February 14, 2012

We began with warm ups and played theatre games and exercises to wake up and to loosen up. We discussed the objectives of these activities: taking risks, high energy, focus and quick thinking. Participants said that the activities definitely woke up their bodies and their minds. Those who were in attendance last week said that the games/exercises are easier and more fun with more people. There was one exercise in particular that opened all of our eyes to some important realizations. In order to firmly establish our atmosphere of trust and safety, I introduced a trust-building exercise called Blind Cars. In this exercise, one person with her eyes closed is “driven” by another who gives the following commands: touch on the right shoulder, turn right; touch on the left shoulder, turn left; touch on the back, walk forward (with pressure denoting speed); no touch, stop walking. At first there was a lot of talking, which I asked them to stop, to just trust each other, and they did stop talking. There was also a lot of hesitation at first, but that largely went away as they spent more time on the exercise. Afterwards, we talked about it. The participants acknowledged that it was difficult to trust the driver, but that once they did, it gave them a sense of being free and safe. One participant said she actually had a more difficult time being the driver – the responsibility made her nervous. We discussed how this exercise, whether done as car or driver, teaches us to trust one another as partners and as an ensemble – as drivers had to be careful not to collide with one another as well.

We then moved into working with the “what a piece of work is a man” monologue, the same piece we used last week. I knew there would be new participants, and that those who had been there could go further with what they were learning, so I chose to stick with that piece. We did the same things with the monologue as last week to get the new participants caught up. We also worked on incorporating breathing into the piece. Everyone was then given as long as they wanted to read the monologue aloud to themselves before getting up to perform.

One participant came to me to share that she has a slight learning disability and was having trouble with some of the language. She read the piece to me, with me helping her when she was having trouble, and I noted that she actually was dead on with several of the more difficult words. She said that was due to hearing everyone else read them. We decided that she would read along as people read the piece in front of the class, and that she would go last to ensure that she’d had a lot of time to hear those words before she had to say them.

The participants then got up one by one to perform the piece. There was an incredible amount of insight apparent with each one. Some were eager to rush through the piece, and the group encouraged them to slow down and really commit to the emotion of it. We also discussed the character’s goal/objective and the importance of pursuing that goal. We also talked about the need for seeming spontaneous onstage and how to accomplish that. This was all well received; every person who performed took the criticisms well and improved.

We reflected on the day before leaving. The participants said that they are learning to get into their bodies, understanding where they are and how they move in space. We discussed the need to connect the mind, heart and body, and the participants are eager to continue to learn that. They are having fun and are eager to learn more.

Before she left, I checked in with the participant who has a learning disability. She said she was feeling a bit better, and I pointed out that most people were mispronouncing or stumbling over some of the words, and that it didn’t affect their performances as long as they were confident. She agreed.

All of the participants are already showing growth and continue to be enthusiastic about what they are doing. I am truly excited to see where they will go from here.