This summer our intern, Rachel Wansker, will be sharing her experience of our program here on our ADALife Blog. She will also be leading our students, staff, and faculty in a number of workshops (pictured above) where everyone will work together breaking the usual teacher/student boundaries. With week one of our Sumer Physical Theatre and Dance Intensives coming to a close Rachel reflects on her experience and the experiences of her peers in and out of classes so far.
We arrive one by one. We break through the patriot barrier into a new cultural being. Each of us hauling our suitcases up the stairs, we are fresh, we are hungry, we are nervous. And then there is Italy. “My first thought was, this place is so beautiful,” says student Alyssa Linares “I grew up in Arizona and I’m not used to so much green.” Learning against this backdrop is overwhelming. The smells of gardenias and honeysuckle open up our lungs, allowing us to breathe and begin the work. Arezzo is so beautiful and we all hope to be beautiful too.
For me, my first week here at the Accademia has been held tension between fear and beauty. I have been living in Israel for the past year doing very little acting. My self-consciousness and fear scream loudly next to my creativity. I expect this of course because as author Elizabeth Gilbert states so eloquently in her book Big Magic, “Creativity and Fear are in fact conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and they cannot be separated without killing them both. And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear! (People do this all the time, and it’s tragic….don’t do it.)”. So here I am, in the middle of Italy, prepared to take fear on my road trip to creativity.
My first couple of days are difficult. The elasticity of jumping from course to course, interaction to interaction, introducing myself over and over again, has challenged me to accept my present situation. Lucky for me, the course I have chosen to take is Clown: Comic Body and Identity. Our teacher, Andre Casaca makes it impossible to live out of the moment. Between exhausting us to death with movement exercises and pouring water on our heads when we make a mistake, we don’t seem to know which way to look. We have no choice but to live in our zombie actor bodies and allow this crazy Brazilian man to throw shoes at us. While this might seem like insane behavior, it makes me feel overwhelmingly loved. “RAQUEL! I WILL SEND YOU BACK TO JERUSALEM!” Andre screams in Italian, as he hurls another shoe in my direction. These are the moments when my fear dissolves and my failure is completely accepted by the room. Andre celebrates our failure with the joy and playfulness only a clown can have. In these few short days, I have already begun to embrace myself and look forward to failures, rather than run from them.
I can tell that other students feel this too. “My body could do a lot more than I expected”. Says clown student Bianca Jennings. I watch as my fellow classmates fail too and I am completely in awe of their bravery. It inspires me to take more risks and find freedom in my fear. For me, this in itself is an amazing feat.
Now that the first week is over, I find that the Accademia has one unique quality that I have yet to see in higher education. When I sit down at lunch with the faculty, we scarf down the same pasta. I feel as if I am a respected partner and supported as such. When I told the Director of student services, Monica Capacci about my long journey in Israel, she really listened. I get to have many deep discussions about body and movement with Dance teacher Helena Fernandino over breakfast. Bob Shryock has listened patiently to me process my feelings after class almost every day this week. When I told the director of the intensive, Dory Sibley, about my work as a social change artist, she saw me as an asset and invited me to teach a few workshops in the intensive. Suddenly, this week I found myself teaching the faculty. Dory made me feel seen, just for being myself! Additionally, she gave me the space and the opportunity to be myself. I can honestly say haven’t felt so valued as a professional in a long while.
With this feeling of gratitude, I carry over one last thought for the next three weeks, and that is of trustful thinking. At lunch one day Bob told me his own expectations for the intensive, he said, “I look forward to forty plus students coming from many different places from many different backgrounds opening themselves up and trusting each other and learning and growing because of that.” I have a good feeling that the intensive will be exactly that.