Thursday, January 17, 2008

Some foundations for Magis work

The origin

Magis Theatre Company's work with the three basic energies started with a bringing together of the very physical work done at Columbia University's MFA Theatre program with the work of Robert Taylor, a Shakespearan Actor trained in Britan and a lecturer at PTTP program at University of Delaware, Carnegie Mellon and Moscow Art Theatre.
Columbia Trained actors worked with Niky Wolcz to establish a plasticity of the body and an openness of the instruments. Much of Wolcz' work comes from Grotowski and Meyerhold but with his own take on it.
At Columbia, many different ways of working gave the actors a chance to explore the resonance and dissonance of some of these training methods. In a sense, the students bodies were the crucible where different acting approaches melted and became its own "alloy" of these elements. Le Coq mask work, Wolcz work on physicality came face to face with Ann Bogart's Viewpoints and Tadashi Suzuki's regiment of training.
What all of these had to work on together was a raw energy, a term which was so important to Stanislavki.
Allowing energy to flow freely and putting it in the action combined very well with Robert Taylor's instruction on the three basic energies which he terms
Dramatic, Lyric and Epic... corrsponding to the the three basic forms of Poetry.

The Next Level
After working with Robert Taylor and Stephen Simmons for several months on Dramatic, Lyric and Epic...(Magis was still just a dream at this point), Margi Sharp and I worked with puppeteer/director Ralph Lee in his Mettawee River Company.
During one of the daily warm ups before the performance we were doing an exercise that Ralph had done with the Open Theatre. A simple exercise I had done many times before, though never with the consciousness I had developed at Columbia, and the context of the work with Robert Talyor. The exercise was a reaching up in the body, allowing oneself to fall over at the waist and swing back, and then allowing the energy of that action to propel the body forward to a standing position again.
What immediately struck me was a feeling of suspension at the standing point, just before gravity pulled the body down again. My body remembered the sensation of "Lyric Energy" from the work with Robert Taylor. It was unmistakeable for me that this Lyric Energy WAS suspension.
As I continued in the exercise, I then made an investigation to the other energies...
Gravity, the force pulling the body out of that suspension felt like "Epic Energy," and the swing back up which I will call momentum was the sensation of "Dramatic Energy."
It was exciting to have this connection. The energies suddenly seemed even more organic, more basic... this began to inform much of the physical work I did with my teaching. Connection to Stansilavski's later work on physical actions began to emerge as well (we will take this up in a later entry)
Now several years later, this vocabulary of energies is the foundation of Magis Training.

Tapping the Energies
Each of the 3 basic energies has its own locus.. where it lives in the body... where it comes from and where it passes through on its way out to the audience.
The energies are accessed, opened, and focused through a shape/action that is particular to each energy. Training in these shapes and practicing them regularly opens the channels of energy very much in the same way a pianist practicing scales allows for a proficiency in executing step-wise progressions in a piece of music.
The aim of this practice is not to "do" the energy (worse yet to "act" the energy) but to open the channels so that when I am doing the physical actions of my score, these energies will support and fuel the action.
This is the difference between an action that has presence and one that does not. Allowing the free-flow of energy in the action draws the attention of the audience to what is being done.. what is being embodied in the moment.

----George Drance

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