- Michelle: “How do we get from the freedom to the language…? –Physical / vocal / intuitive impulse.”
The bridge consisted of taking the freedom of the primary level of language, and applying it to text. This was done in four steps:
1. Establish pre-verbal sound/movement gestures (we call these ‘spells’) of twenty four words and phrases from the poem.
Time and repetition allow easier access to the primary level.
- Tanya: “’repetition not rehearsal’ – The acceptance that every time is different; must be different, yet repetition gets it into the body, so the body knowledge can express the ideas not just the mouth.”
- Helen: “I know what ‘fly’ means, but our work… made me look deeper into the word than just trying to communicate the meaning… ‘Fly’ manifested itself in my body as a reaching, a desire to fly. Coupled with the joy that flying would be… The word did not scare me as it did the day before… I found I care about the actual word.”
Such a sensual, subjective experience: reaching, desire, joy – fly.
- Pam: “Meeting and the Meaning… That relationship seems to be both in the communicating forces meeting each other and also the communicator – me – having a meeting out of which comes meaning from the word… my meeting with the word… The interconnectedness of it all is fascinating to me – makes me feel like we are actually tapping into a common consciousness…”
There is a sense of something bigger than us coming through the work. This is the phenomenological relationship: the exchange of energy and information. The thing that is bigger than us is the power of the word and the vastness it has stored in its history.
The process of work with the spells created a complete change of energy in the group.
Dialogue from video [stemming from a profound silence after the day’s work]:
- Michelle: There’s a spell here.
- Tanya and Kate: There is.
- Kate: It is very interesting. I think it is the poem. And I think you will find tomorrow that this energy that we feel right now is the spell of the poem that is working on us. It is the magic of the words that are actually working on us.! Tanya: That gives me goosebumps.
- Helen: [nods and rubs her arms] Kate: …I think there’s power there. This is a totally different energy than we came in with this morning. That’s the power of the poem.
- [Michelle says something about the audience members not believing, that I can’t quite make out.] Kate: There will always be the cynic…There’s this little thing called doubt, or fear. There will always be people who are too afraid. People who don’t believe in magic.
- [And then I stand staring off for a bit. I take a deep breath and sigh out heavily and shake my head as if I’m trying to get my wits back – trying to believe in magic myself.]
2. Introduce the text gently by layering it into the improvisation, first with individual words.
Words bring fear and analytical function that threaten the process.
- Tanya: “The poem has cast its spell on us. Fears of hitting up against the language.”
- Helen: “Finding out our words filled me with anxiety. I did not want to lose the magic… I could feel myself retreating into my head. I was afraid people would not understand why I chose the ‘spell’ I did for the word.”
But the actors’ fears were soon alleviated, as they delighted in how accurate their interpretations of the words had been, and they embraced the words as an extension of their sound/movement spells.
Working from the sound/movement spells, and creating a vocabulary without literal meaning has allowed expression that is free of self-awareness, criticism, and judgement. In this way we have bypassed the objective understanding of the word, and accessed a subjective experience with it.
- Michelle: “To initially feel the panic and walk through the fear into meaning. The [word] is felt and explored without the intellectual impulse of right and wrong getting in there.”
- Observer 1, Clare: “[I] lose myself in the sounds and meaning of each word… my heart and body take over. It’s nice to free myself into the realm of the ‘spell’, not trying to comprehend a linear meaning.”
- Helen: “We had discovered magic in these lines on paper. The words were in our muscles and in our breath. We were the words.”
- Larry: “There was a depth to the group working together which could only be a result of the process. The group became the ‘poem’. We were the poem.”
3. Introduce the poem to the group.
The actors’ subjective experience replaced their animosity with a creative relationship to the words.
- Larry: “In the use of the word in context, I go into my head and something is cut off from the rest of my body. So when the poem was presented to us… of course I balked at having to use it… When I relaxed and allowed whatever was to happen, happen – and trust – then I became astonished at the depth of meaning which was culled from the work… I think part of my resistance to the text, the actual poem, was that I believed somewhere inside of me we would have to change now. That what we had created was not part of that text, it was something of ours, when in fact it was ours and not ours. It was the authors, Lorca’s, and it was ours. And in doing that we gave the text new life.”
