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When it rains it pours! I also thought I would update everyone on my MA project! I had to turn in my proposal the day I arrived back from Easter break. I thought  instead of just describing it… I would just include it! Sound like a plan? I thought so… Here it is! Oh, and it WAS accepted and I got the supervisor I wanted which was AWESOME! Now… I’m completely unleashed to write away! One day soon, I will update you all on the new bits I’ve written.

MA Project Research Proposal

The Project

I intend to explore the interconnectedness of religion and person catastrophic events in one’s own life by focusing on the question, “In times of personal crisis, why do humans tend to turn away from or embrace religion, an archaic lifestyle guide for modern man?”  During times of crisis, why do questions of religion come into play for a great number of people? We look to God for answers or ask God for a reason. After tragedy, we hear things like, “it was God’s will,”  “he’s in a better place,” “God works in mysterious ways,” etc.   Why is religion so wrapped up in tragedy? Though my thesis question addresses religion as a whole, I will be focusing my project on Christianity since that is the religion with which I have the most experience and knowledge. I thought it would be better to direct my efforts toward the religion in which I could best represent with accuracy, honesty, and credibility.

My intention is to explore this relationship of tragedy and religion in dramatic form. I will be writing a play revolving around two women, one a Christian, the other without faith. Both women are in therapy after suffering a personal loss. One has just lost a parent; the other is being accused of assault and battery. Both women will be on stage for the duration of the show, both talking to an imaginary therapist. The stories of the women will be intertwined as they will be told simultaneously. After much soul searching and thoughtful deliberation, each woman will find herself arriving at the opposite end of the religious spectrum. One will lose her religion while the other will find faith, each woman finding hope and comfort in her respective decision.

Secondary Research

Religion is a topic that attracts a lot of attention from writers, philosophers, and theorists and there is no shortage of material for me to research. I have compiled a list of books to help me along in the process of finding the focus of my own work. I do not wish to rewrite what others who are more experienced and clever than me have already written. I merely wish to take in as much knowledge as I can on the subject of religion to move my mind in the right direction for my own work. I will include the citation for each book as an excerpt from a review of the book which I have obtained from Publisher’s Weekly at publishersweekly.com.

  • Black, L. (2009). Me of Little Faith. New York, New York, USA: Riverhead Trade.

“Black, the popular comedian, actor and author, offers a series of essays focused on his so-called spiritual journey in which he struggles to comprehend his relationship to God.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Burleigh, M. (2008). Sacred Causes: the Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror. London, UK: Harper Perennial.

“In a dazzling display of erudition, British historian Burleigh completes his two-volume    chronicle of the interaction between religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the present.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Ellis, S. (2010). Cling to Me Like Ivy. London, UK: Nick Hern Books.

“Samantha Ellis’ play was inspired by a chance remark by Victoria Beckham in 2004 which sparked a crisis within the Orthodox Jewish community about the wigs worn by married women.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Greene, G. (1961). The Potting Shed. New York, New York, USA: Penguin.

“The 1957 English play, The Potting Shed, a 3-act play and a psychological family drama that carries themes of marriage, faith, religion, resurrection, betrayal, deception.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Kushner, H.S. (2004). When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Anchor.

“A Jewish rabbi facing his own child’s fatal illness, deftly guides us through the inadequacies of the traditional answers to the problem of evil, then provides a uniquely practical and compassionate answer that has appealed to millions of readers across all religious creeds.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Lewis, C.S. (2001). A Grief Observed. London, UK: HarperOne.

“A very personal, anguished, luminous little book about the meaning of death, marriage, and religion.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity. London, UK: HarperOne.

“The late Lewis, Oxford professor, scholar, author, and Christian apologist, presents the listener with a case for orthodox Christianity. This is definitely not the shouting, stomping, sweating, spitting televangelist fare so often parodied; Lewis employs logical arguments that are eloquently expressed.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Miller, D. (2004). Searching for God Knows What. Nashville, TN, USA: Nelson Books.

“The book covers a great deal of territory: Miller’s walking away from God as a teenager and returning to his faith; the competitive nature of human relationships, painfully demonstrated through junior high memories; the meaning of morality and religion; the essence of true Christianity.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Vardy, P. (1999). The Puzzle of God. London, UK: Fount.

“A clear, well-written guide to philosophical thinking about God. Starting with the question of what it means to say we believe in God, and looking at the nature of truth, Peter Vardy goes on to examine ideas about God and their influence on Christian thinking.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

Primary Research

I plan on doing a lot of reading on the subject of finding/discovering/losing/exploring the idea of religion and Truth with a capital “T” in order to find the logic behind both sides of the religious continuum. I am hoping the reading will show me how intelligent, thoughtful individuals can position themselves at such extremes. I will be utilizing other avenues of research as well such as interviews with believers and non-believers alike, listening to Christian radio programs, as well as music inspired by religion and topics of faith.

I was fortunate enough to decide on a topic for this project months ago. Thanks to this extra gift of time, I have already done a considerable amount of planning and preparation. Over the past few months, I have made it a point to bring up my thesis idea in many conversations with friends, family and even complete strangers. I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that most people are very passionate about religion, either by way of trying to tell me about their faith in hopes of converting me or by proving to me that it is complete and utter rubbish. I have found very few people who are like me, unsure of the logistic possibilities of a Truth with a capital “T”, but are willing and even excited to hear about the thought processes on either side of the religion argument.  Most of the inspiration for what I have already written has come from conversations embedded in normal, everyday peoples’ passions on the subject.

For instance, my optometrist is a Christian married to an agnostic. She now finds herself at a crossroads regarding the spiritual environment, in which she should raise her two young children. She wants to be a good and responsible Christian mother while still recognizing her husband’s wishes on providing a realistic idea of faith and life for their children. Then there is my new friend, George, who I met as he was preaching the word of God in Victoria’s Square which he does every Saturday morning. George is now a Christian and became so after his wife left him some ten years ago. Prior to that experience he had considered himself an atheist, a decision which excommunicated him from his Islamic family. Another friend of mine from my undergraduate university discovered she is actually Jewish after her first year at Yale Divinity. These are the stories that have inspired me to write about this topic.

