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Solo Theatre Piece: Bossing HL Theatre

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Scroll down for Downloadable STP, Artaud, and Twilight Resources

Worth 35% of your IB Theatre grade, this task is the Higher Level only assessment task that requires you to create your own piece of theatre based on the theory of a respected theatre practitioner of your choosing.

I have been a senior examiner of the Solo Theatre Piece, or STP, since this task launched, and with marking students in both May and November sessions, have seen somewhere in the region of 3,600 students' videos and reports! I am part of the standardisation team too, helping guide examiners through marking this task. All of this means I have very clear ideas about what does well at this task, and on the other hand, have very established frustrations at the common ruts that teachers and students fall into.

I do travel into schools all over the world to provide workshops for both students and teachers on this task - both through ISTA (International Schools Theatre Association) twilights and TaPS, and through direct contact with schools and teachers. I'd be happy to discuss this for your school, but if your budget or calendar doesn't allow this, here are my top tips:

Choosing a Theorist

Let me be blunt. Stay away from Stanislavski and his followers. Yes, I have (very occasionally) marked students who have chosen Adler, Meisner, Strasberg or Stan, amongst others, and done reasonably well (including at least one Level 7 piece) - but choosing a proponent of naturalism is setting you up for a really hard task. This extends to Chekhov too. The problem is that theorists whose theory is psychological (i.e. Magic If, Emotional Recall etc), rehearsal based (this extends to Spolin et al too), text-based (i.e. Units and Objectives) or otherwise invisible, cannot be seen in the video, and thus cannot be marked as effective, appropriate, or even underdeveloped. Most of what naturalism is about is internal, psychological process that we simply cannot see - by its very design the audience is only supposed to see the end product of believable acting. Examiners are told that they are not to mark acting ability, as the criteria does not include this, so a subjectively excellent piece of acting is not going to pick up marks for C1 - the application of aspect to meet intentions. This is changing a little in the next version of the course. Some candidates choose writers and similarly struggle to pick up marks for the same reasons.

Selecting Your Aspect(s)

You must be super clear on this in your report. So many students do not state what their aspect is, and so we examiners don't know what to look for in the video - thus it can't pick up marks for C1. Many other students go to the other extreme and choose too many aspects, and therefore are unable to go into detail about all within the word limit, or apply them all effectively in the video. I use an analogy of a pizza.

STP IB Theatre Pizza Analogy - by Kieran Burgess
Choosing an aspect for your STP is like pulling a slice of pizza off the whole: you should try to take only one slice, but sometimes you can't help but pull bits of the toppings (bits of other aspects) from around.

The IB allow you to take as many aspects as you like, but just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Practical Explorations

Please, and I can't emphasise this enough, don't use your report's Section B to simply tell us what your final piece will look like. That's what the video of your performance is for. Even justifying these final appearances, characters, and actions doesn't score by itself. Also, including your script is mostly unhelpful as it just eats up your word limit and doesn't score.

Practical explorations must use body, voice, space, objects, and/or production elements as relevant to your theory and aspect. Tell your examiner about at least 3 of these, including explaining why you selected each, and how they formed or changed your artistic intention.

Mind maps don't score, neither does watching Youtube. However, these can be useful in helping us understand your thought process.

If these free resource have saved you some time and you want to show a gesture of thanks, I'd be so grateful for any small amount you wish to give!

Intentions for the Piece

This, in my opinion is the biggest cause for disappointing marks in the STP. If you are not clear about your intentions, you will fail to score in criterion B (how intentions were formed by your practical explorations into the aspect), criterion C (how effective your application of aspects is in meeting your stated intentions) and criterion D (the extent to which you meet your intentions). Almost half the marks can be thrown away here, which could be the difference between a level 7 and a level 4.

These should be your artistic intentions for your piece of theatre, not learning intentions for your project. The difference is, ask yourself "What do I want my audience to think, feel or take action on?" or "What theme or event do I want to present or interrogate?" as opposed to "What theory do I want to get a better understanding of?"

Your performance and feedback

Filming of this is crucial. Too often I see videos that are filmed too far away, so we can't see the face or hear the voice. It is important to rehearse the filming too, so your camera operator can experiment with different positions and ensure she or he can move in anticipation of your movements. You must review the rehearsed video and make changes if audio or images are not clear.

Ask your audience only 2 or 3 open questions about how they felt, what messages they read, or their understanding of a character's actions for example. Let them do the talking - you don't have to explain your intentions to them, and this will likely quieten them down if they feel they read it differently. You do not need to lead them to tell you what you want to hear - it does not affect your mark if you intended one thing but they failed to see it or read another intention entirely. In fact, having different interpretations from your audience can make it easier to write your evaluation! If you don't consider your performance's limitations as well as its strengths, you can't score top band.

Reflecting on your Learning

Remember to reflect on how your practice as a theatre maker has been impacted by this whole process of learning. What do you think you would do differently with your body, voice, use of space or objects, or your design of production elements now? Is there another project during your course that you wish you could go back and do differently now you understand something differently? It is not enough to simply reflect on how you now have a new-found appreciation for time management, or how you are now a better person.

A Note on Images

I encourage you to use images to better describe a practical exploration, or a moment in your performance that you wish to evaluate on. If you use such images, annotate them to clearly show how the image is relevant (and of course you must cite the source of each, even if you created the image yourself).

Some students have, in the past, used images as a way to circumvent the word limit. Let it be known now - as it has been through the guide and subject report already, that this is not allowed. Examiners will disregard any images with text within, meaning that whole sections can sometimes be awarded zero if all the scoring text sits inside an image (typed or handwritten are both treated the same).

Please make sure that anything you want to be marked, is included in the main body of the report, and not as images or appendices, which cannot be awarded marks.

In addition to my resources below, you MUST read the official IB Theatre guide section for each task (make sure you are on the right version if you Google it) and the current criteria.

Have any questions about the STP? Have other tips you want to give? Let me know!

If these free resource have saved you some time and you want to show a gesture of thanks, I'd be so grateful for any small amount you wish to give!

Downloadable STP Resources

Please feel free to share within your school/circle of colleagues, but please do not remove my credit as author.

Go here first. This document gives you an overview of the whole process, from choosing a theorist to collecting audience response and writing your report. Key requirements and tips are included, as well as a suggested structure and headings for the 3,000 word written report.

Used in Kieran Burgess' TaPS ensemble in the La Llorona Llora activity. Simplified conventions list for Brecht, Artaud, and Grotowski.

An editable spreadsheet for teachers and students, with Initial Discovery questions to prompt reflection on the suitability and plan for starting the STP. Includes a detailed example. Can be adapted for a class of any size.

A list of possible STP theorists - not an exhaustive list, neither are all theorists recommended, but it is a starting point for students and less experienced teachers.

The narrative used in Kieran's Artaud practical exploration workshop, on the growing virus cell inside you.

A list of possible aspects for use in the STP Twilight workshops and Artaud TaPS workshops led by Kieran.

Used in the STP Twilight workshops and Artaud TaPS workshops led by Kieran. Contemporary account of Artaud's performance lecture on "Theatre and The Plague".

Used in the STP Twilight workshops and Artaud TaPS workshops led by Kieran.

An extensive summary list of relevant quotes from source material about Artaud, used in the STP Twilight workshops and Artaud TaPS workshops led by Kieran. Leads into the activity on defining contexts and aspects.

One page flowchart of how to progress from start to end of the whole STP process, with criteria links.

The companion workbook to the practical STP Twilight session (e.g. Bangkok 2018, Geneva 2019).

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