Monday, May 23, 2016

Exquisite Pressure

Pressure is a central ingredient:  pressure of collaboration, of time, of putting all this stuff together...I cannot possibly control it, therefore I start to work on a more intuitive level, rather than on a logical level, which is what you are trying to get to because all creation is intuitive.
-Anne Bogart

tKAPOW spent last week in residence at Charlestown Working Theatre developing our new piece Raining Aluminum.  This process was simultaneously thrilling, terrifying, inspiring and exhausting. While we have been doing pretty heavy research on the piece for about 15 months, we walked into CWT with little more than a collection of stories we’d like to explore and a few movement sequences.

The day before we set out for Charlestown, Carey and I assembled ten brand new 4’ x 4’ platforms to act as the set (with the side benefit of being small enough to fit in the Opera House elevator for future shows) and loaded a truck full of various objects that we thought would help with the storytelling.   With Cynthia MacLeod, our musical collaborator, set to arrive that day, I spent Sunday loading in all of our odds and ends.  Just before I left CWT, I arranged the platforms and objects into what I proposed would be their starting position for the show.

Monday morning, we stopped at Cynthia’s hotel and Carey got to meet her for the first time (they became pretty close by the end of the week).  We drove down to Charlestown and discussed the plan for the day.
While Tayva and I worked on hanging a light plot (difficult to do when you don’t even have a script yet), Peter and Carey worked with Cynthia on learning a seated step dance that we planned to incorporate into the piece (it turns out that it was a remarkably effective way to start the show).  That evening we had our first rehearsal in space.  The daily schedule for the rest of the week was similar with intensive work during the day with our visiting artists on music, puppetry or text and then we’d rehearse in the evenings.  Now you probably understand the use of the word “exhausting” in the first line above.

The week culminated in three work-in-progress showings.  On Thursday, Cynthia and the music was featured; on Friday, Vit Horejs and the object work was the focus; and, on Saturday, we were able to share a full first draft of the piece that included a lot of the text developed by our dramaturg Kelly Smith (including a monologue that was re-written about 10 minutes prior to the start of the showing).  An important part of the process was the audience feedback session that we conducted each night.  It was fascinating (and occasionally surprising) to hear which elements of the piece really resonated with the audience and equally as helpful to hear what wasn’t working.  This is all feedback that we will consider as we continue to develop the piece.

By far the best part of this opportunity was that it gave us a concentrated stretch of time to experiment, work, and play.  What Anne Bogart refers to as “exquisite pressure” was definitely a major contributing factor to our work last week.  Charles Mee describes Bogart’s “exquisite pressure” in the following way:

 “[it’s] one which promotes creativity by overwhelming collaborators with a lot to do in a short amount of time so that they do not have the chance to think too much.”

We often said last week that when creating original work you might work for an hour and only find 30 seconds of useable material.  Last week we certainly did create a bunch of stuff that ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor,” but I think the pressure of having to have something ready to share with an audience resulted in the discovery of a few pearls.  In the coming weeks, we’ll work on stringing those pearls together to create a complete piece.  The new piece will premiere at the Stockbridge the weekend of July 8-10 and then we hope it will have the opportunity to tour around a bit.  If you are interested in seeing new and non-traditional theatre, I hope that you will come check it out.

~ Matt Cahoon

Monday, May 2, 2016

How am I doing today?


Grounded closed yesterday, its initial run anyway. We got home after a 4-hour strike, I put the flight suit and boots away, shirt and socks into the laundry. I slept very, very soundly last night, which hasn’t been the case for the last two weeks. This morning I got up, and went through my full morning routine.

Read a chapter of Zen in the Art of Archery. Since the new year, I have started my day each day by reading 15 - 20 minutes of eastern philosophy, which has been incredibly calming and strength-building.

I spend a few minutes seeing off my husband and daughter as they head to work and school. 6 minutes of balance exercises. This six minutes every day is a great opportunity for me to check in with my body and my mind. How am I doing today? Am I steady? Am I grounded? I unroll my yoga mat, and stretch for 10 - 12 minutes. Breathe into those muscles, those joints, those hard-working tendons that need breath. Today was a return to planking in the morning. How am I doing? Do I feel strength and can I balance the tension and find relaxation?

I roll up my yoga mat, and bring up a guided vocal warm-up on my i-phone. I have been doing this vocal warm-up for almost six years now. In 2010, my husband pushed me to go to an actor training program. He researched summer programs and sent me the information on the Atlantic Acting School and said, “this is the one you need to go to.” He was right. I come back to the vocal work I learned there almost every day. I spend 10 minutes, 20 minutes or more if I have the time, breathing and generating sound. How I am doing today? Where am I feeling vibration? The warm up is different every day because I am different every day. Sometimes I spend my vocal time in the morning focused only on the breath, with very little sound. I am grateful for this time to breathe and nourish this very basic starting point for everything.

Make sure the water is heating up for my cup of tea.

I turn to another practice: speech. Working the muscles of my mouth. Tuning in to vibration and sound waking up the full range of my voice. Articulation, clear pronunciation, strength and freedom of movement to shape breath and sound to clearly communicate. How am I doing today? Am I here in this moment or just going through the motions? I spend about 16 or 17 minutes on this speech practice.

Brew a cup of green tea and let it steep.

Meditate 10 - 12 minutes. Breathe. How am I doing today? Am I here in this moment? Am I grounded?

Drink my green tea. Eat breakfast, face the day. Carry the work from the morning into the day.

I was terrified when theatre KAPOW chose to put Grounded into the season. There was a time I said, “Find someone else to do it. I won’t be able to do it.” 100 minutes on stage, just me. Lean into the uncomfortable, face the fear. I know that the only way I was able to do it was because of those daily practices. My voice did not give out, my body did not give out. Voice, speech, and most importantly breath.

I am grateful for those practices. I am grateful.

~Carey Cahoon