Artist Callout for Second Brighton Scratch Night

Perform at our second scratch night in March

After launching our first scratch night at the lovely Marlborough Theatre in November we’re happy to announce we’ll be hosting our second Brighton scratch in March. The event is happening on Thursday 2nd March so be sure to save the date! This event will be at The Dukebox Theatre in Hove. The reason for the change in venue is we were contacted by a wheelchair user wanting to apply to the previous scratch night, and unfortunately due to the age of the building the Marlborough Theatre is not wheelchair accessible. The Dukebox has a theatre space that is wheelchair accessible.

What our scratch night is

It’s a supportive platform for artists to share or ‘scratch’ new work in development. A space that is open and friendly. Designed to be helpful for the artists in the continued development of their work.

We set up this scratch night as a way for artists to meet and support each other. We’re also keen to get local audiences engaged in the developmental stages of new work. We had a lovely audience at the first event, and really engaging conversations and discussions after the sharing of the work.

Artist Callout

We are currently looking for artists and companies to apply with pieces of no longer than 15 minutes  to be presented at this scratch night. We’re looking for work for adult audiences, and as a company we have an interest in contemporary theatre and performance from a diverse range of practices and approaches.

If you have a new idea you’re working on and are at the stage where it needs a supportive audience and some feedback, then we’d love to hear from you.

To apply please fill in this online form (link below) by 5pm Monday 13th February 2017. You’ll be asked to tell us about yourself, the work you want to present and why this scratch will be useful to you.

https://goo.gl/forms/k0Gcvs3Br7sCGGla2

If you experience any difficulty with the form or have any questions about the event please email us at info@witness-theatre.co.uk.

We’re looking forward to reading your applications! If you aren’t applying to take part then we’d love to have you along in the audience to support the artists. You can pay what you feel for this event and more information on tickets etc will be coming soon.

Welcoming in the new year 2017 with creative plans

Ellen looks back on our best bits of 2016 and shares one of our creative resolutions for 2017. 

So here we are, at the end of 2016. It may not have been a great year globally, but I’ve been reviewing what we did this year and there’s certainly some stuff worth remembering. There have been downs as well as ups of course. Countless applications for funding and support sent out and come back unsuccessful. But we’ve met and worked with some lovely people, and really grown as a company.

I’ve put together a list of our best moments in 2016 below. If you want to keep tabs on what we’re doing in the new year remember to sign up to our mailing list.

Our best bits of 2016

327 audience members came to see our Fetish Julius Caesar at Brighton Fringe. We completed our first ever audience survey which we’re really proud of doing. This gave us some great feedback to apply as we move forward.

We made our first showreel as we had Fetish Julius Caesar professionally filmed. Here’s that showreel along with some of our favourite audience feedback quotes.

We ran our most successful crowdfunding campaign for Fetish Julius Caesar. An online course through udemy about running a crowdfunder  taught us so much and we really put this into practice.

We met and worked with some wonderful people. We were thrilled to get the chance to work with Eden Alexander again, not only as an actress in Fetish Julius Caesar but also as a core member of the company. Eden now runs the company with Kelli and I – we will be updating the people page on our website soon, promise!

We also met the brilliant actor Guido Garcia Lueches who played Brutus in our Fetish Julius Caesar and is now helping us develop our new work. For the first time ever we had a makeup artist work with us on a show. Charlie Temperton did a fantastic job helping us with Fetish Julius Caesar and is an all round lovely person to work with. And we had a lighting designer for the first time ever (I know). Oliver Bush did a brilliant job in tough conditions on Fetish Julius Caesar and we can’t wait to get the chance to work with him again.

We participated in workshops with Improbable and Complicite and learned a lot to apply to our own work! Then in November we ran our first Scratch Night which was really successful and lovely. We can’t wait to run the next one.

Our creative new year’s resolutions 2017

In November we had a 2017 planning day with Eden, Kelli and I. We chatted about our vision and dreams for the company both for 2017 and beyond. We came up with a set of goals and resolutions for 2017. One of the most exciting ones for me is to return our focus to the creative. This year we’ve found that administrative tasks have often got in the way of us taking time to play and create, which in the end is what we’re all about.

So our creative new year’s resolution for 2017 is to have Band Practice once a month. No, we’re not a band, but we liked this phrase because bands make music together and have regular practice so they can do this. We make theatre together. So we’re having a monthly practice.

At our first Band Practice in December we made this fun Christmas video.

Share your creative resolutions with us

Next week we’re hosting a creatives networking event. It’s on January 5th and will be a chance for creatives to meet and share their creative resolutions and goals for 2017. Join us if you can.

You are invited to Witness Theatre's winter creative's networking event. Meet other creatives and share plans and goals for 2017. Jan 5th. 6:30pm. The Dorset Brighton.

Now over to you. Let us know your best bits of 2016, or any creative resolutions you have for the new year in the comments below! Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date with what we’re doing in the new year.

