C&V Take Two!

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!!

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4 Responses to C&V Take Two!

  1. srosgood says:

    Mika- you hit on something that I have very much enjoyed watching in the first two of our sessions– “the improv DOES change the dynamic of the group and the openness of our discussions.” In past seasons of C&V, it has taken 3 or 4 sessions (each 3 weeks apart) before the group really started to feel and act like a group, and everyone began participating fully. And that has so NOT been the case this year. Less than one month into the workshops, and there is a palpable sense of group, and this specific group’s identity. I love it!

    With the improv games I feel like we are just in the “learning how to play” phase of things. Kind of Candyland level– a game that I adore, please don’t get me wrong! But just as in Candyland, where you are learning how to follow rules (one red vs. two purples & move forward up the board unless you get a shortcut or a picture card) we are learning the fundamentals of theater game play. How to follow rules, how to be specific, how to stay in the moment,etc…. Once we learn HOW to play games, then we can build the complexity of the games. Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Checkers, Chess– here we come.

  2. Feel the pizza with your face. Feel your face with the pizza.

  3. Rachel Peters says:

    I would like to thank you all personally for not telling me I had pizza on my face for the entire second half of class.

  4. Great post Sara.
    Yeah, those improv sessions are trippy, and I have to say that I feel a very strong urge to yell out “praise the lord” and fall to the floor in some shaky fashion in the middle of handling imaginary shapes and bubbles. I have a nagging need to doubt things I guess, but at the end of the day the improv actually DOES change the dynamic of the group and the openness of our discussions. I feel that we are getting closer to a very interesting “no purely negative criticism allowed” default that will grow into a great foundation for constructive discussions and experimental thinking. Also, we’re getting rid of the option to sit idle and passive, hoping that we’ll not be asked to participate. We’re all happy to take part at this time, it seems.
    Kathleen’s exercises, too, rid us of protective walls. Making uninterrupted eye contact with others is socially VERY unacceptable unless you’re tapping into your creepier self, knee deep in a couple of martinis and it’s getting past midnight.
    Making eye contact that means nothing in particular, and to trust that the invasion into what is a private space can help build something interesting feels like a really cool first step toward further trust.
    Looking forward to the next session, when our first set of arias have to be finished and we’ll start to listen to each other’s work.

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