Yipee. I survived the first day. There are forty actors in the group, ranging from ages 22 through 63, and a student faculty ratio of about 4-to-1, which is most excellent. The living facilities are spartan, but the four star chef, Ricco, is damned good. Tina Packer, the Aristic Director, is a character and a hoot and deeply immersed in her vision of the work. I like her.
We had our first session yesterday afternoon. The entire group of forty actors did basic physical and vocal games, the kind for which actors are well known by even non-actors. We "milled and seethed," with periodic instruction to make vocal noise, do certain movements, and let our imaginations play, e.g., by experiencing the world at five or nine years old. Typical stuff, really. While the group was doing all this, the entire faculty of S&C sat around the theater looking us over, reading our files, conversing amongst themselves about us, etcetera. On the basis of what they saw yesterday, we'll be divided into our working groups for the first week. I, of course, expect to be in the retard group. Perhaps by myself.
One thing I took away from the afternoon session: rediscovery of a habit I have of hiding from myself by trying to put my attention on other actors. Responding to other actors is a good thing, but what I'm talking about is looking for their approval, through the form of getting a reaction from them first, before I take any risks, myself.
Last evening, Tina Packer gave a two hour overview lecture of the workshop month, letting us know the general sequence of events (they won't give us details until the morning of the work we're to do, so we won't be living two or three days ahead of ourselves,) expanding on the S&C philosophy, and generally being entertaining and colorful.
Points from her talk that stick with me:
• Actors are themselves on stage, not made-up characters
• The social role of theater encompasses both the therapeutic and theological strivings of man.
• This work is not firstly intellectual. It's a matter of body and soul--or rather, soul in body.
• Voice. It's the voice that unlocks all.
None of this is stictly unfamiliar to me, though it did seem to be news to a larger number of the actors than I would have expected. All of it is welcome to me. They are going to push and ply us. I've already drunk the cool aid.
Also: Neal and Theresa have well prepared me for this work. If I were here a year ago.... Nah, a year ago, it would have been implausible.