Dance, Visual Art, and Theater Production Project

“Making Art About Making Art”: Brechtian Alienation and Integrated Arts

 

Robert Bruemmer rbruemme@plymouth.edu

Phil Lonergan plonergan@plymouth.edu

Amanda Whitworth aewhitworth@plymouth.edu

 

Overview:

This is an interdisciplinary collaboration between three traditionally distinct disciplines: Dance, Visual Art, and Theater Production. You are being asked to collaborate with one another, to bridge disciplines, and, through the creative process, develop a Production, Object, or Performance (let’s call it your “P0P”).  Each one of you will need to let go of the comfort of your own area and venture into new conceptual territory by gaining an understanding of the history, concepts, and methods of each discipline. This approach will be new to you and new to the instructors.

 

Why work in an interdisciplinary way?

Teaching and learning are changing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg

 

Project Description:

In collaboration with your classmates and instructors, you will create a Brechtian performance event to be viewed by the public. There will be more research for you to do but in short, German playwright Bertolt Brecht believed that traditional theater did a disservice to audiences by treating them like fools who could be easily tricked into thinking that the action on the stage was real. In order for an audience to critically engage with a performance, Brecht believed the “alienation effect” must be used to force the viewers to critically examine the performance, to see it as a performance and to think about it as such. This “alienation effect” could be achieved in any way that encourages the audience to pay attention to the show as a show, rather than as “real.” Brecht encouraged the use of media, projections and effects that are normally outside what is considered traditional theater in order to wake his audiences up and help them see the contructedness of the show they were watching, and in turn, allow them to think critically about the social implications of the performance.

 

The alienation effect can make familiar things seem unfamiliar (check out this film of walking down a hallway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcbkbovHLCg)

, thereby making us think about them in a new way, from a new angle; or it can just make us see the performance in front of us as something we can think about and question (as in this clip, starting about halfway in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HsIBqZGFIQ)

.

 

Incorporating some use or thematization of the “alienation effect,” create a POP that integrates Dance, Visual Art, and Theater Production. You do not have to use every discipline equally, nor is there a prescribed way that you need to refer to the Brechtian ideas. Feel free to take things in an unexpected direction, and use Brecht as your jumping-off point.

 

You are only limited by the following:

  • The performance must originate out of town (Yes, not in Plymouth!).
  • The performance must travel into the performance space (you can not relocate the audience).
  • The Performance duration TBD (an evening length performance is generally 15 – 30 minutes)
  • Do not sit in front of oncoming traffic or have large scale fires that last more that two days.
  • (Safety, working with dancers)

 

Key Dates:

 

September 1: CDE Audition, Amanda comes to Sculpture Class

September 6: Readings due. All classes meet to go over project together.

September 8: Tour of Hanaway, Safety concerns

October 6 First run-through of Ideas

October 27: Main ideas solidified enough for a rough preliminary performance run-through. Theater Tech sketched out.(Somewhere)

November 14: Objects, props, costumes, etc. finished

November 22 Main theater available for rehearsal

December 2   CDE Performance on the main stage in Hanaway

 

Courses Involved:

  • DN 3010 – Contemporary Dance Ensemble (Instructor: Amanda Whitworth) Open to all students. The audition is for class placement only. The study of contemporary movement/dance techniques resulting in presentations of dance works by various choreographers, when available, in workshop and concert performances.
  • AR 3940 – Advanced Multi-Disciplinary Studies (3D) (Instructor: Phil Lonergan)Emphasizes idea development; the relationship between the Artist, the Art Object, and the Viewer within the context of contemporary culture; and finding one’s own artistic voice. Students work intensively with peers across art disciplines. Projects are developed and adapted to fit specific students’ chosen media. Additional course fee required. Falls. Prerequisite(s): (AR 3220 and AR 3230) or (AR 3060 and AR 3160)
  • TH 3670 – Advanced Practicum in Production (Instructor: Bob Bruemmer) Practical applications and an extension of theory and technique covered in theatre courses in production. Experiences include technical and/or design work. Offered by individual enrollment.

