by Gwethalyn [and some notes by Flinn]
We do so much in each session it’s hard to combine two into one blog entry, but one blog entry is all I’ve got time for, so I’ll just have to tell you about only the very coolest things that happened these sessions.[Flinn: We played a round of the Domination/Submission game, and then another round with the twist of mask of Pure Joy and mask of Despair. They sure do love dragging each other around…because that’s totally what Joy does to Despair, lol. We finished it off with a bit of shape-making while in Despair/Joy masks.]
In session 3 we read Grotowski’s Akropolis and JoAnne Akalaitis’s Dressed Like an Egg. Not until I was preparing for the day did I realize how similar the two pieces are. Akalaitis picks and chooses and rearranges texts by Colette presenting them alongside carefully crafted stage images so that new ideas and feelings are evoked. Grotowski does the same with the epic poem Akropolis, recontextualizing the ode to western culture by setting it within the “cemetery of the tribes” it wrought as concentration camp prisoners act out biblical and Homeric scenes.[Flinn: Here we are acting out the scene from Grotowski’s Akropolis with Jacob and the Angel, while others in the group reads their lines. The Angel is burdening Jacob, and as Jacob works, picking up stones, the Angel grabs the stones and smashes them on Jacob’s head.]
The discussion was not so lively on day three, but I think that is because we may have worn them out with the physical exercises in the first half. Yearning with every cell of your being for an inanimate object you can never reach can be a little exhausting, as can filling your right arm with anger and your left arm with joy. These are no easy tasks, but the results of their work were intense and very interesting.
After the readings we did some image theater. In keeping with the themes of Dressed Like an Egg we asked them to make images of femininity and masculinity.
After both sets of images were done Jim spoke up, first to remind everyone how long ago he had been in high school and then to observe that (based on their images) High School hasn’t changed one bit! They also did some interesting work making a whole group image of idealized romantic love vs actual experiences of love.
In session 4 we read Kondoleon’s The Brides and a new piece by Betsuyaku Minoru: A Corpse with Feet. Kondoleon’s blend of poetry and prose on the subject of disillusionment with fairytale ideals seemed to resonate with this group as strongly as ever.
The Betsuyaku piece is an absurdist sketch in which a woman and a man waiting for a crossing gate to go up so they can cross the tracks converse about the body the woman is carrying with her in a futon bag. This one really sparked a lively discussion. There was much discussion of what exact events had brought such a situation to pass, the irony being, of course, that the answers are certainly not in the play.[Flinn: We did some Lay, Sit, Stand. Some naturally began to make shapes with others without prompting, so that was cool. I really love how they manage to transform the yellow chairs into all sorts of imaginable things: weapons, shelters, lands, new parts of a body, etc.]
This day we did quartets, where you work in groups of four to create a scene using only 3 possible isolated movements in any sequence you improv. The exercise is so simple, yet yields performances as dramatic as any well made play. The real fun was when they did the exercise a second time wearing a mask they made by freezing their face in one expression. There is nothing so terrifying as someone with a gigantic wide-eyed grin slowly turning their head!
The other thing that struck me as particularly interesting in this session was when one of the groups working on the ritualizing an everyday activity exercise made a ritual of reacting to someone sneezing. They stood in a circle, one would sneeze, they would all react with a sort of sign of the cross like gesture performed in unison, the next would sneeze they would all bless them with the same gesture again and so on around the circle until everyone in the group had sneezed. I found myself becoming very uncomfortable during the performance and after reflection I think it is because it seemed to me that the ritual required all of its participants to produce an involuntary bodily reaction on cue. Somehow this idea really creeped me out. If they can creep me out, they must be doing a lot of things very right!