17 July, 2019 - Sharing back with Scotland Community

In true freelancer behaviour fashion, upon my return from MICHA, I immediately jumped into another creative project - the Voyager Surge Residency. The residency went well, with lots of discoveries and ideas about moving forward, but that also means I didn’t have a lot of time to actually process and reflect on the MICHA experience until the Voyager Residency was over. But what a delight when I could return to it - read through my notes, this blog, and reflect on that work and what it meant for me and my practice. (Of course, I used some MICHA things in our Voyager Residency as well :))
I shared a bit of MICHA work with my peers in Scotland in a very informal, low-stake workshop on 17th July at Single End Collective. The space at our collective is small and I felt somewhat nervous about “teaching“ the technique, so I invited a few of my peers and my collective to this event - folks from the physical theatre and devised theatre communities that I thought might have an interest in this.

I put “teaching" in many quotation marks, because I am obviously not a teacher of this. Yet! Instead, I focused on sharing my perspective of the work and trying to recreate what a classroom at MICHA would look like. In essence, try to imitate what our great teachers would do, which I perceived as storytelling and offering images, so that our bodies and imaginations are ignited and we are taken in on the ride to experience it.

It was really beautiful to experience MICHA work from the outside, i.e. not experiencing it in the classroom, but guiding the explorations. My peers - who I’ve worked with before and performed with - suddenly exhibited such an open demeanour… It was beyond words to witness it. I also noticed that I, as a guide in all this, was so grounded and calm, and breathed a lot - very different from when I teach other things.

The session went really well and I’ve resolved to do another one with my peers soon. If anything, it’s just a great chance to do the work, engage in it, and play with it from another perspective - that of someone teaching it…

I also intend to offer free workshops at the Royal Conservatoire - once the year starts again and I manage to land in the work more (make my way through my notes, practice guiding some things). The technique is so great for both “conventional“ performers and physical theatre performers, I really hope to be able to bring it to folk in Scotland, no matter what their performance background and style is.

Here are a few photos from the Workshop Sharing at Single End Collective. Thank you to Sarah Rose Graber, Suzie Ferguson, Andrew Simpson, and Lisette Boxman for coming over and opening their hearts.

Friday, 28 June Half Day (Teacher Training 1)

On our last day, Dawn aptly addressed the parts of the work that we hadn’t done at all or enough of: psychological gestures and Staccato/Ligato. After a Tree warm-up, we went straight into Staccato/Ligato - which I take to be a physical engagement to warm up the body and the imagination to the main directions and introduce a basic idea of quality of movement in the body. The actions go right, left, up, down, forward back, and they are always related to breath - the container for everything. There is always the impulse to go, action, suspension, and return. Dawn drops a truth bomb early on: Our impulse is nothing but our Energetic/imaginary body already doing it

Importantly, Staccato/Ligato contains polarity - we go opposite first to go where we’re going, it is a preparation. This is nothing new in the physical theatre world, of course, Meyerhold and his Biomechanics centering around that for movement études. 

Doubly importantly, the staccato/ligato sequence is always fully embodied and fully-breathed, and there are always steps involved. A sequence of 2 staccatos, 2 ligatos, 1 staccato, 1 ligato is a great way to start a rehearsal and a practice. 

This is a nice transition into Gesture. 

Dawn reminds us - gesture is related to will (pelvis), so you always take a step in it. As we explore these archetypal actions/gestures, they travel, and I notice how much the body loves to move in these actions - it knows, it’s familiar, and it calls on the primal things all humans know.
E.G. Pull - it starts with a step in the front space, travels toward and ends in the backspace, and there’s a beginning, middle, and an end to it. Similar to Staccato/ligato - there is the impulse to move, the movement, the sustaining, and the end. 

We are asked: where does the gesture feel most juicy? Oftentimes, you feel it best close to the core. But that’s your entry point into the Stream. Staying in the stream, of course, is hard. But Dawn assures us that you get better at it. To aide identify that juicy gesture part, we say words when we get there. 

e.g. when Pulling -  “I am pulling” right at the sweet spot; “I’m tearing”

Will drop out here just to say: GODDAMN! some of these gestures… physicalizing them fully already puts you in a presence that is electric - things start churning and activating in the inner world, you start seeing images, hearing, breathing differently. It is voluminous and intense. The Stream is definitely very clear with gestures like Tear or Wring. It’s overwhelming in the most delicious way. I share many “holy shit” glances with my “tether” mate in this session.

Dawn explains: Archetypal gestures trigger human experience, there is a universality in this humanity. 

And these are just the archetypal actions/gestures. If you begin to experiment with qualities for these actions, the imagination flies. The exploration is endless and endlessly fun and rich. For example, some gestures, like Tear, can happen fast, so you must ride it that fast, with little to no sustaining; others can happen fast but be sustained longer. What does a Wring with a molding quality look like and what does it stir in the inner life? 

