Yesterday was a full day that seems to have left everyone exhausted but me, which is something of a change of pace, since I'm usually the first actor in the rehearsal room to tire. Of course, I don't think this is a coincidence. As difficult as it was, the work I did today was easier and less exhausting than is the effort I usually put into NOT doing the same work on other days.
From 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., all forty actors worked on the main stage of Founders Theater--a large, flexible box, with about 300 seats--on breath, voice, and movement. We breathed, touched sound, sang to our elders--"punah ma mane... puna sa mane..."--rotated joints, explored resonating bone, felt through inch by inch of our skeletal frames... basically coming to the realization that we HAVE skeletal frames. Everything hangs off that.
My lower back often ached unduly and I discovered that I feel both numb and frozen from my groin to my solar plexis. Not much seemed to be happening there. I didn't 'feel' much, especially emotionally, while other actors, here and there, underwent more or less dramatic epiphanies induced by the much greater flow of oxygen through their lungs than normal. My lack of feeling scared me. Would I ever be able to feel? The actress to my left was doing these beautiful cartwheels, before the session started. Another two actors squaked around like chickens, just for the hell of it. They felt. They were actors. Lunch.
After lunch, we went to our next session, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., this time in groups of eight, for the first meeting of our week-long 'basics' session. We did for each other the monologues we'd been asked to prepare before arriving here. Of course, our first run-throughs were just about getting the damned things out of our brains so we could think again; about stilling our scurrying minds enough to attend to one another. But then, we worked them again, individually, moving down into the unfucking-believably emotional substrata that we amazingly avoid--strive hard to avoid--most of the time.
I love watching actors work when they bring all their commitment to it. Wow. It doesn't matter what stage of accomplishment they have reached, because the same miracles occur, no matter what. Sometimes the 'end product' is stunning in itself. Sometimes, the mere revelation of a human truth about an actor's person is what takes my breath away. For the eight actors in my group, there were three faculty members. Kevin orchestrated. He pressed in as a good director would, loosening our hold on an over-tight emotional through-line (no, he didn't use any such word as "through-line," which he'd have gently ridiculed)--drawing our attention to the resonance of individual words, easing or prodding us always back to the personal connection between us and our monologues. What is Hecuba to me? The betrayals and loves in my own life that burn from inside and insist on the ex-pression outward in the form of language.
I did Caliban. At first, I yelled my way through. Kevin loosened my hold. I yelled less. Then I yelled only on the single emotional word of each line, focusing it. Kevin said I was painting with a roller brush, in broad, even strokes. Right. Margaret helped me remember to breath, soften my belly. Kevin sat me down. I started again. Margret and Tory moved beside and behind me. Caliban said, "When thou cam'st first, thou strokst me, and made much of me, wouldst give me..." and suddenly there were hands and arms stroking and comforting me. I broke in a flood of tears and longing.... God, I needed to be touched. Caliban wept for loneliness. Caliban hungered for comfort. Hands caressed my head and softly held by breast plate. I rolled my head back into those hands, seeking. When Caliban ennumerates the qualities of the island that I have revealed to Prospero, I stroked the hand on my breast plate, seeking for Sycorax's touch. Mother fucking God Almighty, every word and line rose on a new emotion and purpose. When Kevin at last brought me to rest and I looked around, tears glistened in the room. Margaret and T--especially T, who'd cradled me from behind--were red-eyed and wet with epiphany.
My fears about not being able to feal were put to rest, at least for the moment.
5:30 p.m. A half-hour of free-writing off a prompt into our journals. I had little to say. 5:45 p.m., Dinner.
Our groups reconvened after dinner, at 7:15 p.m. More miracules occured, especially with the Aussies (there are three Australians in my group alone... what's up with that? I love hearing them work in their dialects as we do in ours.) More thunderous epiphanies. By the end of the evening, everyone one was wiped out, except for ME. I felt invigorated. Refreshed. Ready for more. At 10 p.m., we wrapped up, and went to the dorms to recoup, shower, check email, and go to bed.