Sunday, December 28, 2014

Back to basics

My daughter’s dance school posted this thought a few weeks ago: “Beginning dancers prefer to take Intermediate Level classes; Intermediate dancers prefer to take advanced level classes; Advanced level dancers take private lessons to work on the basics.”

This quote stuck with me and I have been thinking about it a lot over the last three months. The process of studying, learning, exploring, and creating our production of Macbeth was incredibly daunting and humbling. I often felt myself lost in the complexity of Shakespeare’s language, character and story; and having to keep up with my fellow ensemble members.

When I finally had time to catch my breath between the first production and the re-mount, I pulled a book off my shelf to re-read: The Practical Handbook for the Actor. It doesn’t take long to read the book, but I have underlined so very many things in it. I pulled out the notebook from my summer at the Atlantic Acting School, and laughed to look through all the attempts to analyze the short scenes we were working with in our classes.  Pages and pages of Literals, Wants, Actions, and As-ifs; crossed out, re-drafted, written over again with a different word choice. I scrapped the analysis I had settled on for the performance of Macbeth, and started the process all over again, only to go back to what I had before.  It is so complex, but so simple.

Around the same time, my mother-in-law gave me two books by Cicely Berry for my birthday. Coincidentally, Voice and the Actor is on the list of recommended reading at the back of Practical Handbook. Somehow, I had never read her work, but am finding as I read that it really resonates (pardon the pun) with me right now. For several weeks during this very busy fall, I had gotten away from my routine of daily voice and speech practice. Even when I had been doing those practices, I found myself going through the motions and not working with awareness and attention. For the last ten days, I have allowed myself the luxury of at least five minutes every morning just to breathe. With all of my energy and attention focused on just that.  It is so complex, but so simple.

I’ll slowly start a return to my full vocal practice, getting into more detailed work, playing with new-to-me texts and exercises.

But for now, I am more than happy to take the time to work on the basics.

~ Carey Cahoon

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Finding the familiar and facing the fear

Recently, theatre KAPOW was asked to collaborate with the NH Philharmonic on a program they were doing called Shakespeare Lives! The show featured pieces of classical music by some of the best composers of all time, including Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, and Verdi. The pieces all had one thing in common: they were all inspired by the plays of William Shakespeare. tKAPOW was asked to read some selections of text throughout the concert. Peter, Carey, and Olivia provided the audience with wonderful context for the pieces of music and it was a really amazing concert. While sitting there watching the show, I was struck by a couple of things. First, I was surprised by how much of the music I recognized though I was previously unaware of its connection to the bard (Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream being the best example). Second, I found it incredible that so many pillars of classical music were inspired by the works of Shakespeare. What does it say about how great the work of an artist is when Tchaikovsky is inspired by it?

The opportunity to take part in this concert was particularly synchronistic as we are currently working on our first foray into Shakespeare in the mounting of Macbeth. Approaching any Shakespearean text, but perhaps more Macbeth than any other, you have the feeling of treading on hallowed ground. This is a work that has inspired (and terrified) generations throughout the world. One of the things that can be intimidating about this play is that you encounter one of the most iconic lines of text ever written at each turn of the page. Upon first reading, or first re-reading after a long time, it’s easy to have an experience similar to the one I had listening to those famous pieces of music. You come across a line and think “Ah, so that’s where that is from.” I find it fascinating that so much of Shakespeare’s language has transcended the plays in which it was first written. His quotes, in many cases, are more popular than his plays (Perhaps we should change the marketing for the show to read “Come see an actor deliver the famous ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech!”). When you study this play closely, you find not only those famous lines but a number of sayings that have taken root as part of our common parlance. Without Macbeth, we’d have no “be-all and end-all,” no “one fell swoop,” no “sorry sight,” and, perhaps most tragically, no “Knock, knock! Who’s there?” It’s obviously no secret that Shakespeare was a great wordsmith, but it’s the way he brings the language together in such an incredibly efficient and compact way that makes Macbeth stand apart from so many great plays.