Necessary Arrangements

In order to complete this project, I will need access to the afore mentioned books on the subject, most of which I already own. As far as the conversations with individuals on the subject of religion, all I will need is my own social skills and gumption!

Writing Experience

I feel confident in my writing abilities. I attended William Jewell College, an American liberal arts university, for my undergraduate degree. There I wrote, on average, five to ten essays a semester except for three months when I studied at St. Andrew’s College of Oxford University under Dr. Francis Warner, Dr. Barry Webb, and Dr. John Jackson where I majored in Shakespeare and minored in the History of the Tudor State focusing on the reign of Queen Elizabeth. During this time I wrote considerably more and achieved the marks of Alpha Beta in Shakespeare and Alpha Minus in the History of the Tudor State.

As for playwriting, I have written multiple plays which have been performed. I wrote the ten minute plays, Memories and a Plate of Shitty Food and What Happens when you Cross a Hearse on the Side of the Road? which were performed by members of the World of Theatre II class in the Spring Showcase in 2007 at William Jewell College. I also wrote a one act play entitled The Coffee Pot Wars which was performed by the World of Theatre V class for Fall Showcase in 2008 at William Jewell College.

Excerpts from the Rough Draft of the Project

I have also chosen to include some pieces of the project I have already written.  Over the past few months as ideas occurred to me, I would write and expound on the thought until I reached a place that I believed could be integrated into the play itself. Here are a few of those bits that I hope give an accurate portrayal of my voice as a playwright.

  • “On the street where I evangelize on Saturdays, there are six evangelists, all on ONE street! It’s like we’re all in a competition. “No, no… You don’t want to listen to that Susie down on New Street… (whisper) She’s Episcopalian… Oh and Bob on High Street? He’s getting WAY too over the top with that new megaphone and the Roman candles at his feet representing the fiery depths of hell… too flashy.”
  • “You know, when I say it like that, it makes Christianity sound like some sort of pyramid scam. We are recruited by Christians to become Christian in order to recruit more Christians to Christianity. And the one who brings in the most new members wins some magical prize. It’s like cashing in your tickets when you leave Chuck E Cheese. ‘1,000 plus salvations!?!?! Congratulations! You get to sit next to the right hand of God on every Tuesday during the month of February!’ or ‘Oooh… Only five salvations? …Here is the complete set of the Apostle action figure series. You don’t even have to collect all twelve!’ It’s like we’re all in a fiery frenzy around here searching for 3rd party souls to save. Because let’s be honest, no one wants the Judas Iscariot action figure despite his accessories of thirty pieces of silver…”
  • “What IS happily ever after? Do two people just sit around holding hands and smiling all day until 9:30 at which time they eat an entire cheesecake, never get fat, and then go to bed? Are you allowed to pee in happily ever after? If you can in fact pee, does he have to go with you to hold your hand? What happens when you have to wipe? What happens when he dies? Are you supposed to be happy for ever with the memories of your dead husband until you keel over too? How can you be happy every Tuesday night when you remember that the next day is trash day and you stare at the trash can that has gnats flying around because there are leftover chunks of Friday’s tuna sandwich at the bottom and all you want to do is holler to him upstairs so he will take it out for you but you know he isn’t there? Do you holler anyway? I am desperately afraid I will always be lonely.”
  • “I have a recurring dream. I get to Heaven and take a test a lot like at ACT. I pass so they let me in and I’m surprised to find out that God IS actually Morgan Freeman. Turns out, he is racist and THAT’S why Africans have had it so hard all throughout history. He also used to be anti-Semitic but changed his mind when he saw Sophie’s Choice… Good movie.  Meryl Streep IS amazing, isn’t she?”
  • “What are you supposed to do without your mom? I can’t go shopping, I can’t put up a Christmas tree, and I can’t even go into the kitchen on Sunday mornings. She’s there. My mom is in the tile. If I walk into that room, she’s going to touch my feet from the floor. The cabinets are going to laugh like her. The appliances won’t work without her. They told me. They’re on strike. My father won’t buy food. He says, ‘She would have bought it better.’ And the thing is, she would have. I know exactly what he means. I’m not well.”
  • “In times like this, why do we try so hard to comfort children? We tell them, ‘It’s okay, Grandma is in Heaven so she can always watch over you like an angel. Now she can be with you all the time instead of just part of the time.’ Why do we tell kids that? I think its so parents convince their kids that they’re always being supervised so they won’t disobey even when they’re alone. ‘Don’t skip washing up before dinner, Grandma’s watching! Don’t forget your chores, Grandma’s watching.  Don’t touch yourself there, Grandma’s watching!’ Did you know I used to not be able to climax during sex because all I could think of was my grandmother sitting in the corner of the room? The weird thing is, she was judging my technique… So we think we are comforting our children when in reality, we’re giving them complexes because their dead grandmothers are better in the sack than they are.”
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Hello all!

I deeply apologize for neglecting my blog for as long as I have. It’s been a crazy year to say the least. I guess I should update you all on what has happened since… November?!?!? Dear lord…

For our Classical project we did As You Like It. I played the part of Rosalind which was SO much fun! It’s one of those roles that every actress would LOVE to play at some point in her career so I felt fortunate to have the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the process as I do enjoy classical work very much. It was received well which was nice as well.

