Sunday, July 24, 2011


Where have the last three days gone?!? This week has completely FLOWN by! I have a lot to cover, so let's get started!

This week's Daily Practice was all about the Ensemble and how the ensemble warms up. We began in 1st circle and just moved our bodies. We worked our way up to noticing others around us, then responding to them. As we walked around the space, together we had to find the rhythm of our walking. This became a 1,2,3 with the emphasis on the 1. The emphasis then shifted to the 2. We were instructed to move our entire body in anyway we wanted, fast or slow, to play with stillness, but to maintain the 1,2,3. It was pretty moving to hear and feel everyone in the space moving to the same rhythm. Breath and voice were also utilized. 

We then moved onto a Chekov exercise called legato-stegato (sp?)...meaning slow and fast. We were to as an ensemble, throw our energy with our bodies to the right, left, up, down, forward, backward, repeat. The legato was a slow throw and a slow retract where the stegato was a fast throw and a fast retract. We did each twice through. By the end of the exercise I could really feel a rush of energy fly past me as those around me were throwing it. It was really powerful and cool. I admit, I didn't know if I would be able to get into it, but I just let my mind be open and I really did feel it. It was so amazing.

This week is all about our devised piece. We still have Daily Practice in the morning, but all the other time is dedicated to creating and rehearsing our piece. And we use every minute of it!  Our new project's theme is: Arrivals and Departures (via the Lecoq pedagogy, this is a melodrama theme). Our work is to be a told in 5 minutes. The core of our "play making" at Dell'Arte rests on Character, Situation, Circumstance. Carlo stated in his article that HOW is a character. We are to explore rhythm, pace-timing, interruption, goals etc. We are to take nothing for granted, not even how the foot rests on the ground. Basically, we have our work cut out for us this week. Ronlin said that we are to be a chemistry lab, to mix things up and see if they blow up. To investigate. He also said that they were going to try to confuse us a lot so we would come to know our own point of view. (I am in love with that...after he said this, the past three weeks totally clicked)

We were given three hours to come up with a proposal. My group brainstormed for the majority of the time.


Our ideas included: 
Something from Poe, something from kafka, and ordinary guy having a convo with death, something with a train station, a local man from Blue Lake's story (next time you see me, ask me about is truly amazing!), or stuff that could happen in a real five minute time span i.e. finding something that was lost, losing something, finding a lost child.

We then broke down each thing and picked out the essence of each one to see what about them we were drawn to. We realized we liked the darker and more tragic stories. We revisited our original idea of Poe. We read a number of his short stories: Berenice, Facts and the Case of M. Valdemar, The Imp of the Perverse, The Old Portrait, The Tell-Tale Heart. We discovered that in each of his stories, there were Poe's archetypes: Obsessive male, Authority figure who passed judgement, female victim, servent, investigator/reporter/doctor,  and the conscience. We decided to do our version of The Tell-Tale Heart titled Beat.


During the proposal, Ronlin and Joan said they were going to try to confuse us so we would come to know our point of view. And confuse us they did. Here are some words of advice they gave to our our group as well as some others:

* How one can reflect on the myth and have the present be the central focus. (the majority of the groups were planning on doing adaptations of myths or short stories)
* Frame piece as an arrival or departure or one leading to another.
*Move scope to focus on specific.
*Be sure NOT to represent story, but SHOW action.
*What is the significant arrival or departure.
*Work forward from the most essential
*BOOK TO READ: Chaos Theory
*OPERA TO WATCH: Nixon in China
*be specific NOT Explicit. The more specific we are the more outcomes can be implied or suggested.
*We can create myths of our own time in how we give concrete forms varieties.
*If you move into the core of the piece, it unfolds into infinity. Write as if going into a sphere.
*If you get taken by embellishments, it becomes mush and you lose the essential.
*Specificity is not to go toward realism/naturalism, but authenticity.
* To choose is not to abandon, but how to move from one place to the next.
*It is a bumpy road to irony.
* Character-Situation-Circumstance, in that order
*Don't discount the use of nothing.

ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NOTE: TODAY WAS MY BIRTHDAY! My Dell'Arte family made it the BEST birthday i have ever had. Despite the long and frustrating day we had in working on our devised pieces and the cold rainy day, they threw a lovely party for me! My group went to a couple grocery stores to get ice cream and cookies. We all met at one of my classmates apartments and had an ice cream social. Everyone came. It was a great fun hanging out with EVERYONE outside of class. But, of course, where there is a large amounts of sugar and music, there is a DANCE PARTY! We ended the night watching Ronlin's favorite movies, one that he constantly alludes to: The Matrix. For my birthday gift, i received a new journal that everyone had written in. I am so incredibly grateful for having met this amazing group of people. Who knew that a mere three weeks ago, we had not known that each other even existed, and now i feel closer to them than most people. My heart explodes with love whenever I think about you guys!

 you all make my heart do flips of joy!


Today began with Daily Practice, as usual. Today was all about feeling each other's energy within the group. We walked around the space. As instructed, we had to find someone else's back with our back. We then had to massage each other's back by just moving around. Then we had to leave with purpose. Next, we had to connect arms with someone by just following their energy. Then we had to leave with purpose, then a lingering leave. Finally we had to find a hand. We would leave the hand and then return. Leave and return. Joan planted the question: what makes you not want to leave? With that in mind we repeated the exercise. Our last exercise was walking. We walked in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd circle. We would mix and match the circles with stops and goes. For example: we would walk in 1st, stop in 3rd, walk in 2nd, stop in 1st. etc. We observed one another and paid special attention to the energy shift when the circle would change. 

Because this week is dedicated to our devised project, Nicholette talked to us about her thesis which was about working in an ensemble to create a devised work. The time frame her group had was 8 weeks, 6 for rehearsals, 2 for performances. They began by all reading the story they were centering their piece on (Flannery O'Conner's Good Country People). They all brought in images, props and costume pieces to rehearsals. These lived in the space they worked in everyday. This helped them because they were constantly living in the world of their piece. They wanted to explore Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty and the violence he suggests: making bold strikes into the space and what emerges from it. They also wanted to see how expansion is found through strict restrictions, how to find the comedy of it. And finally, dynamic relationships-transcentance between all aspects. 

What if theatre is really alive? What is the responsibility of the theatre makers to take care of it? How do we keep it breathing, but know it has a life of it's own?

They began their month with three weeks of uncensored play.They video taped everything. They also tried every proposal other group members had. In the third week, they brought in the audience into rehearsals. The audience was able to give them feedback and suggestions. In the fourth week, they documented everything from their video footage. From this they had over 60 characters which they shaved down to 4 for their final piece. They also wrote down key themes and lines that came out of the three weeks.

"It's not what you care about, it's about what the piece needs". She stressed that we have to understand that there is a thing out there that we have to channels, it speaks through us...we just have to channel it. The character exists outside of all of us. All together we have to find the character, the mind has to click out to allow the character to come through.  In working with a group, she believes that no one should have to compromise, but have to know when to stop to deal with a problem and when it can be dealt with later. Also that you have to continuously deal check your ego so you know when it is coming through and how to let it go to serve the work. 

This talk was so inspirational for this week. It was just what we needed to be able to keep going forward with our piece.

My group continued to work on our piece. We began every rehearsal with a check in. We would all stand in a circle with our arms around each other and just say how we were feeling, any concerns we had, stuff weighing on our minds etc. We ended it with a group hug. It was really amazing how this pretty cheesy ritual really helped to ground us and got us through some sticky moments. It is definitely a ritual I am going to carry on with me. 

Here are some of the key points we came up with for our piece: 
* The killer killed their victim so he/she could totally control them, but in death the heartbeat is controlling the killer. 
* We wanted to zero in on the passage to the killer's breaking point.
*The Beat is controlling him.
* The friends come out of concern because their phone calls have gone unanswered. 
* The dialogue they have is minimal: We called, You didn't asnwer, Are you ok? (For example). These will be in 3/3 while the beat is in 4/4. The killer moves and responds with the beat. Finally the dialogue moves to the killer's mind and  is just "Are you ok?"

