Moment Work and the Henry 5 Project

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

The development of BYU’s Young Company production of Henry 5 is growing out of a series of workshop-style classes that are part of the course TMA 401 Contemporary Theatre Practices.  Last week the students began blocking some of the segments of the play. Blocking is the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance. Normally in blocking a show, the director determines where the actors will stand or cross and position themselves in the course of the play. For Henry 5, however, blocking is being determined by the cast, the crew and the class of TMA 401 using a process called moment work.

Tectonic Theatre Group

Moment work is a technique developed by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project (The Laramie Project, 33 Variations). It focuses on the importance of theatrical exploration in the creation of new work, especially in the early stages of new play development. Describing what moment work is the Tectonic Theater Project’s web site states: “Using a laboratory setting, the technique encourages the participants to create work that is uniquely theatrical. It pushes writers, actors, designers and directors to collaborate in the making of work that focuses on using all theatrical elements. The technique breaks apart the traditional roles of theater artists, enfranchising artists of all disciplines to move out of their defined roles and become theater-makers: true investigators of the possibilities of the medium.”

In the TMA 401 class, members of the Henry 5 project selected a single line, a primary action, or a minute circumstance that arises somewhere in the script of Henry 5, and developed that bit into a moment of the play, an articulated moment of movement and meaning that encapsulated either the concept or the progression of the play as a whole. These moments developed by the students may later find themselves becoming part of the BYU production of Henry 5, which will then travel with the Young Company touring group to elementary schools up and down the Wasatch Front next semester.

Works Cited

Causey, Trish. “blocking – A definition of the theater term blocking.” Welcome to the Official Theatre Site on About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. http://theater.about.com/od/glossary/g/blocking.htm.

“Tectonic Training Lab.” Tectonic Theater Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tectonictheaterproject.org/Tectonic_Training_Lab.html>.


Horizontal Theater

by Ariel Mitchell, dramaturg

One of the most well known theatrical companies to use the devising method is the Tectonic Theater Project headed by Moisés Kaufman. Some of their most well known works include 33 Variations, Gross Indecency, and The Laramie Project. In each of these cases, the company implements the technique of horizontal theater.

The traditional setup of theater is vertical. You begin with a text. Then you add set, costumes, lights, a director’s concept, and actors. You build upwards always referencing the foundation (i.e. the text) off of which every decision is based.

Horizontal theater on the other hand treats every aspect of theater as equally important. Instead of building one on top of the other they come to fruition at the same time, with theater practitioners working together and influencing one another. Kaufman refers to these theater makers as “performance writers,” as they are all trying to create the performance as opposed to being assigned to specific roles like actor, writer, costumer, designer, or dramaturg. We all work together to write the performance.

Through out the process we are constantly keeping the end in mind. Our moments are not just words on the page but mini-performances that attempt to convey our message not just textually, but performatively.

In the upcoming week, we will be choosing the moments that we love the most and piecing them together (ordering them into a cohesive play) to write our performance.

Stay tuned to hear more about our process from our other performance writers!