The semester is over, so as usual, we interviewed some undergraduate and MFA students to find out what they learned and how they feel they grew as artists. Read below for full interviews (as featured in the latest newsletter) with undergraduate theatre students Seamus Good (Muhlenberg College), Briar White (Coastal Carolina University), Izabel Dorst (Coastal Carolina University), and Emma Peretz (Muhlenberg College), music student Gracie Honohan (Furman University), and MFA students Nike Redding, Justine Hince, and Lindsey Root.
Voice Final Interview: What was the process like for you? What did it teach you about yourself as an artist and/or about ensemble creation? What will you take with you or move forward with?
SEAMUS: The process was obviously enjoyable…What made the final so successful was that the process never focused on having a final piece. We took all the aspects of the class and used everything we’d been working on to create a presentation rather than mapping out from the beginning exactly what we wanted to create. This could be a little stressful because things were changing and developing right up until the second before the door was open, but overall I think it created a more engaging piece for both the audience and the performers.
As an artist, I think this is true about all the classes at the ADA and the general experience of being here, but particularly in voice and ensemble work, learning about a different way of thinking about performance and the purpose of art, specifically with an artist’s relationship to their work and an audience, so rather than creating pieces that feel like a performance, it’s about creating situations that were open to be engaging. Created a unique situation where it didn’t feel like you were telling the audience things–delivering a meaning–the audience was just listening to whatever you had to say.
I will take all the techniques from class with me moving forward. Having gone through the process of doing them and repeating them, I feel comfortable now using them to form my own ensembles and work in this way, whereas before I feel like I wouldn’t have known how to approach it. The class gives you the tools to go out and start this kind of experimentation.
Movement Final Interview: What was the process like for you? What did it teach you about yourself as an artist and/or about ensemble creation? What will you take with you or move forward with?
BRIAR: The process gearing up for the movement final was a beautiful mastermind of creativity and artistic expression from the entire ensemble while at times still physically demanding. All ensemble creations tend to be difficult, especially this one because we all had loud voices, strong opinions and brilliant ideas for this final. But I learned a valuable lesson in patience, and a self discovery in open mindedness that I will take with me into the next semester, and also the rest of my life.
Commedia Final Interview: What was the process like for you? What did it teach you about yourself as an artist and/or about ensemble creation? What will you take with you or move forward with?
IZABEL: I came to this program knowing that this class would be my most challenging class for me, because I have always had such trouble with improvisation and thinking on my feet. That was before I met the most amazing and funny little man in the world. Giangiacomo taught me that if I think of the characters movements and voice first, everything else will just come. It surely did! I am now comfortable, and even a little excited to get the chance to get up onstage and create scenes on the spot, because I don’t focus so much on the words, but instead what the character wants. I would have never been able to get here as a performer without the help and support of the funny Italian man who kept asking me, “What? What are you doing?” I was terrified of this class, but I will now look back at this class as one of my absolute favorites.
Music Interview: How were your juries different here at the ADA than they are at Furman? Can you share some details about your preparation process?
GRACIE: The juries at the ADA definitely felt less stressful than juries at Furman. At Furman, you sing, or play, in front of the faculty who specialize your instrument. At the ADA, our juries had a full audience of every instrument faculty member, along with other ADA students and staff. This made our juries seem more like a performance, and you could feel the support from everyone in the audience. As for my preparation, I was able to run through all of the pieces I had with my teacher and accompanist the week of our juries which made me feel confident and prepared. I also borrowed my classmates sometimes to run through different lyrics to make sure I was fully memorized.
Cabaret Interview: What was the process like for you? What did it teach you about yourself as an artist and/or about ensemble creation? What will you take with you or move forward with?
EMMA: Being a part of the Cabaret was an incredible experience! Its success was in all the rehearsals leading up to the final performance as we learned from working independently with one and another and with the MFA students what it means to create art of value by means of collaboration.
Cabaret: How has the Cabaret work this semester challenged you? How was this semester’s work with the collective different than it was last year? What will you take from this as you move into your final semester in Arezzo?
NIKE: Collective work is always a great challenge, but I think that the Cabaret Collective has set an especially arduous task for itself because of the ways we must work: halfway in an academic setting, halfway out, halfway available, though always under the pressure of other obligations, and always beset with the reality that we have such a small amount of time to work before the collective will disband and reform completely new. For me, the primary question going forward with cabaret work is how practical it is to try and create a performance which is united and well-conceived despite the many disparate moving parts. In my experience, the performances do not feel very much like the product of a collective, but more like (an often very interesting) variety show where each individual accepts jurisdiction, artistic ownership, and a kind of personal defense only for their own section. It could be that this comes down to a question of style and aesthetic, and perhaps with so many cooks in the kitchen we shouldn’t aim to make one simple dish, but rather accept our differing preferences and fashion a buffet. However, there are many organizational factors that also underpin the way the collective functions and creates together. I believe that collective engagement itself is never fully addressed or taught, even though many of us have never had any experience working in this horizontal management style. It leads to a strong tendency to defer toward the habits we pick up over our lifetimes, accepting a leader, accepting a role, accepting decisions we disapprove of because we feel we have no choice. Rather my understanding of the collective creative process is that we all have the right and obligation to collaborate and take some sense of ownership over the whole show. However, the sheer number of people involved would mean that if we were to take the time to listen and respond to everyone’s concerns and ideas every meeting would last four hours and already people are restless because in truth we have many other obligations and the cabaret remains in the emotional limbo of the “optional.”
