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.