From Wonder to Wowed:
Reflection of Performance Process
When beginning this process, I felt as if I didn’t have enough information. Information about what devising was, what it looked like, my family history and contacts I could reach out to. I also felt that my little knowledge about my family, another plain white southern family with European ties had nothing important to bring to the table. My issues were challenged when other students quickly brought information and family stories of sustenance with pictures and perspectives to take, and I felt left out of the loop in preparing the script or having any day in what went on. And with how we developed our process by generating stories and writing things on the board, I wondered why we went a completely different direction than what the class initially set up.
This all changed when Daniel came and first talked to us. His ideas on understanding stories as anything, and that the perspective and point of the stories were what were important. What we take away is more important than the stories themselves. At this point, I had only a little information on my great great grandfather William Roly Threlkeld, and thought my best story was the changing my last name to Karlix to commemorate our blood relation to the king of Sweden. But after hearing what kind of things people had done before in plays set up by Daniel, and redesigning my perspective of the story, it began to take shape. I took the wonder I had, and applied it towards developing a perspective, like introducing my grandfather in a light that highlighted his feats with the native American people, with qualities of service and heroism.
Moving these stories to the stage was also an interesting process. When first laying out the devised acts for Britney’s story, I found it to be way too strong of a beginning story and maybe too real for those involved. I was worried about the direction this was going to take, but again, the perspective of the stories always gave good ground for developing acts to go along with them. With Daniel’s expertise and constant practice, I still worried that our time was too short to develop a real working play, especially when we found out we didn’t have a prop budget and that staging was changing constantly. But the way our group gelled with one another and joked with one another, I believe a sense of working community within this group of actors generated the performance that we created, one that was moving and beyond anything I imagined we would create. Even though we mostly read off of notecards and scripts, the devised pieces, scripts, and audio/visual effects made this show more memorable than I could have ever thought. As I mentioned previously, I was extremely skeptical about the direction and my contribution of this devised piece, and many a time I wanted to quit and thought it wasn’t going to be worth it in the end; but the final performance completely changed my mind.
On dress rehearsal night I remember thinking, I don’t even know how we got to this point of such a well developed play, and was excited and nervous for family and friends to come see this creation. But the final result of the performance did it’s job, as we’ve defined it in devised theatre: more stories and interaction between families was inspired by this performance. Our stories and created sketches touched people in a way that urged more communication and exploration of our oral traditions and immigration stories. The pictures we showed too made people come to tears, and I remember my mom asking me, “Oh my goodness, where did you find that picture of my grandpa? I want to frame it.” Just the images inspired memories and emotions, but the performance really drove it home. Not only did I learn a lot about my family and my classmates families, but I think our reenactment of these stories honored our ancestry, and showed commonalities between all people, and a universal love and understanding for storytelling.