Monday, October 27, 2014

Ready for Realism

As I sit at the Tinderbox coffee shop above Paperchase, I reflect on my past week with Andrew in the Three Sisters and my free cappuccino. We have done some very interesting and enlightening exercises in order to explore our little scene at the end of act III. Thee improv sessions have been particularly expanding. We improvised the few moments before Masha's wedding to Kulygin, the leaving of Moscow as children, the first Christmas without the Prozorov patriarch (I especially liked this one. We each described the gifts we would give each other.), Natasha imploring Irna to move into Olga's room, and the day of Sophie's christening. We  even did a couple of avante-garde exercises as children and with interpretive dance. All of these gave each of us something new to play with and a deeper understanding of our relationship/history with each other as well as our own behavior/wants/needs/twitches/speech patterns. Very fascinating. It  all makes me hope that I will be able to get at least some of this type of exploration work and development in the real world. I know most of the time that it "isn't possible" because of "time constraints". Too many directors are worried about "blocking" a play, instead of creating a story and experience for the audience. In the relatively minimal amount of time last week spent on these explorations, I know my character better, my fellow characters better, my lines make sense and were easier to memorize, and I know I am conveying the story with more complexity with less effort. 

My next task for the upcoming week is finding a physical/psychological gesture for my character and really nailing down my obectives and subtextual wants for each beat of the scene. I also have to read some plays and continue looking for showcase material. Tonight were are going to the Arches for a new Page to Stage reading and tomorrow I have my second unarmed combat class. PUNCHES! BOOMTOWN! Wednesday night choir. Friday is the showing of our scenes. Gonna be a big week. Maybe I should get another coffee...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Birthday Party!!!

Our first birthday party of the year! AND it's both of our lovely Irish friends on the same day! Thaat deserves a delicious hot apple Dan pie!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Combat to Chekhov!

Monday marked our first first official day of rehearsal for our realism project. We are using scenes from Chekhov's Three Sisters. I am playing Andrew, the only brother of the girls, with Nicole Ubbelohde as Olga, Claire See as Masha, and Claire Winkleblack as Irina. Special guest appearances with Keith Warwick as the wretched Ferapont and Becky Ormond as the confused and loathsome Natasha.

In these first two days we have gotten through the first half of the scene. Monday's sessions and Tuesday morning's session was only the girls. Today, we finally got to Andrew's entrance which threw a nice wrench into the dynamic the girls had been creating. We have been doing some great base work going through wants/obstacles/subtextual wants beat by beat. It has also been nice to warm up together on top of some nice "family" discussions.
Today we even did a little improv. We made up a scene as if the siblings father's funeral had just ended. The first time there was some forced talking and some coaxed speeches. The second time through we tried doing the scene without speaking. It was very interesting. There were a few times when I felt like Andrew should speak, to break the tension, but then didn't. The levels of emotion, tension, and awkwardness/shock that were created between each character's relationship with each other was fascinating. I thought it gave me a lot deeper understanding of the family dynamic and Andrew himself. There was also a surprising amount of humor/light-heartedness during our little improvs. I took this as a good sign. It certainly felt like I was in a Chekhov play.

On Monday I taught my first of hopefully many stage combat classes in basic unarmed to the cohort. It went very well. Everyone seemed very engaged and they were mostly picking everything up fairly efficiently. It's always interesting for me as a teacher to lightly push the bounds and see how far into left field I can take students, especially on the first day when activities are relatively easy. This is my first teaching opportunity in a classroom with a full group of beginners since I finished my Dueling Arts International Teacher Training Workshop this past June. It's very exciting! I immediately felt at ease in front of the group leading warm ups (which I love and probably do to many of instead of start class). It has also been great for me to be able to incorporate elements from techniques and exercises we have been exposed to in the past few weeks as part of our training. Because many of them are similar to things I've done in the past I can put my Dan twist on them. We did some great partnering exercises and got through two kinds of pushing and shoving and everybody learned the basics behind a good 'ol fashioned proscenium slap. Next class will develop some more partnering skills and they will find themselves slapping and punching each other in different ways! Yeah! FUN!

