Thursday, 2 July 2015

Dramaturgy Stops the Strange: Adam Meggido @ Edfringe 2015

See Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at the Pleasance Courtyard: One during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 5th – 30th August.
The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Adam Meggido: All my projects in improvisation have started with my love of form. In the case of Showstopper, I am a big fan of a good musical (grew up in a musical household) so it was inevitable, upon discovering improvisation eleven years ago, that I should turn my attention to the question ' can you improvise a musical?'. It turns out, you can. Although if you want to do it really well it takes several years of practice and research. 

My new show - The Society Of Strange - reflects my love of the 'Weird Tale' (spooky short stories). So the starting point is the form or genre I would like to spend some years getting to know better and exploring from the inside.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
It's the greatest arts festival in the world. It's hard not to come to Edinburgh with a new project.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Showstopper is a great, wild romp of a show. Fast, funny, entertaining, with lots of music and comedy throughout. As much as it is a 'good time' show we hope the audience will puzzle as to how we did it, how we managed as a team to pull off something that seems so absurd and ambitious. I also hope audiences like the fact that we are willing to risk, to try anything and to fail gloriously. They will definitely get a story that looks and feels like a real musical. We are not just an impro night with songs, we are a full story with characters and stories you can care about. 

See The Society of Strange at C Venues: C+3 during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from the 18th – 30th August. 

In the case of The School Of Night: Rhapsodes, we want the audience to engage very closely with everything we are doing, especially our analysis of poetic language. We know Shakespeare intimidates many people so we hope to make it accessible by making it up on the spot! And should you come to see The Society Of Strange we hope you will be spooked and unsettled - if only by the new direction we are taking improvisation in!

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
An understanding of dramatic structure is completely essential to all three of these shows. We couldn't tell a 'weird tale' in twenty minutes or complete a satisfying musical narrative in seventy minutes if we hadn't worked hard on dramatic structure. Any improviser working in narrative form has to understand structure. 

Not that you ever master it, it is a lifelong investigation. But if you want to really improvise authentic Shakespeare then you have to know the difference between comedy and tragedy. You can't even pastiche Shakespeare effectively without some understanding of dramaturgy, let alone try to summon it from its roots for real in the moment.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?The Society Of Strange owes a great deal to the likes of HP Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Machen, Mary Shelly, MR James, David Lynch, Thomas Ligotti and WH Hodgson - to name but a few. I hope we are following in their tradition but exploring it in ways completely new. I'm certainly not aware of anything like this being improvised anywhere in the world at the moment.

As regards the nature of our improvisation, well we are not dogmatic. There are thousands of ways to improvise and we don't subscribe to any one method. We have certainly been influenced by the Die-Nasty players of Edmonton, Canada - mainly because they are less interested in 'the rules of improv' and more interested in actually entertaining people. And boy do they do it well! We love those guys.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
It completely changes. Each new project has a different set of parameters and new forms to wrestle with. Each group is new - each cast, crew, space etc - it changes all the time. The only 'approach' I ever have is to try to start with a blank canvass. It is always very collaborative - although I have found that if one person is finally in charge, things work better.Collaboration under clear leadership is my favoured way of working. (I hope that doesn't sound too much like the German occupation of France in 1940!)

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
For me, most theatre fails to address its audience. (Not all - most). There is often an indulgence in the artists' processes which excludes the audience. For me, the audience is utterly essential. They craft, shape and create the show with us. It should belong to them. That's why we keep it fresh every night, so a new group of people can create it and own it. 

Many of us in these three shows worked with the great theatre maverick genius Ken Campbell. Ken was all about the audience. He taught us not ignore them and leave them sitting in the dark, hoping they were having a good time. He taught us how to understand and address them. Theatre belongs to its audiences - and so do our shows.

 Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I should add that improvisation seldom allows for editing or rewriting. We set ourselves huge challenges in being able to improvise tight dialogue, music or dramatic structure without the luxury of time to reflect and make changes. It makes the process thrilling but we have to work exceptionally hard to stay on top of story and structure in the numerous pressures of the ever-golden-moment.

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