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Somebody's Watching Me: R&D Day Two. Thursday 29th June 2017

Day Two of my R&D UNLIMITED Commissioned Project: Somebody's Watching Me began at 10am.

Present in today's session were: Claire Marshall (mac Birmingham), Rachael Veazey (Deaf Explorer), Ariel Fung (International Collaborator), Benji Reid (Dramaturge), Tina Barnes (Writer), Adam Rutherford (Assistant Choreographer), Amanda Wright (Dance Access Worker), Shezad Nawab MBE (ASL Interpreter), and myself.


Starting off we had a brief recap on yesterday's session, followed by a plan to figure out our 'starting point'. We explored the following areas:

- World of Deafness

- Key Areas (sign language, dance, contact improvisation, non-verbal communication)

We began brainstorming ideas as we needed a focus to anchor our play. This 'anchor' had to come from myself and Ariel as the two main characters in the story. We discussed the importance of light and shade in the story, as the subject matter is very dark, so we could afford to include elements of humour to it.

So by the end of the morning we had explored the following ideas: Loneliness, Oppression Frustration, and Cochlear Implants.



After lunch, we came back to the studio to begin a new plan of action lead by Benji Reid. After a warm up exercise, we started on the following exercises:

- Speech Therapy

- Loneliness

- Teaching the alphabet in sign language

- showing of our stories using sign language, mime, acting, and dance.

The Speech Therapy exercise was decided by Benji as a way to bring out the frustration from myself and Ariel. It was specifically the speech therapy exercise for us as Deaf individuals. He focused on us one by one, first Ariel and then myself. Ariel going first, she sat facing directly to Benji, and he would ask her to speak the tongue twister:

'Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers'

And each time she attempted to say it, Benji would tell her:

"NO! Say it again!"

And she would repeat it, and Benji would tell her to repeat it again. And each time she express more and more frustration and anger. The aim was to raise the level of tension so that she would eventually be shouting and standing on her feet, walking around angrily even. And then Ariel swapped with myself and the whole exercise was repeated again.

We all learned from this exercise the real struggles that Deaf people go through - the exercise itself happens in real life for many Deaf people who go through speech therapy sessions, whether voluntarily or compulsory. It was uneasy to watch for everyone.

What I learned from this exercise is that I needed to be more confident to express my feelings, because I felt I was holding back a lot. It also really pushed me out of my comfort zone. This was my first experience of vocal acting, and it taught me a lot. For both myself and Ariel, we learned the importance of staying in character the WHOLE time too. As it was our first time, there was some awkwardness and we sometimes smiled or stifled a laugh as we attempted to express anger. So it was an important lesson we learned - to always be serious when acting.

I realised how important it was that I worked on my acting as much as my dancing in this project, because the show will of course combine the elements of dance, mime, acting, and sign language.


By the way..

You can find out more about Billy, his company Def Motion, and Deaf-related news by following him on twitter: @DefMotion

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