SO. You've chosen the arduous task of undertaking the 4,000 word essay on theatre. A subject that - seemingly - has so few resources (or so you assume), but so much to talk about, and so much freedom to discuss (or so you'd expect). Well, this is hardly a qualified guide on how to write the theatre EE - I'll leave that to your supervisors - but it is what I've learnt from my one singular, and by no means definitive, experience in tackling that tricky piece of research.
Have at it.
1. Choose a topic you're passionate about
Bet you thought 'HA! Obviously.' But I'm here to say, no, not obviously at all. Theatre is a multidisciplinary art form that employs many different theories, techniques, styles, etc. etc. etc. and when you have such a wide array of topics to choose from, you might think, Well, let's just go with the easiest one to write. Well, oftentimes, the easiest one to write is not the one with the most readily available published research - it's the one you sustain a genuine interest in. It's not the churning out of 4,000 words that's difficult. It's the long and seemingly never-ending hours you spend outside of the actual writing, poring over page after page of literature to obtain enough understanding about your topic to even begin to write about it. And when you choose a topic that you sustain no interest in, that process is an absolute pain. Then at the end of the day, all the research you've done that you don't include directly in your essay will (probably) have been a waste of your own time, because that knowledge would hardly be value-adding to you as an individual.
2. Don't get too hung up on your research question
But the research question is the starting and ending point of your whole essay! It provides direction! No. No, locking down a research question really isn't that vital. My research question was changed three times over the course of writing the EE, with the final change occurring about 1-2 weeks before the final submission deadline. What you need to have is a general idea of where your researching into and what you want to find out, and a 'draft' research question related to this area of study. And once you've got that, it's much easier to begin your research and see where it leads you, then tweak your research question to suit the data you've obtained, so it can be answered comprehensively. It's likely that somewhere along the research process (within your topic of interest), you'll realise which area of study has the most resources for you to turn to, and - voila - there you go! While it would be fantastic to be able to answer the original research question from the very beginning, sometimes it just isn't possible with limited resources and a 4,000 word constraint.
3. library@esplanade is your new best friend
Really not kidding about this one. You'd think Singapore is severely lacking in terms of performing arts resources until you step into this library - it has every book on theatre you'd ever need. From practitioners to playwrights, research to repertoire, classical to contemporary. E v e r y t h i n g . I'd spend hours at a time sitting between the aisles, combing through titles and adding book after book to an ever growing pile at my feet, all while getting occasionally distracted by some random book that's completely unrelated to my topic of study at hand. This library carried me through more than just my EE - it was my favourite hideaway while researching for my HL Theatre Solo Performance and Research Presentation too! And if the sheer wealth of resources doesn't entice you, maybe the Esplanade Outdoor Terrace will. Borrow a book, head upstairs and lounge on the grass patch of the terrace, amidst the murmuring chatter of other patrons, the invigorating breeze of the Bayfront area and the glorious golden sunset :)
4. Get in touch with local theatre practitioners/teachers/people
If you're lacking on data collection (which you shouldn't be after visiting the Esplanade library, but on the rare, rare occasion that you might be), people in the local theatre industry are your best bet to obtain data. Luckily enough, my EE topic was musical theatre (for obvious reasons) and I'm enrolled at Sing'theatre Academy, so I could easily approach the teaching faculty - who are all actively involved in the local theatre scene - for interviews. But even if you're not directly connected to someone in the industry, getting in touch with them via email and Instagram DMs are convenient enough, and they're often happy to help in whatever way they can. The best part about interviews? You can craft your question in a way that ensures you obtain the exact response you need to fill in any gaps in data.
5. Cite as you go along
Self-explanatory - this makes citations much less of a headache. This means you include in-text citations immediately after writing the sentence that refers to the information (so that 1. You don't forget to cite, 2. You don't have to struggle to recall where you got the information from), and you make a note of all the books and websites you're using as sources. What I did was keep a bookmark folder called 'EE', and every time I cited external information from a website I added it to the folder. For reading materials, I had a list of ISBN numbers on my phone's Notes app - this way I could easily record which reference materials I'd used during my library trips (because you aren't allowed to borrow some books!). Keeping a constantly updated list of sources made writing my bibliography so easy - all I had to do was input the URL or ISBN number into a citation generator and paste it onto my document.
And there you have it, 5 short tips on writing your theatre EE! While this list is by no means comprehensive, these are what helped me the most during the research and essay-writing process, so I hope they can help you in your essay too. If you'd like an example of a theatre EE, you can access mine here (A, 32/34), and drop me any questions below! I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability :) Happy productive writing!
Love, Ashley x
"It was easy to come, and it will be easy to leave."
These are one of the first words you hear when you begin, and one of the last you hear before it ends. (It makes a lot more sense at the end than the start.)
A list of seemingly random questions.
A list of even more random actions.
A human connection.
Here's how it began.
Needless to say, I was very, very intrigued. Immersive theatre is something I've been rather keen on exploring and this seemed to be the pinnacle of immersion. This performance sounded extraordinarily contemporary, exploratory, unpredictable. Different. So I did what any intrigued thespian would do and signed up.
I don't think the performance began when the narrator started speaking, or when the other person on the line picked up. For me, it started as soon as I bought my ticket a week ago. The thrill and trepidation of knowing I'd be spending an hour in the company of one total, complete stranger as the day of the show drew nearer seemed to be a part of the experience: a sense of awaiting. Awaiting a voice. Awaiting a conversation. Awaiting a shared journey. And the excitement of dialing in without knowing who would pick up, or where they would be from, what gender they'd be, how old they would sound, how well they would speak English, if there would be some profound connection immediately, if you've just found a new best friend, what the person would mean to you by the end... there's a lot of detail you pay attention to when all you get is a voice, slightly marred through the phone, with all the cadences, lilts and crescendos of natural human speech.
And then somehow, over the course of fifty minutes, you've shared a whole chunk of personal thoughts and memories with a stranger you only just met, who might not even be living in the same country. In that fifty minutes, I'd told the other person about the safety of sleeping next to my grandfather, sung my mother's favourite song, disclosed that no, I do not have any tattoos, the only person I've carried is my dog, I was born in 2002, I haven't been to Spain. And in that fifty minutes, I'd learnt how the person was sitting at that moment, a string of information they had memorised, a picture of them as a child, the rhythm of their heartbeat, the fact that yes, they were alive when I was born, how their ancestors lived, the sound of their voice. With the information we'd been given - minimal physical features and an understanding of fragments of each other's lives - we were left to piece the other together. In fifty minutes, I had an image of whoever was on the other end of the call. I knew someone, or as much as I could from what I'd been given, a Person.
Running parallel to our existence in our bedroom/living room/wherever the call was taken was an overnight journey in a desert, in the middle of nowhere, that the narrator, audience member and I were part of. Just us three. In one hour, without leaving my room, I'd forged a new memory of a road trip gone wrong and a starlit slumber with Narrator and Person. I'd hummed "Angel of Music" from Phantom to them. Our car had broken down. We'd walked to what seemed like the end of the world. Person told me that stars existed in different galaxies. Narrator wore a white shirt. Person made a fire. I asked if Narrator was awake. Three of us lay back and counted stars together.
Interspersed with this intimate sharing of experiences was soft laughter, hesitation, silences and the occasional "So... what are we supposed to do again?" (the narrator doesn't repeat herself). It was the formation of a connection. The divulging of information even some of our closest friends wouldn't know. A faceless confidante. And finally,
"You are somewhere in the world. Hold on to me.
The line goes dead.