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Street Theatre

The street theatre was founded in the late 1960s in Germany to protest against the politics at that time and was closely linked to strikes and demonstrations. However, you may also organise a street theatre to make people in your town aware of the problems that your river or streams encounter.

A street theatre differs a lot from a traditional theatre in that it does not take place in a confined space in front of paying spectators but tries to directly interfere with reality. Therefore, actors approach spectators in the street and try to pass on specific messages – by playing scenes and by involving the audience in activities and discussions.

Special conditions apply to outdoor performances:

The spectators’ attention first has to be won. Make passers-by curious with colourful, noisy parades or mysterious activities. Once the public is interested, you have to entertain it: if your show gets boring, the spectators will leave because they did not have to pay any entrance fee.

Be prepared for reactions from spectators such as boredom or aggressiveness or other disturbing behaviour. You will learn how to react adequately and improvise by role playing.

The noise in the street and other factors will disturb the spectators. The texts have to take this into account – e.g. slogans with just a few words and clear messages. Do not use a stage play for outdoor performance.

Several actors mutually reciting the same text will increase the volume (screaming harms your vocal cords).

Underline your messages with theatrical gestures, e.g. with sweeping movements and emphatic facial expressions. However, do not try to compensate absent body expressions with exaggerated grimaces.

Signboards and panels with short messages can be useful.

You will succeed at theatrical work through practice: try to reduce inhibitions and to improvise, exercise making facial expressions, gestures, train your voice (breathing exercises) and learn how to employ your body. Ask your music teacher or your sports teacher for help.

Ideas on the content of the play will be found for example by brainstorming. Create humorous and ironicl slogans – e.g. on account of those people who make business by damaging our environment or who do not undertake any actions against environmental destruction even though it is their duty.

Example: ‘A trout’s story’: A trout talks about its experiences on a journey through your river:

  1. The trout starts in the cool, clear natural waters far up in the mountains. Many other types of animals and plants live in this area with shingle banks and a diverse waterfront with many places to hide.
  2. The river is straightened, i.e. canalised, the waterfront is covered with concrete and a dike or a hydraulic power station is built. The water flows faster but it is also harder to travel through it. Hideouts are missing and it is no longer possible to navigate.
Now include the problems encountered in your town.
  1. Free the river and help the trout: Concrete walls disappear in favour of shingle banks, trees, driftwood or a nature reserve. More trout and a beaver or a frog appear on the site.
    Discuss arguments for and against setting free a river with the audience.
When portraying bureaucratic persons (e.g. councillors) you may exaggerate and use stereotypes, e.g. persons with thick cigars, black suits, ties, bank notes in the pocket and mobile phones that they are holding to one ear.

When representing an animal you have to be familiar with its movements and you should know the characteristics of its body and the sounds it makes. You can make animals talk by altering your voice, for example, so that it fits their characteristics. Examples:

Frog: Find out the centre of gravity, typical movements and exercise imitating a wide frogmouth. Costume: goggles, green clothes, fins, bathing cap and a green coloured face for instance.

Fish: Try to imitate the movements of its body, head and fins; a fish is not a seal. Costume: a bag with scales and fins sewn to it (pad it in order to make disappear the contours of the body), mouth and cap made out of scales.

You may also represent wind, rain, plants, stones or regulated riversides and make them alive. There are no limits to costumes and props. Reflect on how you can move in a huge, heavy costume for example. Materials you could use are often found at flea markets, or maybe your parents could help you out.