Posts Tagged ‘Jess McDonald’

Rehearsals, Feedback and Final Performances

Feedback and Rehearsals

Due to our tutor being unavailable, we had two other tutors from the module watch our piece. We wanted to run our piece a couple of times to get as much feedback from the tutors as possible to improve our piece as much as we could before the performance day.

final perf 1


01.05.13 Performance 1

Once Dan and Michael watched our piece we sat in the LPAC cafe to receive some feedback. As Dan had to shoot off we sat down with Michael whilst he talked through his ideas and pointers.

Michael’s Feedback:

  • Maybe think about changing the order.
  • Jess: Perhaps change side when talking about the side of the brain.
  • Maybe use cue cards, so paper is not blowing about.
  • Doing something with the cards – make part of set, archive, individual performer do something.

We then had another rehearsal with Wes with all the previous feedback fully imbedding into our piece.

final perf 2


01.05.13 Performance 1

Wes’ feedback for myself:

  • Talked way too fast, slow it down.
  • Due to talking to fast – lost interest after first sentence.
  • Standing on the spot looked to static.
  • Need to make speech even more personal to me.

The main point from Wes’ feedback I focused on was making my speech at lot more personal. I started to think about life in a philosophical state mainly, I started to think about thing such as, the name of things, who decided the names of things, if a tree falls in an abandoned area does it make a sound?, my fears and why humanity exists.

I also took on aboard the fact I was very static in the last performance, so I decided to take the microphone out of the stand to walk around a bit. We as a group and with Wes had come the conclusion that my speech was critical to the piece as to make sure that it did not seem to flat line and become boring. My speech/performance was to lift the piece – to break out to break up the formal, functional system of reading a list and to drop in something that was on total opposite end of the spectrum.

Performance day.

During our break between the first and second performance a lady came up to us and asked what it was that we were doing. She took a very keen insight to what the performance was and hoped see would see one of our performance times over the two days. Later during the second performance a lady approached my whist Kristina was speak and said that she though what we were doing was very brave and she was amazed by our confidence.

final perf 3


01.05.13 Performance 2

For our last performance we had a bit of an audience gathering outside the library entrance. Whilst I was performing for the last time I focused on one guy to the right of me, I asked him questions to which he replied ‘I don’t know, why are you asking me?’, which seemed to make the rest of the gathering chuckle. I also asked people that were walking through but did not really get much of a response from them.

final perf 4


01.05.13 Performance 2

As a whole I thought that our final performance had improved massively, the group as a whole seemed to be a lot more confident. The piece itself looked and felt a lot more structured than is had felt initially.

Posted: May 11th, 2013
Categories: Taking the Library Outside, Uncategorized
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Further Development and Research

After further discussion of ideas and current projects I decided to look at how the brain works. How it sees into the future and what parts of the brain is used to create these images/ideas of future. Once this idea has been further researched I will construct a speech base on the facts and find I find.

One I had researched how the brain works, I found a document that puts in the picture what side of the brain controls what.

Right Brain Functions

  • Uses feeling.
  • “Big picture” oriented.
  • Imagination rules.
  • Symbols and images.
  • Present and future.
  • Philosophy & religion.
  • Can “get it” (i.e. meaning).
  • Believes.
  • Appreciates.
  • Spatial perception.
  • Knows object function.
  • Fantasy based.
  • Presents possibilities.
  • Impetuous.
  • Risk taking.

Left Brain Functions

  • Uses logic.
  • Detail oriented.
  • Facts rule.
  • Words and language.
  • Present and past.
  • Math and science.
  • Can comprehend.
  • Knowing.
  • Acknowledges.
  • Order/pattern perception.
  • Knows object name.
  • Reality based.
  • Forms strategies.
  • Practical.
  • Safe.

Once I found this list I looked at what elements from the list the brain uses to create/build an image or idea of what might happen in the future. Such as:

  • Detail orientation.
  • Present and past.
  • Order/pattern perception.
  • Reality based.
  • Uses feelings.
  • Imagination rules.
  • Present and future.
  • Fantasy based.

When all these elements are used together the brain can rule out what is fantasy, imagination and the need and want to do things. Thus, using the reality and the here and now team with what has already happened. Allowing the brain to create and image, thought or idea for the future, whether it is in 5 seconds, minutes or years. I also looked at how us as humans see, hear and touch the things around us.


Holloway and Hubbard (2001), p. 41

This gave me an understanding of how far each sense can reach. The diagram shows each sense and how far away from the body it can still function, using the circles to indicate each barrier.


Halloway and Hubbard, (2001) People and Place: Knowing place The Extraordinary Geographies of Everyday Life Harlow: Prentice Hall/Pearson Education.

