We perform The Knight of the Burning Pestle a week from today. It's a terrifying thought. For some reason, the three weeks devoted to this show are flying by much quicker than the three devoted to Agamemnon. Vivian Munn is a great director and gives us a lot of freedom to be goofy and devise strange, funny little moments in the play. He really embraces how ridiculous the play is and wants us to run with it. Sometimes it's daunting (like when you realize you have a week left and aren't as off book as you'd like to be), but mostly its fun. We are learning to balance a very fine line between caricature and absurdity. He wants it to be believable, but to push the bounds of reality in our performances. OH! And we are each playing at least 4 characters. It's overwhelming.
Today, we had 2.5 hours of class with Vanessa Mildenberg, our movement teacher extraordinaire. I can't express how fantastic she is at facilitating exercises without getting in the way. It's a pretty unique skill. It never feels like she is imposing any specific expectations on us but simultaneously makes it very clear what it is she wants us to experiment with. Today, we were mostly working with Laban Movement Analysis stuff and exploring movement through those definitions. She had us try each combination of strong/light, direct/indirect, and sustained/sudden. Then, she had us try to ascertain which combination applies to ourselves in daily life. These terms refer more to a sense of one's self than to actual physical being. I think I am usually light, direct, and sustained. That combo is referred to as "gliding" in Laban. It's hard to do self analysis like that. For instance, my instinct after our exercises were done was to say that I default to "sustained," but Vanessa says that I do "sudden" very well also. I don't know! (This Laban stuff is kind of complicated...I am by NOOOO means an expert, but if you want more details let me know because I know this is a little vague.) It's important to figure out your baseline, though, so that you can understand what you have to work from when trying to build a character who works with a different set of movement parameters. The second part of class was spent working through a piece of text from Pestle. Vanessa asked that we work word by word and develop a physicalization for each word of the speech. Abstract work like that confuses a lot of people, but I really enjoy it. Not only does it help to get me out of my head, it also helped me to memorize a big chunk of words in ~10 minutes! My line learning tactics have been irrevocably changed. It is during classes like these that I am grateful for my dance background and my able body. It is so fun to have time set aside specifically to experiment with my body's abilities. It makes me excited about being a more physical actor.
Tomorrow, Cat and I set off for Edinburgh! Bridgette has decided to stay in London to get some work done. Also, one week til SPRING BREAK! I can't believe how close we are to th
Not exactly the blog title you were expecting to see about Brussels, huh? Not really the blog title I was expecting to be writing about Brussels. Allow me to explain...
This morning actually started at 10:30 pm last night. Having gone to bed early, Bridgette and I were rudely awakened by the smoke/fire/arbitrary disaster alarm at 10:30 pm. We were probably the only dorks in the whole building asleep by then, but we needed to prepare for our early morning and our big weekend! So, we scrape ourselves out of bed, shove our feet into shoes and make our way downstairs, where there is no alarm, but rather a large number of Nido residents going about their Friday night business as usual. I don't understand this building or its fire codes. Apparently, unlike in America, if one floor of a building has a disaster, the rest of the building gets to remain calm and unaware. Strange.
We eventually did get back to sleep and woke up around 5 am to get us showered, breakfasted, and to the train station by 6:15. Just writing this it feels as if this morning could have been a week ago. We get on the train and assume that it, like the National Rail, operates on the "choose your own seat" basis. It doesn't. We were politely asked to scram. Luckily, our seats were just one car down. We had intended to begin learning lines for The Knight of the Burning Pestle, our newest play project directed by Vivian Munn, but we haven't blocked any of the show yet. It is pretty much impossible to just arbitrarily memorize words that have nothing to do with the action of the scene, especially when you're running on ~6 hours of sleep as we were. I ended up napping the majority of the way there and am completely comfortable with that choice.