We are in tech week for the show and that means that we are within just a few days of sharing our work with audiences. We do so with an understanding that this production is one in a long line of productions that trace their way all the way back to the tip of Shakespeare’s quill. tKAPOW’s production uses only three actors to play all the roles in the play. We did this not to try to “do something new” (when it comes to Macbeth, everything new has already been done), but to place emphasis on the story. Our production features three storytellers aware of their place in the storytelling process. They take on their roles in view of the audience using just a few simple props and actively include the audience in the telling (don’t worry, you won’t be asked to murder anyone). While a big cast outfitted in period Scottish costumes playing on a realistically painted castle set may be nice, we opt instead to bring you a production with a little less “sound and fury.” What you’ll see is three actors at the top of their game sharing one of the greatest stories ever told. We can only hope that our production will inspire the next great symphony.
Photo by Matthew Lomanno

~ Matt Cahoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Instant Acting and Kismet

Just add water...and a script, a director, a castmate, copious amounts of coffee.... a couple of slices of pizza won’t hurt.

Walking into the kickoff meeting of the 2014 24 Hour Play Festival, I really had no idea what to expect, but I thought I did. I knew there would be about 30 people there. I knew that five playwrights and five directors would be paired up by the luck of the draw and that the rest of us would be assigned to a cast by lottery.  But I did not know the sweet moments of kismet, or the confidence in my ability to work fast….really fast, and pretty well.  I’m hooked.

I knew two people in the room, Debera Lund and Olivia Dodd, a director and an actor with whom I’d just worked for a week last month. I secretly hoped I’d work with Deb, because I liked her process and didn’t get to work with her nearly long enough. The first playwright, Patrick Cleary got to pick a card from the “director” group. He drew Debera. After the other playwrights randomly chose their directors, they got to pick their cast size. Patrick drew a cast of two.
Then, Debera was the first director to “cast” the show by blindly picking cards with the actors’ pictures on them. Suddenly, the picking-teams-in-gym-class feeling washed over me. I thought, “Please don’t let me be the last kid picked. Please don’t let me be the last kid picked”, until I realized that having a card with your face on it picked at random is more like being part of a card trick than being chosen (or not) for a dodgeball team. Debera picked my card first. Hooray! First kismet moment. By the end of the evening, our team included Patrick, Deb, myself, and a young actress named Jasmine Roth, who also happened to be one of the playwrights for the Festival.

The playwrights then chose a prompt in the form of an image or a quote. Our prompt was a picture of the M. C. Escher elephant. He chose a genre: Drama. There were a few minutes for the four of us to get together. When I meet new people, I fight an urge to talk. It is my job to make everyone in the group comfortable. Or uncomfortable, as the case may be. Even when it’s not. Somehow, I blurted out something about having a wicker table in the shape of an elephant. Because, you know, elephant is sort of random. It seemed like a team-building statement. Well, guess what? It kind of was. Because Patrick said he sometimes likes to approach things literally, and what did the elephant table look like, exactly? So I described it. Second kismet moment.

After the kickoff, the actors and directors got to go home to re-convene in the morning. The playwrights were challenged to write a play before 7:00 AM, while the rest of us slept. Although, I am not sure sleep is an accurate description. My mind was “on” all night. Would I get there in time? Would I be able to get my son to his cross-country team breakfast at approximately the same time I had to be at the theatre? Who was going to braid my daughter’s hair for her own theatrical performance that night? Would John, my husband, encounter any crazy theatre-dad issues he was unprepared for? Would everyone have enough to eat? (That last question is always there...I am probably the reincarnation of somebody’s zaftig ethnic grandmother….but I digress).

8:00 AM. On time. And Deb is already here. And there are scripts on the table for us to read. And there’s coffee! And a wifi password! Oh, this has already surpassed my expectations.  Jasmine arrives. Patrick is having some well-earned sleep. To me he has become an elusive fairy-godfather who worked through the night to deliver us an incredibly crafted play to bring to life. The script is entitled “Possession”. And, yes, it does involve an elephant-shaped wicker table. And the conflict between two women, a hoarder and her well-intentioned family member, at odds over the inherent value of stuff. And whether the table is, in fact, a table, or an elephant sculpture. I read it. I love it. It’s 10 pages (not, 17, thank you Patrick!). It’s about people I’m related to. You see, I have the I-break-at-yard-sales gene. (That’s a thing, right?)  I fight that gene tooth and nail, but I have it. Third kismet moment.  

In the script there’s a squabble over an opal ring. An opal ring, really?  Fourth kismet moment.

