Expectations, Surprises, and Discoveries: a Look into the Fall Semester
We sat down with Physical Theatre students Anne Rae Lutz and Griffin O’Connor, and Music student Elysia Hempel, to hear about their classes and experience so far:
Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the ADA that you weren’t expecting? About Arezzo?
ANNA RAE: The biggest thing I’ve learned about the ADA that I wasn’t expecting was the communal bond that forms when living and going to class in the same environment with 40+ other performing artists. Even though we have all only known each other for a couple of weeks, it feels like we have been living at the Villa together for years. The most surprising thing about Arezzo is how lively it is! I expected a small medieval town to be quiet and uneventful, however there are always a bunch of things going on, and there are always amazing restaurants and bars to try out!
GRIFFIN: The biggest thing that I have learned about the ADA would have to be the sense of community. Coming into the program I certainly expected to meet people from other schools but I had no idea how fast all of us would come together and how supportive the group would be.
ELYSIA: I wasn’t expecting this school to be as inclusive and friendly as it actually is. I was expecting there to be more competition, however, I was pleasantly surprised by all the support and positivity the students and faculty exert. In Arezzo, I was originally expecting it to be more busy. While in the historic center, theres a leisurely lifestyle that’s rare in the US. I find it very different than any city i’ve been in in the US.
Q: How does the rigor and intensity of your classes so far compare to the classes at your school in the US? Have you had any breakthroughs or self-discoveries?
ANNA RAE: At school in the US I am in a BA theatre program, so the classes here at the Accademia are much more rigorous than at home. But each day in class I am amazed at how much my body can do, and how strong and resilient my classmates are. The professors know how far to push you so that change happens, without pushing you over the edge. Morning warmups with Nhandan and Chris are crucial in helping us prepare our bodies and minds for the upcoming day. I haven’t had any major breakthroughs yet, but its only the second week, so I’m hoping it happens later down the road!
GRIFFIN: While I have experienced similar elements within my classes in the US and my classes here, the intensity and the physical and emotional demand is much higher. Although I can’t say that any big breakthroughs have been discovered during these first weeks, I have learned a lot about myself as a performer and how I work in a group.
ELYSIA: The rigor and intensity of my classes here are much higher than my classes back at Goucher College. I’ve discovered that I actually work and learn better and quicker in an intense and demanding environment compared to the flexibility of my department and professors back home. I’m learning more and more about my limits as I continue to work on my craft with the professors at ADA!
Q: What been the most interesting class for you so far? The most challenging? How so?
ANNA RAE: The most interesting class for me so far, has been Voice with Dory. Right now, we are doing Body Mapping, and we are working with partners to learn how different parts of our bodies interact with each other. It is incredibly helpful to understand how we work as humans, and to discover it as a class together. The most challenging class has been Italian Language, because we do not speak English at all while in class, and it can be difficult at times to understand the intricacies of another language and culture.
GRIFFIN: The most interesting class so far has been Commedia. I am constantly intrigued by the art form and am eager to learn more about how to perform it. The most challenging has been Philosophy. While not a bad class by any stretch, the ideas often challenge me.
ELYSIA: So far my most interesting class has been movement for musicians. Ive really enjoyed working with Dory and discovering how our musicality is directly connected to our physical being. It’s made me more aware of myself and what I’m doing while practicing or performing. It’s really helping me develop my craft as a singer. The most challenging thing has been our chamber music. Working with other students with only small guidance from professors has been a challenge forcing me to learn and utilize important communication skills. However, I understand I will turn out to be a better musician, communicator and performer in the end of it all!
MFA Cohort IV: the Home Stretch
MFA Cohort IV has been in residence with Divaldo Continuo Theatre at their artistic home of Plum Yard in Malovice, just outside of Prague, Czech Republic, for over a month. They are approaching a monumental milestone: the premier of 14 Lines, the final production of their 2.5 year MFA journey, followed by a limited tour. The residency with Continuo, and the production, are a culmination of 2-plus years of training, study, reflection, synthesis, collaboration and extremely hard work. We asked Justine Hince and Richard Martinez Sanchez to pause from composition and rehearsal to reflect on their current work and how the past 2 years have come together:
Q: As you approach the end of the MFA program, does having the end in sight impact your work with Continuo? With the cohort in general?
