Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Week 5- Training wheels off... learning to ride

Week 5

We completed the core sequence, and the physical training sequence.  As we move forward, we will be taking off the training wheels more and more.  Here's John's post about the week... add your comments and questions as well.  The conversation goes on!

We began work today with Margi doing Alexander Technique. I always enjoy this part of training because I can always feel a considerable difference in how my body feels after the work is done. Particularly with the realigning of my spine. Although it can be taxing it always makes me feel energized. Tonight we did a variety of exercises that dealt with using core strength to facilitate the moves and still be able to breath freely and without straining extra muscles not involved with moving the specific parts of the body. A great deal of them dealt with keeping our legs straight while moving them suspended in the air. It was a bit of a struggle for me because I have had difficulty putting too much weight on my tail bone, but I was able to do them with relative success and the workout made me break a sweat. Margi said that in time we would be able to do all the exercises in a half an hour's time.
George got us into our physical and imaginative space by doing some exercises with rhythm and free form movement. We did Blue Wave, Red Wave and Big X energies as well. I had particular trouble with these tonight. I didn't feel any sort of through line with my energy. I feel like I don't know what its ultimate goal is because I can't quite feel the energy coming from any of the forms, except for Blue Wave because that deals with allowing energy to flow up from the Earth out the top of my spine. It's still early in training though, and Gabe said it's good to allow myself to give into not knowing right now. Discouragement will get me nowhere. And if I never find out the deeper significance or function for it in theatrical application then I will not despair either. Acting is about picking and choosing, and Magis has already given me a great deal to use.
We ended class with work on a variety of Ceba's letters and even one of Sarra's. We were all given one line from a letter and from it we constructed our own psychological gesture from it to use in an exercise later in which we walked into the middle of the company and delivered our line to a fellow actor, they would then take the impulse as they saw fit and reacted accordingly by responding with their own line, and this was passed from actor to actor. I find psychological gestures very intriguing and helpful. Although I never really use them in a practical sense in my own work. I feel that they take up too much time to discover to be truly helpful. That's something I have come to learn a great deal of while at Magis. Patience, and being willing to spend hours on the work and not rushing through. We live in such a fast paced environment in New York City and convenience is in such high demand here that I think I expect it in all aspects of my life. I just need to give all the work more time and practice for it be more useful for me. I have time, I just need to focus it more effectively.

Although I was feeling a bit distracted during training I felt that I did my best and didn't put myself down for being unfocused at times. We all have our days.

Good beginning John, as we go more rapidly into the physical training, each individual actor has to search more and more inside to find the kind of specificity we did in the first weeks of "basics."  Yes some days will be better than others, and all days will provide information for us to get back in the groove with less prompting from the outside.  A slow method of appropriation, but the search is intensely personal and will be adjusted every day.  Good to know that it was tough to feel a through line in the energies when we go faster: how do we each adjust to find or remind ourselves that the action for one needs to be connected to the next?  How do we find the ability to feel the "jo ha kyu" ... the way that the beginning of the next wave is already present in the culmination of the previous one? Patience is definitely key... we constantly say "notice and adjust."  We often expect ourselves to be machines, but we forget that we are organic... so our progress is also organic.

Sarra + Calderon = Juana

Hello Everyone,  Dennis sent this in... thought it would be good to share as a tie in between our work with Sarra Copia Sullam and Pedro Calderon de la Barca.  Don't blame him for the provocative post title... Thanks Dennis.  
This is Dennis and I just wanted to share something about another historical/ literary figure similar to Sullam. It has been in my mind for the past 3 weeks and then when I explained to my wife what we were working on she also mentioned her. This can also connect with our work with Life is a Dream a bit. The name of this writer is Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz or Sor Juana. Although born 10 years after Sullam's death and eventually residing in Mexico some of the similarities are striking:
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz" redirects here. For the telenovela, see Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (telenovela).
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, O.S.H.
Retrato de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Miguel Cabrera).jpg
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrera
BornJuana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana
12 November 1651
San Miguel Nepantla,
New SpainSpanish Empire
Died17 April 1695(1695-04-17)(aged 43)
Mexico City, New Spain,
Spanish Empire
OccupationNun, poet, writer
Literary movementBaroque
RelativesPedro Manuel de Asbaje and Isabel Ramírez (parents)

Sister (SpanishSorJuana Inés de la Cruz, O.S.H. (English: Joan Agnes of the Cross) (12 November 1651 – 17 April 1695), was a self-taught scholar and poet of the Baroque school, and Hieronymite nun of New Spain, known in her lifetime as "The Tenth Muse." Although she lived in a colonial era when Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, she is considered today both a Mexican writer and a contributor to the Spanish Golden Age, and she stands at the beginning of the history of Mexican literature in the Spanish language.


