WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Breaking the rules and playing to win

About a week ago I sent out some feelers to the ensemble of play. to get their thoughts on the process we've been working with for the last 6 weeks or so. This whole CoLab experience is a grand experiment in creating theatre from an actor's perspective and if/how that kind of theatre will mesh into a more mainstream market. So we wanted to see how the actors feel about it...not just us because, for the record, WE are loving it. Last night we had our first full-company rehearsal. It was the FIRST time everyone involved was in the same room at the same time putting everything together. It was interesting to see how different each of the three segments are. But there is a definite flow and through-line that is really exciting.

Anyway, for those of you who might have a hard time grasping what exactly we're up to, here are some thoughts from the actors on the process and the product and what we're hoping to show you with play.

Why did you audition for play.?

Robyn Linden:
I auditioned because I knew Kenny and his level of enthusiasm about creating theatre. My calendar was miraculously open and I thought it could provide a great (rare) opportunity for me to work with another theatre company and try a new style if I were cast.

James Marin: Why did I jump on this opportunity? Well, there are multiple reasons. The first of what caught my eye was the character descriptions. The second thing that caught my eye was that this company was offering training in Viewpoints and Suzuki. Free training! What more could I ask for? After researching the opportunity further I came to the conclusion that this was a company of young individuals trying to do something innovative and new. I wanted to take part!

Sierra Kagen: I had been following CoLab's creation and metamorphosis from afar, while I was spending a year in Italy. I was excited to come back and join in whatever fun they were concocting, and it just so happened that the first thing I was able to participate in was the audition for "play.". I felt so lucky to be given the chance to participate.

Jonny Hendrickson: Unlike some of the rest of y'all, I didn't know Kenny or Erika from Brandeis before this. I was looking for things back in June (May? idk, sometime before now) that I could audition for to keep my actor juices flowing and challenge myself in new ways for the summer, and the CoLab posting on StageSource just kind of popped out. It looked like something that would both excite me and push me to think of and interact with theatre in new ways, and it has proven to do exactly that.

Are you learning anything about your self as an actor or acting in general in rehearsals? If so what?

Sierra: I was so hoping you'd ask this question. I'm having an interesting time with this work, mostly because it's my first project after a year's hiatus from theater. But beyond that, the work we're doing in Erika's piece is so outside my comfort zone that it's throwing me off even further. That's a good thing! It's so easy for performance and acting to become easy and safe, and it's such a treat to have something that actually challenges me to explore outside my box. I've been telling everyone: "It makes me really uncomfortable... so you know it's good!"

Robyn: I've never been one for ensemble/movement-based work, because I'm such a verbal person and there usually aren't a lot of words, at least early on, in that kind of setting. Text really resonates with me, I'm a Shakespeare lover afterall, so I often feel disconnected and out of my skillset with ensemble work. This group is very trusting and willing to just try things, though, and I've found myself participating freely and impulsively as we play together. It reinforces for me the importance of being present, because the magnetism of the present moment of this ensemble is directly responsible for my engagement and the things I'm learning from the process.

James: This is universal realization about acting that I always come back to again and again. You cannot play it safe. I think that the actor needs to have a relative amount of comfort when performing. However, as acting is a form of creative expression that happens in "the moment", I think the art certainly has more to do with uncertainty than certainty.

How does working on a linear piece and the non linear piece simultaneously work for you?

James: I have an equal respect for theatre that is more concrete as well as theatre that is more expressionistic.To be working on both styles at once is certainly great acting exercise!

Sierra: In all honesty, I think the two are very disjointed from each other, but I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. Kenny's not at Erika's rehearsals, and Erika's not in Kenny's rehearsals, so naturally they're not feeding off of one another's work in any concrete sense of the word. It's nice, though, to be able to switch back and forth between the two, to feel the contrasts and the similarities without talking them to death.

Do they affect each other? How?

Sierra: I think the biggest benefit from doing both is that our ensemble work from Erika's piece naturally transfers into our rehearsal process for Kenny's pieces. I absolutely and unequivocally trust my scene partners, and am learning much more quickly how each of them works and how we work together. It has more to do with process than with product, and *gasp!* how ironic! That's the mission of the group!

James: This is a definite. The two go hand in hand. Within the rehearsal process we have often used expressionistic elements to give more of a reality to the concrete. We have also used concrete elements to make the expressionism have a basic form to branch out from. We have this idea of "play". Erika had us come up with concrete examples of the concept of play which we have thus proceeded to make abstract with expressionistic movement and dialogue.

How does this process surprise you?

It's been eye-opening for me that in Erika's piece the script is composed completely of our own writings - I've always struggled with, or at least not necessarily considered myself a "writer" per se. Rather, as an actor or director I always felt most comfortable taking even a small grain from someone else and expanding or interpreting it in new ways. Always, though, I would give ultimate blame/praise to the person who provided the small grain. In watching "play" come together, however, it has helped me realize that I, too, am the source of a fascinating story to tell and it has been awesome to see our stories intertwine, gradually molding into what will be one unified piece. I feel a different and new type of ownership over a script that, while it is not necessarily all taken from my writing, all emerged from a process of which I was an important segment. It's helped me gain a new appreciation of how much of "me" goes into every piece of theatre I am part of, every character I play. And it's helped me remember how that is when the most exciting, terrifying, and delicious theatre happens - when the actor in front of you is actually more herself than anyone else.

One sentence from rehearsals (either play. or your linear piece) that has hit you in your actor gut and screamed HELL YES!

Let's PLAY!