Breakthrough stories: Current theatre students reflect on their aha! moments at ADA
by admin • November 13, 2014 • Undergraduate Physical Theatre • 0 Comments
Over the past two weeks, the theatre students got to work with a dance faculty member, Sabine, on Laban movement technique. I had a lot of breakthrough moments in her class that really helped me open my mind to all of the things that my body can do. We focused on Laban analysis, which a specific vocabulary that can be used to define movement; it has to do with the manner in which your body moves and relates to the space around it. There are eight main effort qualities: flicking, dabbing, punching, slashing, pressing, wringing, floating, and gliding. Each of these comprises a different combination of the condition of timing, weight, and special movement of your body parts. After doing some exercises, we started doing some devised theatre with it. I had no prior experience with devised theatre, and found it a little bit intimidating at first. However, since the entire class was working with the same vocabulary and were equipped with the same tools, our devised pieces came more naturally than I ever thought they could. Despite the effort qualities seeming vague and general at first, when we made pieces based around them stories were told in a very clear manner, and it seemed as if working with this new vocabulary opened up a whole realm of possibilities for movement within my body. I thought this was really incredible, being that there were only eight terms that were used to describe everything that we did! This unit of study really brought our ensemble together and we had a lot of fun doing the exercises and making discoveries at the same time. It was also the first opportunity that we ever got to present work to each other in a slightly more performance-like setting, and it was great to see everyone’s different creative styles shine through. I think that this work will really help me in the future when trying to develop characters in scene work, and will help me communicate with my fellow actors in a more concise manner.
I’ve had many breakout moments in my life, the moment I decided to put everything on the line and major in theatre, the moment my fiancé asked me to spend the rest of my life with him, the moment when I landed the main role in a main stage production and of course the moment I was accepted into the ADA program. These moments influenced me in ways that continue to be relevant to how I navigate on my path to greatness. Within this time in the ADA program, I’ve learned many things about my self as an artist and a woman. Because the ADA program is ensemble focused my breakout moments have mostly come in the form of group work. One of those moments came during the recent preparation for a vocal finale. The assignment was to create an ensemble performance using a poem. Not only did we have to be vocally dynamic but also create physical based pictures. Although this assignment was complex the true complexity was working with 16 people to achieve one goal. During the process there were many bumps in the road. Opinions and ideas can take a lot of time to develop and turn into a tangible well thought out production, plus trying to get 16 different personalities on the same page is no easy task. I found my self-feeling a large amount of pressure and stress. But once we all literally and metaphorically took a deep breath and depended on each other things fell into place. This was a breakout moment for me because although we are all from different backgrounds and are accustomed to doing things in very different ways, we were able to put all egos aside and complete our task successfully. This moment will be with me forever. I was so happy to be surrounded by talented artist, whom could no doubt be successful independently, but came together and made magic as a unit. In that moment I was proud to be apart of the ensemble and after we completed our finial I looked around and realized not only is the joy I feel because we got things done as a group but also I was just as joyous to call these people my family.
This week in Commedia we worked with specific canovaccio scenes to get our characters up on their feet, living and breathing and improvising. On Wednesday, Michele led us through an exercise saying our character’s objective out loud as we played on stage–not only the action we were performing (to push, to interrogate, to seduce, etc) but the objective (to make Isabella answer me, to get Francesca to reciprocate my affection, etc). This exercise helped me really appreciate objectives for the first time in my life–no longer an obligation to assign a verb to every single line of my character, but a real and present exploration of intention and motivation. It’s easy to tell when you have a weak objective–are you trying to get something from someone? If you’re only trying to “explain,” your character doesn’t get very far. But to “impress”? Now you have a purpose in life.
After working through two big group scenes on Wednesday, we split up into duos and found other scenes to work in the canovaccio. Danielle and I–the two lovers, Leandro and Isabella–chose a scene in which Isabella confronts Leandro about the vulgar letter she thinks was sent by him (but was really sent by Capitano). In our version, she first gives him the cold shoulder because she’s mad and she wants to make him more interested. Eventually Leandro breaks her wall of resistance by calling her by their most intense pet name, “shnookums”. I realized while writing down objectives for this scene that a) the dynamic is very clear–a push and pull of attention between two forces, and b) Leandro can be downright manipulative when he wants to be; for the “shnookums” line, I found my way to “sabotage” as an appropriate action, in order to get Isabella back on Leandro’s side to stop her forced marriage to Capitano. So evil! And I thought he was all cupcakes and puppies. Rediscovering objectives has been a huge breakthrough this week for me.