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Week 16 - Objects
Tim Carroll led a session focusing on Hamlet’s verse soliloquies-
- Oh that this too too sullied flesh
- To be or not to be
- What a rogue and peasant slave am I
- How all occasions do inform against me
We had been asked to learn at least one of these each, which allowed us to be more detailed in our exploration and responsiveness, and our focus to be further ‘out of ourselves’, not on the page.
After some warm up games on concentration, focus and heightened sensory awareness and peripheral vision we got to the heart of T.C’s work.
The first stage of this involved the whole group sitting in a big circle, in the centre of which stood the speaker. Out of those of us in the circle, one had to be standing at all times. We could stand up or sit down at any moment we desired and for any reason so long as there was always one person, along with the speaker, on their feet. The speaker had to stay in the middle, was permitted ‘no strolling’, and had to address the standing person at all times, pausing if necessary until they had found the new person to address. Unconsciously the different people they were addressing, and their varying manners affected the speaker. We explored this consequence further in the second phase of this exercise.
With the same rules the next speaker was to allow the change in the person they were addressing and the moments that those in the circle chose to stand up or sit down to affect them. It was interesting that after a time the speaker’s lines seemed to carry more emotion with them quite unintentionally as they attempted to respond to what they perceived was behind the actions of the circle.
Again we took this further with the next speaker. Those in the circle stood up with very definite attitudes to the speaker and the speech, eliciting a response. We also became more playful with the rapidity in which we changed the person to be addressed until suddenly, at one point one person remained standing for quite a long time. As the speaker had got used to our swapping we noted how pleased he seemed at getting a go at a fair stretch to one person, until he started to ‘bottle it’ because he didn’t trust that he wouldn’t suddenly be jolted again at any moment. This seemed to represent those times when one is speaking to someone and suddenly feels paranoid that they are bored/find you stupid/are uninterested etc and you back out of your conviction.
The last version of this exercise took all of these ideas to the extreme. We in the circle made large gestures of attitude toward the speaker, working for a reaction. When a water bottle was thrown at the speaker, who caught it and dramatically tried to crush it to emphasize a line about fragility but failed to as the lid was on, thus being beautifully sabotaged by his prop, the next exercise was conjured.
We gathered objects from our bags and the room and placed them on the floor. Picking 10 lines to work on each we chose items that in someway struck a chord with them; one object per line. The connection was for us, not the audience so didn’t have to be logical and could be very private. We then took a little time with our lines and objects before presenting them. This meant simply holding up the corresponding object as we spoke the corresponding line as if it were somehow an example of what we were saying.
We then swapped so that we had someone else’s 10 objects and, without time to consider spoke our lines picking objects out of our new collection as we went, making imaginary/emotional/logical connections in the moment. We then spent a little private time acquainting each line to an appropriate object with more consideration, whispering to it and concentrating on it as we spoke.
We then returned to our original piles having stolen a certain object that really seemed to strike a chord from the work we had just done. Having decided on a definitive sequence of objects we then positioned them around the space in places that seemed appropriate in a personal way. We then moved from object to object and, in different stages, whispered at them, physically engaged with them more dramatically, moved between them as fast as possible, stood on the spot and re-enacted our physical engagement while staring at our objects and lastly stood still and spoke the lines only moving to make sure we could see our objects where ever they were across the space.
It was amazing to feel how full the lines became because of their relationships to inanimate objects and how alive we all were in trying to contact them in a way. Our focus was so firmly on the object that one forgot about anything else. We found that as these relationships developed the more logical links to the objects and any ‘clever’ ideas we might have had about using them to highlight the lines were very quickly cheap and boring. Cleverness, we thought, makes you think about the actor. Our personal connection to them with the line was much more interesting. It was also very exciting as we begun to see the wonderful possibilities inherent in this crazy idea for a show.
Aiming our focus ‘out of ourselves’ could perhaps be what this session’s work was all about. So often when we act we seem to be concentrating on what we are feeling, doing and how our character is being exposed, and on top of this, whether we are doing these things well or right, according to our preconceived idea of what the speech is about and for. So many methodologies and processes for actors involve dragging analytical and emotional preparation into the scene, which can produce work that doesn’t seem to be pushing into the future or encouraging us to solve new and unexpected problems as we are confronted by them moment to moment.
The exercises on these speeches that T.C led us through really made the person or object to which we were speaking of primary importance and, as a consequence took the idea of being successful, in an actors box ticking sense, irrelevant. Speaking whilst simultaneously attempting to understand why and how and thus being a real person in a real dilemma, as opposed to having planned who you are and what you are trying to say and why, then acting as if you were in a dilemma seemed very exciting.
T.C expressed his interest in actors and thus character’s (as he feels one can only work from ones own responses if one is to be truly in the moment) who say the lines to see what it is like to say them and test if they, in fact mean them as they are being said and meant. Character and meaning are constructs of the audience’s imagination that they will project on to us and what we do, and thus do not perhaps need to be our concern.
All of this seemed very plausible, exciting and controversial as we watched each other tackling these historical speeches, largely with great conviction, bravery and truth of action.
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, May 23 2007, 9:26 AM EDT
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