Sunday’s class was mostly about multi-tasking. I mean, we’ve been memorizing the Tennyson poem, and reciting parts of that as we move, but what we did on day 6 was moving different parts of our body, in different rhythms, at the same time. It was tough. It also seems counter-intuitive, because actors don’t usually do that much on stage — blocking and talking at the same time, right? But you actually do quite a lot on stage, and having an awareness, a potential to be able to multi-task in the extreme is very important. The contrast between fast movement, slow arm rotation, and speech can be quite dramatic. Also, we had try a handstand. George explained the method, and I got the position correct, but I really don’t have any upper body or ab strength. All of my strength is in my legs, and since I’m biking around more now, and I dance once in awhile, that’s only going to get worse. So I feel like I got the form, but I can’t actually get my legs over my head without landing on my face.
And speaking of my face, the big event of day 7 (Tuesday) is that I slammed my face into someone’s knee. We have been working on a full “scene” with movement — otkaz, movement, stoika. George has been adding obstacles to this in previous classes, and this time we had to use a simple actor block to jump onto. So the entire sequence was otkaz, movement toward block, stoika on block, then otkaz off block, movement to opposite wall, and stoika. We got to a point where there were two of us running to the block, then three, then four, and finally five. That’s when I screwed up. I was trying to do something interesting, aiming for the corner to land in a position that wasn’t just standing on the block, but crouched a bit. And I slammed my face into someone’s knee. Moral of story — physical self-awareness is important.
Otherwise, the class was particularly interesting. I think, as a director, I’m getting more useful tools to help get plot and character and scene information off the page and out of my head and actually into practice. In one exercise, we partnered up, with one person a “lump of clay” and the other person the sculptor. It got really interesting when the sculptor used parts of their body other than their hands — like legs, hips, shoulders, backs. I thought it was fun being clay. I can definitely see using this exercise in rehearsal.
George also got off on a bit of a tangent about dramatic tension with movement. It was interesting, but as with any good lecture, my creative mind went a bit nuts. He mentioned boxers, how they weave and duck and get so in tune with each other physically that they don’t even throw punches for a huge chunk of time. That actually reminded me of two cats fighting.
At the beginning of class, we read a selection from one of Mamet’s critical writings, discussing the failure of searching for “Truth” in a scene, the bastardization of the Stanislavsky method, and trying to reach beyond the self-critical into the daring. I think all of these are important, and I’ve mentioned before that it is important to be able to make minor adjustments without beating yourself up for being wrong. This whole issue of “Truth” drives me a bit crazy, though. There is a truth to the scene, in the interpretation that the director and actors work on. But it’s not the only possibility for the script, usually (unless you’re doing Beckett). This whole notion of Truth-with-a-capitol-T, to me, seems to create anxiety, because there’s an ideal out there somewhere in the ether that you’re not reaching. And yes, you might approach that perfection, but you won’t attain it. Because it’s not real!
Anyway, George and I had a disagreement about the nature of truth vs. Truth. That’s okay, because we’re using descriptive language, and the thing about language is that everyone has slightly different connotations with words, so a phrase that works for me won’t evoke the same images and feelings for you. So the idea of Truth doesn’t work for me, and it works for him. I think perfecting a scene means making it more interesting and dynamic, and perfecting your physicality, especially with set movements like the series of Biomechanics etudes, just creates a more interesting, different feeling than a “sloppier” physicality. And when I say “sloppy” I mean, simply, a physicality that is closer to your personal neutral, one that is not out of your normal comfort zone and doesn’t make you think in new and interesting ways.
There’s not an actual “perfection” out there, to me. There is only new and different, a strange and unusual path that you want to follow, where the character takes you.
In other news, for right now I will be assistant director to Gesamtkunstwerk’s production of “Shoreditch Madonna” this fall. Looking forward to possibly using some of these techniques in rehearsal.