Posted: May 11th, 2013
Categories: Taking the Library Outside, Uncategorized
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Not Quite Working Out

After looking back at our previous performance, I had decided that using sneezing to show the breakdown of language didn’t quite fit the piece as a whole and that maybe it was suggest/used to fill a gap in the performance. After deciding this, the group meet with our tutor Wes to discuss some ideas to solve this and replace it. We looked at the Lone Twin piece ‘Town Crying’ (2007). A piece based on a man – John Stevens – who is a town crier and taking it to different cities.

town crying

Town Crying – My Name Is John Stevens (2007), Lone Twin

We looked at the particular piece as it came across as almost an autobiography, it had humour and ridiculousness about it, which would be on the total opposite end of the spectrum to the rest of our piece. Lines such as ‘why do you shout? And I say, it’s not shouting, its crying. I do it to meet championing people like you. And they say, John mate I wish you wouldn’t’ (Town Crying, 2007), bring humour to the piece as it’s a matter of fact and brings the spectators into the piece.

As well as discussing the John Stevens piece, we talked about the Reckless Sleepers and there piece ‘The Last Supper’Reckless Sleepers was formed in 1988. The company was formed out of a number ideas concerns, disasters, accidents and opportunities.

last supper big1

The Last Supper, Reckless Sleepers (on going).

‘The Last supper is a performance piece where we invite our audience to dinner, to eat and drink with us while we tell, and then eat the last words of the famous, the not so famous, criminal, victims, heroes, heroines and the stars.. With real scenarios, invented scenarios, scenarios in the future, scenarios from the past. Each audience member is given a table number, their case number, their incident number. Thirteen of these are last suppers.’ (

We thought a piece like this would really gel with our own as it can be very emotional, whereas our piece is very formal and structured. One event that the Reckless Sleepers cover in this piece is that of Hiroshima. We thought this would benefit our piece as it can relate to the breakdown of language in the sense that conversation can just end and never carry on. Two people are having a conversation just before the explosion and after sometime the conversation just ends and is never picked up again due to the effects of the disaster.

After further discussion of ideas and current projects I decided to look at how the brain works. How it sees into the future and what parts of the brain is used to create these images/ideas of future. Once this idea has been further researched I will construct a speech base on the facts and find I find. (Accessed 4.05.13). Town Crying – My Name Is John Stevens – (2007).

Performance Development

After discussing potential ideas for our performance, myself and the group have decided to look at what can break down language. We wanted to look at it in a conversation perspective, such as, using fillers, sneezing, long pauses ect. We then assigned each of these elements to one person in our group. As I took the idea of sneezing I then applied this to my work. I rehearsed sneezing before meeting next with my group, as to make sure that they were believable and seemed as realistic as possible. In addition to rehearing sneezing, I needed to adapt my list of book titles to fit the break down technique I was looking at. For this I searched for books with in the library that relate to medicine, health and viruses. These consisted of:

  • The Human boday in Health and Disease 612 thi
  • Primary immunodeficiency diseases: a molecular and genetic approach 616.9 bal
  • Health system and the challenge of communicable diseases 614.5 hea

Applying these titles to the original list made it more personal and relevant to each individual performer.

On top of the new lists of book titles we needed to create an introduction for our own individual performances that related to the new lists. The introduction I create related to the interruptions caused by the sneezing.

My Introduction: ‘Ladies and Gentleman, I apologies for becoming and incubus viral plague. I will however, strive my best to complete this performance for you all. Apologies for any interruptions of  coughing, sneezing and spluttering.’

As well as assigning these break down elements, we needed to break the barrier of nerves and add a bit of confidence to the performance and performers, as the piece was looking very rigid and stiff. To do this we looked at one performance art artist in particular – Taylor Mac.


Sourced from Google 2.05.13

Sourced from Google 2.05.13


‘His plays include ‘The Walk Across America For Mother Earth’, The Lily’s Revenge’, ‘The Young Ladies Of’, ‘The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac’, ‘Red Tide Blooming’, ‘Dilating’ (an evening of one-acts), ‘Blue Grotto’ and his first play ‘The Hot Month’.’ (

He believes his job as a theatre artist is to remind the audience of the variety of the human race. He does this by using traditional theatrical devisees and recognized styles and forms, allowing the audience to recognise what they are experiencing and infusing them with as much imagination and personal perspectives as possible, which creates a sense of surprise for his audience. He doesn’t want surprise to be confused with shock.

A quote I found on Mac’s website suggests the extravagance of his work.

‘I believe the more personal risk I take in the work the more the audience will relate and see the whole of their humanity reflected back at them. So, through art, I try to be as masculine, feminine, ugly, beautiful, intelligent, base, chaotic, graceful, joyful, sorrow, perfect and flawed as I am in real life.’ (Taylor Mac,

After reading this, it was suggested that our group try to implant the extravagance into our own work. Ideas such as, circus and glamour were talked about, firstly thinking about glamour and the suggestion of wearing ball gowns to play on the idea of becoming someone else to help break that barrier of nerves and lack of confidence. However, as we couldn’t source ball gowns in such a quick time and worried that the ball gowns my make the piece seem to distant from our initial ideas, we wore formal dresses teamed with heels, still breaking that barrier, yet not taking the attention away from the text.

formal dress

Taken by Hannah – LPAC Zing cafe.

