Monday, December 31, 2007

Training 12/30 Fun & Forging Ahead

Gabe here gang. I want to say up front, Sunday's training was one of the most fun sessions I've ever had! I'm psyched about our training & rehearsal process for 2008. My goal, since I was out of the loop for a while, was to build momentum and re-engage into our work over the holidays and use that momentum to propel myself with increased confidence, vigor and vigilence for our company. Mission accomplished. I feel fantastic. That being said, this was why Sunday was fun, freeing and informative.

After Wendy led us in yoga she did so with Niky time and started it off with folk music for the first half of the physical exercises. It released a fun light air that allowed my body to engage more fluidly and Wendy's voice just made me smile. It was a very organized recess. That set the tone. About 10 minutes into it, Wendy said to follow your front wave with a backwards wave then vice-versa; I've never tried that before. It loosened my body more and I felt a greater sense of fluidity between the momentum, suspension and gravity. Once again, the gooey electricity passing through, mmmmmmm good, very good energy-Yummy :)

At the end she made us close our eyes instructing us to find each other with self-imposed blindness. When we finally found ourselves huddled up together, we opened our eyes and it was a generous yet cohesive way to end, which felt spot on; why? We were connected through our energy and this led to an unexpected event later on in our training that afternoon. I'll get to that in a bit.

I feel the structure we've had the last two weeks has worked well in its organic progression: warming up the body (yoga), engaging the body (Niky), relaxing again w/reinvigoration (Linklater voice), full engagement with body & voice (Robert Taylor).

Next to bat was Malone. Liz does a good job relaxing us first with Zen-like meditation and visualization; then we get into what I like to call "the vibes-n-stuff" of the Linklater method. Due to Liz's diligent progression in the Linklater technique, I once again felt more of the spaces in my body which allow the vibrations to release themselves having your body be the channel for the voice & energy. I feel tons of space in my joints, body cavities & chambers. I feel extraordinarily open and light. Well done Liz.

In leading the Taylor work, I used a page from the Linklater we did in order to connect a breathing excercise with the physicaliztion of the jump in "lyric". Liz led us in an exercise where we already expanded our rib cage, lower back and torso to allow us to breathe in more air by the following method: pinch the nostrils, breathe in for a few seconds, release the nose and the air sucks in like a vacuum cleaner. You feel the heightened sensation of your lungs filling up with air from your lower back (near your kidneys) filling up your body cavity. Air expansion from the bottom up sort-of-speak.

I used this image to demonstrate, in a similar manner, your inhale coming from this place actually launches you into a lyric jump and the exhale leaves you light on your feet. Like the way booster rockets launch the space shuttle; the exhale is the parachute that lands you gently. Using this image was helpful to the group and felt cool in practice--the gooey electricity once again revisits, mmmmm, good energy, yummy :)

We also worked again with the two lines facing opposite each other, running to one another, making the connection then going. I stressed again the importance of starting slow (rather than full sprint) and making the energy connection was more important than speed.
When we did get to sprint speed the connection was there and more effective. I really like working with the no arms neutrality. I feel it cuts much of the crap out of the way and makes our connections stronger. I'm eager to implement the Alexander techniques Margi suggested in the previous entry onto this work. I'm discovering that creating a solid neutral base is the foundation and key to good character work. It really allows you to be a better channel and more like our credo: Magis-more life less stuff. Because let me tell you, I'm the king of adding unnecessary shit to character. It feels good shedding that garbage.

At the end of the text circle, after many solid energy engagements, it hit me (and it came from Wendy at the end of Niky time)--CLOSE THE EYES. Frank in Erica were in the middle, I said "hold" & "close the eyes" to everyone. I stressed to feel the energy in & out of the circle; that we were all one unit, and I felt the buzzzzzzz between all of us and not a word was said. It felt like the on the night of "The Great Divorce" when the audience was silent for about 2-3 minutes after the show had ended--exactly what Padre & our company was going for--that sense of anything could happen next as well as in a suspended state of "Thoughtful" revelation of speech. Mmmmmm, good energy, yummy :) Most excellent.