We then added text to the exploration - our Three Sisters text. As mentioned in other entries, text is hit or miss with me. My Kiwi twin sister in the classroom shares this with me. Sometimes words hit flat and give away a lie, compared to the vastness that is happening in my body. Dawn assures us that it gets better and better, the more we practice the muscle, and even offers to think of words as being swept up in the Stream, as opposed to something we add to it. 

You cannot really reap the beautiful fruits of this technique unless you take ownership over your own process and infuse it with your own perspective. The whole thing is based on listening, so we must listen. 

With that, we finished… Just like that. 

And now… how to leave a place that has given so much and brought me so much light? I don’t know how to leave it. The soul is expanded, the heart is full, and the mind is arrested. 

I’ll admit there is a little bit of panic at returning into the “real” world (is it that real, though?). 

SERIOUSLY THOUGH, how do you leave a place that has brought faith again that the impossible is possible? A place where the inner and outer worlds of the actor-poet live harmoniously listening and responding to each other and we inhabit a total experience of working, sharing, and being in community with one another? 

The hope and desire is to extend, radiate this into my daily artistic practice. Of course. It must be radiated.
The farewell from physical place and community and layered time makes it bittersweet and I can’t help but walk with a bowed head as I travel back to Scotland - in awe at the possibilities of our humanity, in humility, in big love for new artistic family members and the IMAGINATION. 

How to leave a place where (artistic) life is lived so fully?!

A full life. A full life. Full. A reminder and inspiration for a full life, every day. (Appropriate, no? as I literally fly into the sunrise flying East)

Thursday, 27 June (Teacher Training 1)

Here’s a lovely thing: I realized the teachers here teach by telling stories in class - of our bodies, of our imaginations. They are great storytellers. And what stimulates the imagination better than stories? 

Sol led us through our physical sequence this morning, reminding us of the breath and its suspensions between each inhale and exhale. That moment juuuuuuust before we breathe in/out again. What a delicious place. In-breath is, of course, inspiration and Impulse! This is what we focus on in mask work, too! The essentials run deep and in everything! 

Master image conjurer Craig led us to Lift after warm-up - we were Portuguese fishermen and women, lifting fishing nets from the water filled with fish after a season of drought. The exploration of the gesture continued in partner and text work.

So, the nature of this work is to share with people and partners. The work blooms when it comes in contact with other actors —> giving and receiving. My mates, then, were my other excellent teachers in this journey. And I have learned a lot from them. On the one end of the spectrum - learning to continue doing my work, listen and sustain the breath and the image when I can’t hear my partner because tension comes in the way (and not responding with tension), and on the other - learning to recognize and surrender to a state of complete openness unlike anything I’ve experienced before in a setting like this and being so aware and tethered to someone that the entire backside of my body vibrates/burns for an entire hour after the exercise. 

The afternoon came with clarification about archetypal and psychological gestures from Joanna Merlin herself. We were all grateful for a clarifying chat about it. There is some confusion around it, as they seem different but the same, simultaneously, or rather, can be the same. 

Some quotes:

Joanna: Psychological Gesture is not a result, but a springboard. It’s there to keep the life inside and conjure a whole experience. 

Joanna: what’s important is the How, not the What. Frequently that has to do with the quality you’re using, so same (archetypal) gesture but different quality. It’s really your secret, it feeds you. It is there for when you need it, when you feel disconnected. Sometimes, the characterization is how you hide your PG. 

Craig: The actor employs PG to awaken character

Joanna: It’s up to you to decide what you need and what serves you. To have the light, to inhabit the character

The quality of the breath is the quality of the gesture. Instead of just inhaling to do a gesture, it’s possible to deepen the breath, to cumulate it. 

This is the major part for me. To deepen, to cumulate the breath - to live there, not just go to visit. I don’t have a hard time arriving at the juicy place, it is the sustaining that is tricky. I’ve breathed a lot this week, all toward that goal. 

Dawn - it’s not add water and stir.
HAHA! And really, it feels confusing because we’re trying to pin it down to a specific process, a specific time frame and sequence of events, when in fact, it is simply a matter of exploration. The Archetype actions (push, pull, embrace, slash, wring, etc) are there to reference an essence of humanity, the rest is an exploration, a question-asking process, a dialogue between the inner world, the body, and the imagination. It requires being ok with living in the unknown for a while and trusting that conversation. As long as we listen, the thing will arrive. It is an exercise in faith, in belief in the impossible, in magic - how to be there and here at the same time, and a vote of confidence for the imagination. 

Apparently Michael Chekhov would interview his actors, ask them to talk about their characters and watch their gestures and how they’d talk about them, what minute gestures they would unconsciously use in conversation. Isn’t that outstanding? the body always knows and always tries to tell us. 

Later, Dawn led us through a beautiful journey into the imaginary body. First, we attached some images to different body parts which created a character. Two things here: how fast the body learns and then don’t have to hold on/think about the image constantly AND how close this is to my own process of making characters sometimes. 