We arrived in Bruxelles and spent the next hour and a half trying to find our way from the train station to the Grand Place. This included buying a €4 map/guide book in GERMAN from the train station. The pictures were nice, and I thought the map would be helpful. It was not. After being lost for quite a while between our own guesses and Bridgette's Google Maps directions, we stumbled into a pharmacy to ask for directions. Two women, customers, attempted to point us in the right direction, but only spoke French. I told them right away, in French, that I do not speak French. I don't think they believed me, which I guess makes a little bit of sense. That will teach me not to use my foreign language skills abroad! They were incredibly eager to help, but insisted on going on and on in French and were ultimately completely unhelpful. Once we realized we were lost AGAIN, we dashed into a laundromat to see if anyone could give us a hand. In the end, a very friendly, English-speaking boy about our age walked us 95% of the way to the Grand Place. Thank god. It was incredibly nice of him, and we really needed the help.
By the time we got to the Grand Place, it was time for lunch. We looked at a few restaurants and couldn't decide, but I really needed to use the bathroom (Yes, this is an appropriate thing to discuss here because...). We stumbled into the Mozart Hotel to use the bathroom and found ourselves here:
What an absurd place to stumble into by accident. Really beautiful, but gaudy. I have no idea what it has to do with Mozart.
LUNCH! We decided that anything lunch had to be Belgian waffles, so we got a table at Maison Dandoy. They had a fun menu of 2 different kinds of Belgian waffles, tarts, pancakes, ice cream, milkshakes, etc.
Yes, they were absolutely as delicious as they looked.
Next stop...the Grand Place for photos and the Museum of the City of Brussels. The Grand Place is beautiful. The architecture is amazing (see below!). The museum was fine. It has information about the formation and development of the city, which would have been interesting, but none of the information plaques were presented in English. To get the information you had to carry laminated papers with you and reference them the whole time. Not really worth the energy, so we just looked around. The many costumes of the Manneken Pis were quite entertaining.
We then headed over to the chocolate museum for a demonstration and some sampling.
By then, it was about 3 pm, and we decided to head over to our hostel to check in. I don't know how people backpack across Europe. I only had a set of pajamas and one change of clothes in my bag, and my back was killing me.
You can't imagine our relief when we found our hostel.
I mean, how much more perfect could this get? "The Urban Artist's Home." What hostel could be better than this one for a couple of theatre majors traipsing around Brussels? ONE WITH BEDS FOR US! Upon trying to check in at Meininger, we were told that our booking was made for next weekend. AND, they were completely full. For all of our paranoia and double checking, Bridgette and I had both messed up. The man kindly offered us a full refund and began to call other nearby hostels to check if they had any openings to no avail. By that point, we were pretty drained. We had rough ideas of plans for the next day but nothing very substantial. It was going to be an arbitrary day of seeing sights we had never heard of before and didn't care much about, so we decided to go back to the train station to see what Eurostar could do with our non-flexible tickets. The first man kept rolling his eyes at us and sneeringly told us that with a non-flexible ticket all he could do was sell us a new one for $700! That wasn't an option, so we went to talk to someone else, a woman named Birgit, at the other desk. Birgit is a saint. We told her we had no bed to sleep in, she took a look at her tickets and began to assign us seats on the train back to London which left in 20 minutes. After assigning us seats, she then scratched them out and started again. "I'll put you in first class," she said. The next 15 minutes was a whirlwind of passport checking, customs declaration cards, and security. It was like a movie. The station was completely empty except for us and the employees who were cheering us through security and up to the platform where our train in shining armor was there waiting for us. We scurry onto the train and into our huge, plush seats. It was an emotional afternoon, but Birgit not only fixed it for us, she made it better! We made it home in time to go grocery shopping and cook dinner and accomplished everything we really set out to do in Belgium in the first place (waffles and chocolate!).
AH! Ok! Bridgette and I have finished booking another trip! Our 4 day Easter break will be spent in Barcelona!!!!! This means that I am officially done booking exotic Euro trips and, as good as it feels to have all these adventures lined up, it is SUCH a relief!
We got out of class yesterday at 4:15, a whole hour and 45 minutes early! We took full advantage of our extra time to do some adventuring and found ourselves at Harrods, land of EVERYTHING. It was beautiful and stunning and, honestly, words can't do it justice. The ostentatia (if that's not a word, it should be) was overwhelming - red carpet worthy dresses, sumptuous leather, gourmet shoes...not to mention the £19.95 smoking ice cream sundae (see photos). The whole store makes you wonder what you would have to do for a living to actually afford to shop there on a regular basis.