After that module was completed we began our workshop production. Our course director picked Ghetto by Joshua Sobol for that module. It’s a play about a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania during WWII. In the ghetto, a theatre company is started and the company produces plays not only for the other Jews in the ghetto, but even for the German troops. It is a wonderful story and I suggest reading the play for anyone who hasn’t. It was a strong ensemble show which allowed all of us to show our strengths in unique ways. I played two characters. One was the librarian of the ghetto who, when they were gathered by the Nazi’s and forced into the ghetto one night, my character picked up and carried all the books he could when others were helping people. He started the library the next day. He kept a detailed journal of the events during his time there. His journals were later published and were the basis of Sobol’s play. My other part was an ensemble character. I portrayed him as a 15-year-old boy who was trying to take care of those around him, but in reality, he was just as frightened himself of the whole situation. I enjoyed this module SO much. I loved the play, my parts, and especially our director. We were directed by a man named John Adams and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working with him. He had a very laid back style which I received well. We didn’t start rehearsals until after 10 most days and he let us out early most of the time as well. He also introduced me to my new favorite acronym. P.O.E.T.S. Piss off early, it’s Friday. I liked working with the man, very much! Here is a link to the production photos as well. Enjoy! http://www.bsa.bcu.ac.uk/Galleries/ghetto.html

Now we are in rehearsals for showcase. This is when all of the graduates of BSA put together a one minute speech and a 3 minute scene with a partner. We will be taking this showcase to London on Tuesday, May 18th for casting directors, agents, and so on. It’s a stressful process to say the least… Looking for pieces, finding scene partners, pitching material, getting material shot down, finally finding material, auditioning with it, having it shot down AGAIN, finding ALL NEW material… And so on. We are finally all sorted. I am doing a speech from Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, a modern adaptation of the Greek myth. It really is a lovely speech. She’s talking about her husband, their relationship, and what it’s like to love and be loved by an artist. My scene is from Boys’ Life. It’s easy, cute, and funny. This has REALLY been a stressful process though. Everyone is so anxious about agent interest, whereas I’m not sure if I want it. Not to say I’m expecting 27 agents to be knocking down my door, not at all. I just don’t know if I want to stay here to work.

That brings me to the biggest part of this year. It’s been difficult to say the least. I’ve been homesick, lonely, and… well… homesick! This year has really made me think about what’s important in life. Yes, I love performing and acting. The performance realm is the only place I can see myself being happy; however, I miss my family and home. I like who I am with that support system in place. I feel a bit like a fish out of water here.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my training and I’ve met/worked with so many wonderful artists who otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to meet, but I think in the long run, I work better, feel happier, perform more honestly when I’m in an environment like home, where I have a loving and familiar support system.

 I DO have friends here, but the thing is, I’ve never been friends with many actors. I struggle spending so much time with actors. I would consider myself more of a thinker and it’s been difficult to be around people with such high energy levels and performative natures.  Again, don’t get me wrong. I DO have friends and I DO legitimately like the people I’ve met here. They are wonderful, caring, and above all, talented artists. It’s just a different kind of environment that what I’m used to. I’m used to having my life, and then I go to the theater to work. I see actors at work but then I go back to my real life with different kinds of people, a variety of people. Here, I’m working/living/spending my free time with the same people. That’s what’s been the most difficult part of it I think. At Jewell, I had so many different networks of people with which to associate. Here, it’s JUST the acting school.

This brings me to my current dilemma. It’s showcase time. If I DO receive agent interest, do I stay and try to work here? In this business, work is NOT something you turn down. However, if I stay, get a flat in London, and do the starving artist thing for another year or so, who’s to say my personal life won’t be any different? What if I’m just as lonely that way as well? And if it is, is it worth it? Being happy is a funny thing. This year has made me really think about this one question. Is it possible to be happy both personally AND professionally, especially as a woman in this business? It’s a difficult place to be.

So yeah, that’s been my year to now. Looking back, I DO think I’m happy I came here. I’ve had wonderful training from a brilliant faculty. It has taken its toll on me emotionally though. I’m glad I’ve done it, but July is looking mighty fine at the moment. 🙂

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More MA ideas

Alrighty, I’ve been thinking a lot about my MA project over the past few weeks. I think it’s turning in a slightly new direction. I was to have two characters, girl A and girl B.  Girl A is an evangelizing Christian who because of a difficult life experience, attacking a street performer and landing in court mandated therapy, she loses her religion and finds that she is enough. Girl B is a non religious girl who because of a difficult life experience, losing her mother to cancer, goes to therapy and finds her sense of self and hope in religion.

I think with this approach, I will present my reader/audience with both sides of the perspective so they can decide for themselves. Plus, I think plays written in this style are the most interesting. The writer presents two sides of an argument while remaining completely neutral. Therefore, she lets her audience decide which side they agree with on an individual basis.

That being said, here are the new bits I’ve written. I’m sorry they’re not very organized when it comes to the overall plot of the show. Some of the thoughts would obviously belong to Girl A while others belong to Girl B. I hope you enjoy! Also, any comments would be appreciated. Thanks again!

PLAY IDEAS

-Have you ever forgotten a memory? It’s not that it was so traumatizing that you’ve pushed it out in order to sleep at night. The memory just gets put in a box. It’s still there, you just don’t open it for such a long time that the ribbon gets crusty and old. It’s not that you CAN’T open it, but now it would just be such a bother to crack that crusty ribbon off the package that it isn’t worth it. Then, after so many years, that memory is so dust and hidden away like getting out the old Christmas lights when you haven’t hung them in a few years they’re still there. It’s just that they’re in the attic packed behind the boxes of old baby clothes, school art projects, and home videos. It would just honestly be too much of a bother. Whatever happened to those Christmas lights? Then, if you do revisit that memory, all the detail is gone. You still recognize the frame and structure, but the soul is gone. Like an old Valentine. You see this thing that was once filled with love. It used to make your insides turn over with warm water jets, but now, it’s just words on crumbling, yellowing paper with a tattered paper heart doily. It means nothing anymore. It’s only proof that there was once an event that meant something to you. 

-Have you ever thought about the power of words? There is something so liberating about saying something out loud for the first time, speaking the unspeakable. It’s like having this dirty bug inside you, but when you finally say it, you get it out. Even if its’ just as big and just as ugly on the outside, it’s not in you anymore eating and twisting you insides. It’s big and ugly in the middle of the room so everyone can see the ugliness. There is something cathartic about dispersing its terror with everyone else instead of keeping it hidden inside you. But even though it’s cathartic, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, to say those words. Say the words you’ve thought a million times, but once you say it, it’s real and you have to believe it. Those unspeakable words, “I don’t believe in God.”