Dawn’s prompts: metal rod in spine + orange jelly in the belly + Dragon’s feet + choose the hairstyle you see + choose the height you see + add a non-word sound = a whole new character prompted by these images and my own imagination and body, who walks following the sensation the images conjured without having to hold on to them, because the body picks it up and takes over. Amazingly, the body goes further, and produces other little follow-up gestures (I’ll call them), inspired by the inner life and physicality, like a signature gesture - e.g. nail biting. 

And the imaginary body journey into the character we chose from Three Sisters was like a bubble bath for the imagination. We witnessed our characters in our imaginations doing things and allowed ourselves to be informed by them. This was one of my most favorite explorations that Dawn led us through - great storytelling, and our imaginations cracked wide open. 

Wednesday, 26 June (Teacher Training 1)

It is increasingly difficult to try to recall everything we did in class, especially in sequence. The work is so based on experience that it’s hard to remember what follows what and how to assign words to those experiences. It is really, a mark of virtuosity from all teachers here - they do their jobs well - which is to guide us to engage with the imagination and the body in such a way that we are aware of the work while we’re in it, not stepping outside of it. 

I think I’ll try to just talk about a couple of discoveries that really stay with me and serve as land posts in my journey with this work. In the morning with Dawn (who is chock full of a quiet wisdom and grace), we touched on the 4 main qualities again, opened up the front space and the backspace - explored, meaning got it back in our bodies, then started layering it. e.g. being in the front space was confidence, while being in the back space was doubt; Molding was caution and flying was exhilaration. Then Dawn introduced us to the 3 Sisters, which we had heard so much about but never really delved into. It always starts in the body, so we explored them physically: falling, floating, and balancing. The way I understand it, these are another category of directions/qualities in this work. To my delight, when we worked with our characters and texts using these qualities/directions - it opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. I have always been somewhat intimidated by written dramatic text, but using the 3 sisters in doing text was effortless. It conjured up many more things than the 4 main elemental qualities, for example. Trying to figure out why. And here it is - the 3 sisters are directional. They call on our relationship to gravity - my body understands this more, knows what to do. Which then, creates sensations in my body, the imagination is at work. Dawn comes to complete the realization: “Sensations are the doorway to feelings. We can never go straight to feelings.”

The work is full of opportunities to just engage and take ownership of your own imaginative process. There is no set way - all these qualities and gestures we have been offered are there to serve our own process. For this, of course, one needs a strong perspective and a good ear to listen. Both are muscles we have been training in these last couple weeks. 

Ted Pugh brought in more perspective on this in the afternoon. We worked with physical centres and character centres. These centres can be in our bodies and outside them, even. These centres and images are there to activate sensations which lead into characters. I am loving this luxurious honoring of character creation and interpretation. Ted encouraged us here to find the stream (in ball throwing and other engagements and especially interactions) - we must be able to see, recognize and enter the stream. what is that? I understand it intuitively and have experienced it…. It is… the awareness that there is something greater than what I can do or muscle through. It is a momentum of energy that travels through everything and everyone, and so, if you just tap into that, well your work is so much easier. 

Dawn  began to clarify the difference between psychological gesture and archetypal gesture (a conversation that continued the next day with Joanna Merlin). The Archetypal gesture is an elusive term when used alongside Psychological gesture. But they are not different at all, in fact, they are same thing, more or less. Psychological gesture can build on archetypal one and becomes psychological when infused with the character’s intention and context. I get a sense of this, even though it’s elusive and mysterious, feels confusing. But somehow, I get it. I am ok with being in the unknown (thank you, Dell’Arte), and so the complicated nature of this archetypal v psychological gestures makes sense to me. To quote one teacher here - the work doesn’t go up by levels, it goes wide. 

Finally, here’s another land post: the inner and the outer world are always in dialogue. Yes. I experience this in my work. Of course you begin with the physical which informs the gesture and catapults the imagination, creates inner worlds, which IN TURN, inform the outer again. It is an ongoing communication - never a set thing and walk away. Imagination and perspective. And Rigour and listening. 

Tuesday, 25 June, 2019 (Teacher Training 1)

We spent Tuesday with Craig - great day with lots of consistency and breath. The work is really landing now. We started with lots of ball-throwing, always the simple stuff. It is never about the ball, Craig whispers to us cheekily. It isn’t - as the entire day was dedicated to Giving and Receiving. That’s all that those ball exercises really are, in essence. When does the giving REALLY start? And when does the receiving REALLY begin to take place? In a ball throwing situation. or in a play. Lots of ball-throwing - imaginary or real - occurred to really let that sink into our body. It’s such a simple offering, and yet so complex. The amazing thing is that once you tune into that, you can really see when an offer is really not an offer and when a receiving act was untruthful. 

