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