Bridgette's mom has a friend in Zurich who has offered us lodging for a weekend, and we booked our flights! We will be going the weekend of March 22.
Bridgette and I began the morning with a trip to St. Pancras train station to buy tickets to Salisbury. We were promptly told we were at the wrong station despite the National Rail website implying we could leave from St. Pancras. A short tube ride to Waterloo Station, however, set us up for a very adventurous day. We managed to get round trip tickets to Salisbury for £10 - £35 cheaper than they were online! So glad we didn't purchase them ahead of time! The train was lovely. Sounds weird, but the seats were comfortable, we had a table and 4 seats to ourselves so we had plenty of room to spread out, read, and bask in the time set aside to relax.
Salisbury is adorable, full of little canals, shops, and restaurants. Bridgette and I wandered around for a bit before grabbing lunch at a small tapas bar where we ordered soup and salad. We got distracted by the shops and this drum corps (video to come later) before heading back to the train station to catch the tour bus to Stonehenge. We arrived at the train station to pick up the bus, but had missed the final departure to Stonehenge by over an hour!! Dejected and upset that we had traveled 2 hours away from London only to have our dreams deferred by a ridiculous schedule (The last bus departed at 2pm! SO early!), Bridgette and I decided to turn our luck around and hail a cab to take us up to the stones. It ended up being GREAT. Our cabbie, Michael, raced us up to the Stonehenge admission place, but we had officially missed the last tour by about 5 minutes. Continuing our streak of determination, Michael drove us to the farm next to Stonehenge. With the stones in view, we hopped the barbed wire fence and frolicked across a field full of sheep.
As we neared the stones, we saw that there was only a rope a foot off the ground cordoning us off from our true destination. One small step for Sara and Bridgette. One giant step for study abroad adventures! With no one with any authority in sight, we hopped our second fence of the day and joined all the other tourists for an "up close and personal" (meaning a 50 feet away) view of the stones. Really, we are better off not having taken the tour. We both feel like we didn't need to spend an hour and a half being told "These stones are really mysterious, and no one knows what they're doing here." Our cabbie then took us to Old Sarum, the ancient castle, where we took a quick jaunt up the hill for a couple photos and promptly came back down. Five minutes later, Bridgette realized her phone wasn't in her pocket. Cue panic attack. We turned around, trekked back up the hill, hopped yet another fence, and (luckily) found her phone on the ground where we had been.
We finished the day with a small walk back into the town for dinner. We settled on Patisserie Valerie and had the weirdest experience. The restaurant was out of everything. It was obvious that the weekend tourists had wiped them out, and their next delivery of food doesn't arrive until tomorrow morning. It took several rounds of us ordering food and the waiter coming back to regretfully tell us that they had run out of salad, quiche, and sandwiches until the waiter finally came back with a menu marked with checks and exes next to every item on the menu. It was a very polite way to say "All we have to give you is scrambled eggs." So, we had scrambled eggs and toast, and I got some chocolate cake to go because, obviously, no adventure is complete without chocolate cake. You can quote me on that.
There were SO many opportunities for disaster today, but we persevered, saw the sights, and befriended a very worldly and personable cabbie. All in all a VERY successful day out.
P.S. We are both obsessed with traveling by train and can't wait to take it again!
It was really cold today as we browsed Camden Market. We didn't buy anything since we couldn't take off our coats to see if things would even vaguely fit. Maybe we'll go back when it's warmer out!
I FINALLY went out! After weeks of being in London, I finally experienced some of the night life. On Valentine's Day! Bridgette, Cat, and I went to see The Lady From the Sea at RADA. It was brilliant. I think I liked it better than The Daughter in Law. Lady... is by Ibsen and is therefore very naturalistic. Like A Doll's House, it explores a wife's unhappiness in a marriage. It is hard to explain because it is so layered and complex, but it was a beautiful production (Even the scene changes were enjoyable to watch!). It was a very passionate show, and the actress who played Ellida, the wife, was stunningly unstable.
