Sunday, July 09, 2006

Warm Ups

Last night I just had a blast! I kept it fun. One speech still eludes me, but, other scenes made up for it. I felt on my voice again. Why? Partly, it's still 'luck' for me, not entirely technique. But, I did warm up better, not only doing all my warm up exercises--going through the routine--but taking my sweet time at them, starting slowly, sipping the air up the channel rather than gulping or pushing it upward. I grounded myself physically, taking at least ten minutes just for awareness, without 'doing' anything. I did all this at home so I could relax in privacy. There are a couple of people out there--yeah, yeah, you know who you are!--who keep reminding me that such meditation can be crucial, but I too often skip over it. Last night, I didn't, and it helped.

The entire cast connected better, too. You could tell during the group warm up, an hour before curtain, that we were going to have a tighter show, whereas during Friday's anemic group warm up, you knew we would flail. Though it didn't help to have five nights off, either. That long stretch makes getting back into the world of Shakespeare a challenging task.

update: I edited from this post a couple of sentences that sounded like I was picking on one group of actors rather than on all of us, hence the heat, in comments to this post.


jason said...

How does an actor who "does his own thing" equate with egotism? Particularly in regards to warming up? I have been through far too many group warmups that have been distracting, unfocused, and generally counterproductive to think that that is "the" only real way for actors to prepare. And I've seen those group activities led, promoted, and maintained by people with far more ego than they would ever admit to. There's this idea that if what one person wants to do includes everyone, that it's not based on that person's ego. Where did that come from?

David said...

Point taken.

David said...
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Trish Egan & Harold Phillips said...

Yeah, I have to agree with Jason. Group warmups help some people and some casts. They don't help others. We've all got our own mojo we like to put on before a show... and sometimes that doesn't include a group setting.

David said...

You guys are both right... especially about casts made up of people who know how to warm up, but mosts casts doing our level of theater don't. Also, casts doing SHAKESPEARE in particular need to get on the same page as much as possible, to match energy, to connect.

Group warm-up doesn't replace individual warm-up. It furthers connection between players, especially for players who are not fully accustomed to jumping into 'intimate' contact with other actors on stage, ex nihilo. Group warm-ups, done well, help us to focus. However, the commitment does have to be there, and it works best if there is one peson who both knows what s/he's doing and leads each time.

David said...

I also think that an individual actor's willingness to participate fully in group warm-ups is a sign of generosity, which is appreciated by--and offers a model for--the rest of the cast.

David said...

I guess what I want is an ensemble experience on stage. But, ensemble is first created off stage, in rehearsal, and pre-show warm-ups are a part of rehearsal.

brooney said...

Physical and vocal "warm-ups" are an incredibly individualized thing. When an actor chooses not to participate in a particular warm-up excercise it is not always out of a lack of respect to the group and may have nothing to do with ego - that is your own interpretation of that actor's motivations. It may be that the actor not participating in a given excercise has had a negative past experience with that particular excercise - or has been told by a past mentor that a certain stretch is not good for their individual body.
I refer only to physical and vocal warming excercises - stretches, budda-guddahs, that sort of thing. I would agree that actors should be open to games and activities that have been formulated specifically to enhance the common focus of the group or the ensemble spirit (passing the clap, "go", etc.), and would go as far as to say that, in my experience, the casts that have concentrated on these types of activities exclusively during the group gathering (having allowed time for physical and vocal warm-ups to be conducted individually) have been the casts with the strongest sense of ensemble spirit.

And on a personal level I would like to add that it is very difficult to find the desire to bond with all the individuals in this particular group when some have made value judgements about the interpretations other actors have made - and have vocalized those judgements to other cast members in terms like, "someone needs to tell him/her that he's/she's doing it wrong". It may be that the "ego" one is sensing in actors is a defensive reaction to such statements - more a bruised ego than an over-large ego. It is up to the director of a production to decide whether an actor is negating the conceptual vision of the piece - not the other actors. Behind-the-back value statements and backseat directing can only function to distance cast members one from another, and cause/effect can often spiral out of control.

jason said...

"But, ensemble is first created off stage, in rehearsal, and pre-show warm-ups are a part of rehearsal."
Ensemble is, I think, created by a group of people committed to a single purpose. If that single purpose is to "create an ensemble", then that's all they get. They all get to be best friends, they throw parties and sleep together, it's this great experience - but the work is second-rate because they are focused on themselves, not the play. If the single purpose is to put on the play as written and as directed, then you not only get a tight and connected group, but you also get a great show.

SamA said...

I think ensemble work has a better chance to produce good work as you have a group committed to working together and connecting while they do it. The single purpose of putting on a play as written and directed does not mean that you will have a great or even a good show. Many times, the script and dircetor can be at odds with each other. You can have a weak script and a poor director or any combination. If you work towards the ensemble nature of of any piece, you stand a better chance of getting the best show this group of actors and crew and script can create.
As to warm ups (I hate group warm ups like most actors) I have been in some great group warm ups and Davids point on ensemble/group work struck the chord for me as to why I have liked some and hated others. The specifics of each actors voice and body and what they need to prepare for a showe are many and personal. The best group excercises are ones that bring the cast together, clear the mind of the days troubles and distractions and work to create connectins between evry member of the group.
This means having a plan as to what your going to do. Having a regular time which still allows actors to get themselves ready, and ahving the exercises be effective and group building. It's not Alexander, yoga, games and anyhting else that runs through the mind of the person who wants to run it today. It needs to be a group activity that involves the whole cast and focuses them on the work at hand. It dosent transform your life, it focuses you on the job at hand and connects you to your fellows workers. It should be done from day one of rehearsal and should be consistant and engaging.
The few times this has happened I am the first one lining up to be in the circle. When it's amismash of ideas and has no goal and much bickering, I'm the last one there and the most vocal that this is crap.
Like most things in theater, it's not hard, but it aint easy either.
I should really streach more before jumping on a soap box. I think I pulled something.
Be well,