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In my group there are four males including me. We are going to be acting out scene twenty-one from the play Ghetto, written by Joshua Sobol. The characters in this scene are Dessler, Kittel, Gens and Weiskopf who is played by me.
In order to get a good understanding of my character, so that I could perform my part better, I did a variety of things. My group used hotseating techniques, where I sat on a chair and my group stood around me asking me quick fire questions about my character, like age, background and other useful knowledge. If I knew the information I replied with the relevant answer, and if I didn’t I looked in the play later and found the information about Weiskopf. I used the book to find out basic facts on family and background. I looked in the play, to see in what ways Weiskopf spoke and how he addressed other characters to get a good understanding of him. We used emotion memory to develop our characters and get relevant knowledge of them. At first I found it hard to play Weiskopf when he is getting nervous in front of Kittel. I used emotion memory by thinking of a time where I was nervous and put on the spot, and adopted those feelings to acting as Weiskopf.
We used a few interesting rehearsal techniques. The first was where we focused on status. When there were two people on the stage the character with the higher status at the time had to stand and the other sit. During the conversation between Gens and Weiskopf, the positions kept changing regularly, but Weiskopf had the higher status when he was threatening Gens, that he would go to Kittel. When there were three people on stage, the character with the highest status stood, then the second character sat, and the third crouched. When Gens, Weiskopf, Kittel and Dessler, were all on stage the top three status characters had to do the same as before and the person with the lowest status, being Weiskopf, while and just before he is beaten up, had to lie on the floor. This helped see how much respect should be given to each character at that time and the tone in which they were to be speaking. The tone going from being important and perhaps intimidating to scared and intimidated. We had lots of discussions in the group, where we talked to each other about ways of improving aspects of our performance from stance to accent. We focussed on commenting on facial expressions and status. The lines that our characters said also showed our status. We had to emphasize some in order to show how the status of the characters was changing. When Weiskopf says to Gens ‘What am I? A charity commissioner?’ Weiskop’s status is higher than Gens and shows disbelief with what Gens is saying. Weiskopf remains with high status, when he threatens Gens of taking the argument to Kittel. Weiskopf loses his status when Kittel comes on and is very bottom when Dessler arrives.
We had one lesson, where we put our characters and the scene into a modern setting. We changed our characters into people ranging from well spoken individuals to young cool people. This helped us see how we perceived our characters. It was good fun and helped me understand my character better. It helped me understand my character better as, when the play was translated into ‘modern speak’ it was much simpler to understand and remember. It therefore, also helped me learn my lines, as I fully understood what they were about.
When we were thinking how we were to stage our play, we had to think about Weiskopf and Gens talking, Kittel appearing and Dessler beating up Weiskopf. We made up a staging design, which we called key. Key has a long corridor in traverse and at the end a semi circle similar to in the round. This is the blocking we are doing; it will hopefully create tension along the traverse section and then escalate with Kittel in the semi circle. As the blocking is in both traverse and in the round it should be easy for the audience to see key parts of the scene. Also, as the fight is happening in the semi circle it should be straightforward to move around, as well as giving ample space and the traverse section used to drag Weiskopf off stage.
It looks like this:
As Weiskopf I will walk slowly with Gens stage down towards the semi-circle. When we get there we will almost have finished our conversation and Kittel will turn after waiting at the end. Dessler will walk down the key and will beat Weiskopf up in the semi-circle.