And we began. In spite of having Debera Lund as our director, I was certain this would have to be a day of blocking and memorizing. How can you possibly find the depth and soul of a character whose ink is barely dry in 10 hours? How can you create a backstory and undercurrents to the character relationships before lunch with a story that has just been read for the first time. Well, you can. You SO can! And, all of a sudden, I recalled days of working summer theatre twenty years ago….when ten days seemed more than sufficient to work on a full-length musical and fill a 1,300 seat house for two weekends.  It’s called total immersion. We had a day. But we had that WHOLE day. There was no world outside to attend to. Yes, we took breaks. Yes, we ate lunch. But those were the moments when the things we worked on took the time to seep into our limbic centers. There were no distractions. No one needed us to make their lunches. No one needed a ride to a friend’s house. No one needed to take over the kitchen with three friends to make cupcake sans recipe. And not a single person brought mud potion into the rehearsal room and accidentally spilled it.

We blocked. We formed relationships between the characters beyond the story at hand. We got to know these two women Patrick created literally overnight out of a prompt and a commitment. Debera was there to share her metaphors, to guide us, to push us to change up our approach, and change it back, and find the sweet spot. She calls it “whiplash” directing. I call it brilliant.

Jasmine and I got to know each other pretty well, in an “I’m-sorry-I-have-to-grab-you-and-throw-you-on-this-pile-of-hoarded-stuff” sort of a way. (The director made me do it.) In spite of the fact that she was up most of the night writing a play for another team, she was good. She was quick. She was a lot of fun to work with. My character was sort of obviously nuts. Her character was more difficult, I thought, walking a fine line between being a supportive and loving family member and just having-it-up-to-HERE already!

We teched at five. Our show opened at 7:30. First up. And we did it. We formed characters out of Patrick’s well-placed words on a page and adrenalin and coffee and water and trust and thought and repetition. Fifth kismet moment. And I want to do it again.

~ Deirdre Hickok Bridge

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cats and Cats and Cats

Driving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire Friday evening, my girlfriend and I started joking about the sort of play I'd end up writing for Theatre KAPOW's 24-Hour Play Festival. 

"Maybe it'll be all cats," I said.

"How would that even work?"

"Like, adult cats have to tell their kittens that they're all famous Internet memes. It's my play Going Viral but with cats. I could just change a few words and be in bed by ten. Call it Going Meowral."

"Going Feral," she joked.

Fast-forward to the part of the evening where I randomly select my prompt, and what is it...?

This. Only this.

Tempted as I was to pen the genre-shattering (and, let's be honest, award-winning) Going Meowral/Going Feral, I decided to use this prompt to write something new. But what?
The playwright Chas Belov gave me some great advice: Have your actors improvise a bit and write your play around that. While I didn't end up transcribing their improvisations (maybe I should have! they were really funny), what I observed did help to inform my brainstorming process. 

I noticed that Kelly Litt was very, very good at physical comedy. He's a tall dude and can really impose himself in hilarious ways. Ben Bagley, I thought, would make a great straight man: earnest but also funny. Jackie Marcoux told me that she'd never done comedy, but in the two scenes they improvised she was really funny, though in a different way than the two boys.

So what to write with all of this?

Kelly and Ben had similar comedic sensibilities and played really well off of each other. Jackie's comedy was more understated, and I knew if I didn't give her character significant power in the scene I risked losing her voice. 

And then I had to include the line "You did what?!" And something about seeing yourself as more than you are. Or just cats. It wasn't too late for just cats, right?
I don't want to spoil the surprise of what I ended up writing, but I will tell you this:
  • Kelly is responsible for an Oprah Magazine reference that may or may not make it into the production.
  • I started writing around 9:30pm and finished the first draft around 1:18 am. It clocked in at eleven pages. As I wrote to a friend on Facebook (because there was much Facebooking throughout this process): The only muse I've ever known is a gun pointed at my head. (Or a ticking clock. Whichever.)
  • I was told that both Ben and Kelly could sing and play the guitar. Ben also knew how to play a tiny coconut-shaped piano. All of them were proficient in stage combat. I could have done amazing things with this, but I used none of it. (Except maybe the guitar. We'll see.)
  • The director, Jamileh Jemison, said that she finds dead bodies to be a source of great hilarity. I was unable to include a dead body in the script, unfortunately. But I did call the police, and they agreed that I was right to be concerned...

In any case, it's mostly out of my hands now. I can't wait to see what Jamileh and the actors do with it!

—Brandon M. Crose

Friday, October 17, 2014

24 Hours, and... go!

Driving around Pinkerton in the dark tonight looking for the Stockbridge Theater was a bit of a metaphoric representation of the challenge of the 24 Hour Play Festival. As I came in through the back entrance, I thought I knew what I was doing. I had spent four years of my life studying at this institution, and never once did I get lost on campus, but tonight was the first time I had used this entrance since the Academy building had been built, and I almost missed the turn.