Also on Monday night we took a nice field trip to see Ewan Downie's Company of Wolves devised work of Seven Hungers. It is definitely a bit of a stretch for the non theater person, but I found it fascinating. More than anything, I wanted to be in it and doing it. Digging in. Exploring the work. There were some really nice yet haunting a cappella songs sung in I believe what was Russian. On of the most jarring events was when they took turns being eaten by the others who had the demeanor of feral beasts/wolves.

The exploration of hunger as it relates to other wants including love and affection as well as actual hunger/bloodlust was really interesting. I was especially engaged during a scene where one of the men and one of the women tested each other out by tapping on each other's body parts using a live microphone. The place they got to when the microphone was sort of both on their teeth with them mouthing each side of the mic was quite funny and sweet and innocent. I love which innosense on stage. It is so unbelievably captivating. I think that's why I like mask work so much.

Well, here's to understanding more Chekhov this week.

Three Sisters In Time Of Strife

Thursday night a gaggle of us went to see John Byrnes adaptation of The Three Sisters at the Tron Theater. I thought it was in general, ok. I really didn't think the setting worked or the "adaptation" (which seemed more like just a translation with a scottish twist). I felt like I mostly enjoyed myself, but it didn't really like it. There were some really nice moments and in general the acting was good, great in some cases. The Irina character was certainly one of the strongest actors on stage. I really liked Masha and Kulygin. They had a unique dynamic and definitely solidified the time period of the '60s in style and behavior more so than really any element in the show. The Chebutykin character, played by the whimsical Sylvester McCoy, was fun to watch and added a nice bit of quirky comedy. 
I did think first half was very good. Unfortunately, the second half fell quite short of the emotional and cathartic journey I was hoping for. The adaptation also turned into an almost word for word translation. 
The cast of the Prozorov Family was also a lot older than the script suggests. It just seemed like there were some great ideas or at least potentially interesting ideas that weren't explored fully or fell flat because of the plays parameters. I stand by that I enjoyed myself and am glad I saw it.  

Friday was our last day of our three weeks of class work. I like to refer to them as performance techniques and skills work. We had a nice voice session with Melanie Drake in the morning. She explored with us how to transition our Nadine George technique into an individual practice. We also did a very surreal exercise with sound. Everyone stands in a circle with three people in the middle with their eyes closed. The circle starts voicing open tones at all different pitches and a leader indicates the circle silently walk in both directions at some point, raising volume and end tones together.
It is a haunting and surprisingly visual exercise. Some people saw colors. Some saw shapes. Some saw elements and weird random stuff. It was simple and cool.

Our afternoon session was the last movement class with Mark. We had a great exploration and discussion on what a warm up is and what it should do/consist of. Then we did a really nice session on some basic mask work. Mark has a beautiful collection of handmade leather masks that we got to use.  It's actually quite difficult to be a neutral human being exploring space and body. It is also very disconcerting to see yourself, or anyone else for that matter, without your face. The leather is just close enough to a vague yet real human face that it is more creepy than a less human mask. It's also hard to not add extra character or "act" with it. Classic acting problems... to just be (or not to be?)
Anyway, the best and most amazing exercise we did was one on awareness. We all lined up against one wall and as a group, ran as fast as we could to the other side, turned around, and tried to picture the displacement of space and air that we just ran through. It was the easiest and simplest way to get a group of actors to share the space and most importantly just be aware and engaged with the whole space. We became the ultimate greek chorus.