We started work on atmospheres, and as always, the trusty ball came to aide with that. Craig passed a ball to feel its texture, size, and shape. It then stayed in our hands, in our imaginations, as it grew and collectively we created a big bubble that was our creative atmosphere. And then the real fun began - we had three different atmospheres we worked with and we would enter this bubble of atmospheres and absorb it all. we Crossed the Threshold. Something Michael Chekhov talked a lot about, apparently. It was hard for me to get into it at first, with our first bubble atmosphere of warm bright hopeful yellow. All it took though was for Craig to say “step into your backspace“ and all of a sudden, things started to vibrate. IN working with a partner, I had one of the most intense experiences in a workshop - back was vibrating as I sensed my partner around me and when we shared text (we had memorized as requested by workshop), the interaction was so dense and filled with liquid, it was overwhelming… My back vibrated for about an hour after this. It’s hard to step away from something like this. Incredible. High five, Derrick. 

Our two other atmospheres were secrets and whispers, and Moon glow. Craig is an image-generating machine!

The afternoon was dedicated to Psychological gesture. Lots of ball throwing and big movements. The big take-away here is the reminder to always engage the body fully, engage the lower body, to tap into the stream of the movement (in throwing the ball and not). Archetypal gestures, like giving and receiving, pushing , pulling, etc, must be done full body to learn from what it can conjure, it is then “veiled”, internalized, and it turns into psychological gesture. 


  • Craig is always a great reminder of breath. I’ve breathed really well here, this is a small achievement for me - always to remember to breathe.

  • pose vs. gesture - lots here, but pretty self-instructive

  • The archetypal gesture doesn’t always have to be done entirely - sometimes, the “juicy, delicious” stuff is at the beginning of this gesture, so then you can take that into the psychological gesture and into the work - a monologue, a dialogue, etc.

Craig: “radiating is allowing yourself to be seen. Receiving is an active way of noticing the world”

“You always have a constellation of partners”

“You’re working too hard. Just react to it and let it affect you”

“the gesture brings you to radiate”

Teacher Training 1 - Day One, Monday, 24th June

Some people have left after the 1st week, a few new people showed up and we have found ourselves in week 2 - Teacher training. The space already has a different vibe - I sense it differently. There is more reflection in the air, it feels calmer. Perhaps because we’re more tired or because Teacher training implies a “more mature” outlook, it is just different. Ragnar would be proud of the assessment for space perception. 

My impression has been that this week is about immersing and solidifying the concepts we started working with last week. It is a great opportunity to embody these things. The work goes wide, not necessarily in levels, and I like getting the opportunity to revisit some concepts, explorations, and images to begin to Inhabit that place, not just visit. This is indeed a very difficult thing, I’m realizing: really living there, holding the image/that presence. I’ve discovered that it is fairly effortless to be in my body and conjure up a presence that then is sensitive to images and imagination and gesture, but holding it, really living in it - while doing so many other things like engaging with the space, with others, with text, etc - is the DEAL. 

What we did: 

  • revisited the 4 qualities, the centres (head, heart, pelvis/will centre)

  • brought attention to the back with Dawn - “wise actor body” who knows. Bring the knowledge you have from the back into the 4 brothers (form, ease, beauty and totality)

  • arriving and then ARRIVING.

  • text from the centres (lighthouse in heart, diamond in head) and always being aware of what sensations that provoked and what it made/caused in the body and in character.

Discoveries, musings:

  • the sustaining of gesture and real physical and imaginative inhabiting is achieved through breath. I breathed so well today! I reminded myself of this as soon as I was starting to get lost in engagements, and it always brought me back. Full breaths, full exhalations. There is nothing more grounding and inspiring. BREATHE IN IT TO SUSTAIN IT. It will then inform more movement and text which will in turn inform breath again.

Sol: It is not how you express the technique, but how you use it. It is not result-oriented. 

You must be rigorous  and take the body/image to where it wants to go. You must also reflect and understand what happened, what your experience of it was - to be aware and see and learn from it. Otherwise there is nothing new for the next encounter. In training, I can push you, but if you don’t track how and what happened, you will not be able to get there yourself. 

You take different teachers with their different perspective, but it is always filtered through your point of view/perspective. (YES!)

Never movement for movements sake. With awareness, it will be able to take you into character. 

You can only experience the feeling of form, ease, and beauty, and then you can see it in others. 

Craig is an image-generating machine, and he was on fire today. My personal favourite: This work is like a butterfly, you want to catch it. But then you catch it and run a pin through it so you have a dead butterfly. But how about if the butterfly visits often and stays close?