A portrait of Juana during her youth in 1666, which states she was 15 at the time, when she first entered the viceregal court
She was born Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana in San Miguel Nepantla (now called Nepantla de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in her honor) near Mexico City. She was theillegitimate child of a Spanish Captain, Pedro Manuel de Asbaje, and a Criolla woman, Isabel Ramírez. Her father, according to all accounts, was absent from her life. She was baptized 2 December 1651 and described on the baptismal rolls as "a daughter of the Church". She was raised in Amecameca, where her maternal grandfather owned a hacienda.
Juana was a devoutly religious child who often hid in the hacienda chapel to read her grandfather's books from the adjoining library, something forbidden to girls. She learned how to read and write Latin at the age of three. By age five, she reportedly could do accounts. At age eight, she composed a poem on the Eucharist.[1] By adolescence, she had mastered Greek logic, and at age thirteen she was teaching Latin to young children. She also learned the Aztec language of Nahuatl, and wrote some short poems in that language.[2]
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Friar Miguel de Herrera (1700-1789)
In 1664, aged 12, Juana was sent to live in Mexico City. She asked her mother's permission to disguise herself as a male student so that she could enter the university there. Not being allowed to do this, she continued her studies privately. She was a lady-in-waiting at the colonial viceroy's court,[3] where she came under the tutelage of the Vicereine Leonor Carreto, wife of the Viceroy of New Spain Antonio Sebastián de Toledo. The viceroy (whom Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography names as the Marquis de Mancera), wishing to test the learning and intelligence of this 17 year old, invited several theologians, jurists, philosophers, and poets to a meeting, during which she had to answer, unprepared, many questions, and explain several difficult points on various scientific and literary subjects. The manner in which she acquitted herself astonished all present, and greatly increased her reputation. Her literary accomplishments garnered her fame throughout New Spain. Her interest in scientific thought and experiment led to professional discussions with Isaac Newton.[4] She was much admired in the viceregal court, and declined several proposals of marriage.[1] In 1667, she entered the Monastery of St. Joseph, a community of the Discalced Carmelite nuns, as apostulant. She chose not to enter that Order, which had a strict discipline, and later, in 1669, she entered the monastery of the Hieronymite nuns, which had a more relaxed rule. She chose to become a nun so that she could study as she wished, saying she wanted "to have no fixed occupation which might curtail my freedom to study." [5] In the convent and perhaps earlier, Sor Juana became friends with fellow savant, Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, who visited her in the convent's locutorio.[6] She stayed cloistered in the Convent of Santa Paula of the Hieronymite in Mexico City from 1669 until her death, where she collected a large library of books, studied, and wrote. [7] The Viceroy and Vicereine of New Spain became her patrons; they supported her and had her writings published in Spain. [8]
One noted critic of her writing was the bishop of Puebla, Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz, who in November of 1690 published Sor Juana's critique of a 40-year-old sermon by Father António Vieira, a Portuguese Jesuit preacher. [9] In addition to publishing this without her permission (albeit under a pseudonym), he told her to focus on religious instead of secular studies. [10]
In response to critics of her writing, Juana wrote a letter, Respuesta a Sor Filotea (Reply to Sister Philotea), in which she defended women's right to education. In response, the Archbishop of Mexico joined other high-ranking officials in condemning Sor Juana's "waywardness". By 1693, Sor Juana seemingly ceased writing rather than risk official censure. However, there is no undisputed evidence of her renouncing devotion to letters, though there are documents showing her agreeing to undergo penance. Her name is affixed to such a document in 1694, but given her deep natural lyricism, the tone of these supposed hand-written penitentials is in rhetorical and autocratic Church formulae; one is signed "Yo, la peor de todas" ("I, the worst of all women") She is said to have sold all her books,[1] then an extensive library of over 4,000 volumes, and her musical and scientific instruments as well. Other sources report that her defiance toward the church led to all of her books and instruments being confiscated. [11]Only a few writings have survived, which are known as the Complete Works. According to Octavio Paz, her writings were saved by the vicereine.[12]


She died after ministering to other nuns stricken during a plague, on 17 April 1695. Sigüenza y Góngora delivered the eulogy at her funeral.[13]


An early translation of Sor Juana's work into English is Ten Sonnets from Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz [sic], 1651-1695: Mexico's Tenth Muse, published in Taxco, Guerrero, in 1943. The translator was Elizabeth Prall Anderson who settled in Taxco. One musical work attributed to Sor Juana survives from the archive at Guatemala Cathedral. This is a 4 part villancico,Madre, la de los primores.