The weekend was very strange and yet still a lot of fun. I went to the matinee at the Citizens Theater of In Time of Strife which was fantastic. Live music, 90min, no intermission, emotive, heart-wrenching, and it was in a fairly extreme scottish brogue including a ton of scottish words I couldn't understand. However, we happened to be at one of the only performances that had sur-titles. SO helpful. 
The show was about the union strikes and had some of the most guttural, grounded, and gratifying use of dance and music I've seen on stage. Everything was so scottish. It was brilliant. Also, almost all of the actors were graduates from my school.
That night we had an impromptu dance party in the cinema room at Claire's apartment building. Then a handful of us were going to meet up with a few others at this club on the west end called The Garage. First of all, every step we took closer to the club took us further into the bowels of Satan. It was just the worst cesspool of people, which of course should have been a sign for us to go home or at least anywhere on the planet far from there. Stupidly, we kept going and got in the club with relative ease and it was surprisingly empty. Of course, twenty minutes later when the clock struck midnight, all the pubs closed and every group of douchebag guys and flock of skankerific girls descended upon the toilet bowl that was the garage. Again, we should have called it quits and just sucked up the 5 pounds we paid to get in. After, being pushed, slightly groped, live tweeting, having crappy alcoholic drinks being thrown over us, a couple of near-miss confrontations, and general hearing loss, we finally called it quits. Yuck... I hate clubs. Unfortunately, I needed a reminder to never go again, ever.

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill. Big two weeks of Chekhov ahead of us. and even some stage combat!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I am a bubble!!!

Today we had yet another interesting session concerning our research projects. It wasn't greatly helpful and I still feel mostly in the dark about this part of my degree as a whole, but I think, I think, I'm grasping little wisps here and there and forming ideas. Hopefully things will come into focus sometime soon and my path will be clear. At least until I change my mind completely.

Then, after lunch and a short meeting with the MA musical theater students discussing the "On The Verge" and "Cabaret"/"Creative Voice" Projects we had a movement class with Lucien Lindsay-MacDougall and Benedicte Seierup. Wow. What a joy to observe and learn from this amazing team. They had such a precise and "bubbly" repertoire with each other. They would nearly finish each other's... sandwiches.
They were so in tune with each other and the work they were exploring with us. They also were actively exploring WITH us. There were ways we did some of the exercises that they had never done like that before. It is so refreshing to see teachers who are constantly reinventing and discovering with their students, even though it was perfectly clear that they had done this work a million times before. They mostly work with the BA cohorts and didn't even get a chance to work with the CCT's last year. I am so grateful that we got to work with them. Their movement work mostly consists of using the natural world/elements/materials to find new ways of exploring the body and how to manipulate it. We played with the idea of being a stretched rubber band, a compressed piece of floral wrap that is expanding, a sugar cube dissolving in a glass of water, and the life of bubbles.
It was utterly fascinating to watch most of these items that I have seen many times throughout my life and yet today they seemed to have a soul, a sense of awareness, or some sort of life to them that really shouldn't be there. Also, watching others watch these things and hearing what it was like watching me do these things sort of blew my mind. (We are now midweek in the third week of our year and I think everyone is bit punch-drunk in one way or another.)

I particularly enjoyed watching the sugar cube dissolve and applying that to my body. It so desperately wanted to stay a cube.

The crumpled paper seemed to have the most life/journey. We all audibly gasped and awed at it's triumphs and struggle to get back to stasis. I found it the hardest to replicate by myself, but the tableau we created with the humanization of it was extremely intriguing.

The rubber band being stretched to the point of breaking and either retracting or actually breaking really hit home in regards to human relationships.

The bubble was the most fun to play with. From the being "born" to the frolicking and being effected by the wind or other objects including other bubbles, to the ultimately sad ignorant death.

Well, that seems like a good note to stop on. Back to my all night Chekhov session.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

For a hefty hefty Pooh.

It was a long day of class, but in the best possible way. He had our last session with Bill on voice today ;-( We did a ton of exploratory exercises with the Measure For Measure text we got. We discussed what each of the words/phrases meant in each line of text. It's always fascinating to me that there are so many different ways of looking at one word and how it relates to all the other individual words in a given speech. Shakespeare's play-on-words is fantastically astounding. How many ways can we say one word and also how can we say one word and be talking about/conjuring so many ideas/meanings.

We went through grammar and did several moving exercises focusing on that or just vowels/consonants. Then we explored a few of the billion ways to say the words including whispering it in someone's ear, finding the spectrum of two emotions and the transitions, speed, and even giving the speech as a museum tour guide. Every exploration gave a slightly different approach to the text in ways that worked for some, surprised some, and didn't work for others.