– What are you supposed to do without your mom? I can’t go shopping, I can’t put up a Christmas tree, and I can’t even go into the kitchen on Sunday mornings. She’s there. My mom is in the tile. If I walk into that room, she’s going to touch my feet from the floor. The cabinets are going to laugh like her. The appliances won’t work without her. They told me. They’re on strike. My father won’t buy food. He says, “She would have bought it better.” And the thing is, she would have. I know exactly what he means. I’m not well.

-In times like this, why do we try so hard to comfort children? We tell them, “It’s okay, now grandma is in Heaven so she can always watch over you like an angel. Now she can be with you all the time instead of just part of the time.” Why do we tell kids that? I think it’s so parents convince their kids that they’re always being supervised so they won’t disobey even when they’re alone. “Don’t skip washing up before dinner, grandma’s watching! Don’t forget your chores, grandma’s watching.  Don’t touch yourself there, grandma’s watching!” Did you know I used to not be able to climax during sex because all I could think of was my grandmother sitting in the corner of the room? The weird thing is, she just judging my technique… So we think we are comforting our children when in reality, we’re giving them complexes because their dead grandmothers are better in the sack than they are…

– I have to believe there’s a point, or a purpose, otherwise, why are we here? There has to be a plan, a reason for this pain in life. Good can always come out of bad. Look at 9-11, the worst disaster in the history of our nation. But look at the reaction of the people. The nation had never been closer. Acts of heroism, kindness, and love gave hope to the nation. Everyone in the entire country, if just for a day, they came together. In that moment did that sense of national, even global community, justify the action that brought the devastation in the first place? Good HAS to come out of bad; otherwise the world would have self-destructed years ago. Where is the good that has to come out of this bad? Where’s my good? What if the good doesn’t come for me? What if it’s for someone else? Do you think God, if there is a god, watches out for individuals or the global community as a whole? So when tragedy strikes, if there IS good that is meant to come out of it, is it a good for an individual or for mankind? Does God even have time to focus on individuals or is his loyalty to mankind as a whole? What if God is more of a hands-off god? He gives us the power of choice which is the most dangerous gift of all.

 -My parents tried to instill accountability in me. When I was six years old, I started getting $5 a week for allowance. It was all mine. They never interfered with how I spent it. It was my decision entirely. If I wasted it on vending machines, that was my decision and they wouldn’t stop me. Maybe that’s God. He gives us a life, and it’s up to us how we use it. He’s there for guidance, but not for interference. He’s not going to stop me from jumping off a bridge because that’s not teaching me accountability. We create our own fate. Life can be happy, or not. It depends on how we use it, or how we spend it. We create our own destiny with our ethereal $5 a week.

-There has to be something better, some bit of consistent sense of joy running through the heart of life otherwise breath would just stop when life gets hard. There’s got to be something greater, something bigger, something to hope for. What if that’s it? Hope. We hope, I hope, no matter how bad it gets, no matter what happens we have hope. Hope in a greater tomorrow. Yes, that makes sense, faith that there will be joy again. Only when one loses hope does one die. My mom lost hope that she would get well. That little boy lost hope that he would ever experience joy again. When hope leaves, so does life. Hope is our soul. It’s what connects us to the bigger picture, to God. Hope is proof that God exists. That’s it. It’s so simple. When we hope, we live. When we lose it, we die.

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Organic Movement

Sorry I haven’t been updating as often as I should! I will fill in on the last week though, I promise!

Today in organic movement, I had QUITE the experience. I must first explain that I’ve had quite the week.  We are currently in the process of having a housemate evicted and then last night, I stayed up a lot later than I should answering an old friend’s rather disgruntled response to some research I am doing for my MA project. So, I was feeling very frustrated with this, that, and the other this morning on my way to school.

In organic movement, both this week and last week, we were focusing on basic organic movement. We stand, eyes closed and make a big movement, like pop a hip totally out of place and wait for the body to respond. The point is, the body will move however it wants, like when you’re sleeping at night. Your body moves because it needs to. You don’t need your brain to tell your body to move. It knows how and it knows what position it wants to be in. So, if you put your body out of alignment with the big movement, like the hip, the body will find where it wants to go without help from the brain.

When I began doing the excercise, I was fine. Yes, I was upset, but I was able to hold in my emotions without problem. I wasn’t so distraught I couldn’t focus on school by ANY means. I was merely frustrated with a lot of things. When I gave my body to the excercise, I noticed my body going into comforting positions. I stroked my hair, curled up in a ball, and suddenly, I felt tears running down my face. My breath got shorter and my face started showing all the emotion I knew I was feeling inside. I was crawling on the floor, scratching it with my nails even! I found myself bawling in the middle of class! Now, I dont usually cry,  not even in acting exercises that pull and tug at your emotions. However, I was flat-out bawling my eyes out! Lou ended up stopping me as she saw my emotional state and asked my housemate to hold onto me to make sure I was okay.

I couldn’t believe my reaction to the work! I asked Lou later if that kind of response was normal, and she said most definitely. She explained it like this. She said that it is your brain that keeps you composed when your body experiences emotion. However, your body is still experiencing even when the brain is controlling the reaction. So, even though you’re composed, the body is still experiencing all of that emotion and frustration. So when the brain shuts off (not literally you understand..) but when you allow the body to take over, there’s nothing holding that emotion that is still in the body back anymore. 

I got to thinking about that, and it made a lot of sense. As an actor, I never believed it was healthy to ACTUALLY experience the emotion of the person you’re playing. Well, let me rephrase that. It’s okay to experience emotion on stage, I believe was have to experience something, otherwise we will never be seen as honest by an audience. It’s GOOD for an actor to let the body express an emotion on the stage. My body understands emotions. It can go through and experience an emotion in a healthy way, because I let myself experience emotions in real life. Emotions are not off-limits to my body, so they are a safe place for me to go. If I’m upset, it’s okay to cry every now and then. It’s okay to experience. If my body believes that, then it will be a safe place for me to go when I experience emotion on stage.

I believe it’s great work fora n actor to learn how to let emotions go instead of bottling them up. If I do that, then emotions are more ACCESSIBLE to me as an actor. It’s my job actually, as an actor, I must honestly portray emotions on stage. If I don’t restrict myself to feel emotions in real life, I am much more connection with my emotions and I can recreate them, in a safe way, on the stage.

