamy has a South Indian accent" (when you mean Swamy speaks in a South Indian dialect).

When is it right and when wrong to use dialect?

There is a very simple test to apply; "Does the dialect help tell the story more effectively?"

If everyone in a Welsh play speaks in a Welsh dialect and you're the odd Indian playing a Welshman, you darn well learn the Welsh dialect. If you're playing a lone Indian in a Welsh play, be Indian!

Similarly in an Indian play featuring various communities, each with their own dialect, what value does the dialect add? If it's just giggles, you're in the wrong production. You're just a wannabee who hasn't made it to TV. Johny Lever managed it but if it were that easy, every one of you who can imitate a dialect would be a star.

Use dialect effectively, not for dubious effect!

REALLY short synopses of Shakespearean plays - The Merchant of Venice

Posted by deepakmorris on June 19, 2014 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (2)

Very often a student or performer is asked to encapsulate a Shakespearean play in a few paragraphs. Having searched high and low and found only really LONG synopses (not really the fault of the writers, Shakespeare is notoriously difficult to summarise), I have decided to make my own short summaries of Shakespeare's plays, beginning with The Merchant of Venice.

Here goes:

Bassanio is a young man in Venice who loves Portia, a rich heiress. Bassanio is poor and thinks he must present himself to Portia in suitable clothes and pomp. He decides to borrow 3,000 ducats. He approaches his good friend Antonio, who is a wealthy merchant. However, Antonio has no ready cash, since he has put his money into his trading ships. Antonio approaches Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, to borrow the money for Bassanio. Shylock is jealous of the Christian Antonio because he lends money without interest. Seeing a chance to trap Antonio, Shylock makes him sign an agreement that if the money and interest is not paid on the due date, Shylock can cut a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. Antonio is confident that his ships will return in time with money from his trade, so he agrees and signs the agreement.

 

Bassanio travels to Portia’s house. Portia’s late father has made a will that anyone who wants to marry Portia must solve a riddle to open the box that contains her portrait. Many have tried before and failed but Portia gives Bassanio a hint and he chooses the right box. Bassanio and Portia marry.

 

Bassanio comes to know that Antonio’s ships have not returned and may have sunk at sea. The due date for the loan has passed and Shylock is demanding the pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. Portia sends Bassanio to the Duke’s court to offer Shylock much more than the amount due to him if he drops the case.

 

After Bassanio leaves, Portia and her maid Nerissa disguise themselves as a male lawyer and his male clerk and go to the Duke’s court themselves. The Duke allows Portia to argue on behalf of Antonio.

 

Portia successfully argues that the agreement is for a pound of flesh only. No blood may be shed in the taking of the flesh. Shylock is trapped and loses the case, since he cannot take a pound of flesh without shedding blood. He is punished by having his property taken from him and given to his daughter, who has eloped with a Christian. Shylock himself is forced to convert to Christianity.

 

Antonio’s ships finally come in and everyone is happy except the ruined Shylock.

 


It's Mime Own Fault!

Posted by deepakmorris on June 14, 2014 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Teaching is fun but coming up with mime scenes for my students is even more fun. One scene that has received rave reviews from examiners:

 

Lost In The Forest:

A young girl wanders into a forest. She sees monkeys chattering and frolicking in the trees and watches for a while. Then she happens to look away and spots a pretty flower. She crosses to the flower, plucks it, smells it and puts it in her hair.

Then she spots something interesting opposite the flower bush. She crosses to look at it closely. It turns out to be a butterfly (this was ably shown by my student) and she watches as it flies up and flutters off the stage.

Right next to this bush is another bush with a flower that holds another insect. The girl peers into this flower as well. However, the insect turns out to be a bee and the girl reacts in near panic, trying to shoo away the bee.

Once the bee is gone, the girl looks around and realises she is lost. She runs in one direction. She hears a roar and stops. She rushes in the opposite direction. She hears another roar and freezes.

Finally, she hears a friend call from upstage. She shows her relief at being found and rushes to meet her friend.

END

Moving on stage

Posted by deepakmorris on November 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Movement brings a scene alive in theatre! 

In movies, camera angles and shots can make sedentary scenes, such as people gathered around a hospital bed talking to a patient, quite alive with trolley shots, over the shoulder shots, zoom ins, zoom outs, etc.

Live Theatre doesn't have that luxury so teachers and starting directors often wonder how movement can be added in a scene. It's a difficult thing but with a little effort and stagecraft, movement can be added even into the most sedentary scene.