It's great. It's like going on a shopping spree! Now I have all these new shiny tools in my belt to use!

Speaking of which, our second session today was with Ewan Downie from Company of Wolves. He will be working with us on our ensemble project in a few weeks. The movement work we explored with him today was visceral, organic, internal while maintaining awareness, and makes me chortle at the fact that if some outsider walked into the room they would discover a bunch of people contorting around doing "theater bullshit" that we get ever so stereotyped for. Poor unfortunate souls... They'll just never know. (I particularly liked the "golden oil" exploration.)

I for one, love this work and CANNOT WAIT to do more with Ewan. And for that matter, Kate Sagovsky.

On Friday, we had the pleasure of working with Kate Sagovsky. Last years cohort had her at the Globe for movement and loved her so much that Mark decided to bring her in special to work with us. I can see why. She has this wonderful bubbly energy with a modern twang to her and is surprisingly young for being a major movement teacher/associate with the Globe, RSC, National Theater. Boy does she know her stuff though. It was apparent within the first few minutes of working that I was gonna like the session, but after the first 30 min, I realized that I was going to continue to use this work far down my career path. 
Kate started with a focus/awareness "game" along the same vain as ones I do a lot in stage combat warm up. As part of that we did one of the fastest and most painless name games I've ever seen. The rule of Bob was also instigated. The rule of Bob is simple, and yet...
If you can't think of someone's name on the spot just call them Bob. No questions asked. Own it. Furthermore, if the words you wants aren't at the tip of your tongue, Bob it. No apologies. No stutters. The rule of Bob is the simplest way to train yourself to just keep going. No matter what. The show must go on!
We continued our work by walking the space and expanding the "game" of focus and awareness. Every little detail Kate added made us better at the "game". By mid class, I could literally feel myself improving and at the same time, I was so focused on the task at hand that sometimes it didn't occur until we went back to the "game". She did some foreshadowing exercises that came around in the end for us to have something other than the "game" as well as another perspective on how the work affects us and/or the audience. By the time we started working on text ("To be" speech specifically) we had tuned into our bodies and in retrospect only then were we ready to explore how to explore. (Dat's deep...) 
The 360 degree body is an amazing thing. It especially made sense in context with the Globe stage, but I can't see myself turning back now that I've tasted the pie...
I can't wait to work with Kate again and hope that I retain and continue to grow with this knowledge. With great power comes great responsibility.

Back to Ewan:
After our animal transformation exercise, we did more of the ever popular walking-the-space. Trying to keep the empty spaces filled, my mind was reminded of the work we did with Kate. It's amazing the change it makes both physically and mentally. Ewan furthered this by giving us the 5 basic ways to use the space: standing, walking (journey of the foot, heel-toe), jogging (toe-heel), sprinting (foot pad/toes), and jumping. This made the "game" much more active. Then we did a pair at a time in the center of the room using the 5 moves. No speaking. Dropping the breath. Being aware. 
This was very intriguing. It was hard for some people to let the mood change and drop the breath. I was reminded of dogs interacting in the dog run. In particular, one of my dogs, Riley. Riley would do all 5 moves as he saw fit when the moment hit him, No inhibitions. Of course. Why would he? He's a dog. It is definitely how I felt when I was paired up. At times I would feel playful and other times unsure. Depending on what I got from my partner, I was really ready to play, intimidate, pounce, be aggressive, avoid, etc. at any given notice. 
Our last exercise was a lesson/exploration in rhythm and listening and breathing of course. We di several patterns of stomps in different times. It was a definitely a test of stamina and reminded me and in particularly my feet of my suzuki training. Uff-da!

After class Claire, Sophie and I went for a a quick drink at the Butterfly and the Pig. I finally found a good dark beer I like from Scotland! HUZZAH! So definitely a good day. :-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

busy day

Totally rockin' it today. Video editing, coffee, emailing, getting a Scottish bank account, Shakespeare scansion, Chekhov textual analysis, reading plays, program meeting and somewhere finding time to eat. Mmmnomnomnommmm...

