Monday, January 11, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Teatro Julia de Burgos - Our Theatre Space at UPR:
Physical Theatre Workshop with Javier Cardona
Javier worked with us on a series activities designed to make us more aware of the potential that we have within our physical form, separate from our intellectual capacity. He believes that early in our educational experiences we are led to believe that our intellect is our only learning medium when in fact we can learn through out bodies as well. In order to help actors and workshop groups to reconnect to their bodies, Javier starts with simple activities that mirror the first movements of toddlers. Before we began those movements, we connected to our breathing and heartbeat to initiate the mind-body connection. First, lay flat on the floor facing up concentrating only on our breath. Javier roamed the space adjusting the body alignment of some participants to help them relax. Thereafter, he asked us to slowly roll to the right and come to the fetal position. From there we rolled to face down, and followed it to a left facing fetal position, then back to neutral (facing up). This progression was slow, our eyes were closed, and the only talking was side coaching from Javier (reminding us to breath, concentrate on our heartbeat, and focus on the muscle groups necessary to move us from one position to the next).
Next, we walked in the space at varying speeds. After a while Javier added a series of additional moments (slowly rolling the upper bod down until you are flopped over like a rag doll, rolling back up and coming on the balls of your feet with your arms in the air, a grapevine [or Chris Vine :-)], a hop, a skip, and a sideways back-roll from a kneeling position) which were added individually to the space walk so we had ample opportunity to get the movements into our bodies. Thereafter, we were encouraged to walk in the space and integrate these movements as we saw fit.
The following activity involved a series of jumps (glorified hops may be more appropriate) which some found quite challenging, but we persevered nonetheless. We jumped in place four times, turned 180 degrees and jumped four more times, turned back 180 degrees and jumped four times, and then made one last jump 360 degrees around. Needless to say some were more graceful than others, but everyone was able to do this. After a number of opportunities to practice in one position, we then traveled through the space in parallel lines (now this would have made a great video, but there was no one outside the activity available to film).
Our practical activity involved a chair. Javier asked us individually to approach a chair in the center of the space, deliver our text which was "Yo me siento" (I sit or I feel), and make some physical connection with the chair (sitting, standing, laying--whatever you wanted). After everyone had the opportunity to show one connection, we were sent to work with our individual chair to plan a five image series of physical connections. When we were finished, Javier worked with each of us individually to offer some suggestions for improvement (mostly to make the transitions more fluid) and then he asked us to add a text to our movements. My text was, "I need to relax because I feel overwhelmed. I compose myself and let go. I reach for more but find there is less." We shared some of the combinations with a soundtrack of ocean waves and coqui (little Puerto Rican tree frogs that serenade us nightly) and then headed out for a lunch break.
Julian Boal - Forum Theatre Part One
Our work with Julian Boal began with a conversation about oppression, namely the dominant forms of oppression that appear in modern culture, which Julian identified as patriarchy, capitalism, and racism. Forum theatre is a theatre play that presents a clear scene of oppression and the audience is invited to replay the oppressive moments in the work and take the place of the oppressed and act out ways in which that character can overcome the oppressive situation. It used to be that the audience were not allowed to replace the oppressor, but Julian found that this could reveal certain truths about the audience which the other members of the community would hold them to (as if they were to say that the dramatized oppressor was not realistic).
Relative to my ongoing preoccupation with language disconnections between facilitator and participants, Julian indicated that some in the group will understand enough to get you through it and they will then talk with each other to clarify what you have said--and creating this dialogue is the whole point of the activity.
In our practical work, we again walked in the space at varying speeds which Julian described on a scale of 0 - 10, with 0 being a frozen position, 5 being a normal walking pace, and 10 being a run. In a variation, he instituted some language reversals to engage our concentration: if he said walk, we stopped; if he said stop, we walked; if he said name, we hopped; if he said hop, we said our names; if he said hands, we grabbed our knees; if he said knees, we put our hands up in the air.
We continued to walk, but the second series of activities asked us to create a still image (anything we wanted) whenever Julian clapped his hands. We created about five of these and he asked us to decide on our favorite which we then recreated and added a sound and then an interior monologue to accompany our image. We then found a partner and took turns sharing bits of the monologue (complete nonsense) and then morphed into a more realistic conversation (though the improvisation began from these awkward and usual images). We then took on a selected pose and worked with a new partner to create a new improvisation.
With yet another partner, one worked as a sculptor, and the other the clay as we created physical images of oppressed people. The sculptors then reviewed the work the others had done and then chose someone else's image to become an oppressor. We then improvised a scene with this new partner from these positions of oppressed and oppressor. When complete, Julian asked us to think of a word describing how we felt in that scene and then sent us walking in the space and asked us to share that word with everyone we encountered as we moved about the room. Once we had shared with almost everyone in the group, Julian divided the large group into two and asked each group to construct a physical image of one of the words we heard (our group chose "gross").
Yesterday, Julian asked us to help develop a new approach to a game we did involving placing names or titles on people's backs and having to identify who we were based on the way others responded to us. In the final part of the activity, Julian had us get in a line with the people with the most power in society at one end, and those with little or no power at the other end. He didn't like this linear construction and wanted advice on how to change this. We worked in two groups to figure this out, and I don't think either of us came up with a concrete answer (in fact, I couldn't really articulate what the other group came up with), but my group suggested putting the person (or people) with the most power in the center and creating a web using Colombian Hypnosis (See Boal's Games for Actors and Non-Actors). For instance, the legislator would control the superintendent who would control the principal would control the teacher who would control the student. These were not all titles used in the activity, but they could be and they illustrate a chain of control/power that exists in society (obviously there are many more).
Our last activity involved identifying the areas of oppression that we wanted to create our Forum Theatre plays about. We elected school oppression, female oppression, homosexual/gender identity oppression, and police oppression. Each group was sent out for an hour to create an aesthetic opening for their piece which would cleverly introduce the topic, focusing on sound (not particularly words, though they could be used), song, and movement. The work was incredibly well received and we each critiqued what we saw and offered suggestions for improvement. We will continue this work tomorrow and begin to construct the narrative for our work.
(I know, I know - you want video - but you'll just have to wait!)