The work is seeping and going deep. I’m absorbing. It’s a good feeling. Excuse me, sensation.

p.s. Attached - a photo i found online that I liked and seemed appropriate. And a little drawing from my notes on the qualities.

today I will grow.jpg

Friday 21st June and Saturday 22nd June

I don’t want to sound like an old record, but being here has been so nurturing, both creatively and for the health of my soul… This, along with feeling that time has dilated and we have shared a lifetime with everyone here, makes our last full day of class together bittersweet.
The final classes really connected a lot of dots for me. The entire week was being thrown into different pools of this work, and it felt like Friday tied lots of loose strings together.
In the morning, we returned to our Fundamentals Class main teachers - Sol and Craig and we worked on Opening and Contracting. We, of course, started with the sequence to center ourselves - head in the ceiling, eyes in front, open arms, breathing in and out while opening and closing arms. I enjoy this sequence, I think I’ve already written this - it is a great way to begin a rehearsal. It connects you to your breath and opens you up to the possibilities of your body and imagination.
Sol: Breathing is sharing (a simple notion, no? and how quickly we forget. The tendency is to stop breathing when scared/nervous on stage, but that means that a dialogue is turned off, nobody shares anything!)
Always with the people
Always aware of the space above your head, in front, and the space, people around you, and the body

While we did opening and contracting physically, fast and slow, the deal is to be in the physical body and extend past. To me, this encapsulates the entire technique - at least so far in my journey with it. Joanna Merlin reiterated this later today in the afternoon class.
Sol encourages us not to have open closed eyes while doing this sequence. Of course. If you do, it’s like doing the sequence with your head, your face suddenly scrunches, the eyes go dead, the whole experience becomes an inward witness as opposed to becoming porous, letting things/energy/whatever you want to call it run right through it. I remember Joan Schirle would say to us at Dell’Arte - to keep the river flowing, from the ground up through the body, all the way up into the upper body and head, then back down it travels, always in an open circuit.
Always working with ease and no tension, it is important to train the body to be receptive. Images inevitably come up, because our imagination works in congruence with the activity of the physical body. Yes. POROUS.

Craig then led us into a fascinatingly simple and elegant exploration: opening and closing the hand. Opening and Contracting. And allowing the body to reflect that. I write in my notes: This was the clearest MC for me so far. Open the fist - once it’s open, the fingers keep going and that affects the body. Same with closing the fist - once the fist is there, it keeps going inward. Ah yes, beyond the physical body. Or rather - Body which continues going. This is psychological gesture, I begin to glean.

To continue working on opening, Craig whipped out the clown noses. I admit, I was a little trepidatious - to see the nose being used in order to… etc etc. But i am also known to take things too seriously sometimes. We shared beautiful moments in class with the nose on, you could cut the openness with a knife. Not that you’d want to - it is such a beautiful thing. We finished the class with some monologues from Tree Sisters opening and closing. This was bizarre for me - I’ve always had a bit of a weird relationship with written text, and after feeling so open with the clown nose, I felt I was nosediving into text, which came out… ca nuca de perete (Romanian literal translation and great image btw - like a walnut hitting a wall). It sent me spiraling down on a Closed inward ride. It made me introspective and overwhelmed. My lovely new dear friend from New Zealand Julie came to the rescue advising to close the gates when we need to. We can’t always be this open, and we must know when to close it. Problem solved. What a great support she and this community is. We must have this in the artist community always, no? have each other’s backs like this at the fist notice of a change of personal atmosphere.

Our last selective afternoon class - I chose Joanna Merlin’s class in psychological gesture. First of all, Joanna is a walking legend and a total inspiration. She founded MICHA in 1999 and is the last surviving direct student of Michael Chekhov’s (who is still teaching). Her gentle way of explaining things created a whole out of all the (amazing) bits and bobs we had been getting throughout the week.
We worked on the simple things, which are hardest things to achieve, is it not?

In a (wall)nut shell, we must do the full gesture, breathe (into) it and allow it to affect us.
For instance, we worked in partners throwing imaginary balls to each other in the 4 main qualities (flowing, molding, flying, radiating). Joanna’s encouragements were to always do the full physical gesture - where does the throw begin? Where does it end?
Furthermore, the physical activity affects the breath, so we need to take stock of that. Learn from it and let it inspire us in how we throw and catch and eventually how we speak! I throw - see the gesture to its fulness, keep it there as the action extends past my physical body and continues to travel in space/in my partner, breathe there and hold it there, as Joanna says, counting to 5. This is to be aware, to take stock of what is happening in the body, what is the breath doing. Interestingly, this last bit (the breath and awareness of it!) also connects me to my inner world which then affects how I send my next ball or my text or my action! Fascinating.
We continued to work in this way with some archetypal gestures that Joanna proposed - push, pull, open, embrace, wring, etc. And again, all this made sense to me - I do it to the largest physical extent so that I can hear it! So that I can hear what it is and project my imagination into the realm of poetic gesture and complete/total connection.
Joanna: polarity, start and end of gesture, using whole body!
Connecting gesture to inner sensation
Inner gesture and outer (physical gesture)
Connecting it with the breath
Always hold the extension of the gesture to hear and learn the breath from the body.

It felt good to be with Joanna Merlin for our last class of the first week of training. She is, after all, the master teacher, who can teach with one word.

In the evening, we attended an event where we honoured Joanna and she received a lifetime achivement award. We watched a video of an interview and some of her work from her long career - film and theatre, casting, teacher, and all around grace and generosity personified.

