We are one year into the Causality project, and I would like to stop spinning in order to comment on two things:
If you have read any of the other LiveArtDC family blog posts, you have a general idea of how our process works. But do you? Do I ? Who cares? This shit is fun.
I fell in love with LiveArtDC’s last production, I <3 Hummels. It was proof that this process can work. It was fresh and alive. The actors played the circumstances with such honesty, and I remember musing, “I don’t think anyone else could have played those roles as truthfully as Wendy, James, Rebecca and Heather. “
Well, that’s because they weren’t trying to decipher the words of a distant playwright, but rather shaping their own character choices and instincts into a well crafted-story (which, as I understand, ended up concluding differently than they expected).
So how do I reconcile LiveArtDC’s Process with my current understanding of Process? When I’m not performing, I am teaching. Different theatres, different schools, different ages and different demographics. The challenge I am charged with: teach me how to act. Well, you need to start with a Process. In fact, two of the 5 classes I teach actually have the word Process in the title. What IS a Process? What comes out of the classes is usually a blend of: the theatre school’s objective-oriented curriculum, methods of a name-droppable instructor (who may or may not still be living), and my own process that I would use on the given material. If all goes well, the student will have enough tools to create a process that works with their own complicated brain. (Sometimes my students just want me to tell them how to do it, as if it is a step-by-step system that guarantees success every time). But all this teaching of process contradicts my experience as a working performer. I have learned that every process is different. Every show/project/ performance that I have worked on has required me to flex a different set of muscles and apply those acting skills in a different way. I used to get frustrated when I encountered an unexpected obstacle during the rehearsal process, but now I say to myself, “Oh, THIS is the lesson I’ll be taking away from this project! Bring it on!” These experiences give you a toolbox for tackling the next challenge. There will never be a “right way” to do it, for each project requires a different process.
Some actors prefer to break down a script, analyze beats, and memorize lines on their own before rehearsal. Nope. That won’t work with Causality. Some design teams like to share their concepts, sketches, and set models at the First Read Through. Nope. That won’t work with Causality. Some directors prefer to work blocking first to focus on stage picture. Nope. That won’t work with Causality. Some actors like to know which scenes they’ll be doing when the lights come up on Opening Night. Nope. That won’t work with Causality.
So I’m in this process now. How am I handling it? Well, a year ago, we were asked to select 5 character traits to explore. I couldn’t really follow the rules. Instead of selecting adjectives to describe my unborn character, I was haunted by five images- as if the ideas were placed before me and not of my choosing. These wildly random and unformed inspirations were embraced by our fearless director and playwright. I have rejected the need to create/control/adhere to process. I have let go, and I am trusting that whatever inspires me in the moment will be recognized, tweaked and crafted into whatever our script becomes. Well, so far my character Ruby has grown out pieces of my personal truth. Imagine a collection of items neatly displayed on a sidewalk. Like a yard sale. YEAH, like a yard sale*. Each item represents a personal revelation or experience that is 100% true. Then a tornado comes through and smashes all the items to pieces. The pieces swirl around in this funnel and land in randomly mixed and re-puzzled items. One of these is Ruby.
*this is a new idea I had just now. Yep. Welcome to my process du jour. Whoa I just spoke French. Maybe I am French. Or maybe I just like French dressing. Or maybe I have a side job dressing up as a French Fry and handing out flyers for Harry’s Hamburger Hamlet. Or maybe I wear a pink satin jacket like Frenchie in Grease…