Sweet Summertime: an MFA Newsletter
Summer is still here! The members of MFA Cohorts IV and V have been in residence with European companies this summer. Cohort V recently completed their residency at FLIC Scuola di Circo in Torino, Italy, and Cohort IV has begun their time with Family Flöz in Berlin, Germany. Read on for more!
Interested in the MFA in Physical Theatre? We’re accepting applications for MFA Cohort VII. Click here to get started. For more info visit our website.
The MFA in Physical Theatre at the Accademia dell’Arte is offered in partnership with Mississippi University for Women.
Cohort V’s Time at Circus School
We asked Faith Sullivan of Cohort V, now on a well-deserved summer break after a year of hard work, to reflect on Cohort V’s recent 6-week residency at FLIC Scuola di Circo in Turin, Italy.
What were the biggest challenges of the FLIC residency? How do these compare to past challenges you’ve experienced in actor training or performance?
Faith: FLIC was of course super challenging physically, and for me, the biggest challenge was the frustration I had with myself when I couldn’t do something. A lot of times frustration came from completely understanding what I needed to do but not knowing how to put that into my body. I also think one of the most important things I learned in FLIC was how to have patience with myself. My specialty was the tightrope, and most of the time I loved it and felt like I was making progress, but some days, I just couldn’t get it right. Patience and persistence were really important.
How will the experience impact your work going forward?
Faith: I gained a lot of confidence at FLIC and I loved it way more than I was expecting. It taught me a lot about my body and it really satisfied my need to move. Going forward, I think I will be searching for that kind of work and work ethic, knowing how much I liked it.
As a cohort, when it comes to creation and devising, we occasionally have a problem with talking too much about what we’d like to do instead of getting up and doing it. That came up during our creation of the circus show and was one of the notes Stevie gave us afterwards. Going forward, I think we’ll have a better awareness of that and be eager to improve.
How does Torino compare to Arezzo? Did the city, it’s culture and people have an effect on your work or your approach to work?
Faith: Torino was amazing! Torino is obviously a bigger city than Arezzo and has so much going on. There was so much to see and do, and it was definitely very exciting. It had a really vibrant, active arts scene and that was inspiring to me. FLIC itself is such an energetic, fun, exciting environment that it’s hard not to look around and see what everyone’s doing and not feel encouraged and eager to try new things.
What advice do you have for Cohort VI in preparation for their time with FLIC next summer?
Faith: Obviously, physical preparation is important – strength, endurance, flexibility – but I think it’s also really important to come with an open mind and a positive attitude! The whole school year prior is good preparation for that. FLIC honestly is a lot of fun and the experience of a lifetime, but you have to be willing to embrace it, even on the days when you’re sore and tired and frustrated.
Check out the MFA Facebook
pages for photos from the cohort’s residency at FLIC Scuola di Circo!
MFA Cohort IV: a New Adventure in Berlin
We talked to MFA Cohort IV members Justine Hince and Colby Ruth-Holden about their experience so far in Berlin.
Tell us about a typical day in residence with Flöz. How does the work differ from the work that’s been done in the first 2 years of the program and what would you say is the most interesting thing so far about the work?
Justine: Working with Flöz has been incredible so far! I really love their approach of really working with the body to approach the mask work, including how to create the mask. Typically, we start off each morning doing intense movement work with Marina that is based on the Body Weather technique. It really focuses on opening up the pelvis and isolating different areas of the body while remaining relaxed and open in the areas that aren’t working. Right now, we spend our afternoons creating our individual masks based on the research we did on an ancestor. It really feels like Flöz is a culmination of all the work we’ve done in the program thus far. I find that the physical work we’re doing goes into the smaller details of the body that is really only possible because of all the diverse training we’ve done before. And I love that we used a physical approach to finding the inspiration for our masks instead of thinking about how to create these faces. My mask is turning into something completely unexpected because of what I discovered in the process and I don’t think I would have come to this same result had I just thought about it from a purely artistic and analytical mind.
Colby: A typical day working with Flöz usually begins with biking to the studio, passing by several museums and historical sites of Berlin on the way. Once there, the day proceeds with a movement class focusing on Body Weather with Marina, and then we get lunch to rest off the intense work, during which we usually eat at the studio, but we have to option of going to nearby places. In the second half we either have devising or mask work, both of which are progressing at an exciting pace.