After the show ended, we hung out at the RADA bar until it closed. Then, we headed over to another bar frequented by RADA students. It was really fun! They had good music and a dance floor, and I am finally starting to meet some more RADA students. We stayed there that bar closed. I, as the only sober person in our caravan, was ready to go home, but others were dead set on going clubbing, so I decided to stick around for the adventure. We ended up at KOKO in Camden. It was...interesting. I spent a lot of my hour there distracted by how cool the architecture was and jostled by a huge number of tightly packed writhing people on the dance floor. It was definitely worth the experience, but I'm not sure it's something I'll do again. Anyway, I"m glad to have been the sober voice of reason for the group for at least part of the night. I feel like someone has to be that person.
Week 4 is done! Yesterday, we presented our exploded version of Aeschylus' Agamemnon. An exploded version of a play is a production in which relevant outside texts or historical information is inserted into the script in order to make a more comprehensive, educational show. It's a little bit like writing a research paper in show form. In our case, we inserted a short scene from Iphigenia in Aulis, another Greek tragedy that ties in with the Agamemnon story. We also added short, documentary style blurbs about various elements of Greek society. We explained the mythological time line and backstory to the play as well as addressing how the play would have been performed in ancient Athens. We even began the show with the same rituals and speeches that would have proceeded the play at its premiere in 458 BC.
Overall, the experience was very positive. It was a lot of hard work over the past three weeks, and there were points when rehearsal was a drag and the challenge of playing 4 parts (chorus, Calchas the Seer, Herald, Cassandra) was almost too much to handle. At the end, though, our audience of our professors really loved it. They said that they were impressed with our level of focus (next door to our classroom performance space, people were loudly rehearsing Sondheim songs) and commitment to the work. Our movement teacher, Vanessa Mildenberg, congratulated Bridgette and me on the way we physically echoed each other in our dual interpretations of Cassandra.
It feels good to be done with our first time mark and our first show. Monday, we begin rehearsing The Knight of the Burning Pestle. I know NOTHING about it except that it was written approximately when Shakespeare was writing plays. Our scene study professor, Vivian Munn, will be our director on this next project. He has been a great teacher, and I am very excited to begin.
Just bought incredibly cheap tickets to see Angela Lansbury as Madam Arcati in Noel Coward's Blythe Spirit. She won the Tony for this role in 2009. I am so excited! We also got tickets to see Pilobolus dance company. They are incredible and are an inspiration to Inlet Dance Theatre, where I danced last summer. Ah! SO many good performers to see in this city.
Bridgette and I just booked a trip to Edinburgh for March 1 and 2! I'm so excited!!!!!!!
Tuesday: Nick procured cheap tickets for the 8 of us to see the trio of Samuel Beckett plays at the Duchess Theatre. Not I, Footfalls, and Rockaby are each 1-woman plays which, together, run about an hour in performance. Just one actress tackled all three works. She was amazing. Not I is particularly strange and challenging. The monologue is to be performed as quickly as possible. Beckett wanted it performed in 11 minutes. The fact that this actress could do it in 14 is a record, I believe. Only the actress' mouth is illuminated for the entirety of the piece. It is hard to focus on and your brain plays tricks on you. Is her mouth moving? Wasn't she 10 feet to the left 2 seconds ago? They even blackened the exit lights in order to complete the effect of the lit mouth amidst oppressive clouds of darkness. It is a really interesting piece. You can watch it here. I don't necessarily encourage you to watch the whole thing, but you can get a sense of it.
Wednesday: We were assigned RADA Buddies and had a little mixer to get to know the RADA students. They were very nice, but the experience itself was rather unremarkable. What was remarkable, however, was the opening night of RADA's production of DH Lawrence's The Daughter in Law. The actors were stunning, and I was very impressed. I think it is the best show I have seen since arriving in London. The performances were very truthful. I can't believe that some of the actor are just a couple years older than I am. It reminds me a) how difficult acting really is and b) how much more I have left to learn! They were inspiring, and I can't wait to see Ibsen's The Woman From the Sea, which also opens at RADA this week!