All too often, I think actors try to BECOME the character on stage. I don’t really think it’s healthy to act that way. I mean, drama is merely heightened moments of reality. It can’t be a good and healthy way to act heightened reality 8 performances a week. You wouldn’t go through that much drama in real life would you? This way, I don’t hold my emotions back. I don’t restrict myself in real life. That way, my body will remember how to create emotion. Then, on stage, if I understand what my character is going through, my body will kick in with the emotion through muscle memory.

I believe this is a more British approach, which I like! I can access my American emotions through British technique! HAHA! The best of both worlds! I don’t have to LIVE the part, just understand it. It’s healthier. I believe this is putting technique to what I already believed.  I really like this stuff….

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Okay, this is going to be massive, so I’m just going to jump in.

In organic movement, we did an AMAZING excercise that focused on accessing and using our energy states that I’ve written about earlier. We sat in a chair with an article of clothing, something we could take on and off repeatedly like a cardigan or a scarf. Then, we had a partner sit on the sidelines of the room just observing us. She had us put on and take off the object for a while in neutral, finding that as a continuous action. Then she said to imagine we were bored as all could be, accessing collapsed and percussive energies. All the while, we were still keeping the action of putting on and taking off the article of clothing. She asked how our relationship to the object changed, how did the action of putting it on and taking it off change? Then, we were to imagine the person on the sidelines came into the space and were observing every move we made. Only, we could not show that person how we were truly feeling even though, deep down, we were still bored as hell. Then, after a while of still keeping that repetitive action going, being bored, trying to not show that person watching our every move we were bored, she said that person left the space and you could go back to showing that boredom.

Still keeping the repetitive action going, we did that excercise with multiple scenarios. We were completely in love next. Then the object was part of our work uniform for a job we absolutely despised. Then it belonged to a dear loved one who had passed away. And finally, we were children and that object was a Christmas gift we found in hiding 3 days before Christmas.

I was shocked ot find how different each scenario was! I found myself sitting in completely different ways with every scenario. I found that when the person “came into” the space, I wanted a release of energy desperately! I most identified with the being in love scenario and the scenario of the object belonging to someone who had passed on.  In fact, during that one, I began crying, tears were coming into my eyes as I found the object BEING the arms of my grandmother who passed away when I was 11.

Here is what I got out of this excercise:

– When on stage, you must develop a relationship with EVERY person, place, and object. Indifference doesn’t exist on stage. When I was the person who hated my job, I hated the sweater, if felt heavy and ugly. When it got stuck, percussive energy surged through me and I yanked it lose. When I was in love, if the sweater got stuck in the exact same way, I laughed at how silly it was that I messed up putting on a sweater. When the sweater belonged to my grandmother, I found it incredibly delicate. I even noticed that some of the flowers on my sweater were multiple colors, I had never noticed that about this sweater before!

– In my mind, I developed a relationship with the person entering my space. When I was bored, I was in  a train station and that person was the ticket teller. When I was in love, that person was the partner of the man I was in love with. When I was at work , the person was my boss who was on the verge of firing me. When I was mourning the loss of a loved on, it was my child that came in. When it was a Christmas present, it was my dad.  If I developed a relationship, I actually felt the urge to hide my feelings and I wasn’t tempted to leave the scene altogether and go back to neutral, I still had the energy of the scene.

– Plus, I also go to practice applying those energy states to actual work which was amazing. With them, if something happened like I dropped the sweater or a button got stuck in the chair I reacted on a total organic level. There was no filter or second guessing my impulses.

That being said, I think my biggest challenge with my acting work currently  is that I feel an organic impulse, I really do, but then I have a filter. I feel impulses organically, I process the impulse, I filter the impulse, and some of the impulse comes out, but it sort of becomes a logical interpretation of that original impulse. I guess that’s not really an impulse is it?

I love this organic movement work. this is tying into what Alex was telling me about being generous with the audience. With this filter, I am internalizing my acting. I’m keeping it inside and relishing in it, but I’m not sharing it all with the audience. I know I do this in my life too. There is a strong filter on my actions. Maybe I should work on being more impulsive in the real world as well. I really believe that’s important. I’ve always been very well-mannered. Manners have always been more important than being happy or honest. Okay, how can I be honest and impulsive on stage if I can’t in real life? That doesn’t mean I should be rude, but I should be more honest in my actions. No, not should, I CAN be more honest! It’s okay for me to be honest in life.

Okay, moving on, Singing Tutorial went AMAZINGLY today! I’ve never considered myself a singer, but I’ve come LEAPS and bounds this term. So much, that I actually enjoy singing! For the first time… well…ever! He originally told me, which I already knew, that I have a lazy soft palate. BUT! He gave me an excercise to help correct it! I sing through my song on an “ing-gee” sound. I sing all the notes, but  sing that sound instead of the words. Then, in my last tutorial, he told me to act the song! Develop a story through the song. Just because you’re singing doesn’t mean you can’t act as well! I don’t know why… but I’d never thought about it before! I have always been so preoccupied about the sound of my singing, it never occurred to me to act!

Today went remarkably well. He told me the technique stuff was working out and my sound was great! He was able to give me nitpicky acting notes. You have NO idea what it means to me to be able to be working on that as opposed to some pretentious vocal faculty member listening to me sing, telling me, “Well, we’ll do what we can….” I had never been more proud of my own singing. Good day, for sure.

Alright! Last but not least, I had voice with Alex. My favorite class! Last week, he gave us sonnets to memorize and bring in. I had Sonnet 90:

Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;
Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,
And do not drop in for an after-loss:
Ah! do not, when my heart hath ‘scaped this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquered woe;
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
To linger out a purposed overthrow.
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come: so shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune’s might;
And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
Compared with loss of thee, will not seem so.