We staged the piece so the hallway could be playing space. We also set up flats so the space was totally enclosed and the audience would be close to the playing space. We liked that they were close because the killer feels the world closing in on him and the audience would get the same feel. We also wanted them to walk down the hallway into his "house" and before the piece started, the killer would already be in action. We rehearsed late into the night. We took turns watching the piece and doing the 'Beat". By the end of the night, we were all paranoid. We were jumping at every little sound. We all nearly screamed when we heard another group walking toward the room  and upon entering turned on the lights. Our piece felt totally alive and it was scaring us. We filmed the last run of our piece which is still EXTREMELY ROUGH. We were still playing with things and not completely worked or set in stone. This run was also the first time we set someone in the box. This run was the first and only time we screamed. It was a totally authentic scream because seeing a body in there was TERRIFYING!

Please see next blog for the full process of our piece: Beat.


Today was our critique day. After only a day of prep, we had to show our rough drafts to the class and teachers. Here are some notes given to the other groups as well as us.

*Good farce is extremely clear. The simplest thing is the best. Make desire simple and breathe more. 
*Different between archetype (which is good) and caricatures (which is bad) is the mannerism you produce. Take time to define desires of archetype, felshed out with genuine physical truth. It becomes caricature when it rests on the mannerism. 
*Intentional changes-shifts in tempo and space.
*Can tolerate weirdness if there are clear characters.
*Life is a series of interruptions. Character is how people respond to interruptions. 
*The default of playing children is that we use "play" as a way of not engaging in story. Decide what the opjective is. Select who you are what what your job in the progression of the story is. 

Later that evening Ronlin had a final colloquium with us. Here are some notes from that:

*Work comes out of a person. Development of one to know oneself.
*Physical self discovery in process of engaging others. 
*BOOK: Out of Martha's House
*We need courage to be vulnerable. To step out onto the stage into the mouth of a wolf. 
*Work demands you must do more than see -> feel and do -> taste.
*Physical contact through all the senses.
*Work of the poet is one that you ahve to listen for-work , expecting to play and be engaged. 
*Be consistant in your determination.
* The effort you put in is not for a particular piece, but for the experience. 
*BOOK: The Naturel way to draw
*BOOK: The Art Spirit
*Invent technique to fit your need. 
* Use raw material each time to twist into shape. 
*Rather than using a stock of techniques, each time, create a new technique to fit your need...just like a snake doesn't crawl into another snake's skin. 
*Find the technique that fits my compelling. FROM THE CENTER OF MY OWN JOY. 
* Be as strong as possible in the making-out of it comes art. 
*BOOK: Flannery O'Conner's: Nature and tha aim of fiction. 
*Naturalism: detail because it is natural, not because it is the world we are in. 
*Art: Truthfullness of the essential. It is essential because it creates movement. 
*Simple images accumulate importance. 
*Only when artist is fed up or desperately seeking divine help, will inspiration come. 
* With inspiration, ditch everything and take a leap. 
*Sublimation: Inspiration, the step that is missing, mystery, spirit of man
*Fiction: reader has a sense that it is unfolding around him. Is presented rather than reported. You are the piece. 
*Demonstrate something that you cannot be done in any other way
*The more you look at an object the more you see within it. 
*BOOK: Mystery and manners. Nature of Fiction in Writing. 

The colloquium finished. We all were pretty inspired, as per usual when we finish up our talks with Ronlin. He then said to meet back in an hour to watch one of his favorite movies: Kung Fu Hustle. A movie which contains very clear story telling, and very clear characters, including commedia, clowns and clear and specific archetypes. We all came back and he had brought beer, soda and was busy popping a ton of popcorn. It was incredibly heart warming. I love how the professors here are willing to be up til close to midnight watching a movie and providing beverages and snacks for their students. The level of love and care they give to their students is amazing. I know this is the place I need to be. 

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