Saturday morning, determined to see some good theatre, Bridgette and I woke up at 6:15 and headed out to queue for Matilda the Musical. Just like rush tickets in the US, most big London theatres offer dirt cheap tickets IF you get a good spot in the line that forms early in the morning in advance of the opening of the box office. While waiting for several hours, we befriended several girls in line behind us who are studying at the British American Drama Academy (BADA) from USC. It turns out that we share several professors! They were extremely nice, and I hope that we will meet up with them again before we leave the city. After hours of waiting, Bridgette and I did procure the last two tickets to that evening's performance of Matilda! Unfortunately, we didn't get the £5 tickets, but we had woken up at 6:15 in the morning and, by god, we were going to see that play! Also unfortunately, the girls behind us in line weren't able to get tickets, but I think they saw another show, so all is well that ends well.
Matilda was STUNNING. The little girl who played Matilda, Georgia Pemberton, is not yet 11, but carries the show with whimsy, spunk, and a phenomenal voice. The chorus of children are really outstanding, all armed with the ability to strongly complete their movements and send energy past the reaches of the limbs. They all radiate the childish charisma needed to counter their often disappointing adult role models. I am honestly devastated that I will never be able to be a child in this show. They are given so much fun material, great songs, and brave characterizations. Alex Gaumond, a man, plays the evil Miss Agatha Trunchbull. He is brilliant in his portrayal of a comically nefarious grinch. The whole show glistens with quirkiness. The set brilliantly mirrors motifs of the story, particularly the importance of books. With smooth use of stage mechanics, the scene changes are so inconspicuous, they are almost a joy to watch unto themselves. Basically, the show was amazing. I would highly consider seeing it again before I leave if I could get cheap enough tickets.
So, we queued in the morning for tickets, but the show wasn't until the evening, so Bridgette and I got lunch at a little cafe in Covent Garden, Cafe la Roche. Cat agreed to meet us in Piccadilly Circus, but Bridgette and I got distracted on the way...
Click here to see what else we saw!
Finally accompanied by Cat, we briefly wandered around Piccadilly Circus. Our best find was Carpo, a gourmet dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, and coffee shop. Cat and I each got a couple chocolates to try. It has been funny to see how much of a language barrier there is for us in London between the different dialects of English and all of the immigrants/foreigners. Example: I asked one of the employees at Carpo to describe one of the chocolates and this is what I got... "It's a little bit like a raisin....but from inside the gum....you can really taste the mountains." Well, with a description like that I knew I had to give it a try. It was great, but I have never licked a mountain, so I guess I'll never know exactly what she meant.
As you can see, Bridgette, Cat, and I grabbed a hop-on/hop-off bus tour! The tour came highly recommended by Jay (Hi Jay!), and he was right (Thank you!). For a flat rate, we got to take several different bus routes around the city. We were also offered cheaper student rates at the attractions along the way. Some we had seen already, others weren't too interesting, so we decided to just buy tickets to Kensington Palace. The tours around the palace are self-guided. You follow 4 tracks they have set up: Fashion Rules (obviously our first stop), Queen Victoria, the Glorious Revolution, and the state apartments. Not only was the building gorgeous, but the museum was set up in a way that combined whimsy with the historical facts. For instance, in many rooms there were window seats with pillow cushions embroidered with the words "Sit here to hear the walls whisper." When you sat down, it activated a small speaker which would whisper gossipy conversations that may have happened in that room 250 years ago or surreptitiously fill you in on historical details. It was a very active way to introduce new information. I really enjoyed the museum and wandering around the gardens a little bit. We even saw a rainbow!
Sunday was an awesome day. We went to Frae, a shop specializing in frozen yogurt, smoothies, and belgian waffles. Mine looked like this:
We spent another couple hours dashing in and out of vintage shops in Islington trying on silly clothing. We came back to Nido for a couple hours and then returned to Islington for thai food for dinner!
Everything is going really well, but it is still EXHAUSTING. I really love school, but our first show is a week from tomorrow and we aren't even completely set with who is playing which parts! Line memorizing is going to be the #1 chore of this weekend, considering we got our grocery shopping done tonight after class. Yay Tesco! Our fridge is now completely overflowing with fruits and vegetables. After January being the longest month of my life, I cannot believe we are almost a week into February! I'll be home before I know it!
