I was flipping through a small book on architecture a few weeks ago, called 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School (by Matthew Frederick), and began contemplating the links between designing buildings and designing dramatic narratives. Both require a vision that must be distilled. Both must fit within a given context, and must suit their audience.
A few lessons in architecture seemed especially relevant to drama… (Students: Which of the five most resonates with you? Why?)
#9 Sense of place.
When my students begin working with script fragments, we first imagine the space in which these people and moments reside. Before exploring The Laramie Project we looked at a map and at a historic guide of Laramie. Before The Crucible we also started with maps, and with artifacts, such as printed (and artificially aged, by yours truly) PDFs of signed confessions from the Salem trials. These space-based pieces initiated invented background scenes, like space based emotional research.
#14 Architecture begins with an idea.
#34 Frame a view, don’t merely exhibit it.
#53 A good building reveals different things about itself when viewed from different distances.
Of course, any dramatic or creative work requires an idea, an initial seed. In terms of framing our dramatic work, form is key. How do we frame our story so it’s cohesive, while ensuring the conventions we use actually suit or enhance our story? When does it make sense to use tableaux, rather than silent movement, or vice verse? And any good art should reveal different things from different distances, in the way that re-reading a good book years later reveals different things, about the text, but also oneself, then and now.
#81 Properly gaining control of the design process tends to feel like one is losing control of the design process.
When gaining control feels like loosing control… especially relevant to drama, to any creative endeavour, and, ahem, to teaching itself. A little chaos, to me, means things are happening, ideas are flexing and stretching, and things are moving forward, through choice towards decision. As the text notes,
“Being genuinely creative means that you don’t know where you are going, even though you are responsible for shepherding the process. This requires something different from conventional, authoritarian control…”
And when you trust your ideas (and students!) and allow for some freedoms, good things usually grow.
Growth in Toronto. New buildings are always going up. A shot I took in August 2013 after a short Porter flight.