Problem Solving & Multitasking Part I
Years ago, I remember dropping a glass with liquid in it on stage during a performance. I could feel the condensation on the outside of the glass slowly undermine my grip of the glass. As it was slipping from my fingers; externally I was presence, delivering lines and listening for cues. Internally however I was developing a process to deal with the glass that was about to break at my feet and the feet of fellow cast members. My mind was developing a strategy for how to clean up the glass. I even considered going off stage and getting a dust pan between my lines. I was even deciding on how to incorporate the soon to be broken glass on the floor into the scene should I have to or need to. The glass did indeed break and all ended well. However, what stuck with me the most after the show was how ordered and calm my thoughts were.
I am not suggesting that time slowed down in fact some research I discovered theorises that it is only our memory of an event that tricks us into thinking that time slowed down. I did feel like I had time to consider all my options though. The reference to time slowing down is usually when people are in a state of danger. While on stage performing a task with an element of risk, I am not in danger, although a stage fight could replicate a sense of danger, so possibly tricking the brain. What I am inferring here is that I was making some informed decisions under pressure. I had enough experiential training through years of being on stage to be calm under pressure and respond accordingly and remain present.
How does all this help me now as an educator and choreographer of physical risk? I relish developing training methodologies that build a system for actors that align mind and body when they need to response to problem solving and multitasking should an accident arise. Like any form of conditioning training it would behove an actor to maintain a mindset that reinforces the understanding that an accident will eventually happen when performing movement with an element of risk. That way in the event of a near miss or accident the actor is not thrown. But rather has the presences of mind and body to remain calm.
“Play with knives expect to get cut.” = “Performing slapstick expect a bruise.”
(Disclaimer: I am not advocating to push through injuries or to perform with a reckless mindset. What I’m entertaining here is that with a solid training approach, actors can safe guard themselves and be mentally and physically prepared for when things go wrong)
Mental preparation in the training process is paramount if the actor wants a physically disciplined response. Therefore, I would theorise that the key to making an affective training system lies in the development of sensitivity and listening skills on a macro and micro level. At a level that involves a mental, aural, visual and tactile sensitivity to one’s immediate internal and external landscape.
Therefore; the trick is to develop exercises and tasks in training that replicate choices under pressure. The main principle of my approach is prioritising how to deal with; and respond accordingly to an issue or accident that arises. A way into this approach is to start looking for a range of variables within a spectrum of scenarios that an actor may find themselves in. By seeking the order in this spectrum of perceived chaos, one can start to reduce stress levels because a series of responses can be programmed in the conditioning training level.
Part II coming....