Saturday, October 11, 2014


A group of us went to the Tramway Theater tonight to see a Vanishing Point production called Tomorrow. It. Was. Stunning.

Probably the most engaging, sad, immersive, heart-wrenching, simple, devastating, sweet, funny, guilty, haunting play I've seen in a long time. It was certainly one of the most unique theater experiences I've attended. Tomorrow dealt with alzheimer's disease. But it was so much more than that. It brought the audience into the mind and forced you into this sort of out of body experience. The atmosphere that was created was so chilling and alienating and yet when it got comforting and warm at times, I almost felt guilty and at the same time relieved. The superb use of fog and lights set the tone more masterfully than any stage production I've ever seen. 

It started out in darkness. Slowly, a wilting violin piece played and a piercing yet heavy and antique side light came up on people at a table prepping these extraordinary full head and shoulder masks. One by one the players came in took the masks gently and coldly off through the side doorways down stage. As the scene faded an old man bent at the waist shuffled in holding a bunch of flowers. It started snowing. He struggled around for a while. (It was a beautiful lesson in movement and patience with yourself.) He finally dropped the flowers just before a young, well-dressed man in a tie came jolting across the stage (on his way to the hospital where his wife was giving birth). We saw his reluctant decision to help the old man. The oldman crumpled and then started fighting the young man. He remained hunched over with his head between the young man's legs and would not let go of his knees. After waves of awkwardness, intesity, sympathy, and humor with in the struggle, he finally got the old man to sit on a chair (bench) down stage right. When he got a glimpse of the old man's face something in him stopped. and then he closed in and pulled out the old man's tie. This created a definite shift in energy. The young man backed away confused toward his previous destination. The lights subtly shifted and as the young man turned back the old man had vanished. (Seemless theater magic.) As the scene changed, the young man exited and re-entered to a "hospital" with a nurse and met a girl  he new and asked about his wife. He was invited to sit and the nurse came back with one of the old man masks from the start of the play. The following action was some of the most jarring/disturbing/alienating parts of the play. In short, the young man was forced into the old man mask and a change of clothes. He was now the the old man from his encounter and himself.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There were so many moments that hooked me. I especially liked the sequence shown in the above picture. The fog floated out into the audience. There were only three flashlights used all roaming and shining at the audience. I loved how there was the constant low banter from the nurses as a kind of reminder of location, but also ambient noise and really maintaining the only constant these victims had. As the lights wondered through the audience a figure would appear seemingly out of nowhere and the lights would focus slightly on the patient meandering through the dark haze and once again disappearing.

It was hard to laugh even though there were some very amusing lines and things the patients did. One man was drawing raunchy pictures. One man scooted along with a walker and could never catch a break. Someone always got to the chair he wanted just before he shuffled there and he never got picked in the nurse's game of if-you-had-to-shag-one.  One of the women was a balding former debutante who was obsessed with everyone else's hair. She was a good source of humor throughout. The male nurse would wear her wig and she'd slap him on the ass. He was also sort of a nice comic relief. At one point he started teaching the group some dance moves. "Pick the apple. Pick the apple. Put it in a pie. Put it in a pie. Sunshiiiiine and Raaaain."

I will certainly be thinking about this truly amazing theatrical experience for a long time. It was so poignant and real. It is also universally relatable because everyone knows someone who goes through some stage of alzheimers. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#brutallecoqbeating #hospitalselfie

So yesterday was fun and interesting.
We had a great morning voice session with Bill. He took us through a second Nadine George breathing routine. This one dealt more with the neck and shoulders and was in some ways more helpful to allow deep breathing. Then we did some more walking/breathing taking in the space. I really like this. It is a very internal exercise disguised as an external one. Plus we get to have a few good solid hugs. :-) We then did more voice exploration with the aid of the piano. All 3 guys, then all 8 or 9 girls. Working on the "deep female" ooo sound. Gotta love that male voice break!
We finished the session by getting some great individual work in front of the class with various greek speeches from The Oresteia. Wow. I forget how much I love chewing these words. Mmm... greek...