Statue of Sor Juana in Parque del Oeste, MadridSpain
Modern interpretation of the portrait of Sor Juana by Mexican artist Mauricio García Vega.
Arguably the most important book devoted to Sor Juana, written by Octavio PazSor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, 1989), is a work contemplating Sor Juana's poetry and life in the context of the history of New Spain, particularly focusing on the difficulties women then faced while trying to thrive in academic and artistic fields. Paz describes how he had been drawn to her work by the enigmas of Sor Juana's personality and life paths. "Why did she become a nun? How could she renounce her lifelong passion for writing and learning?"[14] Paz knew that such questions could be answered only in the context of the world in which she lived, and so he begins his study with a portrayal of the cultural, political, and ideological forces of New Spain, wherein the subjugation of women was absolute.
First part of Sor Juana's complete works, Madrid, 1689.
In his book, Paz makes a thorough analysis of Sor Juana's poetry and traces some of her influences to the Spanish writers of the Golden Age and the Hermetic tradition, mainly derived from the works of a noted Jesuit scholar of her era, Athanasius Kircher. Paz analyses Sor Juana's most ambitious and extensive poem, "First Dream" ("Primero Sueño") as largely a representation of the desire of knowledge through a number of hermetic symbols, albeit transformed in her own language and skilled image-making abilities. In conclusion, Paz makes the case that Sor Juana's works were the most important body of poetic work produced in the Americas until the arrival of 19th-century figures such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.
The former Convent of St Jerome inMexico City.
The Dream, a long philosophical and descriptive silva (a poetic form combining verses of 7 and 11 syllables), “deals with the shadow of night beneath which a person [15] falls asleep in the midst of quietness and silence, where night and day animals participate, either dozing or sleeping, all urged to silence and rest by Harpocrates. The person's body ceases its ordinary operations,[16] which are described in physiological and symbolical terms, ending with the activity of the imagination as an image-reflecting apparatus: the Pharos. From this moment, her soul, in a dream, sees itself free at the summit of her own intellect; in other words, at the apex of a own pyramid-like mount, which aims at God and is luminous.[17] There, perched like an eagle, she contemplates the whole creation,[18] but fails to comprehend such a sight in a single concept. Dazzled, the soul's intellect faces its own shipwreck, caused mainly by trying to understand the overwhelming abundance of the universe, until reason undertakes that enterprise, beginning with each individual creation, and processing them one by one, helped by the Aristotelic method of ten categories. The soul cannot get beyond questioning herself about the traits and causes of a fountain and a flower, intimating perhaps that his method constitutes a useless effort, since it must take into account all the details, accidents, and mysteries of each being. By that time, the body has consumed all its nourishment, and it starts to move and wake up, soul and body are reunited. The poem ends with the Sun overcoming Night in a straightforward battle between luminous and dark armies, and with the poet's awakening.”[19]

Other notable works[edit]

The work we are doing reminded me of a one person show that I saw years ago...I believe some of you were probably just babies. It was based on her work The Dream/ Sueños and done by Mabou Mimes/ Ruth Malechek. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Week 4 Basic Core Awareness and Strengthening; Opposition; Containment/Radiance; Availability; Vocal Action; Refinement

Week 4  Basic Core Awareness and Strengthening; Opposition; Containment/Radiance; Availability; Vocal Action; Refinement

This week Margi and Erika took the group through the standard Magis core workout, folding in Linklater principles.  This combination aims at an engaged core for physicality, yet without tension that constricts or impedes free vocal impulse and expression.
The cloud exercise in Physical Training was another way of allowing the imagination to inspire the body to engage in a new way, and cajoling it into allowing opposite impulses to be in the body simultaneously.  This physicalization helps open us up unconsciously to those moments on stage when a character might have two conflicting stimuli at the same moment. We also added the Pencil exercise for plasticity with the same aims we discussed last week. At the end, we brought back Containment and Radiance, accumulating energy on the run, containing it in a shape that interacts with the architecture or in free space, and allowing the contained energy to radiate until it provides a new impulse to run again.  At the end, we added actions to the containment of energy in the circle: raise, reach, grasp, release, lower... silently, and then with text.  The overall aim of the physical training as a whole is to arrive at a new availability to go into our work.
Vocally we continued with the walking out on the sound exercise, stressing the aim of finding the exactness of the space with the voice.  In singing we added specific actions/intentions that we were working with the sound.
Our work with the directors took another look at the exercises with the Sarra Coppia Sulam materials and the directors refined the exercises.  As an ensemble we gave feedback at the first and most basic level:  What did I see?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Week Three of Basics: Imagination, Core awareness, and Plasticity

