The SQM Process

Flexible Blocking

The Queen's Men were a touring company and it is highly unlikely that they travelled with a portable stage. At some venues their hosts would mount a stage for them, perhaps in the council chamber of a town hall, or in the yard of an inn, but they could not rely on such a structure being built in every venue. The company did not have control over the spaces in which they performed and the size of their income depended on their ability to play as often as possible. They therefore needed to adapt their staging to a variety of performance conditions.

The two basic stage configurations used in the SQM project were designed to test the adaptability of our company. In addition, on our short tour the company had to perform without any kind of stage in a variety of venues. From the outset of rehearsals, the company knew that their blocking had to be adaptable. Rather than finalizing blocking through the rehearsal process we tried to develop blocking protocols that would work for different spaces. Were there basic staging principles that could be applied to any space and stage configuration? Was there a standard style of blocking we could use for court scenes? Did we need different blocking protocols for our two basic stages?

The company's response to these challenges was one of the more fascinating elements of the production. Anticipating the difficulties they would face, the director established a basic blocking protocol for all the plays: actors entered stage left and exited stage right. The consequence of this decision was that the company could only play if they had a performance space that was accessible from two different directions and if the two entrance/exit ways were accessible to each other. If those conditions were present then the SQM company could perform their plays anywhere.

The actors found this element of the experiment challenging for a variety of reasons and their responses shed light on some important differences between modern and Elizabethan stage practice.

Videos

Paul Hopkins Paul Hopkins describes the process of discovery and talks about the basic principles established in the experiment. Watch the Video.
Paul Hopkins Paul Hopkins describes how the difficulty in adapting to different spaces depended on the nature of the scenes. Watch the Video.
Derek Genova Derek Genova talks about the way the SQM blocking experiment forced him to adapt his own process and made memorization of the text more difficult. Watch the Video.
Peter Higginson Peter Higginson describes how the SQM company's approach to blocking involved "planning for uncertainty." Watch the Video.
Scott Clarkson Scott Clarkson describes the spontaneous nature of company blocking as they moved from space to space. Watch the Video.
David Kynaston David Kynaston tells us why he found the SQM blocking unsatisfactory in comparison to modern stage blocking. Watch the Video.
David Kynaston David Kynaston says that adapting to different spaces was not an issue for him as an actor, but as fight captain it presented serious challenges. Watch the Video.