JUSTINE: It’s really hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of our program already! Initially, I think we all thought it would be weird to end with Continuo in the Czech Republic after spending so much time together in Arezzo. However, this experience has really brought all of us together in a way that I don’t think any of us expected. Living, working, and creating together here has made our cohort the strongest it’s ever been and I think that can be seen in the really strong work we’re making here. We have an urgency and a desire to make this show the best we’ve ever done, not just in content but also as something that we are all happy with as a send-off for our program.
RICHARD: Continuo’s approach to theatre is very sensitive and human. It is touching deeply everyone’s theatrical principles which in some cases is helping people to have personal realizations and improve their abilities on stage.
Q: After working with many artists & instructors over the last two years, have you noticed any commonalities in styles, techniques, approaches or philosophies? How do these compare to your professional or educational experience(s) from before the MFA?
RICHARD: I have definitely found a common line between many artist/instructors over the last two years. Starting with Ginevra Scaglia and the physical approach based on Lecoq’s technique. With her, I started working with the control of the body and it’s energy, which can be reflected in different shapes, forms, or colors. Continuing with Rita Petrone and Sabine Fitcher, we focused on the pleasure of movement and it’s simplicity. We also passed through Saso’s work with humanity and vulnerability which contrasts and complements the physical work of the previous professors. And finally, we worked with Fabio Mangolini, who focused on the control of the ‘’koshi’’ which makes performers light on stage and capable of controlling his or her body for a more effective communication.
I was trained in Mime, Acting, Flamenco and in many different types of movement and body philosophies including The Lessac Institute’s method. All these combinations allowed me to arrive to this program with a knowledge which opened me up to many other possibilities in theatre. I was able to find my own path and my own aesthetics which I like to call Human Theatre.
JUSTINE: Considering the diversity of our instructors, it’s really interesting to see the overlaps between pedagogies. A big thing we’ve learned through many of our classes is how to listen to each other and be a group. This has been really relevant here at Continuo as we focus on choral work. This involves not just listening with our ears or watching with our eyes but really using our whole bodies to feel the impulses from the group. A lot of my education and professional work before the program seemed to be lacking in this area. I don’t think it was ever intentional, but I think a lot of American training is focused on the individual artist and how YOU can stand out in a crowd and have your moment. One philosophy that Fabio Mangolini told us during our acting classes was that your job as an actor is to make those with whom you share the stage look their best, you are there to support the others. Each person gives their best for the sake of the others and that’s been a fantastic way to work.
Q: In what unique ways is your work with Continuo challenging? Is this different than it might have been at this time last year?
JUSTINE: After focusing so much on the ensemble, one thing that really challenged us here was creating solo work. We started our residency here with a series of solo pieces. It was both liberating and challenging as we hadn’t really done a lot of solo work since our first semester with Ginevra. I think a year ago we might not have found the idea of solo work as challenging but I also don’t think we would have been able to create content of such quality as we’ve done here. Additionally, we’ve all reached a place where we are willing to push ourselves farther than we’ve done before and have consequently found new qualities to our movement habits.
RICHARD: Getting to know Continuo’s work has made me really stop in certain moments and think seriously about the future of theatre. I have always said that theatre is made by humans and should therefore come from the human experience. Here, in the Plum Yard, this statement has never been more true. We have seen that there is no way to be on stage to create something powerful and impactful for the audience if you haven’t faced yourself as a human. More over, doing this allows you use very simple movements in a more effective way.
It’s very different because at this time last year we were working with specific styles that in a way are stablished and have their “rules”. With this work there is no rules, there is a process of discovery of yourself to be able to create and express in your own ways. That’s the difference and the challenge.
MFA Cohort V: back for Year 2
After their early summer circus residency with FLIC Scuola di Circo and a well-deserved summer break, Cohort V has returned to Arezzo to kick off Year 2 of the MFA in Physical Theatre. Up first, Clown with instructor Andre Casaca. Lindsey Root offered her thoughts on Cohort V’s return to action:
Q: After spending part of your summer with circus training and part of your summer on break, how do you feel prepared to begin Year 2 compared to beginning Year 1?
LINDSEY: I am definitely more prepared for year 2 than I was for year 1 and I think that has a lot to do with having been at circus school with FLIC in Torino. In that time we were able to train for 6 hours a day and it allowed us to build strength where necessary, as well as learn new ways to move and work our bodies. It was very important for me that the work was somewhat individualized for each of us, because we are all working in the same ways but our bodies are different and should be treated as such. I think this also helped me in how to process the way we work as a group in our “regular” classes, dynamically and not only physically.
