Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the moment.

I know better than to go to plot. But every time I get on stage, the controlling, bossy, writer part of me jumps in and tries to make something happen.

The morning of the festival workshops, Susan Messing told me to just relax in Mark Sutton's class and feel, not think. And she said I'd love hers because it was all physical and gorgeous and it wouldn't hurt my brain.

DAMMIT. How come in the one show with those two in the audience, I reverted to all my bad habits?

The classes were both just what I needed, and I've felt the effects in performing with my Thunderdome team (it didn't hurt that one of the other players was in Mark's class with me), teaching Exit 16 and in rehearsals over the last two nights.

The Thunderdome piece was inspired by the Twilight Zone, which made it easy to go for the weird and try to make a statement with the scene. Working on the Plus Ronde (a form John Robison adapted from La Ronde) with the high school kids, they kept trying to tell a story from one scene to the next.

In both cases, it just took focusing on the moment and trusting our brains to remember things from before when we needed them. In the Thunderdome scenes, we just grounded everything in relationships and trusted the stories to come. All the kids had to know as they tagged in to play with an existing character was the basic stuff—"he hates trespassers" or "he thinks all Asian newscasters look like his granddaughter"—and make a choice that let that character be more of that.

The biggest breakthrough—which also felt like an obvious connection to the basics—was that if my character felt a strong negative emotion about something, my ONLY choice was to do that thing. If my thing was "I'm disgusted" by the idea of squashing a bug, the only way I was going to get more disgusted was to squish it and suffer the consequences. Feeding a negative emotion feels like it should be about avoiding something; rolling around in the mess is the only way to make it bigger.

Tonight at Roving Imp, we worked on a simple show structure—timed scenes, initiated by different players, based on a theme, and wrapped up with a moral by the instigator. It was just enough structure to let me do more of what's been fun since the festival: Playing a scene by feeling the moment and speaking from the truth of that moment's emotion.

None of this is new. I'd done—or watched—many of the exercises in the festival class. But, as often happens, they hit me in a new way at just the right time. I'm really looking forward to this weekend's shows:

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