I have been heavily involved with theatre for the past decade, and this 24 Hour concept is completely throwing me for a loop and knocking me completely (well, almost) out of my comfort zone. I'm the type of director that loves to spend months with a script, tearing it apart, putting it back together, and figuring it out from every angle. I look forward to getting to know my actors on a personal level over the first few weeks of rehearsal so I can figure out the best way to use them. And I like to have time to let things sit, sleep on decisions, and fix my mistakes. Going into tonight, while I knew I would be attempting to battle the familiar beast of directing, I will be doing it in a very unfamiliar way, much like trying to navigate the back lot of Pinkerton Academy.

I was one of the first participants to arrive in the black box tonight. As they other directors, playwrights, and actors began to filter into the room, the tension began to rise. The nervous energy was at an all time high. I was a little at ease, as I had convinced my good friend, and sometimes co-collaborator, Jacob Randlett to be one of the actors for the festival. It was nice having a familiar face in the room, and I figured it would be cool to see him directed by someone else for once (him having been in 4 of the 8 things I have directed.) Once all of then 30-something people had taken their seats, the instructional period began. I was half listening. I also had sudden random doubtful thoughts that oft plague any artist. "What if my playwright has a really jarring style?" "What if my actors don't like me?" "What if I oversleep tomorrow?" and so on and so on. My mind was distracted when we went on a tour of the space, so I quickly was able to stop thinking about these things. But all these things came back to me, and I'm sure others as well, once we all re-entered the black box.

The table in the center of the black box had a large amount of what appeared to be "24 Hour Play Festival" playing cards, which turned out to be the head shots for the directors, playwrights, and actors, as well as the prompts for the shows. The playwrights head shots were turned over, and each one was called up to turn over a director card. After the first four went, and I hadn't been turned over, we all knew who was last. Me. I had met my playwright, Jasmine Roth, once before, as she had auditioned for me, but that was the end of my knowledge of her. I look forward to getting to know her work over the next 20 hours. After that, the directors were instructed to flip over the next set of cards: the number of cast members. The directors were just told to have at it, and we each grabbed a card. I got 4, the largest number possible. Fitting four actors into a 15 minute piece will be incredibly difficult, but I embrace the challenge.

Then the fun part: turning over the actor cards. The directors and playwrights took turns flipping cards as needed. The first card I flipped over made me laugh and curse, as I flipped over Jacob's head shot. I love and hate the fact that I drew him. It saves me time of having to "figure him out" but I also wanted to get away from my comfort zone, but I digress. We did get a nice extra challenge, as when we drew our genre card. Comedy. The only two options were comedy or drama, but comedy will be a good challenge, as Jasmine shared that she has only written deep drama before. My other three actors (Mitch Fortier, Sarah Dunn, and Finley Smith) all have various backgrounds, experiences, and special skills, and they should create a very eclectic ensemble. The next card drawn was our prompt, in which we were given the Anais Nin quote "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Very thought-provoking, especially for a comedy. The final card drawn was a line of dialog that will have to appear in all five pieces: "You did what?!" After taking twenty minutes to share a little bit about ourselves with each other. We all broke for the night.

I feel... good. Tomorrow will be all about directing from the gut. No drawn out analyzing, no note taking, no research, no hours of ensemble building, just directing. I've been debating trying to draw up a less abstract plan but I don't think that will be any good. I'm just gonna go in there tomorrow, eat breakfast with my cast, read the script, and just let my artistic side flow free.

"You'll never be a success if you fear failure" - Paul Heyman. My motto in life, my motto for this project. Let's rock and roll!

- Dan Pelletier

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Capturing a Feeling

Wax Idiotical Films has been a long time partner with theatre KAPOW, providing video promo’s for their shows. When Carey first announced they were mounting a 3 person production of Macbeth on Halloween… at midnight, I immediately was excited. Not only for the inevitably spectacular performance, but I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to do something new with the video. We had found a tried and true equation for the promos, which all consisted of “talking-heads” and images of the rehearsal, but while they were often times informative it didn’t capture the feeling of a tKAPOW show (this usually was done more successfully in the montage/trailers during production week).

So as I brainstormed on how we could make this new video different, I made a mental list of things that I wanted to highlight. I kept going back to what Carey had said at the announcement, “Shakespeare. 3 Actors. Halloween. Midnight. Macbeth.” These words perfectly got the point across, and told me what I wanted to highlight. The brilliant language of Shakespeare, the fact that 3 people were playing every role, and that the performance would be at midnight on Halloween. I wanted something playful, but in a dark way, and oddly enough the idea struck me late at night while laying in bed.