Regardless of all this, the cabaret is and always has been a good, productive space to explore new practices. In my own work this year I have learned a lot about the challenges of working on material generated from improvisations, and I think I have moved closer to understanding what type of theatre it is that I ultimately am interested in creating in the world. Maybe to try and get into specifics on this page is not useful. I will say that working from improvisation requires a much more generous amount of rehearsal time, compared to say working from an idea or a specific dramatic situation, but through improvisation I have found that the body discovers what story it wants to tell, and in this there is something alive and tender that is exciting to be a part of.
Semester Reflections: What section of this semester do you feel affected the way that you approach your work the most? How do you feel that you have grown this semester as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish in the upcoming final semester in town?
NIKE: Our work with Saso on the music performance has had by far the greatest affect on my approach to work. Music, by nature of its instantaneous, unexplainable interaction with the emotions, is an embodiment of many of the ideas that drive me to make theatre. This semester we were able to dive into many useful and body-opening techniques with specific dramatic contexts (clown, bouffon, and melodrama) that I have loved working with and incorporating into various unrestricted contexts. The vulnerability of the clown, the hatred of the bouffon, the earnestness of melodrama: these are qualities that are a part of every kind of theatre. In fact I felt that I was able to put all three into immediate practice in the final performance for voice class, where Sean Henderson and I performed a long scene from Waiting for Godot. But if you’re asking me to pick favorites, music has an unfair advantage, it touches everything. More than a technique, it is a way of perceiving reality.
Going forward, I’m looking forward to surprising myself with new discoveries. I’ve set some ambitious staging design for my gradlab and I anticipate that it’ll push me to solve some dramatic questions I may not have otherwise realized I’d been avoiding. I’m excited to immerse myself deeply into the creative process and discover what stories my body wants to tell.
Music: How has the Music section of the semester challenged you? How was this semester’s work with Saso different than the work that you did with him in the fall of your first year? What will you take from this as you move into your final semester in Arezzo?
JUSTINE: Music this semester has been extremely challenging but also rewarding. Where before we did a lot of exercises with Saso to find the different, unique parts of our voices, this time around we started with a lot of improvisation and creating our own work as an ensemble. Saso asked us to deepen and strengthen the connections between our bodies and our voices. I think we all continued to surprise ourselves with the sounds that come out of us! I feel like we also really learned to find the musicality and rhythm in everything. We play with music in a very non-traditional way and, therefore, need to train our ears and bodies to listen differently. We created a lot of material this semester that we were not able to use in our final show, though we always have that material in our back pocket now. I think this constant sense of play and improvisation is a great way to continue to move forward with our work in the coming semester, specifically with Grad Labs and our work with Lilo Bauer.
JUSTINE: I found myself very surprised by the work we did with Andre Casaca and clown. I really didn’t know what to expect when we started! I struggled a lot in the beginning. At a certain point, unexpectedly, it clicked! I realized I was too much in my head in the beginning and it prevented me from being truthful and in the moment. Once I learned to let go and trust myself, it really opened up my eyes to the possibilities in clown. I think having clown as our first major section of the semester helped me a lot for the rest of our projects. I found that I was more open as a performer and also as a spectator for my classmates. Clown helped me to trust my instincts and not judge myself (so much!) in the process. In creating our clown show, we also got to experience how to put a show together and be part of that process with Andre. It’s really beneficial to acknowledge that not everything can go in the show and you will still have great material that just isn’t right for this one show. I think this way of thinking will be particularly helpful in Grad Labs.
How has the Devising section of the semester challenged you? What has it taught you about ensemble creation, and yourself as an artist? What will you take from this as you move into the next semester?
LINDSEY: Devising has been challenging this semester because each one of us has had a different experience before arriving at this program and with such a diverse group of people you get a lot of ideas and differences. However, because of these (differences), I believe it has allowed us to create work that is even better because we are able to listen to the varying ideas, as well as challenging each other to work outside of ones own comfort zone. Devising has taught me a lot about myself and learning how to step out of my comfort zone, but it has also taught me a lot about how to listen and incorporate different ideas into one to create a fluid piece. I would like to work harder outside of class. The classes are challenging (in an extremely good way) with attentive professors and “homework” but I feel I can push myself more to accomplish some different and higher goals than I had this previous semester.
Semester Reflections: What section of this semester do you feel affected the way that you approach your work the most? How do you feel that you have grown this semester as an artist? What is an area that you hope to grow in as you continue into the next semester?
LINDSEY: I would say that our music class with (the brilliant) Sašo was the most challenging and effective class for me. I was the most uncomfortable in this class as I’m not as familiar with music and rhythm as I’d like to be. However it showed me that I am capable of a lot more than I believe and that I am working with an incredibly supportive group. We just want to see each other thrive. I come from a background of very traditional, analytical theatre that has rules and guidelines and suggestions. Here at the Accademia it has been very different from that, a lot of “abstract” work that I am not used to. I have been challenged in many ways as I seek what I would like to do next as an artist and as I learn what it means to allow myself to find what it is that will fit within my style of acting as a profession. Exploring all of the possibilities is key to this discovery and I look forward to what the rest of the program brings. One of the biggest things I’ve been working on this semester is self-awareness. It is a constant struggle for me to be in the moment and understand how my intentions are being perceived, instead of over analyzing everything.