never fight a clown...

Monday, August 21, 2017

versatility & adaptability

The Emptiness Compass I have been referring to in some previous newsletter is comprised of 12 paired words. These paired words when used together are designed to help keep a participants and students focused on an exercise / task at hand to ensure they are remaining in process rather than a product or outcome driven mode. My musings for this week’s newsletter bring me to one set of those paired words: Versatility and Adaptability So, what do I mean by these words and what am I hoping a participant will gain by focusing on these two words?
These words have been a strong part of my life and indirectly my career. They are a reflection of my upbringing. From my first years at school I was, or rather my family was always moving from town to town. In fact, by the age of thirteen I had been to seven schools, and on one occasion I had returned to the same school on three times.
By the completion of my school years I had attended nine schools. The shortest length of time I spent at one school was six weeks. In the early years of my life my father was an advisory teacher (in the early 70’s) which meant - wherever he went... we all went! Not until the age of about 14 did my family finally stop in the one location and I was able to finish my education with some consistency.
My early years in life are ones of constant change. So in order to fit in quickly and smoothly I had to become versatile and adaptable. In recent years, I have come to realise that these early days of my development informed my approach to life and career. That is to say that I have subconsciously always sort to become adaptable and versatile at tackling my career and obstacles as they arise in my life. I believed it was important to understand these two elements of my ‘make-up’, versatility and adaptability; as it has informed my development as well as fuelled my curiosity towards every aspect of my performance career.
So how have these words informed my movement work to be more specific and why are they in my ‘emptiness compass’?
In simple terms we can strive to maintain consistency with any given choreography or movement sequence we are presented with and or have to perform in a repeated fashion. But regardless of rehearsals or the performance of any sequence the reality is that no matter how hard we try there are micro and macro differences happening and or going to happen.
Our bodies are no robots. We need to be open to the small shifts and big shifts that will inevitably happen. These shifts could be conscious, unconscious or by accident. They could be in the form of incorrect body placement, prop failure or the environment around us undermining us! These shifts could be; for example as a simply be a hand being placed palm up or palm down through to larger scale shifts happening; for example where a sword breaks. Either way if we are not adaptable or versatile in our training we will certainly not be in performance mode when things go ‘wrong’.
Maybe if we can train in a way that reflects the real world outcomes which allows for mistakes or differences to occur then maybe we are less likely to be thrown when it happens in performance. Just a thought...

Friday, August 11, 2017

empathy & harmony

The Emptiness Compass I use when navigating a participant’s journey is comprised of a series of paired words. The 12 paired words when used together are designed to help keep a participant focused on an exercise / task at hand to ensure they are remaining in process rather than product. My musings for this week’s newsletter bring me to one set of those paired words: empathy and harmony.

So, what do I mean by these words and what am I hoping a participant will gain by focusing on these two words?

Empathy. Let’s just check in with the definition as per the Oxford dictionary: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I have always been struck by a lack of empathy sometimes displayed by actors. By that I mean their lack of awareness of what their scene partner/s may or might be going through.

So, I started to generate a more formal and overt focus on ‘the other’ in my work. Trying to get the actor to think more about what are the obstacles faced by my partner or fellow actor while navigating choreography or a movement sequence. For example, an actor could ask themselves while pushing another actor to the floor: ‘how is this fellow actor dealing with wearing high heels and a long-complicated period dress as the try to fall?’

By simply framing a question like that: ‘how is my fellow actor dealing with x?’ Hopefully a stronger sense of empathy can be practised and then by developing that empathy an actor can feed into how they can better serve a fellow actor’s physical journey. With a desired outcome that creates better cohesion and therefore better physical storytelling.

Harmony. The Oxford gives us couple of meanings which are helpful: The quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole. The state of being in agreement or concord. Like empathy my reason for investing in this word was driven by noticing a lack of harmony in a lot of work I have seen over the years. Not always but often I see actors in their own head. I may have remembered this incorrectly but I seem to remember in Uta Hagen’s book (maybe Respect for Acting forgive me my books are in storage), she made mention that a lot of young actors often when first reading a play will usually just look for their part. Rather than the whole story.

What I took away from that in my early days as an actor was the lack of seeing the whole picture.  That has continued to sit with me as I witness actors not seeing the whole sequences of some movement or choreography but rather just their own bit within it. So, by bringing about a focus on harmony I am aiming to achieve an awareness of the whole. Blending is a word used in aikido a lot. I sometimes like to use that word as well.

Well hope that has helped you gain some smaller insight to why and how those words have come to mean something to me in my journey.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

listening & sensitivity

These are two words I often use in class. But what do I mean by them? Moreover, what am I expecting participants to learn and or gain from focusing on them? I guess in simple terms ‘listening’ is more than just the use of our ears. And it’s not just ‘listening’ to another actor.
When I say ‘listen’ I am referring to listening to;

·         The energy in the space

·         To partner through empathy

·         Fellow cast members around you

·         Direction

·         The crew

·         The audience

·         The prop/s you are working with

·         The set

·         The elements

·         To gravity
Sensitivity for me in the context of my training methods is my access point for better listening. The space between what/whom I am listening to and where my point of focused listening is coming from.

For example, I could be just holding a ladder in a scene. So how am I ‘listening’ to the ladder? Through conscious use of sensitivity, I could ask: How am I holding it? What material is it made of? How is gravity acting upon it? My sensitivity of touch, how light or firm I am holding the ladder allows me to be in harmony with it. That sensitivity of touch allows me to listen to my prop to gain the best working relationship with and how I can help it move in space.
Through a more developed sense of listening via sensitivity I am hoping to increase a participant’s ability to be at one with everything around them while in the moment of performance.