We didn’t have class on Saturday but we celebrated MICHA’s 20th birthday. Many members of the extended MICHA family came to share the joy - it was lovely to see so many generations of Chekhovians, as I have come to know them by, and to feel part of such a large extended community. We sang a song we created as part of the celebrations, had a picnic, and shared a bonfire with each other and the fireflies.
I swear it doesn’t get much better than this.

Our Fundamentals Acting Week is over. On Monday we begin the Teacher Training 1 module. Some new folk and new faculty have arrived. A man called Phil is here to teach Critical Response Process, which will be particularly exciting for us Scotland-based artists since we use it so much. I will have interesting things to report.

Here are some photos of the week.

Wednesday 19 June and Thursday 20 June

Apparently Michael Chekhov dreamed of being a clown but they never let him. I feel like Clown has reached him though, via his teachings - there are many people attracted to this work who are clowns. 

We got a chance to work with Bethany Caputo in the morning and Lennard in the afternoon - both of whom have studied Clown and whose classes I felt closest to my interests so far. Apart from Sol. And Ragnar. Apart from everyone! it all relates to Clown work. 

With Bethany, we touched on directions. up, down, in, out, forward backward. 

For example: arrows on our bodies going forward, then turning and going backwards. And other images like these. The thing that strikes me still is the insistence on saying things with words in the middle of an image physical work - say “I go up when I go up” or “I go down when I go down” - may feel weird, but it helps our perception to arrive at something, to stimulate the imagination. Bethany encouraged us to do this, and so did Lennard and it is so useful! 

Working with directions with Bethany was very clear and articulate. She always said - let it go into the body, then bring it in for something more sophisticated, meaning more subtle. A suggestion of it, a quality, not a depiction. This is interesting to me - of course, you never want a literal depiction of an image - “showing” it with your body. But surely, it’s a dial, and different characters and plays and styles need a bigger physical engagement with an image. Of course. It is then, not a matter of intensity and volume, but rather of embodiment and whether or not the physical movement touches on something inward (on the spiritual level —> MC term) and how that is sustained WITH EASE! 

There is a lot of talk about the difference between Lecoq and MC explorations. They are similar and call on very similar engagements, for example - elements and qualities of movement. I am still chewing on that and trying to make sense of it all. Physical vs. psychophysical… In my mind, there isn’t a lot of difference - they should and do affect each other. IN my practice at least… 

Lennard’s afternoon class on Wednesday was called by him: “what we have, perception and reality” which is both esoteric and kind of clear at the same time. It called me and I went. We worked with the senses - expanding and contracting the senses. This was fascinating work - hard, easy, grueling, confusing, and straight up magic. E.G. contracting taste (buds) in your mouth, expanding them - what happens? This is quite nebulous, no? But of course, the body knows what to do and simply responds to this provocation of the imagination. As a colleague in class said - we don’t do it, it does us. Some were more accessible than others to me, but all follow a basic map of forces that the body recognizes - directions, etc. We would engage in these images, then have a bit of text to say to each other in the room that Lennard would give to us. Things like - I’m sorry, I forgive you, etc. I mentioned to Lennard that some of these images made me want to go very physical, that they take me into character immediately but I tried to resist that (I don’t really know why, mostly because I thought/felt like it might be “showing” the image? but there’s not right or wrong in this, is there? it’s an intuitive thing) and he said not to! but to follow this actor’s impulse to make something with it. 

The face melting continued on Thursday afternoon - I found myself in another class with Lennard. His class style really jives with me. We played a warm up game, the same one from the previous day which I am now fascinated with. It is, in essence, very basic, passing Green, Blue, or Purple (or any other color) and remembering the person we gave to and received from. Hard to remember, but incredible awareness exercise. Once the second color gets added, you can feel everyone’s brain go in overdrive, in panic mode even. Lennard asks - what’s happening to you? Why can’t you remember? what’s happening to you? Like a call to notice what our bodies and brains are doing. Every time he asks this, everyone starts to calm down and remembers immediately who they have to pass to. Imagine being able to remind yourself of this in the moment! Lennard named his Thursday class - “don’t put the fire out” - equally as open to interpretation. So we worked with radiating. The main idea is that we are full of light and we can open portals of light to radiate from the top of our heads, hands, feet. What is it like when we open then close these portals? when they are all open? or some closed some open? Then, it was qualities of radiating: sun rise, arc welding, moonlight, headlights, cigarette, gas lamp in the window, camp fire, camp fire embers. And just like the previous day - saying things to each other in those states - I’m sorry for last night, I forgive you. 

We said some of our text from Three Sisters imagining each word was light we were giving off into the space. Amazing - it can be applied to anything! And the focus is always on giving, sharing this energy. Giving off - radiating. 

Again, some harder to get into than others. There are associations we make with some of these, I tried to surpass that. Lennard asks us after each one what it’s like, to encourage articulation on how it affected us. I always find it hard to say with words - the experience is still reverberating in me and I have nothing to say just yet. My friend Derrick is right though - it is useful to do this, to say, also as a way to leave it, let that image go. Derrick is a perfect example of how much I am learning from my peers.

