OK, so some of you may know that I am taking a stage combat class at Tufts this semester. It's a catch-all crash course for undergrads so they have a basic knowledge of stage safety and how to handle choreography. It's a class that was offered as an elective in my program at UConn (go Huskies!!!!) but I opted out of it so I could work. Most of my classmates took it and it always looked like a lot of fun. And the skills are definitely useful.
Throughout the semester I've found it interesting in what ways I've enjoyed the class and the things I don't like about it so much. I like being in a learning environment again, although I would have liked to put choreography in context sooner (we're just starting scene work now) even if it was with simply 5 line open scenes. And I like the movement part of the class. When I started my Acting degree there's no doubt that I thought movement training was a bunch of bullshit and sort of didn't take it seriously. Later in my degree Suzuki (a Japanese actor training method based in extremely stylized movement patterns) would change me as an actor and put movement at the forefront of my acting process.
Funny how things turn around like that, huh?
Anyway, getting back in to movement with stage combat has been really important to me. It's given me a renewed sense of how to use my body in space and how my body relates to the other bodies on stage. What that means to an audience. And how much it can impact the message of the text. So that has been highly positive. I've also learned that I work better within structured movement systems than I do with simply creating my own movements. Case in point - on the one day we worked with swords, I was instantly at ease, comfortable, and moving quickly through the basic principles because of the rules and structure of it. With fake Aikido, however, which is a lot of flowing movement, I was a mess.
It has been hard to work with undergrads. Not because the kids in class don't get it, or because I think I'm better than them, but simply because we are in such different places and have such different expectations and goals and requirements upon us, that connecting on a genuine acting level can be difficult. And when you can't find that connection, trusting a partner who's aiming a fist at your face is difficult. It's not that I don't trust them, but I feel this barrier of them not trusting me. They don't know me, I'm not part of their circle or social life, and so much of theater and classes in college is knowing people outside of class and trusting who they are as people. I remember that anxiety when outside actors would come work with us, until we felt like they were our buddies, the relationship was strained. And so I'm having trouble finding real connections with these students, which makes the learning curve a little harder on my end. I feel that I'm holding back a part of me because they're already a little discomfited at having a grown-up in the class.
A lot of this could be incorrect perception, I suppose. Some of my own insecurities or anxieties getting the better of me. But I remember college camaraderie and how much it impacted my ability to be open with my acting partners. It's something I've learned how to do on the professional level now, but it did take me some time. There was an adjustment period. And these students haven't had to have theirs yet. And that's just fine and perfectly appropriate. They shouldn't have to make that adjustment until after graduation...it's why they're in college! But it has been a little frustrating to feel that I'm not getting the absolute most out of an acting class. Because that's what I loved most about class was the relationships I built.
In a pursuit to bridge the gap (and perhaps get another shout out) our instructor, the multi-talented Meron Langsner (see Meron, it wasn't all for naught) told me (after I showed up to class with no self-evaluation paper in hand...due to life) I could "blog it". So I took him up on it.
It's probably a good thing I'm not getting graded for this class... ;-)