SHAREBACK: Orange Theatre - Rubric for Conversations, Grid Score, and Robert Ashley Notation

2015 Fall Travel Grant Recipient

Orange Theatre (Phoenix, AZ) invited Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young of thingNY (New York, NY) to work with the seven members of their ensemble. Together they explored how a theatre company and musical ensemble and can create new work collaboratively. The two ensembles shared methodologies, tried new exercises, and collaboratively created material around the theme of maps.


Orange Theatre and thingNY participated in a weeklong workshop to share artistic practices. This shareback includes several recommendations based on what the companies learned through working together, a rubric for different types of conversations, and specific examples of two working tools: the Grid Score (a method for notating performance texts) and Robert Ashley Notation as applied to a hybrid music-theatre performance.

Rubric for Conversations, Grid Score, and Robert Ashley Notation


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Grid Score

The grid score is a tool we’ve developed over a number of projects that was particularly useful in collaborating across boundaries. It was derived from the scores used by The Wooster Group on some of their projects.6  In a grid score each performer, design discipline, and other relevant part of a production is given a column in a spreadsheet. Rows represent units of time so that as the reader descends through the score, they are advancing through time in the work. Defining the units of time will be unique to each production, but we have often divided it up by lines. Sometimes the lines are placed in the column of the person saying them, which is how we used it for these workshops.

Sometimes the lines are placed in the far left column and only the blocking is placed in the performer’s column, as below.

We find the great value in this way of working is that we are able to represent the temporal relationships between all the design elements, blocking and words as equal units. Contrast this to the typical way a stage manager notates blocking and cues in a script, where the lines are the primary means by which the rhythm is kept. We found this was a very useful tool for bridging the methodologies between a theater group and musical ensemble because the cells worked very much in the same way that measures work in a musical score.

Robert Ashley Notation

We explored a method for turning prose text into musical recitation that was developed by the experimental composer Robert Ashley. The method is deceptively simple and represents a small sample of the techniques developed by Ashley, but we found that it successfully bridged the art forms of theater and music. Given a piece of text, the composer, arranger, or performer will underline syllables that should fall on a steady beat. A beat of silence is notated by an asterisk. Below is an example of the notation used in our workshop.7

The ocean * * * Nautical maps * * * * * * Journeys * Displacement. Salt water. * Beginning * * * * * to think again * * to grasp * * * * * to connect * * * * * * * to put together * * * to remember * * * * * * * something dark and painful that * * may not be apparent * * * * on the surface.


6. Andrew Quick, The Wooster Group Work Book (New York: Routledge, 2007).
7. These are the last lines of the piece. Please refer to the video at to see how this notation is used in practice.


Robert Ashley
Performance of the piece for an invited audience


Orange Theatre
Twitter: @OrangeTheatreAZ
Instagram: orangetheatre

Twitter: @ensemblethingny

All photos: Jeff Young


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Monday, November 21, 2016

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