Thursday, October 12, 2017

Noticing MORE : Thought of the week for 10/10

We hope you've been able to put some of the things we've listed into practice over the last few weeks.  Here are some more things to try to increase your NOTICING. 
Each exercise can be done in ten minutes or less: 

-Sit in a chair or lie on the ground hands at your side and feet flat.  Begin to notice your breathing.  Start first with the air as it enters your nostrils and as it leaves.  What do you notice is different between the in breath and the out breath?  Temperature, sensation?  Then notice how your lungs expand and the various tugs on your muscles just from breathing.  Allow your attention to float through the body and notice all that you can around your toes, ankles, legs etc.  Notice your attention relocalizing through your body and notice how with each new phase you can pick up on greater detail

-Look at your favorite piece of art or your favorite souvenir.  What was it that you noticed about it that made you want to keep it?  What can you notice about it today that you never really noticed before?-Watch your favorite movie and ask yourself what are the first images presented to the viewer?  Why did they select those images.  What was it that the makers of the film noticed in that moment that made them decide it was necessary to tell the story.

-If you are working on memorizing a scene or a monologue, notice if there is one word, phrase or line that just doesn’t really stick in your mind.  Look at it more closely.  See if you can notice what it is about the line, phrase or word that makes you want to skip it or substitute something else.  Quite often that detail will be the key to the line.

- Go through a photo album and pick one person that you care about.  Look at them in the different pictures of the album.  What details are different from photo to photo? From moment to moment? From year to year?

Other ideas:  Re-read your favorite poem and look for something new,  watch an animal and see how much of its surroundings it is taking in at all times,  do a “taste test” of different brands of the same product and see if you can articulate the differences.

Thought of the Week 10/3 NOTICING part II

Thought for the week from Magis: Last week we spoke about noticing. Here are some more thoughts and some activities for you to try out :
One of the truly emblematic pieces of American Theatre is Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” While studying it as a youngster I probably learned more about theatre and literature from the way this play was taught to me than any other single work I had experienced up until that point in my life. I remember getting to the Third Act when Emily wants to go back to re-live her twelfth birthday. I was puzzled at the reactions of the other characters who told her not to do it because it would be too painful. As she noticed the things that she overlooked while she was alive it became unbearable for her. She asked the stage manager “do any human beings realize life while they live it? Every every minute?” His response to her was “No. The saints and poets, they do some.” This interchange made a huge impact on me. How much there is to notice in life… and how like the saints and poets we are when we are able to notice it in the moment.
Suggestions for developing a noticing practice:
-Spend 10 minutes in one spot: on a bus or train, on a park bench, at a window and just watch what is going on. What do you see? People? Birds? Movement? Colors? Notice what attracts your eye from moment to moment and name it.
- The next time you eat spend some time noticing the complexity of temperature, texture, aroma, and flavor. Notice how each chew will change the equation slightly and feature one or more of the components slightly differently. Each new bite will be different proportions. Take your time and enjoy the intricacy of the tastes.

Monday, September 25, 2017

NOTICING: Magis Thought For the Week 9/26

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?

Monday, July 6, 2015


Today some of the threads of this past week were woven together.  Not a bad image as I sit here in Guatemala where weaving is a significant part of the indigenous culture.
Last Tuesday I led the first session of the Notre Dame Summer camp and when Magis starts with young actors we always teach the three tools (body, voice, imagination) and the three commandments:
Be seen
Be heard
Today, our first full day in Guatemala began with attending the opening of a new arts center “La Casa.”  Our friends from Caja Ludica, an extraordinary arts collective, kicked things off with a lively parade of circus like magical figures going around the streets of the neighborhood where La Casa is located. 
Julia Escobar, one of the founders of Caja Ludica, has an impressive smile and an arresting presence.  Seeing her proclaim the opening of La Casa to the crowd  she commanded people in the plaza near the park.  Her presence was magnetic and she was absolutely committed to the magical belief that in the world of this parade she WAS magic, the kind of magic that inspires, that calls people to do their best, that provides for it to happen. Later on at our planning meeting I heard from her some of the extreme challenges of is past year:  losing a space that they had just renovated, dealing with huge unknown factors regarding their funding, and any number of other things that could drive a director of a company mad.  I said to her “and always surviving with a smile!” She replied, “if I didn’t have that…”
It spoke volumes to me how if we can commit to our situation, if we can Be-lieve then that magic that comes through her smile can make it all happen in spite of the pitfalls along the way.  That is the kind of belief, commitment and magic that people come to the theatre to see.