Congratulations to Cohort III!
27 month Journey Concludes with “Elevation” in the Czech Republic and Slovakia
Up? Down? Are you going with us? You can’t get on, it’s full. Get off, please. It got jammed again. A lift in an anonymous house. Tons of characters, floors, voices, stories and doors behind which a great number of situations and life stories are hidden. A movement and puppet slapstick comedy with live lift music taking place on four square metres and 265 floors.
While in residence at Plum Yard, home of Continuo Theatre in Malovice, Czech Republic, the twelve members of Cohort III devised, rehearsed and performed “Elevation”, a full length, fully realized production. Their eight-week residency also included intensive training with Continuo and was the final component of their work before graduating.
The opening show took place in the Theatre of Plum Yard before being shown on an international tour in the Czech Republic and Slovakia performing in major cities such as Prague, Brno, Bratislava and Banska Bystrica.
For photos of Cohort III’s Czech Republic residency and performances of “Elevation”, check out the album.
MFA Cohort IV: Devising
While MFA Cohort III just completed their graduate journey, MFA Cohort IV is nearing the end of their first semester (Module One). The primary performative element so far has been short, devised pieces. We took a few minutes with Kevin Crawford (MFA Program Director) and Fabio Mangolini (MFA Associate Program Director) to discuss the projects so far and why devising is vital to the MFA program:
KEVIN – The goal of the MFA program is to launch the graduates into the world as confident, creative, autonomous artists with a strongly developed aesthetic sensibility. What role does devising play in accomplishing this goal?
Devising is an integral part of the program and occurs bi-weekly from the very first semester. By challenging ourselves to create work on a regular level, inspired by a range of prompts and suggestions, we gradually develop a precious skill: how, sometimes in limited time and means, to find our own voice. Exposing ourselves to such an ongoing demand to create our own work exercises the imagination like a muscle and bestows confidence through trial and error.
FABIO – How would you define “devising”? Are there any differences between devising in the context of the Accademia’s MFA in Physical Theatre compared to devising in the professional world?
What is for me? It is the oldest way to do theatre: it is a process for creating performances with the contribution of every member of the group with his or her own capacities. In this sense, the process we suggest reproduces what happens in the professional world. The only difference is the challenge. The students are working in a protected field slowly opened to the audience.
KEVIN – You mentioned devising is an integral component of the Accademia’s MFA training, being introduced at the beginning of Module One. What devised work has MFA Cohort IV done so far? What is the faculty’s expectation of the students and their work at this early point in their training?
So far Cohort IV has presented three devised events. These have all been based on duos of 3-5 minutes inspired by very simple but open-ended prompts. Given the early stage of the program our objectives at this stage are threefold: to give students the opportunity to reveal their talents and natural preferences, to enable students to discover each other’s working process and skills through partnering, and to give students and faculty alike the opportunity through feedback and discussion to begin to articulate a common vocabulary.
FABIO – The MFA in Physical Theatre is rooted in the ethos of the actor-creator. Where does this term come from? How is it applied to the MFA in Physical Theatre?
The idea of the actor/creator is surely older than the idea of the actor developed during the last three centuries. The dichotomy actor/creator vs. actor/interpreter is used in our days sometimes to distinguish the “commercial” way from the “artistic” way. In my opinion the actor/creator is the owner of his own work, is the actor able to read the contemporary time and to reveal it on a stage. We have a wonderful and powerful example of actor/creator in the Commedia dell’Arte and that’s why Commedia dell’Arte is a specific part in our training: the possibility for each actor to enter in a group, and consequently in a performance, with his own theatrical background. If we change an actor the all performance will change.
In the MFA in Physical Theatre we want the actor to develop his own capacities to be an active part in a process and, then, in a performance.
KEVIN & FABIO – For students or professional actor/performers who haven’t experienced devising or creating self-generated work, how can it compliment their existing artistic skillset? What qualities are important for a positive devising experience?
KEVIN – Self-generated work can help the actor/performer at any stage of her/his development even if the final objective is not to make a devised piece. The reasoning for this is that the skills demanded for generating your own work, combined with the challenge that this implies, force the performer to re-examine assumptions and habits in their own approach to performance. Generating your own work puts the onus on the actor to be fully responsible for what happens onstage. This sense of fully “owning” your work is very valuable for any performer even if they are so-called following the blocking of a director. Their increased sense of responsibility may aid the director to find the tone wished in a scene or review choices that are being made. I think the most essential quality for a positive devising experience has to be curiosity – curiosity that remains open to the unexpected and the sensibility of partners in the process: allied to that of course must be an infinite patience and the capacity to develop drama through full attention to both form and content.
FABIO – In our program, devising and self-generated work implies the necessity to develop the skills that are fundamental for an actor and, generally speaking, for a human being: the attitude to share and to not be closed in a pre-existing idea; the ability to be opened and to listen to the other with all the senses. Hearing each other is the first quality of an actor. Increasing it, we will be able to create a new way for the theatre, axed on a real meeting on the stage: something is happened and theatre will be every day a new experience.