Transformation Techniques

While this post is directly relevant to local readers of The Drama Teacher, in particular students and teachers of VCE Drama, it should also prove worthwhile for a wider audience no matter where you teach or study drama.

As part of the VCE Drama course in the final two years of schooling, students are taught non-naturalistic (non-realistic) theatre styles and associated acting techniques (conventions). Whilst many conventions belong to certain performance styles, such as the use of narration/direct address in Brecht’s epic theatre, for the purposes of this study the four main conventions a student can use in a performance to enable it to be non-naturalistic are:

  • transformation of character
  • transformation of time
  • transformation of place
  • transformation of object

In recent years, the VCE Drama written examination has used the term “transformation techniques”, which refers to a suite of techniques used by the performer at the moment of (and to enable the) actual “transformation” (of character, time, place and/or object) in the performance. What exactly is a “transformation technique” can be tricky, especially if it requires trawling through curriculum documents and past assessor reports. So, here is a list of potential transformation techniques for teachers and students, which may assist in preparation for the upcoming VCE Drama written examination:

  • morphing
  • melding (i.e. blending)
  • giving and taking, or giving and receiving
  • snap transitions
  • use of a word
  • use of a sound
  • use of a gesture
  • repetition (of dialogue)
  • manipulation of stagecraft (eg. object transformation)

Discussing these techniques with my own Year 12 Drama students yesterday in class, I asked them to offer examples of these transformation techniques from their actual solo performance examinations last week. We had:

  • morphing of movement as the performer transitions from Character A to Character B
  • melding (blending) of a gesture (with arm or hand) at the moment of transition from Character A to Character B
  • Character A giving an object to an imagined character in a scene which was then received as a different object by Character B in a different context
  • fast-paced transitions of character, time and place that snapped from A to B in an instant, and sometimes back again
  • a single word used cleverly e.g. “These are the people who are rich/ard where are you going?”, where the / is the transition point between Character A and Character B
  •  a sound, word or phrase used with repetition by Character A in such a way that the latter or final use/s of the sound, word or phrase has transitioned into the same sound, word or phrase being relevant for Character B
  • a gesture used so that it becomes the final moment of Character A, at this time transitioning into the initial moment for Character B
  • an object (prop, costume item) is transformed by the performer in order to denote a transition from Character A to Character B

As always, use this information at your own discretion and check the disclaimer if you need to.

2 Responses

  1. Emma says:

    Fabulous article! Thanks!

  2. Emily says:

    Thanks for this! Excellent ideas!

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