Movement: this is where things got interesting in a different way.
We started off with our normal Lecoq based stretching and warm up routines. We did a little more with the 7 Levels of Tension followed by a cool follow the leader school of fish exercise.
We then did some body undulation leading into a moving-the-air-through/across-the-room exercise. on the second or third time through our poor sweet Australian friend, Claire, twisted/dislocated/relocated her left knee midair next to me. Apparently she had previously dislocated that knee seven years ago. So needless to say, she went down like a ton o' bricks. We got her some first aid help and hobbled her outside the room. The class continued doing some walk imitations as per our assignment. I then left with Claire to help her to the Royal Glasgow Infirmary to get her checked out and x-rayed.

Despite the fairly extreme amount of pain she was in, we kept light of the situation and fluctuated between raunchy jokes and laughter and Claire internally and sometimes externally doubling over in pain. We were by far the happiest people at the hospital. Go figure. There was a guy who had a pretty severe face beating, a couple of sweet little girls who were surprisingly calm, and even a pair of cops with two guys handcuffed together. 
After sitting in the waiting room for a couple of hours, a nurse examined Claire and she got an x-ray. Seems like nothing was damaged. Just a major twerk of the knee cap. She be on pain killers and crutches the next weekish. We rounded out the evening with some well deserved pizza, G&T's and Haagen Daz. 

Seacrest out!

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Monday's mom has got it goin' on!"

Ooooooh, monday, monday, monday...

We had a short program meeting today. First off: Gabrielle finally made it! YEAH! Welcome, welcome, and thrice welcome! There was almost gonna be a #whenisgabriellecoming #whereisgabrielle #isshereal 
We then had a very diplomatic and clear once-around-the-room voicing our opinions and questions about the Critical Artistry Conference this past weekend. 
AND Mark announced our Renaissance productions for the year: an all female King Lear and Marlowe's Edward II. Should prove to be very interesting. I don't know Edward II much at all other than the National Theater in London did it a couple years ago. It will be exciting to work on some text from Shakespeare's contemporary. I do believe EII was in some way a response or inspiration for Shakespeare's Richard II. I also have heard about a rod hot poker going where the sun don't shine, so... that should be interesting.

Also, Claire and I filmed the first in a series of sketch videos pertaining to Jacques Lecoq's Seven Levels of Tension that we have been working on in movement class. Hold on to yer butts!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

WAW!!! WHAT A WEEK!!!!!!

Big first week of classes. First off, I'm having a unbelievably poignant, interesting, challenging, and good ol' fashioned fun time here in Glasgow.

We have only touched the surface of the vocal technique of Nadine George with Bill Wright, but I can't wait to explore more with him and see how he brings us out of our shells individually. I have already seen the inklings of this and am yearning for more.

Our other vocal asset at the RCS is Hillary Jones who has a special affinity for dialect work. She's working on a huge project at the moment that sounds extraordinary and I am very excited about the prospects of it being available to the theater community at large and that I might be able to be even a small part of it. Huzzah!

We also had our first full day of textual analysis with Eve Jamieson. We will eventually be doing our realism project by working with scenes from Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. For the class however, we are working with a scene from The Seagull. I admit that I will not be surprised to breakdown in front of that woman at some point this year and if not me, at least someone from our class. She is an amazing force of a woman and I am anxious to work with her more. Also, I think it will be a good challenging exercise to keep an open mind and go with the flow. Ah, textual analysis, you mistress of mysterious onus...

And then there was Mark.
Mark Saunders.
He deserves his own name line. Who has two thumbs and the best god damn program head ever? THIS GUY! I can already tell that working with Mark in the Lecoq school of movement is going to be one of the most enjoyable, fascinating, and growth inspiring things I will do this year. He is such a compelling and engaging teacher to learn about and from. I wish I could have seen him perform his clown work back in the day. His inclusive and collaborative style make it all the more enjoyable and comfortable to be open to the work.

After an exhaustive weekend filled with a conference on critical artistry, I am ready to get back in it this week and expand and explore and maybe explode if I don't get some sleep...

Good night!