Sara Cooper, guest blogger
Composers & the Voice librettist, 2011-12
Session number two of Composers & the Voice! Lots of fun and good energy in the room!
We started out with two hours of improv with now-familiar face Terry Greiss. Terry led us in a number of very interesting exercises, my personal favorite of which was involved building ourselves into a machine. The way this was worked was this: One person would get an idea for a machine. He or she then stood and made a full-body gesture and a noise, acting as a distinct part of this machine. One by one, the rest of the class added on with their own gestures and noises until the machine had been built. Everyone had a different idea of what the machine was and what their part in it would be; the whole thing was fascinating.
We also began scenework in a similar game. This time, however, there was no repetitive gesture or noise; Terry asked us to find an action and play it as realistically as possible. In this way, we are beginning to recognize the active dramatization of character.
Terry got a little trippy this session. He asked us to put our hands a little apart, palms facing together, and try to understand the space in between. For many of us, that space became very physical. Terry then had us combine our individual spaces with other individual spaces until the whole class was holding one space. A few people ventured inside the space. Ronnie was surprised and amazed to find that she actually felt the space.
Mika raised a great discussion: How does improv relate to us as composers and librettists? Terry explained the importance of openness and vulnerability in art, and how understanding physicality can greatly enhance our ability to realize character.
After a short break, Steve had a little Q&A for us about the program in general—very helpful!
We then dove into our very first acting class with Kathleen Amshoff. Kathleen got to know us a little (have any of us acted? It turns out most of us have some performance experience, and Rachel has a degree in theater, and Daniel is actually a professional actor and singer!) and then we began doing some very intense exercises in partnering. Kathleen had us make eye contact with a partner for an uncomfortably long period of time, after which we closed our eyes and she asked us details about our partner’s physical appearance.
With the same partner, we were then asked to make eye contact and, alternating, very calmly tell the other person how we felt (ie, “I feel hungry.”). It was surprisingly difficult to come up with feelings to feel, or at least to say out loud.
Kathleen then had us line up across from a different partner and, again making eye contact, step forward or backwards as it felt right. Zach and Steve looked, in Kathleen’s words, “like [they] were playing chess.” Sidney and I felt like we were doing a tango. Ronnie and Rachel had a more emotional connection, feeling rejected when the other stepped back, and Daniel and Mika found themselves looking for patterns. All in all a fascinating experiment.
Excellent session! Only two weeks till the next!!