Thursday, July 16, 2009

A student's thoughts on the first 3 days of training

photo by Brenda Sparks
From ApCo member David Corlew:

We are now three days into the first week of Apprentice Company training. Two ideas have dominated for me so far: a continual process of self reflection and the importance of a wholly connected ensemble.
The first idea, that we should always be probing deeply to learn more about ourselves and how that affects our interactions with the world, comes up in two daily activities.

We warmup each morning with a short yoga routine to center and quiet our focus, and wejournal once a day, writing without pause in a "stream of conscienceness" style to answer quesitons like, "Who am I?" "What are my causes in life?" or "What moves me to action?" There's an obvious benefit in forcing yourself to come to terms with who you are. But in thinking about these answers for ourselves, we are also practicing a mode of observance that every actor uses in trying to create characters. If we are honest, which we try to be by writing without reserve, our answers will make us feel both good and bad, revealing traits we like and traits we don't like, nobility and shallowness together; and this is a reminder of the complexity of all human beings and thus all characters. That's not to make the training sound isolating - really, it is anything but. The group is very open and feels very connected, both while working and during breaks (for VitaminWater10...added by mangement ha!).

Another daily activity is Viewpoints work, which is too complicated to try to explain in one online blog entry (or really any number of online blog entries). Suffice it to say that it gets us thinking about the physicality of our characters. It is a way to begin working on the outer manifestations of whoa character is - how they walk, what their posture is like, etc. - by actually doing it. It really breaks down barriers in the group and makes everyone comfortable. Instead of feeling self conscious, or wondering if what you're doing is right (or worse, convincing yourself you have some more thinking to do before you try doing something) you are forced to jump the gun and try something. Plus you benefit from watching what seventeen other people are trying. All that takes place in the morning.

The afternoons vary every day - Monday we worked on textual analysis (working through the poetry of Shakespeare's plays and identifying how that poetry can even direct us to clues about who our characters are), Tuesday we watched Laugh-In (our inspiration for the setting of our TAMING OF THE SHREW) and looked through magazines from the '60s for ideas about our characters, and Wednesday we did stage combat (!). Theory is a tempting weed to action. In math, I always like to understand every facet of every tool I am using to solve a problem before I start trying the problem. Fifteen minutes later, when I'm fifteen problems behind my classmates, I normally give in to just working each problem and find that I pick up (at least most of) the theory that way. In relationships, we sometimes obsess over the best way to approach bumps in the road, but the decision all that thinking pointed toward is so often thwarted or transformed (you pick the slant you like) when it is put in the hands of the friend we're trying to patch things up with. Thinking is most rewarding when coupled with action. It's often hard, in shows, for me to jump overthe hurdle of first trying what I've thought about my character. So far the coolest thing ApCo has done for me is force me to jump that hurdle immediately and really quite effortlessly. It's not that theory or thinking is bad, but it's strongerwhen coupled with action. When one actor has an idea, that idea won't reach its full potential unless the actor brings it into the real world, where it is vulnerable to be shaped by other actors and constantly evolve. It is this sort of organic possibility to which Viewpoints helps open up our group. It sounds pretty obvious now that it's spelled out plainly here, but it was a very striking revelation to me earlier about how important it is to have courage to shoves omething out there and availability to work with what's being shoved back."