How does Berlin compare to Arezzo and Torino? Will living in the city impact your approach or perspective to your art? What fun things are you and your classmates doing outside of the studio?
Justine: Berlin is a fantastic city that is just bursting with life! The city itself is huge, much bigger than Arezzo and even Torino. Many of us bought bikes here so we can easily get around and it’s been great getting to see the city in that way! There is so much to do here and there’s really something for everyone. I personally love all of the graffiti and street art that can be found all over the city. It’s so creative and I find a beautiful convergence of dirty and artistic, beauty and grotesque. The art scene is great here and some of us have already been to the theatre, taken in live music, and many of us are looking at dance/circus/yoga/etc. classes to do outside of class. I have a fantastic park across from my flat that has a flea market every Sunday. I will say the only strange thing about being here has been not speaking the language! Though many Germans speak English, many do not and I feel a bit lost being in a country where I don’t understand or speak the language!
Colby: Berlin is different from Arezzo in terms of size, and from Torino in terms of scale. Torino was a city of long metro rides or medium walks. Berlin is a place of very long walks or long bike rides. it has a lot of history, but it is definitely a city to live a daily life in, with all kinds of shops, clubs, and events going on constantly. The energy of the city has given the work we do a certain flavor, and I’m sure that will translate into the work we create here.
FLIC and Flöz Pedagogy
Below, Francesco Sgro, Artistic Director at FLIC, and Hajo Schueler from Familie Flöz, share how their respective residencies fit into the overall pedagogic goals of the MFA in Physical Theatre program.
Francesco (FLIC): The central aspects of the work we do with the MFA students is to understand how a physical theatre actor gives shape to what the circus is. What worlds can be created with the circus technique that the student learned? Imagination is very different between a circus performer and an actor. For me it is observing a lot, I look at them a lot, even during the breaks, I try to find elements that they then can bring into the performance. We push on their fantasy, which goes beyond the technique.
The expectations we put on the students is first of all to learn a basic circus technique that helps the students to approach a circus tool. It is what I call Physical Thinking. The student has to learn to use the technique on a level in order to get the capabilities to work within it with his own artistic expression. The technique we teach them should not enslave them. We want to bring students to a point were they gain a level of technique so that they can start playing with it. In a very short time giving the student the technique and the freedom of expression.
With the students from the Accademia dell’Arte I have learned a new way of working and it makes me look at circus from a new perspective. With their acting background they have a very strong scenic presence and are able to entertain an audience with basic circus technique for an hour which is not always easy for pure circus students. This for our stduents when they see the final performance of the MFA students is often a slam in the face. They show us how from a very small thing, lets say an object manipulation, whole worlds can open up thanks to the stage presence.
Hajo, what is the goal of residency? What is the main emphasis of Flöz’s work with the MFA students?
Hajo (Flöz): There are two points of main emphasis in our work regarding the Project “Ancestors”. On one side we would like to give the students the responsibility of developing a character, which is somehow connected to their personal life history. Development in this case means also to create a world/context surrounding this figure, to challenge this character in different situations and in the end to take the decision to to create something that can be repeated. The other objective is acting with a mask. The students should learn to understand what a mask can do for them and what they themselves have to give to the mask so that the mask can become alive.
What are your expectations of the students?
Hajo: For us it is always about sharing elements and steps of the creative process. Since the project is rooted in in the private sphere, in the own family of the students, we ask that they present to the whole cohort all their research outcomes, sketches, ideas and associations in order to create a common working material. This is challenging since it requires courage and trust within the group. Since the use of the mask requires such a clear structuring in performance it is a big challenge to start with something so personal coming from one’s own history. At the beginning it may be hard to reconcile these two elements. To develop their own history requires patience, work and responsibility from the students.
What do you hope students get from this experience working with Flöz?
Hajo: We want to support the student’s trust in their own creative work. Thanks to the theme of the ancestors the students can make the seminal experience of creating a sequence based on their own ideas or stories. The student should experience their work, within an ensemble framework, as process oriented and enriching.
**Correction: The previous version of this newsletter incorrectly attributed the interview with FLIC to both Francesco Sgro and Stevie Boyd, when, in fact, the interview was conducted only with Francesco, thus the response is fully his. Further, the Master of Fine Arts in Physical Theatre at the Accademia dell’Arte is offered in partnership with Mississippi University for Women. This information was unintentionally omitted from the previous version of this newsletter. **