Adaptation & Devising

in collaboration with

Abigail Hirsch

October 25, 2019

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Collective Adaptation

in collaboration with Punkt Collective


December 10, 2019

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Text & Movement

in collaboration with

Kosta Karakashyan

March 26, 2020

Postponed due to Covid-19

Approaches to adaptation

in collaboration with

The Hope Theatre

May 7, 2020


Workshop #1:
Adaptation & Devising
Oct. 25, 2019
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

On October 25, 2019, we led a devising workshop with current MA/MFA ATP students. The goal of the workshop was to explore the themes of Hamlet and some preliminary ideas for scenes with a larger group. Structured as a mini devising R&D, the first task we gave to the group was to synthesize the story to 5 key points and retell it using tableaux. In that way, we were hoping to gauge what are some of the most important scenes and moments in the original play that stand out to people. If our task was to create a new piece, without alienating audiences who may not have read that play, we something recognizable while also defining the crucial points of interpretation. We anticipated some of the responses we got such as Yorick’s skull, the duel, “To be or not to be”. But then there were also scenes that we weren’t expecting such as Ophelia’s death, which does not happen on stage in the original. This informed some of the moments we later picked for our script.

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Image from Adaptation & Devising workshop with MA/MFA ATP students.

Photos: Antonia Georgieva.

In an exercise borrowed from Dead Centre, we had the participants reading a scene through different lenses such as memory and gender/binaries and then devise a new scene. The point was to explore list-making as a starting point and also what ideas can come up when reading through a very specific lens. I noticed a move away from the sentimentality of memory and towards practicality — the simplicity of the text and the repetitions that began to occur conveyed the anguish of memory (Georgieva, 2019-2020), which was particularly productive for our project.

In another exercise, we gave participants a list of lines (Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s) but they didn’t have character attributions or a sense of the cue lines. Given only the direction to speak a line whenever they feel like it, a new meaning began to emerge. In some versions became clear that Ophelia doesn’t have the power to stop Hamlet because she doesn’t have enough lines. Building on that we then used the same lines as a group. Sitting in a circle, anyone could say any line or word from the page or simply repeat a word that has already been said. This created an echo chamber of collective response and repetition that built up and eventually resolved. Ultimately, this workshop was just a preliminary exploration into some of the themes and scenes that interested us and what the groups produced informed the collaborative approach that we took further.

Workshop #2:
Collective Adaptation with Punkt Collective)
Dec. 10, 2019
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

An image from Collective Adaptation workshop with MA/MFA ATP students. Photo: Antonia Georgieva.

In this workshop, developed with Punkt Collective, we wanted to explore collaborative theatre-making practices using Punkt’s highly visual household style. To kick off, we explored various ways of generating material from a source — tableaux, performing text, free writing, etc. All of that built up to our main devising exercise in which the participants had time to experiment with shadow work and projections (in addition to the live body in space) to create a scene inspired by or in some way derived from Hamlet.

The premise of this workshop was non-hierarchical collaboration. As much as we (Punkt) were leading the workshop and setting tasks for the participants, we were also exploring the provocations along with them. By relying primarily on visual tools, the participants came up with novel ways to represent the emotional core of the story. Some compositional elements that came from this workshop were exploring images (in shadow or projections) with only very minimal text layered onto it. Bringing text into something more abstract like an image or movement was something we took further as a storytelling device in the Echo & Narcissus sections of our script. This was also the impetus behind the third workshop I planned on the interaction between movement and text (see below).

This workshop was in a way a culmination of my work with Punkt Collective which began in the summer of 2019 with our work on the MA SIP performance Daughter of Hell, adapted from the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, and extended into 2020 with the continued development of Punkt Presents: Penelope, inspired by The Odyssey. Consolidating our distinct approach to collective adaptation has driven the conversations around the collaborative nature of developing ECHO. Once it’s possible to work with actors in person, we will put some of those ideas to practice in an R&D. One way in which this workshop also directly influenced the piece is the use of visuals in the adaptation to cover moments in the story that we wouldn’t necessarily see on stage otherwise, particularly as a way of bringing the past into the present moment.

Workshop #3:
From Page to Stage: Movement & Text
March 26, 2020 (cancelled due to Covid-19)

The “From Page To Stage” workshop was conceived to explore ways in which movement and text can work together to create meaning. The workshop was scheduled to take place in late March but was cancelled due to Covid-19.

The workshop had two main questions/aims:

  • practice: how can dance and choreography inform my own practice of directing and making theatre — how one can support and elevate the other in the same performance?

  • improvisation & interpretation: how can the highly improvisational form of dance be brought into the practice of theatre, particularly in adaptations of classical works, which tend to be firmly grounded in text?

Collaborating with choreographer Kosta Karakashyan, we wanted to explore how text can inform movement and vice versa given that dance may be more accessible (unlike Shakespearean language) due to its use of body language as a tool of expression but equally one its pitfalls of communication is its lack of language and reliance on abstraction.

I believe that dance and movement can be used effectively in an adaptation of Shakespeare to uncover what’s left unspoken in the original story. Movement can draw attention to the rhythm of the language particularly in verse and chorus pieces to illuminate its meaning. In addition, whereas a fixed text requires more specificity particularly if movement is set to it, I think movement can reveal the points of interpretation in the text in a way that could be productive for the political project of the piece, especially in adaptations.

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Promotional image for “From Page To Stage” workshop. Photo: Boris Urumov.

Workshop #4:
Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation
May 7, 2020
The Hope Theatre (Online)
Promotional Image for Contemporary Appro

Promo image for “Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation”. Photo: Kevin Chiu. Design: Hope Theatre

In this online workshop, centered around my research into the field of adaptation, I presented some of my strategies and approaches to adapting a classical work with a feminist and/or queer lens.

As I stated in the workshop, “The main point of adaptation is to shift perspective” and as I mentioned earlier, adaptation is intimately tied with memory and remembrance. But why and how we remember (and re-member) will always be context-dependent; the time, place, customs, and the sensibility of the one remembering (the adapter) as well as the ones witnessing that memory (the audience) will affect how a story is transposed from past to present. In essence, adaptations have the potential to reveal how collectively we are orientated towards the past. And that for me is the subversive power of adaptations.

When I first started this project, I wanted to arrive at a kind of new method of adaptation. In this workshop, I synthesized what has shaped my eclectic, multi-disciplinary, highly stylized, collaborative approach to adaptation from a feminist and/or queer perspective that extends beyond alterations to the content. This method, which I have termed “queer-forward” (as opposed to straight-forward; see Georgieva, 2020), ultimately challenges the assumptions of mainstream theatrical form and methods of theatre-making in order to propose some alternative considerations when adapting.

What the participants later shared worked quite well was the overview of how traditional elements of composition and theatre-making can be challenged or subverted in practice. They also shared that the tasks for creating a vision were quite clear, but expressed that they hoped the workshop would go further in providing more tasks and examples of what the practice of queer/feminist adaptation could look like further down the line in the production process.