Monday, September 25, 2017
As actors we recreate life on stage. A huge portion of what we do has its foundation in sharpening our ability to notice. Whether we work intuitively or technically, from the inside out or from the outside in, the raw material of what we work with is harvested through our ability to notice. Our reactions in reading a script can be appropriated only if we’ve developed a way in noticing how something affects us. The choices we make as character can be made only if we are able to notice the choices we make for our selves in real life. How we respond to a scene partner in rehearsal or on stage can be open and attentive only if we can notice the subtle cues and invitations that are present in the moment that is being created right in front of us. Noticing what attracts our attention helps us to gather more and more possibilities. The more we find the world around us fascinating, and the more we can begin and maintain and enjoyable fascination, then everything we do on staged will be drenched in this same fascination. We sometimes think that enjoyment is something that just happens to us depending on something external. While the hook is definitely grounded in the external, the ability to enjoy something depends on how much of our attention we can bring to really experience it. Without the ability to notice, things just pass us by. Without the ability to notice, even the most precious things don’t even register. The more we notice, the more we see how intricate life is. We not only see it we begin to enjoy it.
I was in Tuscany working with Ellen Stewart, the founder and director of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, on a site specific piece based on one of Ambrose Bierce’s novels. The theatre group in Italy had scouted out several locations but none of them were exactly what Ellen was looking for to tell the story. As the team was driving Ellen from Arcidosso to Bagnore, Ellen said “Stop the car, pull over.” There was a little chapel there and a wall that opened into a huge field, a grove, and an old farmhouse that belonged to a local family. It was the perfect spot to do the show. Someone asked Ellen, “how did you know to stop here?” She said “I heard a bird.” Ellen noticed everything. She noticed things in artists that others overlooked. She saw things in many of today’s great artists that no one ever saw before and presented them to an audience in a way that allowed them to see the special qualities that she noticed in them. Her ability to notice launched the careers of Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Diane Lane, Wallace Shawn, and hundreds of others, and gave us the first productions of “Godspell,” “Hair,” and Blue Man Group.
What can our "noticing" ignite in us this week?