My last several months have been busy, filled with workshops I’ve presented, scenes I’ve filmed, studios I’ve danced in, classes I’ve taught and taken. Now I’m replenishing my reserves of energy and interest with work in New York; scene study, theatre, voice class. A few ideas, from rehearsals and conversations, stood out to me during this last week. Although the comments come from a performance context they really apply to all parts of our lives.
“Notice, listen, speak”
“When the words and the body are incongruous, trust the body”
“Art means form and form means purpose…..”
“Theatre raises the stakes. It’s about life, but life based on the strongest choice you can make.”
“Give yourself to the other actor to create a balance of weight and energy. Push that balance to its limit. Maintain contact while you shift the level of balance and feel what changes. Be there for the other actor. Be present, but as you give, know you don’t need to solve the problem for the other actor.”
One of the great things about a play is that it has a beginning, middle, and an end. That is true of our lives as well, of course, but a play presents the three in way that allows us to see the impact of the choices a character makes in a telescoped or foreshortened way. Sometimes we don’t see the outcomes of our own decisions quite so quickly or clearly. But the essential questions revealed for characters in a play are the same kinds of questions we ask ourselves in life. When are we best served by noticing something first, listening to another, and then speaking? How might we look for our strongest choice and then make it? When can we be there for someone else while not actually needing to solve their problem? How can we combine attention and action in our lives, on stage and off?
While reading an actor’s bio in Playbill this week I noticed the description “… is a teacher, director, actor, devisor and consultant.” I love seeing the word devisor in an actor’s biography. It seems to describe what we all do in so many different ways; on stage, in rehearsal, in the kitchen, in a classroom, in the office.
Devising – It’s the making of something that wasn’t there before. Sometimes it’s done with planning and forethought- “I’m thinking about how I might present this idea in the workshop I’m teaching….” Sometimes it’s done in a moment of intuition or insight, “Oh, I can use this clip to wedge the space and then be able to ….”
Devised theatre is a form of theatre where the script originates not from a playwright but from collaborative, often improvisatory, work by a group of people (usually, but not necessarily, the performers). In daily life devising may take place in collaboration with others or as a collaborative synthesis of our own varied ideas. It evolves out of noticing, listening, and making. It has to do with form, purpose, and trust.
With the arrival of spring and new ideas budding forth here’s to making something that wasn’t there before. Devise away.