Monday night, the eight of us went to see The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre. Nick Hutchison got us £5 tickets. While my 6th row seat was fantastic, the show itself was messy. It is a satire/farce about British politics circa 2009 when the public became outraged over their politicians' uses of government "expenses." The audience guffawed liberally at the mention of real-life political name-drops, all of which went straight over my head. That left me out of the humor loop initially. Had the physical, slapstick comedy been executed better, it might have made up for my lack of political education. Unfortunately, the physical jokes oftentimes went slightly awry. When they did, the actors appeared alarmed, sometimes giggling nervously along with the audience. In all, I think they broke character 5-6 times throughout the evening making the production seem messy and unprofessional.
Tuesday was the CWRU alumni event at RADA. Case alumni were invited to mingle with our faculty and us. We presented a short clowning piece that we had prepared under the guidance of Jeremy, the wisest, hippy clown I will ever meet. I think we really surprised the suit-and-tie alumni with our strange, outlandish production. Our presentation was made up of a series of vignettes that Jeremy helped us develop into a cohesive "story" of images. My featured part in the piece was hiding in a giant bag for the first five minutes and then slowly emerging as if hatching from an alien egg. I then got to tell the audience and the other clowns in gibberish about a war on my home planet and how I was launched into space and landed among the clowns. Like I said, it was an incredibly weird little skit. The most meaningful thing I have gotten out of clown is to always include the audience. Whereas many directors and acting teachers tell you to direct monologues and performances to the exit signs, our professors here (and especially Jeremy) strongly advocate openly and unabashedly communicating with the audience. Anyway, the alumni themselves were slightly sparse and lackluster men who had gotten law degrees or masters degrees from CWRU. Most knew nothing about theatre. Of the 6 or so alumni who showed up, only a woman named Daniela really bonded with our group. As it turns out, Daniela used to room with a couple of the dancers from inlet Dance Theatre, where I studied over the summer. We were able to talk for a long time not only about the dancers, but also about specific works in the company's repertoire. It was exciting to find someone overseas who has such a common knowledge base. I think Daniela, the other girls in my program, and I are going to get tea and make crafts one day at a shop nearby that does craft classes!
Time Out London advertised cheap tickets to a new show called The Cement Garden for this week, so my friend Cat and I bought tickets for Wednesday. We were really excited because the theatre is located under a tube station, and we thought it sounded mysterious and adventurous. Unfortunately, we ended up arriving ~10 minutes late due to the trains and were graciously given tickets to another show running at this theatre, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. For anyone familiar with the Hunter S. Thompson book or the Johnny Depp film, it's a really terrible, non-story about a couple guys running around Las Vegas out of their minds on a dangerous cocktail of at least 5 different drugs. It was pointless, uncomfortable, and extremely self-indulgent (i.e. totally unnecessary nudity).
Friday night was an open mic night at RADA where we got to bond with the students from NYU who have their own study abroad partnership with RADA! They are very friendly, and we are all glad to be making some new friends outside our insular group of 8.
This weekend was incredibly busy...lots of great touristy stuff. Hopefully, I'll have time tomorrow to officially catch up!
My friend, Nathan, was kind enough to share his video of a few moments on the balcony of the Globe Theatre. Click here. Enjoy!
Week 2 of classes was great. My classmates and I managed to make some after school plans quite a few days this week, which made it feel like there is more to live than eating, sleeping, and RADAing (Blog post about that coming tomorrow). We also started rehearsals for Agamemnon, the ancient Greek tragedy. This rehearsal process is quite a bit different than past shows. Because it is first and foremost an educational experience, we spend a lot of time (~40 minutes) at the beginning of every session warming up, playing bonding and group trust games in order to sync everyone's energy and focus. Not only would this help the synergy of any cast, but also it is particularly important for us as we develop our sense of Greek chorus. The educational purpose of the production also means that our director, Phil, is much more open to extended discussions about the text, the mythological backstory, or our opinions on how to translate our ideas from the page to the stage. At first glance, the prospect of being a member of a Greek chorus did not sound like much of a challenge. However, it is now apparent that we will all be playing multiple parts by alternating the casting of the large roles, assigning some smaller roles, and then developing our chorus character as a distinct member of a cohesive group of Athenian elders. Most dramatically, our rehearsals differ in that we have not actually been assigned roles. Every day, we have read another section of the script, each student jumping in on different lines of the chorus when they feel compelled. This means that the more aggressive you are, the more lines you get and the more roles you can claim for yourself. Not only have I snatched a good number of chorus lines, I have also staked my claim on Calchas, the seer, and Herald, who brings news of victory in Troy back to Athens. There is undoubtedly more to come as our rehearsals progress!
