Evaluation is an important and yet often frustrating experience for both students and staff. Perhaps one of the biggest difficulties lies in the fact that it is difficult to be objective and comment on your performance when you are so involved in the mechanics of devising and performing your piece.
A sound piece of advice is to keep a running diary which can be in note form as you go along, rather than making the mistake of leaving it until your final performance and then trying to remember what you did.
The two key issues to address are How and Why. Keep in mind as you are working what sort of problems you are facing, the solutions you are trying and the reasons for your final decision. It is also helpful to focus on a couple of key moments in detail rather than trying to cover the whole piece. At all costs you must avoid simply retelling the story. This is a clear signal to the examiner that you don't really know what to put so you run through the plot. Your teacher has seen your piece and so doesn't need to be reminded of what roles you played and be given a break down of each scene.
The introductory paragraph should explain what skills the piece demanded. Have you been given a particular focus ? The teacher may have explained that this is a piece of Documentary Theatre or Physical Theatre and you need to show that you have an understanding of the aim of the assessment. If you are not sure then ask!
The second paragraph should look at your thoughts and responses to the stimulus you were given. What did you think of the material when you were first given it? What immediate ideas sprang to mind? Once you were organised into groups, what was the first thing that you set about doing? What alternatives were suggested ? If you tried an idea and then rejected it, why? Once you had come up with your final idea, what were its advantages/possibilities? Avoid vague generalisations such as "we didn't like this option as it was too difficult". Try and give specific justification for the ideas and solutions you adopt.
The next few paragraphs which form the main body of the evaluation should show how the piece developed and demonstrate that you have knowledge of how to apply the skills and techniques in drama in order to create an effective piece of theatre. After each session, write down a few notes about any problems faced and how they were solved. Select three or so specific moments in the play in which you were involved and explain how you used voice, movement, staging, props, lighting, space, contrast, pause, emphasis, gesture, dramatic tension, status, motivation, visualisation, sound and or any other element of drama in order to create a particular moment of effect. Again the key is to avoid vague generalisations and to focus on detail, justifying your reasons as you do so.
Only give plot details where it becomes necessary to put your comments into perspective, for example:
It was important that the audience sense the tension between the two sisters which was as a result of their disagreement over who was to blame for the misunderstanding. When I first came into the room I stopped in shock at seeing my sister there. We decided that it would be more effective if my sister does not know I have entered at first. This allows the focus to be on me and the audience see my reaction to her presence and my indecision over whether I should walk out. In moving downstage I was able to command more focus and we moved the chair so that my sister was facing slightly upstage right. This also had the benefit of making her turn downstage to see me more dramatic.
The final section should cover your final performance. What issues did you face as you went up on stage? Were you ready? What worries did you have? Were these worries realised? How effective was your final performance? try and include feedback from your teacher and your fellow students. Never ever write, " I think it went quite well, at least no one seemed to notice the mistakes but I hope we can do better next time." Identify at least three positive aspects of your performance and two or three weak areas that you hope to improve upon in the future.
It may be useful to write your evaluation using a word processor so that you can redraft it and incorporate your teacher's suggestions easily. How long should it be? As long as a piece of string- in other words, as long as it needs to be in order to do the job properly!
There now follows a suggested vocabulary which may be used in oder to demonstrate understanding of key skills and techniques in Drama. Try and explain how they apply to your character or the structure of your piece.
Status - authority in the scene, can change according to what happens and can be held by objects as well as people.
Motivation - why your character behaves as they do, this can be either open or hidden to the audience/other characters but as an actor, you should be clear about your own character's motivation.
Attitude - how your character feels about an issue or another person, this may change during the course of a scene as information is revealed. How do you show the audience your attitude?
Purpose - what your character is trying to do in a scene. How does this affect what you decide your character will do?
Pause - a moments silence, what significance does this have?
Emphasis - making a word or phrase stand out, perhaps through using a particular tone of voice or a gesture. Why do you want to draw emphasis to this particular moment?
Staging - how you position yourself on stage in relation to the audience, the set and each other. Certain areas of the stage are stronger than others ie. downstage right over upstage left.
Blocking - how characters move on/off and around stage. Remember that you are trying to create effective visual images on stage. Sometimes the bloking can reflect the relationships of the characters ie. an isolated person is set aprt from the others or higher status characters are in a dominant position.
Giving focus - drawing the audience's attention to someone or something. How and why do you do this? An example might be to position the character who has an important line to deliver centre stage whilst everyone else looks at them.
Gesture - using hands or body to amplify meaning. Not just well known gestures but those that are particular to your character. Consider what they communicate about your characters feelings.
Dramatic Tension - the thing that interests the audience and draws them in ie. conflict, secrets, mystery, ceremony, intimacy, challenge. How are you structuring your drama in oder to develop them? How are they influenced by character?
Exposition - facts the audience need to know in order to make sense of what they see ie, who is who and what has just happened that the characters on stage are reacting to.
Function Of The Role - the reason your character is in the play, the purpose it serves in the overall plot ie, a love interest, a challenge to the central role, the means by which the others are shown to be false etc.
Lighting - blackouts, spots, fades. How were they used to divide scenes or focus attention ?
Sound Effects - which ones were used and why were they vital ?
Props - same as above.
Costume - key items to suggest your role.
Mood - the atmosphere of your scene- light, funny, ominous, warm , tense? How was this created ?
Language - the words your characters speaks, vocabulary, specialist terms or particular words that seem appropriate for the character to use.
Facial Expression - if you can't be specific, simply explain that you tried to look cross or hopeful etc at a particular moment and then explain why this was appropriate.
Tone Of Voice - use adjectives to describe it at key moments ie, sarcastic, gentle, questioning, helpless, determined and so on.
Pace - both of the scene and the way you speak. Slow, quick, steadily increasing. Again, what are you trying to let the audience know through varying the pace ?
Remember, it is only the first step to identify the skill or technique. You must go on to explain why you did this, what were you trying to communicate to the audience ? It is not necessary to cover every single aspect of your piece. As a guide, you should cover approx. three significant moments in which you were substantially involved in as much detail as you can.