Last week the theatre students read Comedy by Andrew Stott in our philosophy class with Emilja. The book includes commentary and analysis on different forms of comedy, the origins of comedy, and how and why it is such a large aspect of our modern culture. The book marks different genres of comedy and encourages the reader to question why things are “funny” and the importance of laughter. I have never read anything quite like this book. It is a book not just for actors or comedians, but for all spectators of comedy. Because comedy is such an enormous part of communication, I think it’s important that people understand why they are laughing. Our laughter can say many things about us—about our political stances, our feelings towards ourselves and others, global perspective, community. Comedy gives us a way to discuss important issues in an artful way. Just in a simple conversation with friends at dinner, I found myself using all of these genres of comedy. It is a part of who we are, and whether or not you consider yourself a comedian, every person’s own sense of humor is a part of what makes us human. We are constantly sharing our comedy, and I am excited to share my new perspective on comedy both as an art form and part of life to everyone when I return home. Emilija’s class has given me the tools to understand comedy and its importance in my life.
-Tricia O’Toole, Physical Theatre
One of the most amazing things about this semester at ADA is that we get the opportunity to work with so many remarkable and amazing artists. It’s been especially exciting when we have been graced with the presence of our visiting guest artists, and one such experience that I found particularly enriching was the one week intensive in Butoh that the dancers and the full-year students got to do with the incredible Mark Wilson and Mitsuru Sasaki. Butoh is a very unique dance style and one that is so far afield from anything I have ever experienced or been involved in before. It’s a style that comes from Japan and embraces imagery as an exercise and, above all, misinterpretation. Throughout the week, I was amazed by how much this new style exercised not only my body, but also my brain. I was surprised by how my muscles were exercised in new ways (as evidenced by the significant soreness of my body) and by how much concentration the exercises took. This dance style is not just about the physical work that goes into it, but so much about the mental work as well, using images as impetus for movement, such as a small fish controlling your body from within, and consistently seeing all the way around the world and watching the back of your own head. The philosophy of the style that Mark and Mitsuru shared with us was both enlightening and beautifully simple. I would really love to share what I learned from this experience with my fellow dancers when I return to the US; the discipline of the movement, the creativity of immersing yourself in the images, and the simple mindset that while you have a great responsibility, above all, you are you.
-Liz Spilsbury, Dance
This past week the acting students had our final performance for Commedia dell’ Arte. The class consisted of learning about the stock characters and then beginning to devise our own commedia canovacci (scenes). As an actress, one of my biggest “fears” used to be improvisation because I thought I never knew what to say. But, through my training in commedia dell’ arte, I feel that I have conquered that fear. All of the many elements of commedia (the specific characters, improvisation, and the mask) make it an incredibly difficult form of theatre but after nearly 80 hours of commedia in just a little bit over a month’s time, I think that we have all began to scratch the surface and were able to tap into commedia. I’m also officially of the belief that if you can do commedia, you can do anything.
-Kat Gaffney, Physical Theatre
I really loved the final that the theatre students put together for Commedia dell’Arte. After working on different canovacci in class, we decided which ones we would want to perform in our final. The performance ended up being a site-specific adventure that took the audience to different spaces inside and outside of the villa. It opened with a group number of everyone singing “Che sarà sarà” in our commedia masks, with our heads poking out of the three windows right next to the front entrance of the villa. From there, we took the audience across the front garden, into the living room, then to the kitchen, over to a classroom for a lecture, up the stairs and down a dark hallway, and back down, eventually leading everyone outside to the place where we started. In character, we would always persuade the audience to follow us, usually because we needed them to “help” us look for something or someone. I was extraordinarily happy to be able to do this kind of theatre here. I love immersive theatre; by putting the theatrical aspects in the middle of everyday life, you are pulling the audience into the journey because it becomes their surroundings. I love the kind of curiosity that comes with being an audience member participating in an experience like this. By being led around by the performers to places you cannot predict, you are sort of being pulled “down the rabbit hole” and I do not think there is anything more exciting than that.
– Susannah Holub, Physical Theatre
Commedia reminded me of the depth within each character in a story. Each character, equipped with a history dating back hundreds of years, represents a content of personality and perspective comparable to that of people in reality. Our final required each of us to discover these characters through cleanliness of movement, specificity of voice, and commitment to their stories. We all struggled through what I, and others, have recognized as one of the hardest styles of acting we had encountered. However, we overcame our hardships and the seemingly endless obstacles we experienced. This was a tough-earned accomplishment, but I can say with confidence that my colleagues and I approached the work with a determination and desire to be proud of our performance and that became apparent in our presentations. I have learned so much about what it is to be an actor through this artistically deep technical work, and with each new thing I’ve learned, I realize how much I didn’t know. This is why I love acting. There is no perfection to reach, and no absolute answers to my problems. I struggle through the work to find appreciation for the irrefutable humanity within the characters of these stories. Commedia gave me another gateway through which I can reencounter humanity in my art and I have profound respect and gratitude for that opportunity.
– Harrison Grant Meacham, Physical Theatre