Why to use Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process

Helping artists stay true to their own voice

The Critical Response Process (CRP) is a way of giving feedback created by the American choreographer Liz Lerman. I think it’s most brilliantly used when work is at an early or developmental stage. Where artists are seeking feedback specifically to influence them towards making the rest of their piece. It has quite a structured format, but I actually really like this.  I find it supports and nurtures the artist presenting work.

Why the Critical Response Process works for theatre post-show discussions

Clown Funeral receiving feedback on stage at Witness Theatre's Brighton Scratch 16th November 2016.
Clown Funeral receive feedback at our November 2016 scratch night.

Sometimes post-show discussions can go really wrong. They can be hijacked and directed by particular viewers (which can be painful for the other audience members and the artists). I’ve found that when using the critical response process that doesn’t happen.  Which is great.

The first time I ever used the CRP, was when I was working on a collaborative dance project as the designer.  The choreographer and I were presenting our piece to an audience of nearly 50 people who all wanted to help by sharing and contributing their ideas.  Finding a way where that feedback can be organised and presented to the artists, ideally in a short amount of time, so that they can get a sense of what the audience thought is not an easy task.

How the Critical Response Process helps artists

There are an infinite number of options when making art of any kind and it’s tricky to hone in on what you want that specific work, at that time, to be about.  There are a million really good directions you could go in but it’s important to stay focused and driven in a particular direction. Audience members might have ideas for how the piece could go, which could be great and valid, but aren’t ideas that the artists are interested in moving forward with at that time.

It’s important to understand what the artist is aiming for. I think that’s not always taken into consideration by an audience. The CRP really guides everyone, the artists and the audience, towards giving feedback in the direction that the artists are looking for.  And I think that’s because of the structure.

The Critical Response Process structure

There are three roles in the feedback process and four stages of the process.

The artist—the person that’s presented the work.

The audience, officially called the “responders”—the people who have witnessed the work.

The facilitator—the person who runs the feedback sessions and tries to keep everyone on track and within the structure.

4 stages of the critical response process: 1. Initial Impressions. 2. Artist Questions the Audience 3. Audience Questions the Artist 4. Audience Expresses Opinions
The 4 stages of the Critical Response Process

Stage one: Initial Impressions.

Everybody shouts out words or phrases or things that come to mind that they took initially from the piece. This could be overarching themes, or how it made them feel. Or, it could be colours, pretty much anything.  There isn’t a right or wrong answer it’s literally whatever they want to express as their impression initially from the work.  Liz Lerman uses some buzzwords to help guide things.  What was “meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, striking” in the work?

This section is usually pretty quick but the artist gets an initial understanding and feeling for the audience as a whole.

Stage two: Artist Questions the Audience

The artists come prepared with questions such as: “Did this go too far for you?” “How did this section make you feel?”. Then we can all really delve into the topics that the artist is most curious about and how those came across to the audience.

So the key thing here, the rule to be followed, is the audience isn’t supposed to express any opinions unless it’s directly relating to the question that the artist has asked. They have to stay on topic with what the artist is interested in.

Stage three: Audience Questions the Artist

Liz Lerman does a really fantastic thing here in that they have to ask neutral questions.  They’re not allowed to imply their own opinion with their question.

So instead of asking “Why was it so dark?” they could ask, “What ideas guided your choices about lighting?”. By consciously staying neutral people don’t get defensive about how the work has been presented or interpreted. By understanding the intentions behind something everyone can collectively determine if that’s how it came across or if they have other ideas about what could be done to create that.

Stage four: Audience Expresses Opinions

In this phase the audience is allowed to express their opinions to the artist—but again there’s a lovely little catch—they ask permission.  So an audience member says “I have an opinion about your lighting would you like to hear it?” The artist is then able to say “yes I would love to hear your opinion about my lighting” and the audience share it.Or the artist can say “no actually that wasn’t something I was focusing on for this performance so I’m not really interested in opinions about that”.  People don’t say no very often.  Most of the time people want to hear feedback and opinions.  Also by this point in the process the audience should have a good idea of the direction the artist is trying to go so their opinions and suggestions won’t usually be completely random anymore.

There’s something else about asking permission to express an opinion that I would hope gives people the freedom and confidence to express critical feedback as well.

Quote about feedback from Liz Lerman
Wise words on feedback from Liz Lerman

Kelli’s Conclusions

It’s tricky with feedback sessions. They can often end up being this love fest of “oh this was really great” and “oh I loved this bit” and everybody just brushing over the things that still need to be worked on.  But what would be even better is to get some of that constructive criticism in a way that can still be motivating for the artist.

I was really interested in using this process for our Witness Theatre Scratch Nights because I had experienced it and I personally found it really helpful.  We’re also really committed to supporting the people who are sharing at our scratch nights. So if you’re interested in seeing the Critical Response Process in action you can check out one of our videos from our November scratch night ( coming soon!) or pop along to the next one. Sign up to our mailing list to find out when future scratch nights will be!

– Kelli