This worked well as a barrier to stop the nerves surfacing, but we thought that it didn’t quite gel with the performance and began to think of other costumes for our piece that wouldn’t be too distracting to the audience. accessed 02.05.13

Taking the Library Outside

After sitting down with my group, I had come to the final decision of taking the library outside. I initially thought of looking for negative spaces within the library, such as, the aisles, under the stairs and the group rooms. I then looked at artist that also search for negative space, I then found work by Rachel Whiteread.

‘Artist Rachel Whiteread‘s sculptures bring to the foreground a concept of space we aren’t always aware of. Working to take negative space and make it a tangible reality, Whiteread uses her sculptures in order to physically define what surrounds objects. Through these sculptures, Whiteread explores ideas of absence, memory, and architecture, revealing the space we cannot define.’ (Chadason 2012)

I then thought about outside of the library and how it could be considered a performance space. Peter Brooks says ‘I can take any empty space and call it bare stage‘ (Govan, Nicholson and Normion 2007, p. 10), from this I thought that we as a group could use the space outside the library and use it as a performance space. I also researched the ways in which a space, place or build had effect on its visitors. Falling in a certain behaviour given the type of place it is, such as, “places” that are rich in history and “non-places”  that are soulless and are only created for functional purposes, such as, airports, motorways and the library in this case. For instance, the idea that some places are distinguished and understood as a place where specific behaviours are suitable.

‘According to one of the pioneers of such research, Rodger Bakrer, a behaviour setting is a bounded space that is constructed and defined through two sets of components, ‘psychological’ and ‘non-psychological’’.(Holloway & Hubbard, 2001 p. 56)

We then look at the building as one big system and people becoming a part of that system.

  • We go for look for books.
  • Take the book out.
  • Reading the book in library or take it home.
  • Finally returning the book.

From this we wanted to toy with the idea of breaking that system. Together we first decided to take the books outside the library and read them, but this seemed too distant from our ideas and wouldn’t attract the attention of the public in the way that we wanted to. We continued to develop and research this idea and began to look at the books and what we could do with them to create a piece of performance art. I thought about the library and that words are a massive part of it. I started to think what was done to the words within the library, well they can be spoken, read in one’s head to oneself and mostly written and used for academic purposes. Thinking about the words being spoken and the language within those books, I then thought about the language and conversations outside of the library and more than often enough how that can be broken and crumble. After deciding to focus on language, we looked at books within the library that had language in the title. This opened a lot of thoughts and ideas.

  • Foreign language
  • Sign language
  • Breakdown of language.

After finalising our idea of looking at language we met with our tutor and discussed our new idea. We then showed him the list of call numbers and titles of the books we were thinking of looking at, he then suggested that we should keep our first performance simple and maybe just read the list off the paper outside the library doors. Once the list was finished our tutor said that there was something quite aesthetically pleasing about how it looked and reads.

Our next step in the process was to actually get the performance up on its feet. I volunteered to be the person that reads the list. For this we took a stool from the library and placed it in front of the library doors. We initially wanted to use a megaphone for the piece, but due to the lack of time to source one we use and microphone and an amp, which actually worked better than what we thought it would .


Taken by Beth Sutch, Thursday 7th March 2013, Lincoln Library.

For the actual performance I stood on the stool holding the list. I then began to read from the list whilst a small audience from the class stood and watched. A few people that passed by stop for a moment to see what was being said. I even noticed that when I was reading, people that were passing we reluctant to walk in front of me and actually walk around the back of me. The performance only lasted for about 2-3 minutes as we only wanted to experiment with the idea and to see if it actually looked work as a piece.


Taken by Hannah Louise Watson, Thursday 7th March 2013, Lincoln Library.

Our next step is to develop and shape the piece to fit with the idea of language breaking down. The feedback we got from the performance was to look at different ways in which we can show this. We have come up with a few ideas that can occur in day-to-day conversations such as:

  • Coughing.
  • Sneezing.
  • Breaking into song
  • Long pauses.
  • Stutter.

After developing our ideas further and researching the work of artist that we can relate to with our piece at the moment, we are looking to putting all of this together for the next performance and see what can be added, changed and developed from that.


Chadason, Kathryn (2012) (Accessed: 10.05.12).

Govan, Emma and Nicholson, Helen and Normington, Katie (2007) Making a Performance: The place of the Artist, USA and Canada: Routledge.

Holloway, Lewis and Hubbard, Phil (2001) People and Place The Extraordinary Geographies of Everyday Life: Behaviour in Place, Harlow: Prentice Hall/Pearson Education.

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