Now, let me tell you. I LOVE Shakespeare. But I’ve been troubled over the last few years. I’ve been directed to speak Shakespeare’s verse until I get to a period. That bothered me because I thought, if I speak until I hit a period, I’m ignoring the verse and reciting it as prose! Then I’ve also been directed to look at the line endings, take a pause, and use that thought to propel you to the next line. I thought, that doesn’t make sense either, because it will chop up the text too much. I’ve ALSO been directed to just say it so that it makes sense to a modern audience. My problem with that is again, why did Shakespeare go to the trouble of writing it in verse if you’re going to say it in whatever pattern you want? Long story short, I’ve been conflicted over this subject that I love so very much.

We didn’t present our sonnets today, we did a series of exercises. I’ll walk through all of them as they were all truly amazing and helpful.

– I sat cross-legged on the floor, hands to my sides on the floor, bouncing myself up and down speaking the sonnet. This was a GREAT warmup as it got my voice in my lower registers automatically! Then, we stopped bouncing and just spoke the sonnet, my voice was so rich and full of life! I LOVED this warm up!

Next he explained Iambic Pentameter and how there are 5 stressed beats, 5 unstressed.. you know… de DUM, de DUM, de DUM, de DUM, de DUM… and how it is the pattern that most closely follows how English speakers speak and it’s the same rhythm as a heartbeat… and so forth.

– Then we walked around the room, swinging an arm up and down BUT, we swung our arm downward and the “de” and UPWARD on the “DUM.” We did this while speaking through the sonnet. It really brought the words to life! So often, actors will stress the right beat, but it’s in a downward sound in their voice, therefore, killing the thought. This excercise helped remind us that the stressed beat is an UP beat! it really brought the sonnet to life. We first spoke the sonnet doing the arm swings, then we just spoke the sonnet keeping that feeling in our bodies.

– He then brought out heavy chairs and we turned each one on its side, standing in front and facing the seat. We spoke the sonnet and kicked the seat of the chair at the last stress of every line. Usually it’s the last word or the last syllable of the last word (unless it’s a feminine ending of course).  Then, after speaking the sonnet kicking the chair at the last beat of every line, we just spoke the sonnet. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the last beat of the line needs to be highly stressed. It reminded me that the energy arrives at the end of every line and THAT energy is what springs you to the next line. Of course, the 5 stresses in each line can’t be equal, usually there are 2 stronger ones and almost always, the last beat is one of those two heavy stresses.

– We then each got two chairs, put them about a little over a yard apart, facing each other. We would run from one chair to the next EVERY time there was punctuation. That meant a period, comma, colon, semi-colon, any sort of punctuation. The idea of course wasn’t to break up the thoughts of course, but to show that punctuation is there FOR A REASON! There can be many directions in one thought. It gives you the insight into the nature of the thought. The current thought shifts at the punctuation marks, even commas! The thought may not change, but it does shift. Once sentence isnt’ one big thought, each thought shifts and turns and the punctuation will show you where those shifts can happen.

– Next, we sat in a chair, and spoke the sonnet, only this time, we would pause in the middle of every line, somewhere. I was amazed at how natural some of those pauses felt! Now, I’ve been taught to NEVER pause in the middle of a verse line; however, some of those breaks, even if they were just for a split second, felt SO good! He told us that a pause in the middle of a verse line is called a “Caesura.” Not that we should pause in the middle of every line, but it’s another feature or option within the verse. Most lines have a natural pause in the middle of them. Use it when it feels right to use it. You don’t have to, it’s just an option. He explained, you can also pause at the end of each verse line. That is another option. Obviously you can’t pause in the middle and end of every verse line, but those are options. Go through a speech taking those pauses noting which ones felt good.

In fact, that’s what he told us. Feel the “rightness” of those exercises, all of them! if it doesn’t feel right in a certain place, don’t use it. If it DOES feel right, take note of that. Verse is a structure, but you can play SO much within that structure! I feel a HUGE release! I finally feel like I can explore Shakespeare without doing it “wrong.”

I love it, I love those classes, and I love Wednesdays. 😀

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Generosity

My voice instructor Alex told me that he sometimes when I am performing, he gets the idea that I feel I have a responsibility to not let an audience down and that he wanted me to be more generous with the audience. That made a lot of sense to me… I’ve always been very concerned with the audience’s opinion of my performance which is fine, and well, it is what it is, but I would like to move more into the frame of mind of performing because I love the art of creation. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t! And let’s be honest, not everyone is going to like my work all the time.

 That is what this year is all about I’ve decided. Learning to be a grown up artist and actor. I’ve always been so darn hard on myself. I was just beating myself up two days ago because I thought, I’m not working enough on my reciting of Shakespeare or how to apply the “energy states” theory to performance. But then I thought, why beat myself up? I can’t change the past, only prepare for the future. So, here are things I would like to change in my ways of thinking about the year, my art, and my future as an actor.

– Don’t beat yourself up. Just change actions for the future. That doesn’t mean I can’t change the way I’m currently doing things though. If I notice something I don’t like in my routine, I can change it for the future.  My daily routine will be constantly changing as I find better exercises for me specifically or I find I need more detailed work in certain areas. It will be changing and I should not beat myself up if I realize I’m not doing all I can in a certain area. Just work more on it in the future!

– Don’t think of acting as a performance, only a sharing of work in its current state. No work is ever going to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. So, no performances. That word implies falling into and relying on old habits that are not honest or organic. Instead, think of it as sharing progress and presenting a work in progress.

-Think of my brain (thinking device) being in my center, not my head. I feel things organically in my center and intellectually in my head. I want to learn how to switch between the two locations when I am on and off stage because let’s be honest, I love thinking!

I’m feeling really good. I’m here for the year, I may as well work my ass off and build up a great tool box because I’m here for the year anyway, why not get everything out of it that I can by committing all my time and efforts into getting better? That’s why I’m here! I’m not going to leave BSA an “actor.” I’m going to leave with a foundation of skill sets, knowing WHAT I need to work on, but more importantly, HOW to work on it and HOW to apply it to my acting. Drama school is a place to develop good habits, not become a finished product.

