Seriously though!

People like to talk about what they personally do: “I treat everyone the same.” “Sometimes it is entertainment for entertainment’s sake…” blah blah blah

I am sorry but there are a couple of things that you have to consider when you are an artist of any type. I do not care which side of the fence you are on as long as you have considered the following: (a) that as an artist  do you or do you not have a responsibility to support the principles for the kind of world you would like to live in? and (b) main stream or wide spread art (pop culture), does it or does it not depict the basic values of our society and do they or do they not have any sway in what those values can evolve into?

In my experience artists, the ones that you respect and support, tend to be intelligent with a sense of the world and a set of principles of their own. Whether or not they are stubborn, loose, or open about those principles is another issue. But! responsibility should not be beyond these people. And even if you are an artist that is against the establishment, against personal responsibility as a value, those are the kinds of messages that you are sending with your art and in that you are trying to sway your society to your point of view. This is not a negative thing. Art reflects, comments, and attempts to affect its surrounding society and that IS NOT A BAD THING! Entertainment for entertainment’s sake does not actually exist. No matter what sitcom you are watching you are watching a depiction of the values of that culture under a comedic, often ridiculing lens! Thought goes into the creation of those things! Even when escapism was a thing it was reflective of its culture, which was usually going through really difficult times. We do not like art (tv shows, movies, plays, books, cartoons) that are thrown together with no intent! It is not in our nature to like mindless things, at least that is the hope.

Let me know what you think? Am I wrong? Am I right? Am I off base completely? I had a very interesting/frustrating conversation with someone who refused to recognize the wider impact of things like sitcoms or trashy (yet best selling novels). Wide spread makes a difference. Art makes a difference. Should we be responsible for the difference it makes or no? Is it out of our hands? I am wondering?

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Figuring things out.

I am, by no means, new to the theatre scene. But I can never stop asking the question: “why the hell do I do this?”

We have all thought of the same things: to explore human nature; to be someone else for a while; for the thrill of performance…

It has never seemed enough. But at the same time it is an addiction. There is a real philsophy to theatre, you know? Laban says that theatre is a dialogue or a current between the stage and the audience – where the actors on stage are the active part of the circuit, feeding energy into the audience and in turn feeding off of their wonder.

But as a director I don’t get that. I live for the rehearsal. Some days I can explain it and other days I can’t. Sometimes it feels completely selfish, working towards this moment of unity, of inspiration, of brilliance with a group of equally inspired people, artists.

Creation…maybe that’s why.

Any opinions or profound ideas? The simple things? It’s different for everyone, right?

And so it begins…

We had our first meeting today. It was only an hour but I go the point across – the point of the project, the basic and beginning skills neccessary for the project, the needed commitment to the project. And then we played a little.

My main goal of the project is to study. I want to expand my understanding of the Viewpoints method and in order to do that (for me) I must do it. We started with the circle. The typical circle with soft focus, a collective breath, and then they must all begin walking at the same time. I, the director figure, cannot tell them when to go. THey must feel it for themselves. The group must come to the consensus that it is time to begin. There is not to be a leader, it must be an organic group decision.

It is always the same for every group that goes in initially. Beginning takes a long time becuase it is a new group, they do not know each other yet (at least they do not know the various energies in the group even if they are their closest friends). So everyone just stands in a circle and tries really hard to feel that impulse, to recieve the divine message that says “GO!” It did not come. But! What did happen was cool. There was a moment with the group all sort of stood up straighter, all of them leaning onto the balls of their feet, ready to go. The floor was creaking with their weight changed and slowly but surely they took that first step. It was not entirely in unison, but it was good for a first time. I did not have to stop them because of an obvious leader. No one was forcing it! That was the beautiful part. They were nervous, afraid of forcing it, but they knew that they were listening for something. We are still working on understanding what that something is.

While starting was hard, stopping was even harder. I had them do this exercise twice, with a different exercise in between, and it was the same both times: they were willing to walk until their feet fell off. No one was going to be the one to initiate the stop and they sure as hell could not trust the impulse to stop as a collective. I could see it on thir faces, this building frustration and terror. About 2 or 3 of them were terrified of doing it wrong (which in this case is really hard to do. Follow your impulse and try to listen and you’re good!). At least 1, possibly 2 others were more confidant in this arena. Both had worked with me before and one of them had done other projects of a similar nature. What was cool was watching the one who had done a lot of this before get very frustrated, knowing that she could lead the group so she could just stop, but also knowing that the group had the impulse and were ignoring it. This will be a point of focus next meeting.

We also played 2 down 3 up, which is an exercise which involves the group maintaining a certain status while, at the same time, the individuals within the group are making choices. The group must maintain 2 people crouching and 3 people standing. An individual is free to choose which one s/he wants to do or when they want to move into it. The lesson is dual: trust your impulses (becuase the tendency is to doubt yourself and change your choice because someone else beat you to it) and to trust your group (which most cannot do right off the bat). What we elarn is, that once the actors give over to the energy of the group they relax, they stop second guessing and the move smoothly through the exercise. The group will take care of me and I will take care of the group; I am me and us all at once. It was the beginning of this groups awareness.

