Behind the Scenes: Compositions

At Real Live Theatre, we're big believers in revisiting our work.  This past week, we've been looking at last year's mainstage, The Lion & The Clown: A Rumi Lovesong for Beauty and the Beast. Specifically, we've been exploring scenes using the composition method, popularized by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau.

Compositions are devised pieces, meaning that a group of artists make them up together, instead of having a playwright and a director dictate what happens onstage.  Frequently, compositions are not literal performances of a scene, but abstract representations of the essence of that scene.  At Real Live Theatre, we give ourselves the extra challenge of making these compositions in under ten minutes, so that we share ideas quickly and make decisions efficiently.  It's better to see lots of ideas quickly instead of spending a lot of time on something that might not work.

Compositions are helpful for theatre artists because it is an exercise in breaking the scene down to its simplest parts.  What do you need in order to tell the story?  What's the most important moment to get across?  And how can you use the tools available to you as an actor (like voice, spatial relationship, timing, repetition, shape, stillness, motion) to get those ideas across to an audience?

A final composition may not look anything like the scene you started with, and that's okay.  The point is to change how you think about the scene.  Sometimes we like a some aspect of a composition so much, that we change the original scene in order to incorporate it.  That's why compositions are a great tool for an ensemble theatre company like Real Live Theatre. Based on the ideas of all the individuals, we can come up with a whole new way of approaching a scene!

Keep reading regularly for more behind the scenes stories!

Lucy Gouvin
Founding Member, Company Administrator