Monday, June 3, 2013

What if Dogme 95 came to Theatre?

So one of my favorite points of research has been digital video creation. One of my favorite books on the subject is "Extreme DV at Used-Car Prices". I've quoted it once before on the blog. And one of the things that Rick Schmidt plugs in the book is a great style called "the Dogme 95 Vow of Chastity".

Theatre folks can think of it as the film version of Grotowski's "Poor Theatre" which shuns the over stylized lights and sets of the stage and focuses just on characters and the story. Dogme 95 goes a bit farther and calls for a "vow of chastity" with hard rules that filmmakers have to follow.  So what does a vow of chastity do for you? It keeps you focused on the stuff that really matters in the story and not to rely on flashy effects, elaborate set pieces, etc. It gets you to focus on just telling a story using the basic building blocks: characters, dialogue, and motivation.
A picture from Rick Schmidt's Dogme 95 movie. Borrowed from LightVideo

So without further ado I've adapted the Dogme rules into my own theatre vow of chastity that I want to stick to whenever I'm developing a show in a lab setting or such like. Maybe for the next show or production that you do you'll want to try it out too and see what it does for your story telling style.

The Fronkensteen Vow of Theatre Chastity

  1. Low Tech: You must spend more than ten hours building sets, props, lights, and costumes for your show. No more than $200 shall be budgeted for tech.  You shall spend no more than 5 hours setting up.
  2. No fake sound: Sound must not be piped in through a sound system or through artificial means. Only sound effects that occur live onstage are acceptable. Only live music or music that would be normally heard on a radio or television in the play will be acceptable.
  3. No fixed audience-actor relationship: The standard proscenium style of seating is prohibited. Explore new ways for the audience to interface with the art.
  4. No special lighting: Practical lighting onstage is acceptable. Shining stage lights at the actors are acceptable. No special lighting affects or devices may be used. 
  5. No special effects.
  6. The Play must be from the artists heart. There must be no derivatives, rip offs, or cliche's. 
  7. The Play takes place here and now.
  8. No Genres: Make people fall in love but don't make it a "romance". Put people in space but don't make it a "science fiction." It should be a story springing out of your individual soul.
  9. You must pay your actors and everyone associated with the play in money or a service that is meaningful to them and their lives. We're all trying to make a living. If the art can't help support us we shouldn't be doing it.
  10. Everyone is acknowledged: The actors can bow at the end but the tech, director, playwright, ticket takers, janitors, etc. must get recognition too.

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