We will be meeting again soon, I hope. And then we will really start to get into the Viewpoints one by one, building this group up!

I am very excited and very thankful that I still have room to play.

the Director-Actor relationship

I am a young director so my experience is with professor and young actors. Not to mention my fellow young directors. One of the main points of interest that was addressed in the directing class was the way to treat your actors. My professor would call actors sacred. That the director must nurture her actors. And though I believe that this is the case, I disagree with so many of the methods I have seen in action when dealing with young actors.

actors

Actors’ Changing Room
Pieter Codde

There are key phrases that I simply do not agree with: “Follow your impulses,” “Listen. You are not listening,” “Make a choice. But not that choice,” “acting is reacting,” etc. etc.

All of these phrases are true, but they are vastly over simplified. These phrases touch on fundamentals of theater that cannot, ultimately, be summed up in such throw-away phrases.

Every actor must be brought into the playworld of each process. It is the job of the director to do this. Tge director must introduce the actors into the type of work they will be working on. For me, I never enter into a project without goals of my own, outside of the goals of the play itself; I do want to tell a story, but my goals also include how I would like to tell that story. I start my rehearsal processes by establishing the environment of this particular world and of this particular process. I recently directed a production of “Life Under Water” by Richard Greenberg. This could very easily be a rather mimetic play. But I wanted to use this play as a spring board for exploring how to create atmosphere with the actors making sounds as well as thier physical responses to their surroundings. This was an experiement I personally wanted to conduct, using the play as a vehicle. This also gave me a very clear playworld with very specific physical needs. Bringing the actors into this world, I would ask them to walk about the space paying attention to their gait and their relation to the rehearsal hall floor. Then slowly we started to layer in the imagined surroundings: sand between the toes, wind blowing off the water, the glare of the sun. Then finally we would add in the presence of the ocean, and that changed all of their choices. This is important because with all the information the explored in their walk they had a tool box of responses and they were getting a sense of their surroundings. When the ocean was introduced they were immediately following their impulses that told them to gravitate towards this massive body of water, they soaked up the sun, they played in wharf… Without further instructions they were following impulses, making choices that were informed, within the playworld, completely acceptable, and at the same time completely free of directorial judgment, and therefore emotionally free. This process was imporant for the actors because it gave them permission to trust their impulses, as well as evidence that they are capable of good choices, and introduced them into the world in which they were living, which helps expediate the choice making process of rehearsal because they are not weeding through what is and what is not within this playworld.

I illustrate this to show that an actor must discover her impulses before she can be told to follow them. And a director instructing her to follow impulses or pay attention to them does not help to discover her capacity for those impulses. She must feel out and discover this fundamental for herself in order to fully understand and employ it. The same goes for “Reacting” and “Listening” notes that so often frustrate actors (and, in turn, directors).

Getting Ready

I am assembling the group now. I have over 7 people I think. I would like to have 10. Mostly women right now, and one man has said yes. I need to ask a few more people. I am in LOVE with the ensemble. When people truly come together there is something magical in the experience. The content of this group is paramount. I have to get people who are open and will not dig their heels in when asked to try or to trust the group. THe individual must both be alone and part of a whole at the same time. If a group member is resistent it is obvious and harmful. Assembling the right group is the first step.

The first meeting is the second.

My first time.

I am directing student. I am about to graduate from undergrad, but even then I will call myself a directing student.

life under water

I wanted to start a blog because I have ideas that I want to hash out. I have ideas that I want to share in a forum where others who have similar thoughts can see them. Maybe help me. I have ideas that need to be developed and nothing is better for that than the public forum of the internet…or so I have been told. I have never been one of those people who can share their every thought online. But maybe, sharing well thought out thoughts will be easier than putting every menial bit of babble that come to mind out in public.

I am starting a Viewpoints project this semester with a group of close friends that I worked with and experimented on in the past. If you do not know what the Viewpoints are then you should look them up. The Viewpoints as developed by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. I have been doing my best to study and practice this method for the past three years. It is a method based on ensemble work and awareness of space and body. Of course I am over simplifying it, but it is an amazing technique that brings about such honest work.

I am going to be recording the progress of this project here. As well as some other thoughts and questions. I really enjoy doing this kind of research, both academic and physical.

As a director, my artistic work within the theatre happens in rehearsal. I am not the start of the show, I do not lay myself out before a crowd. I do not get to engage in the dialogue between performer and audience. All I can do is find the story I would like to tell, the concepts and systems of human nature I would like to explore, and bring this world to my actors. My art does not lie in how I communicate with designers, or even the final look of the play. I am responsible for the concious and vivid work that is created between me and the actors. To me, the art of theatre is all in the process. The work is never done. And that is what I hope to accomplish here.

Truly,

MissSpentLife