As we have delved into ancient Greek history with Phil in rehearsals, we have also begun to explore the ideas of ancient Greek culture through history lectures with Aoife Monks (pronounced Eefa) and Andrew Tidmarsh. Our period dance class, unfettered by clear descriptions of dance technique of the ancient Greek time period, has been mostly an exercise in expressive/interpretive dancing. This past session, we toyed with the idea of dancing like the elements, fire, air, water, and earth, as described by Rudolf Laban. Laban developed a manner of evaluating movement by categorizing qualities of movement. Very simply put, you choose one from each of the following three categories (Time: sustained/sudden, Space: direct/indirect, Weight: strong/light) and allow them to influence the way you use your body dynamically.
The most exciting way we have begun to incorporate ancient Greece into our curriculum, however, is stage combat! Our combat professor, Philip D'Orleans, is exactly what you would expect from such a teacher. He is tall, dark, muscular, and he ties his long hair back in a tightly bound ponytail. He is a little bit more strict than our other professors, but his is the only class in which someone could get really injured if we're not careful. In one class, Philip taught us what he said would usually take 4 weeks. We began learning some footwork and some parries! Although we are working with short swords now, they are still really heavy, and I think my arms will end up asymmetrically muscular by the end of this semester.
Although we had four sessions of clowning with Jeremy during our first two weeks, we will not be studying clown at all for the rest of the semester. During our last session, Jeremy gave us one of the strangest, most esoteric exercises in which I have ever participated. Five students including myself were told to sit in chairs facing Jeremy and the other three students. Jeremy led us through a guided imagining that our bodies and then our emotions were getting heavier and heavier. Then, he reversed it. He told us that as we imagined our bodies getting lighter, our emotions were also lightening. This is going to sound really hippy dippy and weird because that is exactly what it was... As our emotions got progressively lighter we began to laugh. When we started to smile or laugh, we were instructed to stand up. If we really lost it laughing, we were told to stand on our chairs so that our physical height matched our emotional height. We probably spent 25 minutes getting up and down as the energy ebbed and flowed through the group inspiring giggles, chuckles, full belly chortles, and at some point nearly-crying, hysterical, heaving gasps of laughter. For the duration of the exercise, no one said anything. The only sound was the laughter. It was a little intoxicating, and the energy combined with the lack of oxygen made me a little light-headed. I'm really not sure what the point of the laughter was, but it definitely made everybody vulnerable to the energy flow of the group, which is very important for ensemble work. At the end of our final session, Jeremy gave us time to report back some feedback on what we got out of his class and what we will take with us to apply to our work in the future. I think the most meaningful lesson has been the importance of communicating with the audience as much as you communicate with your fellow actors. This is a sense that I am learning can be applied even to performances with a dictated fourth wall. Other than that, Jeremy has been adamant that acting is mostly being comfortable with just being yourself and being ready to receive energy from your partners. Whereas acting can easily become an exercise in exerting charisma, charm, and ease, he says that it is far more compelling to see a person just be. After all, he says, "we are human beings. Not human doings."
Most of our professors seem frustrated at how little time they have to teach us what they know. It seems like they are anxious to make an impact on us and are nervous that we won't have enough time to learn everything properly. They are probably right. We only get movement and voice once a week, which is not nearly often enough to begin creating new habits. Everyone suggests we practice outside of class. I do some work out of class, but I can only do so much voluntary homework after a long day of classes.