Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Palette of Possibilities

What will I be today? 

All my life I have turned to forms of artistic expression to help me with this momentous question. My practice has included violin, theatre, singing, movement of various genres, vocal techniques, and Michael Chekhov acting technique. Each discipline gave me a direction, goals, and process towards discovery of my being and identity. I have been very satisfied working in these ways. Knowing what they have to offer, I have dedicated my career to teaching others how to have an artistic practice.

While the disciplines vary in approach and what we might call short term and long term goals, they have much in common. They direct us to aspects of our being. Each form takes us on a journey that connects us to essential and extraordinary human qualities and abilities. Studied in these ways, we are dealing in abstracts that feel more real and more alive than anything we experience in everyday existence. 

At first, the abstract nature of any discipline seems vague if we have been living with most of our focus in the everyday world. But aren’t the common forms of our ordinary lives just too familiar, too repetitious, and finally boring? Doesn’t something within us rebel against this mundanity? Isn’t this protest the call of the artist in us?

Once we get past the hold that the ordinary can have on us, we are ready to explore the ‘something more’ that urges us to seek and find. As good students, we will embrace the discipline for its own sake, follow the teacher, commit to the practice. Then we will apply it to our goals as the opportunities arise. The practice will fail us, however, if we don’t reach beyond the discipline and career goals to a larger human view. 

As I consider each form I have encountered, I realize that the more I connected each moment of practice with a larger sense of developing individuality, the more I got out of it. Our palette of possibilities is virtually infinite when we open ourselves to receive each movement, each rhythm, each quality, each color of our being in our effort. This is a private affair, a personal practice, that enlarges our sense of identity. It will be this larger sense of being that will be expressed as something marvelous when the time comes to express it in performance. 

I support artists at all stages of their careers to engage in this solo endeavor of self discovery. Having spent many hours in the studio, I know the benefits and the challenges. You do need a process. You do need self motivation and follow-through, which can be a huge obstacle in our crazy world, especially when you are out of school and responsible for your own continued development. You can link this effort to career goals to spur you on, but keep your scope large. Keep working on your individual palette of possibilities!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What moves me?

I’m listening to the  Mana-Zucca Violin Concerto played by my violin teacher, Eddy Brown. At first as I listen I simply marvel at the mastery of the performance. Then I give over to the music and allow it to move through me, take over my consciousness and body. I follow the melodic lines, pulse with the rhythms, take the dynamic turns. The concerto has become what I am knowing/feeling/doing right now. It has become the inner music of my being.

Just like that - connect to a performance through a recording on Youtube, and be moved. The advantage of listening is letting the performer do it for you. As a violinist, I struggled to reach that place where I was one with the music I played. The technical difficulties and my inexperience seemed to prevent this complete freedom of soul. I yearned to find the music in me even as I expressed it. 

When I became an actor I translated this desire to a different form. The actor’s art has a different set of demands than the violinist’s and the more I became aware of them, the more I realized I had set off on another journey. 

Tonight as I listen and compare the two art forms, I realize with fresh insight new goals for the art of the actor - to find the life within the character like this concerto; to own the knowing/feeling/doing of the character as a flow of inner music; to sing on the inside through every moment of playing. 

Listen to the music with me:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A New Page

What a great way to begin a New Year! Three days of artistic exploration in the Studio*. In the midst of snowstorms we were still able to have an artistic retreat with wonderful theatre colleagues in a workshop called, Playing in the Realm of Fairy Tale

The idea for the three day workshop came from a bit of brainstorming by company members of The Moving Dock Theatre Company who have enjoyed many creative projects in the past and were itching to do something. Somehow, the conversation turned to fairy tales. Everybody liked the potential. It seemed open ended, inviting.

Getting ready to lead this workshop, my starting off place was a brilliant adaptation of a fairy tale, a film called The Red Shoes. It's pure magic how the original tale is woven into not only a story, but a ballet within a story. At the beginning of the ballet there is a somewhat frightening character of the shoemaker enticing would be dancers to put on the red shoes. 

Was this the beginning for a life in the arts? 

I asked the actors this question, “Who held out the red shoes and bid you to dance?” What followed was a series of movement explorations that developed the memories. Working solo most of the time, we formed with the language of gesture tales from very personal experiences in the pursuit of art in our lives. We made new fairy tales complete with witches, puppets, flying books, dangerous encounters, and wise guides.  

It was, simply, beautiful. Three days could only be a beginning. But beginnings in fairy tales always lead to something profound. I am eager to turn the page.

*Chekhov Studio Chicago

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finding the words

I want to write, to write from within...
After spending so many years of my life with my solo show, it's natural that some of my deepest desires have already been expressed in that form. I've spoken these words many times and embraced them profoundly.

But now, it is time for me to move beyond the inner gestures I work so hard to elicit in myself and in my student actors. In short, I am, with this blog, moving from the language of felt gesture to the language of words.

I don't know where this will take me but I've known for some time that this is something I really must do. So, here goes. My challenge - to trust this language. To believe in words. My words.

When I first began my theatre explorations that finally became The Moving Dock Theatre Company, I professed to not trust words. I preferred movement and gesture because I felt that the playwright's words were code, blueprint, mere surface. I wanted to plunge beneath the surface. By instinct and habit, I reach deep. And yet, I love books. I fall in love with writers.

Perhaps my problem isn't words, but words that are not grasped. Maybe I can use words to find those rich inner gestures I seek. I will take all the experiences I have had and share them for what it is worth and I will take the important thoughts that are so clear to me in bursts of light, and attempt what so many writers have done for eons. I will write.