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MICHA: The Future of Theater

Making the Most of Your Time

Cara Rawlings - 7 July 2014

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Games/ Activities that facilitate rapport and ensemble
Notes by Cara Rawlings
Convened by Peter Tedeschi
Participants: Peter, Cara, Diane, Bernadette, Mani, Gian Luca, Pratik.
Session 1
At the Tree

The premise is that rehearsal time is shortening. Directors tell actors there simply isn’t time to explore as deeply as they would like because of the new standard of two week rehearsals in American theater. But two actors may play husband and wife, or brothers, or sisters, or parent and child, etc. In such a short time, what can actors do or what can directors do to create familiarity, comfort, intimacy, rapport and/or a sense of ensemble among cast mates and scene partners.

Peter thought we’d explore exercises that can be done in 10 minutes, a small amount of time that everyone can work in the schedule, that can be effective in creating that level of comfort and familiarity.

Peter offers exercises:

10 minutes on the clock
Everyone finds a partner

1. Face each other and breathe together
2. Notice how much space both partners subconsciously leave between each other.
3. Begin with one point of contact. A hand or another body part from one partner must touch one body part of the other partner. It may be one’s hand touches the other’s shoulder, or elbows touch, or finger tips touch.
4. Tell the actors that they must always be in physical contact, that they may one be touching in one place, and that they must move.
5. As they begin to move and begin, tell the actors they may experiment with levels, tempo, rhythm, etc.
6. At 9 ½ minutes tell the actors to begin to find an end.

Once the ten minutes were up, each participant was surprised that the exercise took only ten minutes. They all acknowledged they could play characters more familiar with each other. Also, subconsciously everyone was touching then, standing close together, many hugged.

Mani offered a variation: One partner touches the other with a hand and notices the sensation, then says a line of text from that place. Next, the actor is touched by the hand of another actor, notices the sensation and speaks from that place.

Bernadette offers: For students who may be less open and harder to give in to such an exercise, maybe it’s best to have them start with their eyes closed.

Patrik offers bringing weight into it, saying that weight sharing and partner balances can be important tools in ensemble building,

Bernadette also offers that there can be another variation. One goes in the middle of a circle, others help this person down to the ground. Once this person is on the ground, he or she tries to get up, but the others offer resistance to make the person work to get up. She says it’s resistance not a block.

There was some talk that actors who are not open or unwilling to do such exercises might still find familiarity and ensemble in another way also within 10 minutes.

Peter offered an exercise on danger.

The danger comes from four directions: Up, Below, the Left and the Right. When the director or teacher class claps hands once, the danger comes from below; twice, the danger comes from above; three times, from the left and four times from the right.

Peter coaches the actors to be specific, create a very specific danger, it can be as concrete as swords hanging from the ceiling or as abstract as a mythological gaseous form. The actors must be specific and creative, they must respond to the danger they create with specificity as well. There are times when they will work alone and times when they may perceive that their dangers are the same, even though they probably are not. They do not verbalize them. The tempo of changing the location of the dangers can vary. At 9 ½ minutes, the actors are told to find a way to vanquish each other their dangers and once that’s done they can walk around the space.

In flying back over it, Pratik observed that the image was something that we were exploring together in real time.

Each found this experience powerful and ensemble building because of the challenge or fighting individual danger while also being aware of your castmates’ various dangers.

Peter talked about Stanislavsky’s “madman at the door,” explaining that when students or actors are told to react to the threat of madman at the door, you must push them to react and respond in a believable way.

Mani offered an exercise based on Pina Bausch’s work. The actors move through the room with their arms over their heads. They must always walk through the exact center of the room when they go from one point to another. As they meet, they can swirl around each other to avoid bumping into each other, they increase their speed, as it becomes almost a dance.

Peter offered “Instant choreography.” Find a place on the stage. Call it 1. Then go to 2 (simply another place they like on the stage), then 3, then 4, then, then back to 1. Start to move from number to number without the director or teacher calling the numbers. Feel when to move together, feel how to increase the tempo together, etc. Then reverse it, play with it.

The group concluded it was non-threatening, especially as it does not involve touch, but also can quickly create a sense of ensemble, moving on stage together and having fun as it became faster and faster. This one took only 5 minutes. Even after five minutes everyone agreed that it was enough time.

The group concluded that longer, deeper rehearsals are needed and wanted. But the group said that it is possible to find a sense of ensemble in shorter times.

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