Side note: We watched the 3rd year shows last week and if you get a chance to read it, The Runner Stumbles is an AMAZING show! All the shows were great, but I was really struck by this one. Fabulous. Really. Read it if you can! It’s a true story about a priest in Michigan in 1911 I believe… who is on trial for the murder of a nun. Brilliant work. It explores his shaky relationship with God as he goes back in his memory and relives his experiences with this nun who he finally admitted he loved. It is a script that is MOST challenging to actors as it demands a very high level of focus but it’s also so rewarding to perform, I can imagine, because of the highly charged scenes with very well thought out and detailed characters. There is a lot on which to chew… Check it out, I HIGHLY recommend it!

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MA Project update

I worked a lot tonight on forming my ideas for my MA project and putting them in a logical order. So if you’ve been following along, you’ve read some of this stuff before, but keep reading there’s new stuff in there too! Let me know what you think!

 

SETTING:  Therapist’s office. Sarah is in court-mandated therapy for attacking a street performer on New Street on the 25th of September 2009. Sarah broke a rosary she stole from a Catholic, also preaching on New Street that day, spilling the beads under the feet of the street performer who was juggling knives. No serious injuries were sustained except for small, deep, incisions on, oddly enough, both of the palms of said street performer. (The street performers steal the entire crowd! Twenty people preaching the word of God and the entire Birmingham population would rather watch a group of Scotsmen tossing around colorful sticks with pom-poms on the ends.)

MUSIC: Amazing Grace (George’s salvation song)

 

DEFENDING HER RELIGION

– “Trials are exercises in God’s faith in me. See, God wouldn’t put this in my life unless He knew I could handle it; therefore, this problem right now is really God showing me he has faith in me to overcome.”

-. Why does one school of thought have to be wrong? What if Christianity is the same as Islam? They have just been separated by culture and language for so long, men have taken the same thought in different religion not because of fundamental beliefs, but because of differences in culture and tradition.

-“Take an Aborigine for example. Aborigines who have never heard of Jesus can be saved even if they’ve never heard the gospel of Jesus. I know the Bible says that Jesus is the ONLY way, as He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but when that man, that Aborigine has great tribulation in his life, he will search for answers. It’s the nature of mankind to look for salvation. It’s an inherent need in his soul. Deep down, man knows he cannot do it alone. He will have a ‘God-shaped’ hole in his heart, if you will. And if God is the almighty and all power God, which He is, He will be able to reach that man even if he’s never heard of Jesus. He will cry out for salvation and he WILL be answered. God won’t leave that man out to dry as a sinner just because he language doesn’t hold the name Jesus and his culture has never taught him the Truth. He will cry out for salvation and God will answer and even if even if doesn’t have the name ‘Jesus’ to go along with his salvation, it’s still the same God. And that man WILL have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ because he sought for the truth with his whole heart. God crosses all cultural barriers.

HER OWN SPIRITUAL JOURNEY/WORK

– It’s not easy… People pass by me all the time like I’m a puddle of vomit on the sidewalk. You know when a child asks for something in a pouting way, and her mom flat out ignores her until she asks the question in a respectable manner? The child can’t do anything but change her approach and ask in a nice way, because the mom has the upper hand. And even if the child is right, it doesn’t matter. Because If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that right and wrong don’t matter; instead, the person with the upper-hand is always right because there is no one to challenge her. That’s how I feel out there every day. Those people walking by, those people who I’m trying to save from an eternity of torture; they have the upper-hand. It doesn’t matter that I’m right or that I have the truth, or that I can give them the greatest gift,  a supernatural, ethereal, and eternal gift from Heaven, because if they don’t stop to listen to what I have to tell them, I’m wrong. I’m wrong because if they decide I’m wrong, I am. But you know… If I bring one person to Christ, it was worth it, all the times I’ve been spit on or yelled at, or had trash thrown at me, it would be worth it. If 1 person is saved because of me, then all of this time out there was worth it.

-“Have you ever noticed how awful the grammar is in these tracts? Listen to this, “The trouble for us is that none of us is perfect.” I mean really, I guess God only wants high school drop outs and 1st year community college students to be saved.”

– On the street where I evangelize on Saturdays, there are 6 different evangelists, all on ONE street! It’s like we’re all in a competition. “No, no… You don’t want to listen to that Susie down on New Street… (whisper) She’s Episcopalian… Oh and Bob on High Street? He’s getting WAY too flashy with that new megaphone and the Roman candles at his feet representing the fiery depths of hell… too flashy.”

-You know, when I say it like that, it makes Christianity sound like some sort of pyramid scam. We are recruited to this group, in order to recruit more people into the group. And the one who brings in the most new members wins some magical prize. It’s like cashing in your tickets when you leave Chuck E Cheese. “1,000 plus salvations!?!?! Congratulations! You get to sit next to the right hand of God on every Tuesday during the Month of February!” or “Oooh… Only 5 salvations? …Here is a Pope Jim Bakker action figure.” It’s like we’re all in a fiery frenzy around here searching for 3rd party souls to save. Because let’s be honest, no one wants the Jim Bakker action figure…

-Do you think Christian tradition has made things that are completely natural into sins so the religion would stay in business? I mean, the whole premise of Christianity is that people have to believe that being a wholesome and sinless person is impossible and so everyone needs atonement through Christ. What if people really could be good on their own will power? Well that’s when it’s time to start making natural things INTO sins. Just taking arbitrary human actions and saying that they’re bad and therefore, keeping Christianity in business.

RELATIONSHIPS

-I’m a virgin. I’m waiting until I get married. I always thought I would meet someone in college. I didn’t. Then I thought I would meet a nice Christian boy in the church. I haven’t. I guess you can’t really plan on meeting the love of your life around convent times in your life can you? I really thought I would be married by now. Can you expire? You know, sexually. If you don’t start by a certain time, your body shuts down that part and you go into nun-mode? Sometimes, I have these daydreams of eggs sitting in a window rotting throughout the seasons. I come in around mid spring and the smell is putrid. They have cracked open and are leaking all over the window sill, down the wall and puddling on the floor.