This past week, Margi went into the basics of our core training.  Introducing some basic vocabulary and concepts, and sketching out one of our basic core building regimens, she and Erika worked with pairs of actors in trying these out and and giving prompts and adjustments to maximize the core engagement while keeping the instrument open and available.
Moving into the Physical training we focused on how engaging the imagination can create an inner life that can coax the body into surpassing what it perceives as its own comfort zone.
Our plasticity training comes out of  working with energy flows.  Having imagined the energy flows in the blue wave, red wave, both waves together and the Big X, we asked the actors to take ALL the energy they just accessed and localize it between the thumb and first finger.  The image I like is a little supernova of energy shining between your closed circuit of the thumb and first finger.  Then we anchor this point by imagining a laser going above and below; a single vertical line.  From there, we add four more lasers extending to the four compass points, imaginatively creating six chords of energy that anchor this point. Keeping the fingers closed on the point, we ask the actors to keep the point where it is, and let the body/arm adjust to this as we take one step toward the point and one step away, keeping the finger circuit as the fixed point and letting the body move to adjust to it.  Then two steps back and forth from the fixed point, then three.  Choosing a new point each time and anchoring it in the imagination in the same way, the actor then examines the point from all angles and perspectives... allowing the body to bend, stretch, move, in order to bring our eyes around the fixed point.  This is the beginning of "tricking the lazy body" into taking shapes that are demanded by the imagination and getting the body to discover new configurations while conforming to an imagined prompt.
This same principle is involved with the string exercise:
Closing the fingers around the supernova and sending a laser up and down, the actor imagines inclining this string of energy to an angle (first, an angle of about 45 degrees, but this is expanded to include other angles later in the exercise)  Then following this "string" of energy, the actor traces the trajectory of the string to the ground, allowing the body to conform to the demands of the exercise, and noticing when the body wants to be "lazy:"  taking shortcuts, bending to a quicker endpoint, stopping before reaching the destination.
Then we begin a process of following more strings of different angles and configurations, going from the point as an origin, to the end of its trajectory, obeying the imagination to its end and guiding the body to follow it precisely.
"Commit to your choices,"  we've often heard in class or rehearsal.  This simple exercise asks you to make specific choices:  where does the string start? what is its angle?  where does the imagination show me its destination?  Once the angle is determined by the original impulse of the angle, the body playfully commits to this demand of the imagination.
Then we look at the room full of strings, and in a similar manner go through some webs of strings, over some, under others.  Again the body finds itself in interesting shapes merely from a specific imaginative prompt.
Plasticity Variation Two involves moulding walls of clay of various heights and scooping out mouseholes, windows and thin doors, then going through them... as well as the others made by our fellow actors.
Plasticity Variation Three is based on the commedia "bowl of soup" lazzo where the actor carrying a bowl of soup goes into different positions without spilling the soup.
Each of these is a way to expand the vocabulary of the body beyond its normal daily comfort zone.  Employing the imagination and allowing it to make demands on the body allows us to play into a more expansive body.
Work with the Director's Lab began our exploration of material about the 17th century Venetian Jewish poet Sarra Coppia Sulam. Peter's work with the actors explored the dynamics of communicating only by letters.  How do we express this, how do we show this? Kelley's work was about the boldness of Sarra's individuality and the restraints or conditions that evoke bold action from individuals.
Leave comments or fill in the blanks for me :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Week Two of Basics- focus on diaphragm, base actions, and approaches to text

This week Margi brought us back to the breath of integration and asked us what makes us disintegrate? (dis-integrate)  Some time spent with opening up a freer breath and using it more wholly as we considered the complex physiology of the diaphragm.
Physical training recapped the energy flows and then put them into basic actions:
Blue wave>> push
Red wave>> pull
Big X>> reach / throw
We considered other actions and objectives and how they might be akin to one of these basic "action families"
Focus on voice added the idea of action/work to the voice.  What is the work that my voice is accomplishing?  How does imagination, objective, impulse work together in the voice?
We broke into three groups with our directors:
Alex worked with the environment of the Seguismundo speech, using the ensemble to embody it.
Peter worked with Chekhov's psychological gestures on a line of text.
George worked with soundscape and choral speaking using the memorized text.
Check the comments and leave some of your own!