Q: What particular classes, projects or instructors are you looking forward to working on (or with) this semester?
LINDSEY: I am so psyched for clown with Andre Casaca! Before starting this class I was excited, but since we’ve started I have enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. The way he looks at his work and how he teaches us is absolutely incredible! He enjoys his work so much and really brings it out in us as well. However, with that said, I am also looking forward to each stage of this semester and the special stylizations on which we will be working. This semester is a chance for us to apply what we learned in the base level of our program while learning some new techniques and performance styles. We have some amazing teachers that know a lot about what they’re teaching and it is an honor to be a student of theirs.
Q: As you work towards your Grad Lab later in the year, what are you most excited about? What do you think could be most challenging?
I am honestly mostly terrified about this thought! I think my biggest challenge will be indecision. There is a lot I want to explore and I also want it to be able to be applied to my thesis. I am excited about bringing to life some of my ideas and seeing them on a stage. I think we’ve all had a lot of time to devise with each other, but the difference with the Grad Lab is that we don’t necessarily have to collaborate with another in the initial idea and or process, simply meaning the compromises are different. I look forward to the creative process and exploring an idea or style further.
Clown with Andre Casaca
MFA Cohort V has kicked of Year 2 of the MFA program studying and training in clown with Andre Casaca. Read below about his approach to the work with the MFA students:
The Clown work “unhinges” the common structure of the actor and makes his intentions transparent in the scene. It is a work that helps to find oneself, the comical side, without trying to find parodies or trying to create a character. The great challenge for the students is to accept interaction with the audience in a direct and simple way. If the clown has a thought it is because he thinks with his gut. This is risky for actors. It is here were the clown lives: in the failure!
My interest during the teaching is and continues to be that of being able to provoke in the students the necessity to build the comic identity of the body and to find again the simplicity, the tenderness and the power to stay in the scene together with the audience. To bring the students to meet their own “comical identity of the body” means to also recognize one’s own stupidity, which for the clown is a very important part of his comedy. One does not become stupid, you already are!
To be stupid means to be in a state of wonder or surprise. It means to understand in a different way as opposed to not understanding. It means to use the eyes not to photograph or analyze reality. It means to accept, welcome and respond to the necessities of the audience. This means to take off rather than add to; to strip off concepts or form and to make the clown’s presence on the stage transparent. This is a constantly difficult condition to take on.
I think that clown work is fundamental because it returns the actor of today to being in touch with their fragility and to find their expressive strength within this vulnerable state of being. It is not by chance that clown work is put into the curriculum of many theatre schools and academies, and often near the end, because clown gives back identity to the actor during their theatrical representation.
I started my artistic pathway with classical theatre and soon I became interested in gestural theatre, in the body and its global possibilities and infinite expressions. The characters that I was realizing at the beginning were already often very physical and I was instinctively trying to limit the verbal expression and to bring intention through gesture and movement. From this perspective, I was observing people more and more in their daily lives and I was artistically nurturing myself by observing them in their gestural character, which often was carrying with it the personal life of the people. At the beginning of the 90s I show in Brazil from a theatre company called LUME with who then I studied for two years. I was impressed by seeing an entire show where there were no words and they were extending the time and the reactions on the stage without the fear of loosing the audience.
We worked a lot on the “fiasco”, on staying in the moment beyond what may be expected, on staying with the breath, with the anticipation and with the suspension. It is a group with many potentialities and interests in this personal “comicality” which I try to trigger. I’m happy about the chemistry that was formed between them and myself. I hope they can carry this bodily-comical work with them for the future.
Don’t miss these upcoming programs! Less than 3 weeks left to apply for Spring 2018 Programs. Registration is now open for 2018 Summer Intensive Programs. Click a title to get started!
Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program – Apply by October 15
Spring 2018 Dance Program – Apply by October 15
2018 Summer Physical Theatre Intensive – Register by December 1 for 5% off | Standard registration deadline: March 15
2018 Summer Dance Intensive – Register by December 1 for 5% off | Standard registration deadline: March 15
Fall 2018 Physical Theatre Program – Apply by February 1 for 5% off tuition | Standard deadline: April 1
2018-2019 One Year Physical Theatre Program – Apply by February 1 for 5% off tuition | Standard deadline: April 1
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MFA in Physical Theatre – Application Deadline: April 1
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*offered by Mississippi University for Women in collaboration with Accademia dell’Arte