Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our First Company Meeting January 20, 2015

Magis work falls into different modes over the course of an average year.  As we welcome new company members, we start with our “back to basics” mode.  It helps build a common vocabulary and offers a chance for the more seasoned performer to go deeper into some of the fundamental understandings.
From Margi: 
“Last evening's session was the introduction to the Alexander work that is the base line for the movement and voice work coming soon.
I would invite the company to remember and practice the "lie down" or constructive rest position, to ask their bodies what it is like "not to push" forward, to let their backs rest and expand. And to be curious about how we balance, pour weight and receive support from the core of our bodies: the spine! Finally: Who has your back?
Margi also handed out a diagram of the spine, reminding us that the energy we work with flows down the front of the spine, the smooth weight bearing portion of it, rather than on the boney spurs on the back. 
The physical training focused on the first of out basic dynamics: opening up energy flows. 
We introduced the concepts of Gravity, Momentum, and Suspension.  Much of what happens in a body that is balancing happens because of how we harness gravity and put it into momentum, conscious of the suspension points where energy shifts direction, flow and character.
We examined:
the blue wave- the energy that comes up from the earth through the body and out the head
the red wave- the energy that comes from the cosmos down through the head and pours through the body to the feet
the big X- accumulating energy in a squat. Containing it in a tuck, and Radiating through the shape of the big X.

The energy flow through each succession of actions ought to be thought of as one stream that flows from one to the other.  
This will form the foundation for the physical work as we add on.


Joseph McGranaghan said...

Hello! Brand new, Freshman, wet behind the ears (what does that phrase even mean?) Magis Company Member Joe McGranaghan here. I am excited to report a little of what I experienced in my first full training session with the gathered new members of the Magis Theatre. George, in his blog post above, has done a nice job of describing the work of the evening, so I will take a more personal track and talk about some of my own discoveries (Perhaps I should have started this post with "Dear Diary").

I found our "back to basics" Alexander work with Margi and Erika (with a "K") to be extremely beneficial. We worked in semi-supine position with Margi guiding our active non-doing. She and Erika moved around the room and made slight adjustments. At one point Erika held my head which really helped me let go of the ever-engaged muscles in my neck. After the floor work, we spent some time in a circle thinking about the spine, it's shape and architecture, and it's placement in the body. There was even a hand-out, which, for the eternal student in me, made my heart flutter (back in the studio! back to training! how have I gone so long working exclusively on my own?).
Following our Alexander work, George led the ensemble in explorations of energy flows. As mentioned, we played with the Blue Wave, the Red Wave, and the Big X. We paused frequently to ask questions, give responses, and deepen our work on these energy flows. I struggled a bit with finding the "pouring" sensation down the spine from the Red Wave. I also had trouble understanding the suspension that occurs when the Red Wave travels out of a lifted leg (as opposed to into the ground). Despite moments of frustration, I experienced a lot of excitement about getting these energies into my body. I am happy to work first in a very conscious way, keeping in mind the goal of connecting to these energies in an organic way after much practice. I could physically recognize the usefulness of this work- I found the moment of suspension at the end of the Blue Wave to be a particularly powerful and dramatically fraught energy to explore. How can I incorporate the natural "desire" that happens in that moment and translate it into specific character desires that happen in a scene?

After a lengthy and rewarding exploration, we debriefed. Useful, as we were all new to this brand of physical training.

George, at one point, while talking about harnessing creative energy or "power", mentioned that actors have to be super heroes. He added: "But super heroes still have to work at the newspaper sometimes." That struck me. I have been encouraged this week to take some of that creative energy with me where ever I go- to be more conscious of my capacity for physical expression in "everyday life."

To cap the evening's work we did a few short vocal exercises which included some harmonizing on a simple Bulgarian (Hungarian? Romanian?) work song. The focus of the work was keeping the quality of the voice conversational while making sure it could reach, really reach, it's exact target (whether inches from our face or on the other side of the studio). George encouraged us to be specific with our visualization of where the voice was targeted. I noticed I am still struggling with breath capacity and need to focus some outside-the-studio time to that work.

By the end of the evening, the room was buzzing with the energy generated by the training. I left feeling very connected to the artists in the room and feeling my spine more towards the center of my body. I also left with a nifty hand out which I brought home and filed under "T" for Theatre Nerd.

dabccc said...

Hi Guys!

Since I began studying actor ten years ago there is one lesson I have learned and re-learned repeatedly: revisiting and reexamining 'fundamentals' and 'basics'is not only useful, but essential for the artist. I believe that as we progress through more 'advanced' and 'in depth' stages of different techniques, that we often lose our foundation and along with that; our ability to achieve simplicity in the work. Furthermore, a more deepened knowledge of theatre and acting allows one to revisit the basics from a different vantage point. Relearning techniques with a different perspective can bear newly crystallized fruits of knowledge and understanding that were not evident in prior occurrences. This being said, I plan on revisiting 'the basics' of nearly every technique that resonates with me as often as I can.

I was delighted to revisit the Alexander technique with Margi and Erika. I have undergone more than five years of Alexander training and I already had several 'aha' moments just during our semi-supine work. Margi's vocabulary was pivotal in my new discoveries. The way we were suggested to "not have to push out such and such body part" allowed me to inhibit tension in my chest. In the past I have often attempted to "bring my chest closer to the floor," which in retrospect probably caused me to tighten other areas of the body. This time, conceptualizing that didn't "have to push with my chest" was a more effective way to "do less."

The Chekhov work with George was an extremely useful exercise with regards to the development of my "image work." I am a new convert when it comes to image work (I started to believe in the benefits this type of work about a year and a half ago-AFTER not gleaning much from several years of Grotowski work). For me, believing is the first step. I find it hard to commit fully to a technique if the pragmatic part of me doesn't agree to go for the ride. That said, the Michael Chekhov work is right up my alley for this period of my evolution. I do feel as though some of the work is going to take time to become more "flowing" for me. However, the Blue Wave was near revelatory for me because I wasn't using as much of my "outward pragmatic focus" to make it happen. The red wave took more "mechanical focus" on my part. I am very excited to continue developing the part of my brain through which the image work can flow seamlessly. That's one of the reasons why I felt Magis and myself were a mutual fit! I am also interested in delving back into Grotowski work to see what I can take from it with a different mindset.

At one point George espoused the notion of letting go of our rehearsal tools while we are in performance. Suggesting that the work we did over the course of the evening were tools that would enrich the text/characters in a way that would permeate our subconscious. This idea is an exceedingly freeing one for me. If I am able to trust that my mind will retain the connections I make in studio and in rehearsal than I invariably allow myself to delve into physical work without abandon.

I am very much looking forward to working with what feels like a wonderfully enthusiastic ensemble!

Dan Solomon