Friday, 10 July 2015

Dramaturgy From Hollywood: Shelley Mitchell@ Edfringe

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Shelley Mitchell: Talking with Angels: Budapest, 1943 is true to its title, recounting the true story of four young artists who experienced the contrasting forces of angelic council within the context of the Nazi invasion of Hungary. ​ 

​They are guided towards what we nowadays call mindfulness and a sense of joy in the truth of their own humanity.​

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?
​First and foremost I am inspired by the work of Peter Brook, especially his ability to find the universal in the quotidian. For me, there's nothing more exciting than theater that has the potential to change lives.​
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?
​Talking with Angels: Budapest, 1943 has been in development for over 15 years. Since it is based on Gitta Mallasz's book Talking with Angels, I started out by reading the whole book aloud with seven friends; each one of us highlighting the lines or passages that spoke to us ​ ​most deeply. 

From that,the bones of the play were established, keep in mind, it's a 475 page book that is now reduced to a 31 page play.​ --My first treatment of it had nine characters and was crumbling under it's own weight. 

 With the encouragement of the book's publisher, Robert Hinshaw, I reworked it to a mono-drama and it turned out surprisingly well. One of the greatest influences in my background was studying with Lee Strasberg for over four years, so one could safely say that I'm firmly rooted in the traditions of the Actors Studio. 

 I think the style that the moment-to-moment sensibility in the performance gives the text air and lightness that was difficult to get in the multi character version. --A young director who was a student of Anne Bogart, Robin Fontaine, staged it for me and a dancer from the San Francisco Ballet, Corinne Blum, worked intensely with me with the movement.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
​The audience is the other actor in this play. The format of the play mirrors the actual experience Gitta had recounting her story to students at the Sorbonne and the Jung Institute of Zurich throughout the 1980s​​. 

 It is really a story for anyone who is struggling to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless world, or who has acquired all the toys they ever wanted and find themselves still asking "what's it all about?" It asks us to consider and nurture the truth of who we are under the masks we wear in daily life; to value individuality over authority.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?​​Your questions were great and I appreciate the opportunity to share my reflections on the development of Talking with Angels: Budapest, 1943.

About Shelley Mitchell: Shelley Mitchell (born August 8, 1957) is an American actress, acting teacher and writer. She is best known for her critically acclaimed adaptation and stage performance of Talking with Angels: Budapest 1943, the true story of Gitta Mallasz. She teaches at her studio in Los Angeles, Duse Studio of Dramatic Art, where the emphasis is on the great 19th and 20th century actress, Eleonora Duse's, technique.

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