Here are some steps to help add movement to a scene:

  1. Learn the parts of the stage: There can be no substitute to learning the parts of the stage in order to tell actors where to be when they say a line. The stage has nine parts of the acting area itself, plus other parts such as the proscenium arch, the apron, etc. Click here to learn the parts of the stage.
  2. Decide what is where on stage: Read the script, then carve out the stage space to decide what is where. If the scene is set in a graveyard, decide on the location of each grave and tombstone. The more real you make it in your mind, the more real it becomes for the actors and, ultimately, the audience.
  3. Use actions marked in the script: Very often, the playwright puts stage directions in the script itself, if not overtly at least in indicative form, e.g. Looks closely at the headstone. Once you have established where the grave is, looking closely at the headstone easily allows the actor to move to the headstone to examine it.
  4. Give everyone something to do: Let's say it's a scene featuring a shopkeeper and a customer. It need not be static. The shopkeeper can wipe his counter (hopefully, you, as director, have carved out the stage space and told actors where the counter, shelves, etc. are). Or he can take objects from the showcases, rearrange them, polish them, etc. The customer can examine the store and objects in it. This helps immensely when one character is taking centre stage and the other has to bide his time before he speaks. Wiping the counter, rearranging merchandise and other things gives the other actor something to do while adding valuable movement in the scene. Examining the store and it's merchandise gives the customer something to do while the shopkeeper speaks.
  5. Look for conflict: Conflict is an integral part of a scene. Someone wants something and someone else wants to prevent him from achieving it. So, using the shopkeeper and customer metaphor, it can be very easy to add movement by having the shopkeeper bark at the customer, forcing him to jump back several steps. Conversely, the customer may bark at the shopkeeper, adding not only movement but further comic elements with glass showcases crashing all around.
With just a bit of imagination, you can add action to just about any scene on stage.

Why English?

Posted by deepakmorris on May 28, 2013 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I am often asked why I focus almost exclusively on drama in English and not other languages.

"Is that not rather elitist?" some ask.

My answer to that is that there is plenty being done in drama in regional languages. Maharashtra is alive with Marathi theatre, Bengali theatre thrives in Bengal and nearby states, Hindi theatre is alive, well and growing all over India, other regional theatre is doing pretty well too.

English theatre often gets short shrift. There are no state or even regional initiatives to encourage theatre in English. I am fluent in Marathi (my second script was written in Marathi) and can probably write a pretty engaging play in Marathi that'll do well at the Box Office but then I'd just be buying into the already thriving industry.

English is not an alien language in India. It is very much an Indian language. It is also a language that can connect very many Indians to non-Indians. Ask any rickshaw-wallah in Koregaon Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tackling Shakespeare

Posted by deepakmorris on February 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Working with my student on "The Merchant Of Venice".

 

"Everyone just hated the Jews, right?" she said when we tackled the parts where Shylock came in.

 

"Everyone needs someone to hate", I replied, "Shakespeare made that someone a Jew. Whom do we hate now?"

 

She paused. The pause grew longer.

 

"Muslims?" she asked tentatively.

 

I kept quiet.

 

"Radical Hindus?" she asked again.

 

I kept quiet.

 

"Fundamental Christians?" she asked before lapsing into complete silence.

 

Finally, "Shakespeare was saying we can find reason to hate anyone!"

 

Teaching Four Year Old Girls - A Monologue

Posted by deepakmorris on July 14, 2012 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

(Dinesh, around 40, walks on, struggling with a pile of large books – large in area and in thickness – in his hands)

 

DINESH: (Putting books down on the table)

 

Okay, girls, let’s settle down and begin today’s lesson. (Long pause) Oh, okay, you want to eat your biscuits (pause) um... okay, tiffin. You know, tiffin is a uniquely Indian word, from when… (pause) what, Melanie? You want to go to the toilet? Oh, okay, I’ll get one of the helpers to take you.

 

(He calls to an imaginary helper) Um, Melanie here wants to go to the toilet, can you take her, please? (Pause) Oh, Siddhi seems to want to go too. Is it too much of a problem – oh, thanks! You’re a saviour!

 

What’s that, Riddhi? (Pause) Yes, I know Siddhi’s your twin but that doesn’t mean – oh all right, stop doing that, I get that you need to go to the bathroom too. You may follow your sister.

 

So we, um, yes, it’s just you and I, Ghia. No, not you and me, you and I. Yes, that is the right way to say it and your daddy is (beat) not entirely wrong if he says “me” but the more correct word in this context is “I”.

 

Context? Oh, that’s something you’ll learn when you grow older. And Melanie, please don’t drag that steel chair across the floor. (Pause) Yes, I know you’re back from the toilet – the screeching chair told me so. Child, okay, girl, okay MELANIE!

 

Oh dear god, don’t cry! Please don’t cry! Pretty please don’t cry?

 

Okay, um… see the pretty pictures in this book? Oh dear god she’s still crying. Hey! Want some ice cream?

 

Oh damn, that was a mistake.

 

No! I said “oh Dan”! I DIDN’T say a naughty word! I said “Dan” I tell you!