These were the last weeks prior to the performances themselves, and as part of that process I gradually stepped back from the work in order to allow the students to take more ownership of it, which they did.
For this reason, I’ve grouped the last three weeks together, as sometimes I was simply watching and feeding back on work in progress, and I don’t want to comment too much on that here.
However, I did bring in a few prompts at various points.
In week 6, for instance, we worked on text, a little. I felt this element of the Bauhaus work had been under-explored so far and wanted to push it a little further. Drawing on the documented improvisation with placards relating to different stages/effects/actions of performance ‘Denouement’, ‘Interval’, ‘Suspense’, ‘Exit’ etc, I brought in a pile of these to work with.
Although these placards do seem to be used in ‘Meta- Or the Pantomime of Places’, and there are fragments of a script for this, I don’t think this is the same thing as the improvisation, and there’s no way of knowing how Schlemmer would have set this up (at least, I do not know of any material in English that would tell us this). I therefore borrowed from Forced Entertainment’s improvisation in ‘Emmanuelle Enchanted’, so that the students would walk onto the stage, and use the placard to label an image or action they set up. Sometimes these built up and sometimes they entered and left the stage in succession.
This was actually really successful, theatrically – I could have watched it for hours. In terms of the Bauhaus, though, I’m not sure. I think it owed more to FE. While there might be some indirect link from the Bauhaus to FE via N. American theatre and German dance, it’s pretty tenuous.
Another experiment with text was to bring in some extracts from Schlemmer’s diaries and essays and to place these into movement scores that the students developed separately. One of these, ‘It starts with the fundamentals…’ was particularly successful when placed alongside the score – it almost looked as though it had been written for the purpose, there was such synchronicity between words and movements. This placing of words from Schlemmer himself seemed like an interesting thing to pursue, but his words always needed a bit of editing, as they were not written for performance, of course.
Thirdly, I brought in some dialogues from Philip Hensher’s novel, ‘The Emperor Waltz’, to experiment with a different texture of more-or-less naturalistic conversation. This was quite interesting in itself, but like the FE-style impro, seemed to have little to do with the style of the Bauhaus. It was more interesting as a way of imagining the characters who worked there, though the lens Hensher gives us.
These last were staged against our attempt to create an impressionistic set that evoked the Dessau Bauhaus, using blocks, mirrors and a projected window. I wanted to prompt the students to think a little further about the stage space and how it could be used apart from being marked out as a grid.
Another thing I did was that I brought in some light up wires in red, yellow and blue. We had a lot of fun with these, winding them around Maya, or forming abstract shapes with them.
In week 8, the students showed some work to Kelly Miller (tutor to one of the other groups). This comprised some beautiful work with these light-up wires, putting them together with the Schlemmer text I had brought in. The other element was a less successful staging of a Bauhaus ‘party’, attempting to use the placards. Since the improvisational quality had gone from this, it was less clear what it was exploring theatrically – and as we have learned, the Bauhaus theatre is always pretty clear about its formal experiments.