Finally, Erika went old-school and we sawed wood vocally. An elightening reminder (from Erika through our teacher Priscilla Smith) that we are smaller vehicles that channel this energy from the gods and occasionally have to reach into our epic darkness to relay the message of the the charcters we play. I'll let Erika elaborate, I do no justice in the eloquent yet down-home way she broke it down. Awesome way to end.

And this my friends is just the beginning. Gladiators, I salute you.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Alexander Technique and Neutral

Several trainings ago I experimented with some ideas I have gotten from my Alexander teacher. They were very successful and so I want to post the "thoughts" here -- and hopefully we can drop them in again when we are all back in the room. They may help us achieve this more dynamic neutral that we are looking for:
Try dropping a couple of these thoughts in at a time as you are standing and then "take them for a walk" and bring yourself back to standing:

Part A: Imagine you were nothing but two long legs that started way up behind your shoulder blades, with a little bean for a head. Take yourself for a walk and then come back to standing.

Part B: (take two or three thoughts at a time standing and then walk and come back to standing)
1. Ask your feet to please not pull down on the rest of your body.
2. Ask your legs to please not pull down on your pelvis.
3. Ask your pelvis to please not pull down on your rib cage.
4. Ask your neck to please not pull down on your head.
5. Allow the bones of your pelvis and skull to unfix. Imagine they could float -- continually reinventing themselves so anything can happen.
6. Allow your sternum or breast bone to float.
7. Allow your heart to move back in to your body.
8. Allow your sternum and your tail bone to balance with each other.

I find that once you achieve this dynamic neutral you are able to follow through more easily with suspension, momentum and gravity so that the act of walking or moving your hand/arm in space feels more like an "inevitability" and less of a forced activity or choreography.


Arms? No Arms?

So, I forgot to mention that we also worked with using no arms during the sprints of energy exchange & in the text circle as we did in Robert Taylor workshop in October and at training the week before. I really think it's useful using this as a solid base of neutrality and it prohibits you from adding too much "stuff", "bodily commentary", "unconscious habits", etc. onto the text.

Subsequently, I felt when I used my arms while doing the revelations of speech they moved less and the text went through the shape of my arms & body rather than ”making the text go through my arms & body". I had more of a conduit sensation, which is the whole point of acting really. I was more of a vessel for the words to pass through. Ahhhh, it felt nice too, kind of like a gooey electricity passing through. Mmmmmm, good energy. It also felt like a good protein shake after a work out-very refreshing...yeah, that's it, refreshing.

Doing the exercises at first with no arms helped provide me with a clean slate and a solid foundation to start from. Now that I think about it, I feel this would be a good place to actually start for character. Saying the text and moving in this fashion of no arm neutrality, but legs firm beneath you providing support.

Paz kids, more tid-bits to come. Have a fab day.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leading & Engaging

I really enjoyed leading the Yoga warm up and the "Niky Training" on Sund Dec.23rd. Leading both of them made me more actively engaged.

In the Niky training, I was constantly checking to see if Gabe and Elizabeth were with the activity and if I was giving them enough time within each exercise. I wasn't able to as fully give myself to the Niky training as I normally do, because my attention was divided between doing the exercises and verbally leading them. I would watch the others during the verbal pauses while still doing the exercises myself, and I attempted to kinesthetically feel when it felt like it was time to change into something new.

I would like to practice leading the Yoga warm-up by myself at home, to get the language down to be clearer, so that I can be more present to everyone who is following my lead. I feel like I'm still getting used to verbalizing what is happening while also doing the poses, and it's a little bit jerky.

I found that I wanted to merge more Yoga and Linklater like I did when I was in acting school. I did love Andrea Haring's class and would like to also practice the vocal warm ups that Elizabeth Malone had us do last Sunday. It was also great to do some of the new RT exercises (Gabe) and blend them in with the stuff that we have already been doing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Training 12/23, The Witlings & The Carol Burnett Show

Gabe here kids, como estas?!!