While I’m here, the sense of community in this place is such a nourishing thing. Socially, yes, but also professionally - we are experiencing something together. As with many of these training retreats, you begin to feel like you’ve known these folks forever - time dilates here and takes on a different quality. The community makes this training experience a total one. 

I want to mention Ragnar’s class on Thursday morning, which focused on space. To say it was illuminating wouldn’t really do it justice. The entire class was a sensation of the space, responding to it, letting ourselves be affected by it. No goal, just engage with each other and the space. Here are a couple gems: 

Ragnar: It’s a game - to join the thing that’s talking to us. 

When you’re talking to someone, you’re not the only one speaking. 

Ragnar also mentioned something about us doing our texts from Three Sisters. Everyone in the room had a moment of clenching in their bodies/minds when hearing this. This was our work for the next wee while. What’s that moment before you do/say something that is our body saying something? You follow this clench moment, you ask it questions, see where it leads physically, go through it, as opposed to not paying it attention. Ragnar did this with a couple fellows, transforming the moment/gesture of hesitation into a gesture/movement that was used for the text. I am still chewing on this… It was great to see the work being done wit this. It was great to see awareness in the moment, to see it physicalized. I wonder - how is that just or truthful to a text? If it comes from a nervous departure point that is ours, not the character’s. Or is this a hidden expression of our imagination for the character, masked as nervousness?.. For me, it skips a neutral state, the zero point where you are able listen to what the imagination is offering, as opposed to going from my own habitual startle pattern into a modified gesture of that and take it into a character (randomly?). I am overthinking, no? or dis/mistrusting the imagination’s pathways… 

I don’t know. there are mind shards everywhere. We are all getting progressively more mind blown and more tired. The work is good and the days are fun, and the people are lovely. It feels luxurious to have the chance to learn this way. 

Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

As people begin to know each other more and to ease into the work more, great things arise out of that.

We spent our morning with Sol on Tuesday, who is from Madrid. She does martial arts, and physical theatre, which is visible, and her work with the Michael Chekhov technique is really in concert with all these aspects of her practice. The technique lies in support, in relation to everything else - it is a total perspective, which has been a gift to notice.

We did qualities of movement with her - exploring the four main ones, which are related to the elements (a parallel to Lecoq here - I continue to notice these parallels. this entire work runs alongside my own training in physical theatre, it is great to revisit these things, but name them differently, or see them from a different perspective, perhaps in a more formalised context):
Flowing (water) - rooted but traveling, expansive
Molding (earth) - heavy and grounded
flying (air) - weightless
radiating (Fire) - also weightless, destructive, upward directive

Lots of really great work here, always very physical. Always the body is the starting point. And of course, when we work with these images or suggestions, whatever you want to call them, it is never a literal interpretation of them. Sol says: “the image, the quality is the springboard for character to arise. I don’t want to see you as the flowing quality.“

Now, lots to talk about here, especially having done similar elemental Lecoq-inspired stuff: do you become this element, or… you imagine it in a part of your body? I try to leave analysis outside of this as much as I can, and stay in the experience. This is the only way to learn ro to clarify, and I trust the body to teach me. I have many questions, but I’ll leave the brain alone for a while.

Sol also did with us the prep - the presence that is aware, available, and responsive: head to ceiling, fixed gaze, arms out, breathe in and out, etc. This is a great practice even for before rehearsals that I will take with me. All centered around breath.

Sol then went on to do action scores with us, that get qualities added to them.
Another great perspective from Sol: “you have to understand your role as the actor. Do not do the job of the audience. Your job is to create an opportunity for the character to arrive. It is not for you to say or thinkn - oh, this is really sad, so I must make it sad. That is not for you to say. That is for the audience to receive and deduce.“

Doing the quality fully, emotion follows right after.

Sol: the body and mind are not separated. When we imagine, we connect/use both.

And many many other gems from her, and my own reflections that I can’t even put to words coherently yet.
Importantly, not all of this feels news to me… This training gives me more appreciation fr the training I received at Dell’Arte. As with most things that are important, they are simple and take learning and re-learning. This feels a bit like that.

The afternoon class was with Ragnar, a fascinating teacher, who named his class: crossing the threshold and moving into the unknown. Lots of ensemble improvisation here as well as stepping into the circle to look and really see people. The main one from here: “what would happen if you allow it to come in?“ Receiving is nothing more that allowing something to exist there.
Great class, sometimes hard for me to really get into some moments, but Ragnar is an inspiration, always pointing to the body and the physical. The body never lies and why would we not listen to it? we lie otherwise.

Monday, 17 June, 2019

A full day today that started with a walking meditation in the Arboretum of Connecticut College. Being in a community with others in this way is quite transformative - so nurturing and inspiring. We are essentially strangers to each other but we are aiding each other’s experience and adding to it. It’s just lovely… and so good for the creative self… Experiences like these remind me how much I miss Community of this type.