Definitions (adapted from Veronica Boix-Mansilla, Harvard University):

  • Interdisciplinary understanding: Individuals demonstrate interdisciplinary understanding when they integrate knowledge and modes of thinking from two or more disciplines (or well-established fields of study) in order to create products, raise questions, solve problems, and offer explanations of the world around them in ways that would not have been possible through single disciplinary means.
  • Disciplinary understanding: Individuals demonstrate disciplinary understanding when they can use knowledge and modes of thinking developed by expert communities (e.g. in history, biology, mathematics, visual arts) in order to create products, raise questions, solve problems, and offer explanations of the world around them in ways that echo expert practices in the domain. Four dimensions are embodied in disciplinary understanding: Knowledge, Methods, Purpose, Forms:
    • Knowledge:   Ability to use key elements, concepts, relationships, theories, and schools of thought in the discipline.
    • Methods:   Ability to engage in modes of inquiry that characterize the discipline, research methods, evidence, creation.
    • Purpose:   An understanding of the goals that drive disciplinary inquiry and the ways in which knowledge can be used.
    • Forms:   Ability to use the languages and forms of communication typical of the discipline (essays, artworks, scientific reports)

Goals for this project:

 

  • Create a performance event open to the community
  • Begin to integrate the knowledge and modes of thinking from two or more disciplines (Art, Dance and Theater Production) and work through the creative process in a way that would not have been possible through single disciplinary means.
  • Students will begin to demonstrate a disciplinary understanding of the fields of Art, Dance and Theater Production by using knowledge and modes of thinking as defined below:

 

Four dimensions of disciplinary understanding: Knowledge, Methods, Purpose, Forms:

  • Knowledge:   Ability to use key elements, concepts, relationships, theories, and schools of thought in the discipline.
  • Methods:   Ability to engage in modes of inquiry that characterize the discipline, research methods, evidence, creation.
  • Purpose:   An understanding of the goals that drive disciplinary inquiry and the ways in which knowledge can be used.
  • Forms:   Ability to use the languages and forms of communication typical of the discipline (essays, artworks, scientific reports)

 

Information on involved disciplines:

 

http://www.contemporary-dance.org/contemporary-dance-history.html

http://www.physicallectures.com/-choreographing-objects–wiliam-forsythe.html

 

http://www.physicallectures.com/living-sculpture.html

 

  • Discipline of Theater Production

https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/epic-theater/

 

 

Helpful Assessment Starting Points (adapted from Veronica Boix-Mansilla, Harvard University):

60% Performance

  • Purpose: Interdisciplinary work is often geared toward describing or explaining phenomena or events that are multidimensional, solving complex problems, proposing new interpretations, creating products. The purpose of a piece of work or interdisciplinary exploration drives the crafting of the work—what disciplinary insights are relevant, which disciplines should dominate, how disciplines could be combined to leverage or advance the goals of the work, how to decide when the work is “done” and its purpose accomplished. Is the purpose of the work clear (whether explicit or implicit)? Does the purpose invite/require an interdisciplinary approach?
  • Disciplinary grounding: Are disciplinary perspectives selected in ways that fit the purpose of the piece? Are disciplinary insights—i.e. concepts, methods, languages, values—used in accurate, rich and effective ways? Interdisciplinary work takes advantage of insights, findings, methods, techniques, languages, and modes of thinking in two or more disciplines or areas of expertise to accomplish its goals. This dimension examines the degree to which students have taken advantage of the disciplinary learning opportunities offered in the course to advance the purpose of their work.
  • Leveraging Integrations: What are the key points of integration proposed in the work—i.e., where are disciplinary perspectives clearly brought together in a phrase, metaphor, interpretation, or explanation? Are the integrations enabling students to advance their understanding effectively—to produce more comprehensive descriptions, multi-causal explanations, novel interpretations, or deeper explorations that benefit from the combination of perspectives?
  • Thoughtfulness: Does the work indicate that the student has reflected about the learning challenges and possibilities of bringing disciplinary insights together to address her purposes? Do the student’s reflections about the process and outcome of the work reveal understanding of key aspects of doing interdisciplinary work— e.g., the possibilities opened by integrative work, the insights gained along the way, the challenges of bringing disciplines together, the tension of satisfying conflicting standards?

Assessment:

40% Panel discussion open to the University/Public. In your presentation address the following:

  • Purpose: Explain the purpose of the work and why that requires an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Disciplinary grounding: Explain which disciplinary perspectives are involved in your work, and how they contribute to the work’s overall meaning.
  • Leveraging Integrations: Explain where/how the disciplinary perspectives come together. Describe the phrases, metaphors, or concepts in the work that illustrate the points of integration.
  • Thoughtfulness: Talk about the challenges of working across disciplines and the possibilities that it opened for your group, for art, for education, etc.
  • Make sure you don’t just talk at the audience. Make your panel fun, lively, creative, and surprising; you can use images, movement…anything you like to help bring your audience to a fuller understanding of the ideas behind your work.