– “What IS happily ever after? Do two people just sit around holding hands and smiling all day until 9:30 at which time they eat an entire cheesecake, never get fat, and then go to bed? Are you allowed to pee in happily ever after? If you can in fact pee, does he have to go with you to hold your hand? What happens when you have to wipe? What happens when one of you dies? Are you supposed to be happy for ever with the memories of your dead husband until you keel over too? How can you be happy every Tuesday night when you remember that the next day is trash day and you stare at the trash can that has gnats flying around because there are leftover chunks of Friday’s tuna sandwich at the bottom and all you want to do is holler to him upstairs so he will take it out for you but you know he isn’t there? Do you holler anyway? I am desperately afraid I will always be lonely.”

-Have you ever had someone you greatly admire that couldn’t stand the feel of your name in their mouth? All you want is to hear the sound of their voice giving you your name because if they say it, they’re thinking and caring about you enough to form their mouth around that one word that is yours and only yours. But then, when they ACTUALLY say it, it sounds dirty. They can’t stand the taste of your own name so it comes out so disjointed that it’s unrecognizable. It’s out of tune and harsh. Then you realize that sickening sound was your own precious name. The one thing you wanted to give them and when they take it, it is broken beyond repair by their own disdain for the sound of your name and everything attached to it, you.

-I guess being a nun wouldn’t be SO bad… I know I’m not Catholic, but certainly if you’ve been living this life long enough in ANY denomination, surely they will let you into their club. That’s what it is. Yeah, being a nun won’t be so bad. Think about it! Black is a good color, slimming! If I have a bad hair day, who cares! I will now have a reason to be reading in my room on Friday nights. And the best part of all, I can be in next year’s “Nun’s having Fun Calendar.”

QUESTIONING HER OWN FAITH

-She has a recurring dream. She gets to Heaven, takes a test a lot like at ACT. She passes so they let her in and is surprised to find out that God IS actually Morgan Freeman. Turns out, he is racist and THAT’S why Africans have had it so hard all throughout history. He also used to be anti-Semitic. But then he saw Sophie’s Choice… Good movie. Then he changed his mind. Meryl Streep IS amazing, isn’t she?

– What happens when you get to heaven? I used to imagine a house with glass walls and roses growing within them. Then I would sit around all day and read and bask in God’s glorious light. Then, everyday at 5:00 we all go to God for a worship service. We bask in His light and praise him in all His fantastic glory. That seems rather farfetched doesn’t it? Who would prepare communion? Oh my God, what do you do after day 5 of basking on God glow and you start to get sunburned? Do you think everyone in Heaven develops third degree burns on their faces from God’s brilliance? Heaven seems rather monotonous…  So that’s Heaven, rotting roses inside glass walls and sunlight pouring in until your skin burns, bubbles, and cracks. Then it flakes off and all you’re left with are ever aching blisters and a 5:00 appointment.

-“Can prayer really help? I pray for something to happen and if it does happen, God answered my prayer. If it DOESN’T happen, God knew better and it wasn’t the right time or place for that prayer to be answered. God knows best. But then… but if God is going to do what He wants anyway, why pray?”

– How can there be a divine plan if there is free will? I always thought there was this big, sparkly, jeweled book up in Heaven that no one is allowed to touch except the keeper of the book, which I imagine is some fat, winged angel named… Ezekiel or… Bruce. In it, there would be every move you would ever make in life. Every meal was decided. Every mistake pre-recorded. That book gave me so much comfort because I knew that no matter what happened or what I did, it was already expected of me. I couldn’t sin beyond repair because God already knew it would happen. When I was a kid, I thought I could steal a piece of candy from the store because since God already knew about it, He had to forgive me. It was like…. a redemption freebie. It wasn’t until I was older that I saw the problem with the whole “big sparkly book” theory. When I was about 16, I realized, I could steal the candy but I could just as easily NOT steal the candy. But then I thought, “Well, according to the big sparkly book theory, God already knows the decision I’m going to make, so the book could still exist!” But at that moment, I lost all comfort in the book theory. I lost hope because I felt like life was just… monotonous and boring and I couldn’t find the point of anything! Because I realized, it didn’t matter what I did, ever, because any decision I made wasn’t even mine, I was just living out words on a page.  What did it matter if I stole the candy or walked through the door, or even killed myself? It didn’t matter because God knew everything anyway. That’s when the comfort of the book turned into contempt of this set roller coaster I was on in life. The worst part of the entire thing was that the roller coaster didn’t even have any death-defying loops at all! It was an old, rickety, wooden roller coaster. It would speed up and slow down, but it didn’t give me any thrills or even a rush of energy. I knew every turn, every creak, every splinter… The book was shut. I couldn’t be changed. Suddenly I was acting out in search of free will.

-Why exactly DID Jesus have to die for the atonement of mankind? Couldn’t there be a better way? If God rules all and IS all, why couldn’t He figure out an alternative? You know that guy in the 20’s that paid off the national debt? Couldn’t God be like that guy? I mean, if we needed atonement for our sins against Him, couldn’t he just cancel them? Just say, “Nah, that’s cool guys, don’t worry about all that sin, let’s make a deal! From now on, if you screw up, just apologize and if you REALLY mean it, I’ll call it good.”

 

 

RANDOM/UNWORKED THOUGHTS

-“God.. OH GOD! I can’t say God! GOD!… Oh Jesus…”

– Explaining why The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope are NOT men of God.

-Have you ever noticed how Christianity is like high school? It’s like all the denominations are different cliques… The Baptists are the jocks, Pentecostals are the stoners, Catholics are the computer nerds that everyone picks on…

-“Why do all Baptist boys have cross tattoos?”

-“All I could think was that he was in this box, in the ground, by himself.”

– “What does, ‘I’m spiritual but not religious,’ even mean?

-This man visited my church when I was 13. He told us that he could guarantee ANYONE’S salvation within a week. He was like… The Billy Mays of Christ. He played this music and had us al in the front of the church in a frenzy of worship and song. Then, in the height of all this frenzy, he told us to shout the names of those who we wanted to be saved. I remember the lights from the band’s equipment hitting my face making my tear-stained face shine and glisten. I yelled out the names of my parents as loud as I could. He then told us the next step was to tell those whose names we shouted what had happened and that God would find a way to save them. He told us we were preparing them for the greatness that would be entering their lives.

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