The first thing that we did on receiving the text was to read through it in large group, in which we randomly assigned the parts of the characters to members of the group. We did this to get a feel for the play, and for the themes that are most important and concurrent within the play. We felt that it was important for each member of our group to have a substantial understanding of the emotions of each of the characters in the play, so that they would be able to locate the drama in the scene in relation to the relationships between the characters and their varying statuses.
The play focuses on how religion indoctrinates people, until they cannot recognise what they know to be right through what they have been made to believe by their society. It also shows how the power of this indoctrination is concentrated as it is passed from generation to generation. The form of prejudice that Goetze most clearly parodies in the play is racism. He does this at times to comic effect (often voiced by Sylvian), but the beliefs of the family members tear them apart, and Goetze depicts the way in which people’s foolish prejudices can ruin their lives.
He does this by showing the contrast between the life that the family had before the appearance of the goat-herders, and the life that they began once they had arrived. He also shows how ridiculous people’s prejudices are, and how really all people are much the same. The first strategy we explored using when we were trying to focus on the themes that Goetze communicates in the text was a role-play. We wanted to explore the feeling of unwarranted rejection and exclusion that the goat-herders had inflicted upon them by the sheepherders.
We sent one member of our group outside and when he returned we ignored him, and excluded him from our conversations/gatherings within the main group. Once he had given up trying to talk with us, we asked him how he felt. This exercise helped people to empathise with people who are being discriminated against. The two emotions that were key to the role-play were of alienation and exclusion – from both the excluded and the excluder. The emotions that we were able to focus on with this exercise we were later able to recall when implementing Stanislavski’s emotion memory technique.
Once we were assigned smaller working groups to begin focusing on a single scene from the text, we began by choosing a scene that was of particular importance to the play’s development, or that was particularly poignant and worthy of particular attention. The scene that we chose was Scene Five as we felt that this scene was the one in which the prejudice is most violently and poignantly culminated. It begins as the traditional family meal scene, but by the end it shows the family torn apart by their conflicting views.
The first thing we did when we had chosen the scene was picking out the key points within the scene and act them out. We acted them out first as an improvisation, we acted it without scripts, as this, we felt, inhibited people’s thinking as their character, and disabled them from fully becoming their character. We also experimented with acting the scene speaking our characters’ internal monologue; we did this to ensure that we were fully in contact with our characters’ emotions.
I found that speaking the feelings of my character in rehearsal benefited the final performance as it allowed me to cross the line that it was necessary for me to when I got into role. At any stage that any of the members of the group felt that their own, or any other group member’s adopted role had weakened, we utilised a technique known as ‘hot-seating’ in using this technique we would enclose a single member of the group by surrounding him, and ask quick, simple questions that he would answer in role.
These generally began with pieces of more elementary pieces of knowledge that the person could gain from reading the text superficially, for example, ‘what is your name’, ‘where do you live’ etc. When we began to ask questions relating to the character’s emotions and feelings, it was necessary for the subject of the ‘hot-seat’ to envelope themselves in their role. A clear change could clearly be seen in the quality of the group’s work after we had held one of these sessions.