Cars were driving past my house, and I’d watch the headlights shine through a small gap in my curtains, and they would go across the wall, and light up just a sliver of the room at a time. The idea of sweeping a light across the 3 different actors as they recited some of the lines from their different characters was an easy connection. Then came the tricky part. How? When I arrived to film I tried a few different lights; I knew I wanted to be able to wrap it with blackwrap and cut just a small line in the wrap, but also I needed it to be BRIGHT. Matt was kind enough to direct me to an “inkie” or par 15 light. Very small, and VERY bright.

After filming several lines with the light sweeping back and forth for each actor, I dove into the editing process. This was where I got to play a little bit more. I took some of the background noise of the cast whispering, and layered it over itself. I reversed one of the clips so there weren’t any words, just this whispering that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Visually, the footage looked great, but too bright. Through some color adjustments and desaturating of the footage, I was able to get an “almost” black and white look. I wanted there to be SOME color, but to make the look of the video match the tone: Dark. Mysterious. And most importantly - Creepy.

~ Mark Marshall, Wax Idiotical Films

Watch the trailer here

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Curating a season

A recent e-newsletter from Portland Stage posited the question “What goes into crafting a season?” Anita Stewart, Portland Stage’s Executive and Artistic Director, answers the question with “Conversations, letters, emails, and scripts coming from audiences and artists alike...and reading, reading, reading plays...”

This certainly sounds familiar. So how it is that tKAPOW crafts its seasons?

tKAPOW has placed a great deal of emphasis on curating our seasons around unifying themes for several years. This approach requires that we select shows that complement each other in the way that they relate to the season’s theme. We also find it important to build season upon season so that the shows we explore this year relate back to what we did last year and next year’s shows will relate to this year’s and so on (the past three seasons for example have had the themes “Dream,” “Awake,” and “See”).

“Reading, reading, reading” is absolutely a reality of show selection. The fact is that we often read dozens of scripts before we decide upon one single show in a season. How do you even choose scripts to read? This can be quite daunting so we have developed a formula that helps provide structure to our season. Without being too strict about how we do it, we produce a European piece in the fall, a comedy in the winter, and the work of an American Master in the spring. Throw in our other projects, like the 24-Hour Play Festival, three playreadings for the ARTiculate series at the Currier, a devised work in June and... viola! A season!

Sounds easy, but in honesty, in addition to the “reading, reading, reading” there are tons of late nights, heated arguments over particular titles, and lots of private heartbreaks over the realization that a certain favorite just isn’t the right fit for the season.

Oh, and one more thing, lots of luck. Sometimes you just happen across a show (one possible result of all that reading) that is just perfect for the season and you share it around and everyone agrees that it is a must do (these are few and far between, but Eurydice and Penelope are great examples).

Since the beginning, tKAPOW has been commited to producing theatre that challenges both artists and audiences. We are very aware when we sit down to discuss shows for the next season that as a theatre company you are only as good as your last show. We work hard to constantly push ourselves to do better work. We are also keenly aware of the importance of input from our audiences and colleagues. So, please send us along a great script you just read, or grab one of us after a show and tell us what you did or did not like about the play. As we start looking forward to season 8 (hard to believe it), we’ll be needing all the help we can get.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A shrinking and growing world

We live in an ever shrinking world and yet the more it shrinks the more our understanding seems to deepen. It’s a world where technology has made it so that at the touch of a button we can communicate almost instantaneously with someone thousands of miles away. With just a few keystrokes we can translate text from almost any language into our own in the time it takes a webpage to load. In this time when access is at its peak, sincere cultural exchange is critical.

A number of productions have informed my desire to achieve work that transcends language and culture (notably National Theatre of the Deaf’s Peer Gynt and Teatr Zar’s Caesarian Section), but it wasn’t until I trained with Double Edge Theatre that I actively sought out ways to incorporate multiple languages into tKAPOW’s work. My summer with DET was focused on intense training that was led in relation to the company’s exploration of Homer’s Odyssey. Early on in my time there, I was taught a series of Bulgarian folk songs. What did these songs, I wondered, have to do with the Odyssey? As we neared the end of the intensive, we started to use these songs in our etude work and the answer became clear. The language didn’t matter; it was the storytelling that was important. A Bulgarian folk song made a perfect sea shanty for Odysseus’ sailors. This was an important realization for me and it has shaped much of my work since then.

