This week Kiarra, Maggie, Jess, and Abigail talk about some exciting courses like mask making and training in Ljubljana, as well as reflecting on what their time here so far has taught them about themselves.
Kiarra Donnelly, Coastal Caronlina University
This week we arrived at our highly anticipated mask making unit. In Commedia class, we have learned to embody the different characters of the commedia dell’arte tradition sans the mask. This week, we got to hand make the mask that will complete our characters. Under the instruction of mask master Andrea, we spend 12 hours tediously transforming a strip of cow hide into an expressive, sturdy, shiny, colorful, perfectly imperfect mask. It was HARD and some of us did not make it out without scars, but the detail, effort, and time really helped me to develop a personal relationship with my mask. I am so excited to bring it to class next week and bring it to life! In other news, it snowed in Arezzo this weekend! I mean, come on, picture it: rolling hills, ancient buildings, an aqueduct, the sun setting behind the silhouette of the duomo, and the fluffiest powderiest snow dancing in the wind before settling on your eyelashes. I will never forget it. Spring Break is looming ahead, just a week away! But with that comes the ever-persistent nudge that, just like the melting snow, we are quickly losing time in this sacred space. As the sun vanishes and darkness falls upon me, I promise to make each new day count.
Abigail Gabor, City College of New York
I had never heard of Ljubljana, Slovenia before going, and did not expect to end up somewhere so beautiful and filled with theatre and art. I walked up to a random building that looked cool, and it happened to be a theatre with shows every night! We saw plays at 2 other theatres with the Accademia dell’ Arte group. It was exciting to see such a thriving theatre scene in a place I did not even know existed.My classes in Slovenia were incredibly fulfilling. I was sick before coming to Slovenia, and was afraid my voice would not be in good enough condition to fully take advantage of the classes. However, by the end of voice class I had reopened and freed my different vocal registers. I realized that I had my voice back and I could use it. Acting class was very powerful. It used psychodrama techniques that brought up emotional history that although was difficult to think about, really opened me up for acting. I was very satisfied with the results of that class. Although my time in Ljubljana was short, I grew a lot there.
Maggie Markham, Boston University
Step by step, I learn to trust my body.
I’ve been run over by thoughts for many years. Trampled, one might say…Trampled by thoughts! This, however, has not always been the case, for I surely recall a time where my thoughts were not bulldozers, my mind free and childlike and creative and bursting. Luckily the child is never lost, and my mind still looks that way–only now there sometimes seems to be a forest of thoughts in the way, a whole mess of Anxiety Trees that need clearing.
So now I learn to clear the forest. Or see through it. Or keep walking in it. Whatever the metaphor is.
And now, in my seventh year of conservatory style acting training, I am finally beginning to grasp that thing of “body mind”. This is how I stop the bulldozer of Thoughts, how I chop the Anxiety Trees. I hesitate to even describe it. I hesitate to put words to it…but I need to, in order to communicate with you.
By “body mind”, I mean…when we are hungry, we eat. (Hopefully).
When we have to pee, we do it–or else!
When we are with our loved ones, we hold their hands and put our heads on their shoulders.
And so in this way, I continue. Our bodies send us signals. They speak with us! Dance and movement are not so estranged as I once thought. Movement is a way of operating through the world. I’m beginning to move more and more in the flow. I wake up, I move through a curl instead of tensing straight up. I brush my teeth, I shift my weight between my feet to ground them and I breathe into my lower belly. I eat my pasta, I check my neck to release. In this way, by paying attention to my body and it’s signals, I learn to carve new ways of thinking and experiencing the world. I take attention away from anxieties, fearful thoughts and worries which ruminate and bounce around ands grow when I feed them! I learn to experience my self and the world in a new way. A way that has a lot less “control”, because it is less…verbose. Less words, more sensations. I, a human whose energy has often been deeply internal, am now learning to have the option of externally focused energy, as well! Not only do anxious thoughts create tension in my body–it works vice versa! By paying attention to my body, the thoughts can start to shift.
It’s funny. Body-mind looks a lot like beginner’s-mind–and this is the same mind I speak of when I describe that childhood, creativity, bursting and free and not bulldozed by analysis. “Beginner’s mind” is how we started voice classes here. Our teacher Dory tells us to adopt this, to remember how little we know despite how long we may have been doing this. Beginner’s mind is that clean slate, that release of expectation. And through this, I learn to follow my body. For perhaps the first time in my life, I learn to bridge the previous gap between my subconscious and my conscious. My foresty-thoughts are still abundant and growing with worries, fears, all the rest of the normal human lot. But it’s really becoming quite a nice forest, and my body is surely feeling a lot more listened to. When people say “trust your gut”…they mean it literally! Listen to her!!
Jessica Orelus, Muhlenberg College
I find that when I think of ways to describe this experience, words leave, and what is left is the memory of that first night. I am reminded of the plane, the lights, the speed, the takeoff and then- the floating. How we floated high above that little Newark airport, the cities, the towns, the bridges, the homes and how they soon dissolved into a collection of interconnecting stars, whirring around on the flattest pieces of earth you’d ever seen. I mean, it was crazy! And I was astounded, just by the sheer breadth of it. How interconnected everything suddenly seemed to feel. And that quality stays with me. With most every experience, excursion, guest teacher and assignment I am constantly humbled, even when those moments are difficult. I’ve gained such invaluable perspective about life, a
bout people and a greater sense of clarity (and confusion) about myself. I don’t know that I have ever felt so acutely aware of what it is to be both woman and black, before coming here- at least not in the same way and that is not bad. Throughout this process, we have been introduced to so many kinds of art-making and I would be lying if I didn’t mention that it was sometimes (maybe most times) anxious making to be thrown into something new- but at this point in the semester, I am starting to find a rhythm. And that is in part due to so many things, but I think part of what I will bring back with me to my home institution is something that I’ve learned from watching and talking to my peers. In them there is this deep quality of bravery and it is this brave inclination to fail and fail again so that you may fail better another day that I admire and find so invaluable.