Meave

Yesterday I sat down and cried out of envy of my sisters.

Both are younger than me and I am not very old to begin with. We are all artists. I am a theatre artist, a director and a painter. My first sister is a singer and a songwriter and a damn good ukulele player and my second sister is the most wonderful little dancer. We all share a common goal though, despite our spectrum of interests…

The best way to explain that goal is thusly: Meave, the youngest sister dances with a school that goes to competition. That is not its whole focus, but there are many girls in the school who look forward to it. Now, competition dancing is the farthest thing from art that there is and in a family full of artist this little fact does not, even for a second, escape our attention. But it was Meave’s fist competition and she is seeing all of these pieces that are put together for the sake of technique or thrown together to display one cheezy wow factor like an awful prop or costumes or ridiculous “message”. None of the dances were choreographed from any piece of soul or made to express any suffering, passion, love or despair. It was all purely for the sake of competition.

Riding home with my mother that night Meave was very upset – My mother was a dancer too, a ballerina and a modern dancer with the most amazing vision that it still makes me cry even though she hasn’t choreographed in years. She was trying to pull the reasons out of Meave, as one has to when dealing with my youngest sister. Meave slowly reveals that on top of her disappointment with the quality of work expected, she was talking to the other girls from her school and she asked them what they want to be when they grow up. Flippant answers like “I want to be a Rockette,” “I want to be a dance teacher.” And other such things with not much though behind it.

Meave was crying when she admitted “Mama, I want to change with world!”

With dance. Meave is 13 now, maybe 12 when she said this. She has found her passion and I have never seen anyone of any age work as hard as she does to achieve the things that she has. I believe in her ability so greatly, so much more than my own.

And yesterday she was at this amazing workshop and she was being acknowledged in front of the whole place and was being complimented and praised. And I sat there, 8 1/2 years older than she is, and I cried because I never thought I would be as good as she is and will be.

I felt disgustingly inadequate to be a part of my family. I immediately went out and began working on a play with my partner to feebly try to reassemble my ego.

That helped a little.

I can’t ever stop thinking about what I want to be. I will never stop reaching for it. I can’t. I shut down, lose focus and stop caring about my life when I stop trying. I lost meaning when I stop trying.

So why have I been so stagnant these past few months? I am waiting for my train to roll into the station. I am waiting for that door to open and a conductor to tell me to get my ass moving and get on the god damned train. I know that sounds lazy, like I can’t do it for myself. But I know – I know when It is time. It is so obvious to me. I just haven’t been trusting that. I need to go with my gut. The same gut that tells Meave what she wants out of her life and guides her into the next move.

I am biding my time. I am playing the long game. I just keep forgetting that.

Advertisements

What I want this Blog to Be

I think I might let the title stand “What I want to be…”

But the difference between what I think this means now and what I thought I meant when I made it vast.

I started this blog my senior year of college…and now I am no longer in college. I have discovered it is a lot harder to be what I want in the real world. So I think I am going to focus on how to be a real person and how to actually get to what I want to be…

Ultimately I want the same things, those things just aren’t as apparent and present in my life right now. Maybe I will find a way to those things again…and maybe I will find other things. I have just wanted the same thing for so long that I’m not sure I know how to want something else. I’ve had one idea of myself…I am very afraid that I am just not that person…But who knows.

Not me.

That’s the problem.

Kernel of Truth

We finally got the group back together and the process has begun.

Before we can get into any viewpoints inparticular we have to go through the warmups – and by warmups I mean Preliminary exercises.

First is Running Stretches, which is basically stretching – but the key to it is that the group must do it together. Moving through the steps and breathing together. The same with the 12 rotations of the Sun Salutations.

That’s right – 12 rotations. They must, as a group, go through a sun salutations phrase 12 times in a row in unison. Usually, if you really thought about it, it does not seem like it owuld be that hard. But it is and it was. They struggled a good bit. We only had 6 people today, but that did not make simultaneous movement any easier. At first, everyone was just trying to get the moves right. Then, slowly but surely, they were becoming more confident in the moves and were focusing outside of themselves, reaching out to the group. The pace was picking up and they were flowing, one move to the next. From 6 – about 9 rotations, they had it. They were together, they were reaching out to one another, and they were cocky about it. I could see in their body language, no matter how still it was – they were all like “Fuck yea! We are doin it!” ANd they felt good, which let them relax, which let them lose focus, which meant 11 and 12 were complete and total disaters!

But the lesson was absorbed. We learned that each person must maintain a split between focus on one’s own body and the group. If at any point someone got content in their downward dog stretch, they immediately fell behind and group starts to lag and get confused. And on the flip side – if one is so focused on watching the group they are not fully engaging in the stretch. When they don’t pay attention to their own stretch they cannot effectively flow with the group.

If we really break down this concept we get a really wonderful kernel of truth about theatre: One must maintain great focus on oneself and one’s own work while at the same time maintaining the same amount of focus on their surroundings and their group – without this balance the actor loses touch with their own work as well as with the world of which they are part.

I have had teachers call this dual conciousness – having an eye in the character and one eye in the world…but it does not exactly translate. This term does not always help an actor. BUT THE SUN SALUTATIONS! They demonstrate and demand this dual way of thinking. These are to be repeated at the top of every meeting.

We also did high jumps where everyone has to jump big at the same time. This got tricky and eventually I had to stop them altogether. Which is fine! This was an exercise in listening – truly listening and trusting and responding to the wants and needs of the group. What it revealed was that they could not simply stay still and listen to the group as well as their own impulses. We must draw them out of their heads.

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.

Previous Older Entries