Last July, I took part in the International Symposium for Directors at LaMaMa Umbria is Spoleto, Italy. Participants from throughout the world took part in two weeks of workshops, attending shows, and many late-night discussions in the gorgeous Italian countryside. There, I first met Valentina Lattuada, a theatre artist of Italian and Brazilian heritage who is currently residing in Barcelona. Valentina and I worked on a couple of pieces while in Italy and quickly realized that, despite our cultural differences, we shared a common theatrical aesthetic. Before leaving Italy, we decided that we wanted to collaborate on a project that would cross the barriers of distance, language, and culture.

In January of this year, Valentina made her first visit to NH to lead an open training and to continue our discussion of potential collaborative projects. Not long after Valentina returned to Barcelona, she was contacted by her friend, Nick Farewell, a Korean-born Brazilian author who was interested in having one of his novels adapted for the stage. After reading it, we knew that Uma Vida Imagin├íria would be the perfect piece for collaboration, and decided to premiere it in June 2015. To accomplish that, we knew that we’d need to find away to overcome the boundaries of language and culture, but most importantly distance. In August, Valentina came to NH again for our Artists’ Retreat and then a week of work developing the text for Uma Vida Imagin├íria.

The only missing piece was finding a second Portuguese speaking actor to help develop the script so that it remained faithful to Nick’s novel but also resonated with an American audience. We were so blessed to find Rafael Marinho, a Boston-based Brazilian actor to do this work with us. So, for four days Carey, Peter, Valentina, Rafael, and I worked through the text and really started exploring the beauty of Nick’s writing There were lots of fun moments (the Pulp Fiction-esque realization that Brazilians don’t use the term “quarter pounder with cheese”) but more often than not we found that Nick’s characters, themes, and words transcended language and culture.

This month, we’ve already had two conversations over Skype to continue the planning and the work we started this summer. As these calls and text conversations continue throughout the year, we’ll continue to be in awe of the way that our as world is shrinking our understanding of it continues to deepen.

~Matt Cahoon

Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning to Learn in the Present Moment

This summer was our third Artists Retreat, concluding just a few weeks ago. Why do we go there for a week each year right at the start of the season?
Continued study has always been a core tenet of our company. Eugenio Barba writes of the phenomenon he calls learning to learn. "This is of tremendous importance for those who choose or are obliged to go beyond the limits of specialized technique. It is the condition that enables us to go beyond technical knowledge and not be dominated by it." As we experience and learn from on-going theatre trainings, we wanted to share our disparate methods with one another. Peter, through a series of events and meetings only to described as synchronicity, was introduced to the owners of Chanticleer Gardens, an idyllic flower farm. So Matthew said, "Let's go to the farm all day every day for a week, share, and see what comes of it."
In addition to sharing our own methodologies of the Michael Chekhov training, psychophysical improvisation, and Viewpoints, we brought in guest artists to lead workshops in modern dance, poi spinning, Lessac Kinesensic training and more. What we discovered, and continue to discover every year, is that the similarities and commonalities among all these practices far outweigh the differences. All of them seek truth, a unity of something both inside and outside the self, which is recognizable beyond culture, medium, or even time.
For the last two years Aaron Butler, a master of several martial arts who teaches at The Training Station in Manchester, NH, led a workshop in Tai Chi and I Liq Chuan. This work became some of the most profound of the retreat for me. At the core of both practices is developing a mindfulness and awareness to the present moment. The vocabulary is different, but the ideas the practice is driving toward are familiar. Aaron's teaching reminds me that there is so much in this world that I don't know, there is so much I can learn.
This summer we had a new guest artist, Valentina Lattuada from Barcelona, Spain, who shared her work which she calls Integral Transpersonal Theatre. I prefer the alternate name she uses - the Poetics of the Invisible.  Her work began, like so much does, with a connection to the breath. Again, the vocabulry was different, but the goal a familiar unknown. Breath is one way we can check in on five levels: physical, energetic, intellectual, emotional, and transpersonal. The exercises she led each session point to that same mindfulness and awareness, and even reception of the present moment.
Just a few weeks before our retreat, I read a blog post by John Britton of Ensemble Duende about the challenge of returning to "real life" after an intensive. "Could that even be our job as artists, to help our communities (re)discover the wonder of each passing moment and the connections between us, across time and geography?" Yes, I think so. And that is why we return to Chanticleer Gardens each summer, why we meet monthly for Open Training, and why we work hard to keep learning, and keep striving to connect in the present moment.
~Carey Cahoon