- Helen: “Lorca took our words, our spells, our magic. He took it and put it into his box where things were backwards and made no sense. No. We took his words. And now must give them back. The words were empty boxes that we filled with breath, love, grief. That we filled with life and now we give them back… For Lorca: Thank you for your words, thank you for the order you have placed them in. Here they are back again from our right brains ready to work in the place they are meant to go. We took them out for a spit and polish, let the [audience] tell you what they think of them, we have had a hard day.”
The observers had a far more difficult time resolving the objective and subjective experiences of bringing the analytical mind into the intuitive playground.
- Observer 3 from video: “I resent the intrusion of language …I didn’t like it. I felt like my inner understanding of this had been obliterated or pushed out of the way, and it became a question of ownership of the meaning of this, and I felt like I was losing my ownership of the meaning of this.”
- Observer 1, Clare: “I felt almost an intrusion of words. It felt almost too linear. Like I wanted more time with individual words.”
- Observer 2: “Words take over and sounds are missed.”
- Observer 3: “…tyranny of words usurping my meaning.”
4. Individuals speak the poem with only a cursory understanding of the narrative, communicating our twenty-four words at level zero physically (outside stop), while maintaining level 10 in intention (inside no stop)*, and using the other words of the poem as glue.
* In describing the work of the performer in the Japanese Noh theatre, Eugenio Barba uses the expression ”movement stop, inside no stop”. I have used this expression in my classes often, substituting ‘outside stop, inside no stop’. It is a description of retaining energy in the body even though there is no movement. As Barba says, “The movement is interrupted but the energy is suspended (Barba, 69).”
The communication of a text does not have to come from objective, analytical or narrative understanding but can come from subjective, affective and physical experience.
- Tanya: “…because I had spent no real time with the text once I received it, the journey between the words was unclear in my mind … It was only afterwards that I felt like I had deeply connected to the material without really understanding the complete picture of what I spoke.”
- Pam: “I felt I knew the text in a different way – in my body as opposed to some ‘idea’ of it in my head. And though we were unfamiliar with reading the text off the page – I felt that both listening [to others] and reading the text myself – that I knew it so intimately… it actually overwhelmed me emotionally how connected I was – how much I felt for that text – the impact the text had was at a level that my ‘intellect’ didn’t really comprehend.”
- Larry: “When I read the piece as a solo, a knowledge, a knowing, descended upon me in the reading. It wasn’t the usual feeling that “oh, I understand this text”. It was a visceral reaction, a connection to the images and the emotion (surprising the amount of emotion that connected with the text in reading it).”
- Helen: “When I read, I found the words. Outside stop, inside no stop. At first I did not feel emotional, the poem meant very little to me. I was concentrating on my words. But the reflective emotion of the collective circle was so strong. It fed me, crept into my spells, my other words, my heart. I felt overcome by the gift given to me by our collective. My spells affecting them, affecting me. Truly one of the most powerful moments I have had as an actor.”
The observers were given the opportunity to interpret what they saw, giving them some ownership of the experience.
- Tanya: “I felt that the other readings were musical and beautiful to listen to… but I did not get the sense that I knew what they were trying to say with the whole piece. However, I was transported by the reading to a place where I put together what the piece meant to me. In a way that is a greater gift… almost like the difference between reading a book and seeing the movie… in this way I was more of a participant in imagining the meaning.”
- Observer 1, Clare: “ [Marion’s] remark about not having the intention to cause emotion but rather just sticking to the task at hand hit home for me in a big way. [The actor] must trust in the work. Dedicate yourself to the work and the audience is allowed in… do all the emoting for us and we pull away… we want to feel it… you are the one who must communicate it….”
So at the end of the day the emphasis of our findings can be summed up in three areas: ! the engagement of the body and the communicative intention; diverting the analytical function of the mind to access the intuitive experience; ! delicately bridging the intuitive experience into text by clearly maintaining connections with the body and the intention.