Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Finale

The final performances in our class came and went without (too much of) a hitch. This past Wednesday evening we gathered in Middleton Theatre, at Strickler Hall, and performed each of our self-written, solo character study pieces, interspersed with scenes from "A Perfect Wedding" that we had been working on. Since the public was invited, our teacher offered them the chance to write down feedback that they would be able to give to her; and though I haven't heard any of it yet, I am very interested to hear what folks had to say. Regardless of what others thought, I felt as though things went as great as could be expected. It was unfortunate that we couldn't perform in our "home base," the University of Louisville's Thrust Theatre, but we made things work as best as we could.

It felt good to finally perform for people outside of our class (even if the majority of them were peers of ours) and the feeling that we were unveiling this secret project we had been working on for the better part of the past three months was fantastic. I could really tell in that moment just how much we have learned this semester and how we have each grown as actors and individuals. Not to mention, our group had really come together as a true ensemble at this point, almost like a small family; and it really felt like we were a united front in all of this.

This particular exercise (and this entire course, really) was an excellent jumping off point for all of us. I feel like I have learned more in this class about ensemble theatre than I have in any other course at UofL, and the range of things we studied are unlike anything else I have also experienced here. It makes me excited for the coming semester and the ability to expand our ensemble to encompass more people into this experience, and hopefully to learn even more about theatre through our production of "A Perfect Wedding."

It has been a real honor to be in class with all of the guys, and I'm going to miss them all (well, until next semester when I see them again!).

A Different View of Viewpoints

Following our final performances this past Wednesday, our teacher extended an open invitation for any folks that were curious about the viewpoints to take part in a small viewpoints workshop. It was a very much abridged, crash course on the subject, but a fun one nonetheless!

She gathered all participants on the stage and went through a very brief explanation of each of the viewpoints (shape, gesture, architecture, topography, spatial relationship, tempo, repetition, duration, and kinesthetic response). From there, we began a very simple and standard exploration of the space, gradually incorporating all of these at one point or another. All of this is something that my classmates and I are very used to and comfortable with at this point, and though it was interesting to experience this with new people who aren't accustomed to it, the real learning (for me, anyway) came when I was allowed to sit out in the audience and finally be an observer.

It is one thing to process each of the viewpoints as an active participant, but as spectator you can really see just how drastically every movement we make effects people. Things that, as a participant, I thought were minimally different and tedious in performance, were actually drastically different. I remember the specific moment where our teacher asked the group on stage to form a shape altogether (since they were lumped up together at the time) using only straight, angular lines, and then following that, a shape with only curvy, soft lines...and it was astonishing the difference. I guess I always knew in theory that the two were different when I was doing them, but seeing them actually in practice really made the viewpoints work we have done this semester finally come full circle. It was a really nice feeling to finally see the viewpoints from that outside perspective, and I feel like I learned SO much more just from those brief moments of observation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm a little bit sappy...

This class has been, challenging, frustrating, put on the back-burner, and yet, I have loved every minute of it! I do not think this class could have been more beneficial to me as a performer, but also, and this will sound corny, as a person. I have always wanted, for me, theatre to be more than just a 2-D art. I have never wanted an audience to leave a show and never be impacted of moved by the work I have done. I look at theatre as work. Not art, per say. It is more. I was relieved by this class to find out that I was not the only one, and performers long before had had this thought and had pioneered this sense of community theatre.

In end, community is what it is all about. Without an audience, there is no show. The training we have had, the sense of opening in our process of building the characters, the way the class had discussions and worked unified as an ensemble were things I may never get to experience anywhere else. This is something I would love to take me elsewhere outside of the classroom.

What is truly exciting is the chance, now, to get together as a class and also new people once the process of auditions happen. Being able to expose new people to all that we have been learning and involving them, and hopefully engaging them as we have been, is almost overwhelming.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Power of Ensemble

In my theatrical career I have worked with good directors and bad directors. I have worked with directors who had a clear vision for the production and directors who did not have a single clue what they want. I have never worked with a director so focused on developing a sense of ensemble amongst the cast as Amy has done with us and plans on doing when we start rehearsals. Personally, I think it is an ideal model to follow and is an idea borrowed while working on a play I recently directed: Laundry and Lies.

This was not my first official go-round with directing it was however, my first time directing for a official venue like Studio. From the very beginning of rehearsals I always tried to give my actors the utmost respect and adopt a “no worries” attitude. Also I made sure we did a group warm-up every day that included ensemble building exercises. I stole the 12-6-4 exercise we did with Amy, group counting, and some exercises of my own concoction. It made rehearsals fun and when it was time to start working everyone was willing and ready.

I did everything I could to make sure I was developing a solid trusting relationship between me and my cast; more importantly between the cast members themselves. I have work on productions where there was no sense of ensemble between any of the people working together and it was a miserable experience. Know that Amy is all about building the ensemble in an effort to bring about a better production make me even more happy I signed up for this project.

Research and Process

The research I did for this production opened my eyes up to the cruelty of the world. Female genitalia mutilation and ritual deflowering are two practices that happen all over the world and are also issues that are dealt with in “A Perfect Wedding”. Not only did my research enlighten me about these subjects but it gave me a sense of pride and involvement with this project that I have never really had with any other play I have done.

I have done quite a few plays in my theatrical career and with every project I have signed up for there has always been some sort of research I had to do about the play of about the character. The difference between those situations and this project is that then, I was doing research for personal reasons. For “A Perfect Wedding”, we each were responsible for researching a certain theme or subject matter the play addressed. We then were responsible for presented the research we had done to the class. I thought this method of content analysis was great because now, everyone else’s understanding of certain parts of the play were my responsibility. It was no longer about me researching just for the sake of myself but for the sake of our production.

Learned a lot about the subjects I research. Moreover I gained a sense of pride for our production. It is like when you help build a set for a play and then you go see that play. As you watch it you have a tremendous sense of pride because you helped build it. When this play finally goes up in March I will have that same sort of pride because in a sense we have all helped to build this production.

My Favs of the semester!

As the time approaches for us to perform our finals I can’t help but look back over the semester and think about some of the wonderful things we’ve done. In my opinion this class has been an absolute adventure. It has given me tools that will stay with me for the rest of my theatrical career. The Viewpoints and The ELP exercises are two things we have done this semester that I feel have taught me the most.

I believe it was Triza who said this on one of the blogs, I am paraphrasing but she said that the viewpoint are a great tool because they take you out of your head and allow you to just do. They allow you to move through time and space in a way that is not only interesting but in a way that creates beautiful stage pictures. I am performing in a ten minute play for Studio. I came to the rehearsal process late due to an actor dropping out. I had to find a very quick way to make bold choices in rehearsals and the viewpoints inspired those choices.

The ELP exercisewere my second favorite of the semester. The reason I like this exercise so much is because it forces the performer to base their character off a real person. I think it is an amazing way to step away from generic or mundane performances and be able to present three dimensional characters on stage. Moreover, I gained a lot of knowledge about how to conduct an interview and that alone is a useful tool that I will need for the rest of my career.