We worked with Sol and Craig today, who are our track leaders - Fundamentals. Working with presence, the state of ease, breath, form, and the whole. Of course, everything starts from the body and bringing awareness to it and different parts of it. Lots of “I have a body“ phrases were said in the room today, to encourage that type fo awareness. And not only whispering it - which, admittedly, is what I was mostly doing - but also to say it to someone or to the space.

With Sol, we worked on stepping INTO the state of presence, from which we approach the work. The place where our minds and bodies meet through breath. Head is up to the ceiling, a fixed point in front for the gaze, awareness is at 360 degrees around us, behind us and to the sides, breathing with arms out and up. This is the place where ti begins.

It feels really lovely to go through these fundamentals. they are Michael Chekhov’s fundamentals, but of ocurse, they are fundamentals for the type of dynamic physical theatre I envision. It was definitely part of my training at Dell’arte, but perhaps said in other words. This is a great opportunity to remember these basics again - it is also validating and re-affirming older discoveries, setting the way for new ones, as well.

Craig led us into Centres in the afternoon - head centre, pelvis, and heart. Bringing and keeping awareness in certain parts of body is exhausting, but it means we were doing it right - uniting body and mind with breath and imagination. Working with some text through these centres is illuminating.
We worked a lot with tossing balls to each other day. A simple, but profound task which says a lot about the people playing - how you toss i.e. how you offer something/make a proposal, how you catch i.e. how you receive something and get excited. We did this all, always, with a sense of ease. Loosey goosey.

I had a beautiful moment with Derek, in the class today. We partnered up to work on tossing the ball to each other from the heart centre and receiving in the heart centre too. The game evolved from tossing balls, to tossing imaginary balls, to gestures, to text and gestures. While we stayed connected, Derek and I were so utterly tethered to each other. His receiving of the ball I threw or the text I offered encouraged me to be even more open, and my heart grew open with every dialogue we had. It was astounding and the most open I felt in a studio with someone in a long time.

p.s. we sang the Carlo Rossi song tonight in our evening hang out and it filled my heart with such joy. Carlo Rossi is one of the songs we sang at Dell’Arte, an anthem or ode to beautiful chaos and impulse, and some people here knew it through connections to Dell’Arte. I hadn’t sung that song in years and it was a lovely gift.

Pond at Arboretum at Connecticut College

Sunday, 16 June, 2019

We have officially started today with a welcome meeting and a brief evening workshop.

Some people are still arriving from their respective places. The place feels filled with eagerness to work. From what I have noticed and from the people I have talked to already, all are professionals who are seeking to deepen their practice, whether that means being here for the first time, or coming here for the 23rd year. Many are regulars and will be attending advanced tracks. Some of us are new students and I felt celebrated and welcomed in this community. MICHA is not a huge organisation, but it runs efficiently on the dedication and expertise of the artistic, founding, and managing directors, and faculty members who have taught here for decades.

The welcome meeting introduced us to our teachers and course leaders, as well as the campus we are on. Connecticut College has a lot to offer, including amazing studios to work in, and an arboretum where meditations will take place. It was great to see, hear, and meet some of these teachers who I’ve read so much about and heard about from previous mentors.

Our evening workshop involved all 75 of us participants. From tomorrow, we are split into our respective tracks - I am in the Fundamentals track. Jessica Cerrullo - artistic director of MICHA - led us into what I call an Arrival workshop, gently encouraging us to be HERE, to arrive body and mind, after so much traveling. We moved in the space (gorgeous Myers dance studio) as a group and said to ourselves, to each other, and to the space “we are here.“ Jessica guided us to think about our reasons of being here and our hopes for this next week, which we shared with a person in the group we gravitated to. Very interesting to me was the focus on the space, as well - moving into the space as influenced by our thoughts on our reasons of being here, and moving into the space as it is filled with everyone’s hopes for this week. The Place and how it affects our identity, our actions, our thoughts, and feelings (as a study into character making and development) is something I’ve long been interested in as a point of creative research and was, in fact, my core point of study for my Thesis show at Dell’Arte.

Another great thing from Jessica tonight was the State of Wonder - as in, always being in a state of wonder. Which means that if we’re in that state, we are always available and able to listen to and to hear and care for the space and everyone around us. Being in a state of wonder, being curious - a great point to start this week.

A full day of classes tomorrow with a performance and a talk in the evening!

Big love to all!

p.s. I feel the freshman 15 coming again! Conn College has some great (unlimited) food!

15 June, 2019

I have arrived!

The sun is out, the Connecticut College campus is beautiful, everyone is friendly, and I am having a Proustian walk down memory lane, all the way back to college years. Why do all college dorms smell the same?!

Settling in and adjusting to time zone. Met a couple participants - all are loyal members of this community, having attended the summer workshops more than once. You could certainly see why - folk are dedicated to the work and there is a very clear feeling of belonging here. We are all friendly and enthusiastic artists, connected through 3 degrees of separation maximum.

It is great to be here!

We start tomorrow!