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.

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