We have come to the end of our month in Chicago and it has been a very full and rich experience. The 18 hour drive home is a welcome time to sift through the different classes and questions still turning over from this month. I am happy to go home with questions, burning with a sense of what to work on and where to take things next, but the question still remains – will I challenge myself? Will I believe enough in this need to be different to persevere? We have been fortunate to meet so many interesting people in Chicago, but we have been especially fortunate to have had such a strong and committed set of teachers who met us where we were and pushed us to something beyond. It has been a wonderful experience and so many more surfaces to work on and to see theatre through. Thank you for traveling with us through this blog as we’ve kept a log of our time, it is a month not to be forgotten.
As the end of the trip draws near, I realize how many things I have learned about myself through this experience. The most recent thing I learned that surprised me, was how much sound I can create! Yesterday during our voice lesson with Christine, I felt my voice open up and I felt the vibrations running through my body. I had never thought of my voice as all that powerful, but when I was calling across the room, the amount of sound and life coming from me was surprising and actually really exciting. I have also realized that I am not a natural leader or follower – as much as I don’t want to follow, I also don’t want to lead. The encouraging part is that I can make the daily effort to stand up and take the lead every once in a while. In an improv scene, I can push myself that little bit farther to take the lead and make those decisions, or not to waiver when someone might conflict with my ideas. This realization is important for me in my normal life and in theater, and I am inspired to move forward with this new knowledge. The sadness I feel about the trip coming to an end is matched by my excitement and anticipation moving forward.
I never realized how much fun it would be to beat each other up! Not literally, of course. In our Stage Combat class with our instructor Nick, we were assigned two person scenes that contain physical fights. It’s our job to look at the scene with our partner, memorize the lines, and come up with a fight sequence based on the text. Oh man! It’s been such a fun project. Each scene is so unique; some between couples, some between mothers and daughters. I get to do a Little Brother- Older Brother fight, which is always fun. Nick can just look at what you are doing, and say, “That’s really cool, but here’s another idea you could add here too! Every little brother hates it when his older brother does this.” And he’ll offer a suggestion that makes the scene stronger and more real. Looking around the studio at everyone as they work out their scenes, I can’t help but laugh. They look so realistic, it’s a little bit alarming! Who knew that watching people you know beat each other up could be so funny sometimes! After all, its all fun and games until someone really gets hurt . . . right?
We’ve been experimenting with gestures in our voice work, working our speeches with the Laban Effort/Shapes of push, punch, wring, slash, float, dab, flick. As we apply each one, we discover how they affect our thought and therefore voice and emotion. It’s amazing how the same words said while making a slashing motion, come out entirely differently when said while flicking your hand. This “body language” has become an important way for us to explore the many possible meanings in our text – and a great way to enter the text physically and get our head out of the way.
Something Kestutis said last week has been churning around in me. We had just finished another round of “tug-of war”. This time – all the men on one side and all the women on the other, an imaginary rope between us. The idea is, we have a game of tug-of-war while saying our lines from a scene from “Pillars of the Community” that we’ve all memorized. What should happen is that we move, as a group, in response to the text, gaining or losing ground depending on how the words affect you. We finished the scene (amazing that you can sweat just as much in an imaginary game as in a real one!) and he said, “well, I could see the rope and that’s great but no one really moved much which means your will is greater than your ability to give.” It was a simple observation and he moved on, but it stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking, when I choose to be “safe” instead of as vulnerable as a scene requires, when I want to hang on to something when the text (or maybe a life circumstance) requires me to let go, am I allowing my will to be greater than my ability to give?