You know I've read some blogs, not many, never posted to one, and finally here I am with my first post ever.

As I was leading Robert Taylor on Sunday I decided to incorporate one of the exercises from his workshop in October. Two people sprint to each other from either side of the room, make the eye contact, the energy connection and speed off again. Taking this into account, as we began saying "text" to each other in text circle, I emphasized to our group to really take in the other and make the contact before uttering "text" again and removing yourself from the circle.

In the Taylor exercise I made sure we started off slowly before going to the jet speed sprint. I find at times in our text circle it's easy to get into that robotic rhythm and glaze over the connection with the other actor, rather than making it, acknowledging it, AND THEN moving on. I feel compromising the connection for speed is neither effective nor interesting; it's rather banal and pedantic frankly. It really sucks. BUT WE ALL DO IT DON'T WE? ESPECIALLY MYSELF.

That being said, I feel it's best to start off slow and make sure you connect with your fellow actor then bring up the speed. When both connection and the speed of your intention hit it's a marvel every time with or without text.

At times, as we went in the circle, we made ourselves stop, pause, make that connection then go and in doing so that helped make a mental imprint (recognizing that intuitive feeling) of when your energies truly communicate with the other actor; rather than going through the motions. I found this quite helpful for myself as a "self-check" against bullshitting your fellow actor, i.e. scene partner, i.e. audience. Like Suzuki, when you flub it, it's there for all to see. The beauty of the Theatre.

So how does this relate to Witlings & the Carol Burnett show? I sent George a text the other day after I read some more Witlings. I told him it reminded me of the old sit-com "Soap". I said that because I faintly remember the show's satire of the rich, wealthy and beautiful people soap-opera's glamorize. I faintly remembered Bea Arthur and some of the other actors doing zany, outlandish spoofs. Then I saw a documentary on Thirteen last night on Carol Burnett and the Carol Burnett Show, which ran during the same time period as "Soap", and it all came roaring back to me.

Holy throw-back Bat Man!!! I remembered sooo many of those skits as a kid!!! I was on the floor cracking up in my bedroom. It was as if I saw for it for the first time again!! I was like, "This is the Witlings! In so may different shapes in sizes". Here's why for me:

They described, quite accurately I might add, that the show was a blend of Vaudeville, burlesque as well as a variety show. I forgot that Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Vikki Lawrence, Harvey (forgot his last name) were all so in the moment connecting with each other, that they laughed in character, acknowledged it, and still went on, knowing the audience knew they laughed, and it was all part of a spontaneous moment but NEVER losing that connection with the other. An utter scream were these skits. The characters were bold, brave, outlandish, clever and FULLY COMMITTED. They actors kept emphasizing throughout the documentary how much fun they had and I quote Carol Brunette "Don't tell anybody this but I would have done it for free".

I kept thinking of the Witlings because I feel it has these elements of Vaudeville, burlesque and certainly of a variety show. There's something about that era (70's) of comedy that reminds me of this play. I think about All in the Family, The Jefferson's, Soap, The Carol Brunette Show, even Three's Company that has this whacky, outrageous element that reminds me of the characters and situations in the Witlings. It reminds me of Moliere too.

You guys may think I'm nuts, but I feel there's something we can learn from those comedies to help us with our own. It really hit me as I was watching this piece on Carol Burnett. Honestly, watch it for yourself too, beautiful work, I shed a few tears. And the thing was you saw the darkness, the edginess, the pitiful, and the disenfranchised with sincerity and the on flip side it smacks you on your ass laughing. I see that in The Witlings too.

Anyway, I've think I've said enough for now and glad we have this medium to get our thoughts out. I'll have plenty of crazy off the wall things to say I'm sure. In the meantime, I'm going to check out some DVD's on the Carol Brunette Show & Soap and do some further character research. I saw plenty of Commedia in those characters as well; I forgot how physical the comedy was then. Peace Witlings!