A Report From Rehearsal: The Chair Game

(This post is by Amelia Couderc, BMC class of 2016.)

While participating in a workshop with the New International Encounter  theater company at the beginning of the semester, we learned this high energy strategic chair swapping game. From what I remember, the Bryn Mawr students didn’t really catch on to the game in the workshop.
(Well, at least I didn’t catch on.)

Since the workshop, we have taken the game back to Bryn Mawr and worked on our chair swapping skills. I stepped out during rehearsal today to catch a minute or so of the game

(Amy adds: Stay tuned for the fun video Amelia took! I’ll post it below–as soon as I figure out how to get it to work with the blog.)

Here are the basic rules:

One person stands on the perimeter of the chair field, preferably a good distance away from an empty chair in the field. Their goal is to make it to the empty chair moving at a steady pace. The players in the chair field swap chairs so that the person who is “it” doesn’t make it to a chair. Once you stand or lean forward, you can’t sit back down. The game technically has no end, but we usually stop after five-10 minutes.

In order to succeed, you have to let yourself be present and open to perceive the entire space, make snap decisions, take risks, employ ruthless strategy, and control your body.

It’s one of the many games we play to warm ourselves up and get into the mindset of our Lear world.

A Report from Rehearsal: Approaching the Text With a Variety of Ideas

(This post is by Cathy Campo, BMC class of 2019)

Today’s scene work was broken up into six separate hour-long parts with different cast members. For the first two hours, Miciah, Roz, Catharine, and Cathy worked on pages 5-8 (in which Lear divides up the kingdom, Goneril and Regan pronounce their love, and Cordelia announces she has “nothing” to say). We played around with given circumstances and even set the scene in a nursing home, which added a gentle intimacy to the tone and made Cordelia extremely unsympathetic. We worked on creating very pregnant pauses through Cordelia and Lear’s “nothing”s and discussed how Goneril is an haute-couture wearing gal who knows how to get what she wants. Further, we touched upon the beginnings of assigning actions, such as adding “to caress Lear” and “to honey Lear,” to Goneril’s love-professing monologue.

Mark and Maya in rehearsal Feb 14
Mark and assistant director, Maya, overlook the scene from a position in front of a map of Iceland. Photo credit to Cathy Campo.
Roz Miciah Catharine Sam in rehearsal
A dramatic snapshot of a dramatic scene. Photo credit to Cathy Campo.

For the next hour, we worked on pages 26-30 in which the Fool and Lear banter and Goneril reprimands Lear for not taming his “insolent retinue” (28). Roz sang some of her lines to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and Catharine and Mark scored professor points for being clever. All around, productive and fun time. Happy Valentine’s Day, folks!

A Report From the Stanton School: Getting to Know the Eighth Graders

(This post is by Adriana Nocco, BMC class of 2016.)

STANTON SUCCESSES: Started to break the ice and get to know the students’ outside interests and talents. Tayjonna showed Anita and me pictures from the Black History Month Wax Museum they’d held earlier in the week. She played Josephine Baker. Azema sang for  Roz, Anita, and me under one condition: We had to cover our eyes. Hopefully Yassir and Itez will agree to sing for us next time. It’s a process.

We collectively were able to encourage eighth graders to fully engage their bodies in our work, especially in the context of our Six Picture Lear Stories. As Mark mentioned during our reflection time on Friday, that is a HUGE accomplishment!

STANTON CHALLENGES: We can’t compete with an NBA player’s presence. The students were somewhat distracted, but who could blame them?

FOR THE FUTURE: When we take the students on a tour of Bryn Mawr, we want to make sure we help them see college as more than just a series of gorgeous buildings. We want them to see it as a real future possibility.

LEAR WORK: We finished reading through all of King Lear as our characters (which was pretty cool). It’s weird knowing that Lear will soon be significantly cut so that each act is only ten minutes long as opposed to forty five. However, I’m excited to see the new piece that will formulate as a result of said cuts, and all the discoveries that we will make about the ecologically conscious world of the play and our God’s spy characters’ places within it.

A Report From the Stanton School: Successes and Challenges

(This post is by Maya Neville, BMC class of 2016 and the assistant director for our production of King Lear.)

On Fridays, we begin our day at E. M. Stanton working with the eighth grade class. In the afternoon, we come together to reflect on “Successes” and “Challenges” of the day.

Common successes included the directing talent of many Stanton students, their interest in playing games with us, but mainly we were all impressed by the clever and insightful Six Picture Comic Strips the students created.

(Amy adds: Six Picture Comic Strips: A super fun exercise in which a team draws a story in simple images, then performs those images for the rest of the group. The group should be able to clearly interpret the story from the images the team creates–a neat way to illustrate the arc of the story through physical action. Here are a few King Lear oriented examples our students created with the eighth graders at Stanton.)

Azeema's Comic Strip Act V scene iii
Act V, Scene iii, courtesy of Azeema
Itez's Comic Strip Act V Scene iii
Act V, Scene iii, courtesy of Itez.

This activity seemed to answer many questions we have in this cross-cultural navigation of theatrical collaboration: how do we empower all students to express their unique perspectives? How do we encourage the engagement of one’s full body when playing with actions onstage? The creation of the comic book drawings brought out the exploration of physical bodies as storytellers, as well as engaging multiple forms of creativity and expression.

Challenges included the navigation of the distracting NBA player who visited their classroom that morning. The excitement certainly caused students to be somewhat distant at times, since we got the crashing aftermath of the energetic high. We also were asked by Catharine to come in next week with non-verbal games to play that would include the Stanton students who have trouble with speech.

Lastly, we discussed the inclusion of the “Oops/Ouch” tool in our Bi-College*/Stanton interactions. The way it’s used is that when an individual feels hurt by something someone says, they have the opportunity to say “Ouch” to notify others that something hurt them. The group will then take a breath to allow the individual to either address the incident then, or allow it to pass. If an individual says something that they believe to be hurtful, then they have the opportunity to address their comment by saying “Oops.” The idea is that feelings cannot be argued against, only heard and acknowledged, and so this tool will allow people to express their feelings safely. We believe that this will be a helpful tool when navigating issues of diversity, in all senses of the word, for all individuals.

*Bi-College: Our standard shorthand for the Bryn Mawr-Haverford bi-college community.

A Report from Rehearsal: The Giant Table

(This post is by Kristin Kury, BMC class of 2016)

Today in rehearsal we had our first taste of playing in the space–a luxury to have so early in the rehearsal process.

We are seated around what is probably the largest dinner table any of us have ever eaten at. It is grand, it is epic, it is intimidating. Every shift, glance, seat choice (or assignment) feels like it could be a political move. Be careful which dinner fork you use….

First time around the table
First time around a mock-up of the giant table-stage. Photo credit to Kristin Kury.

We played around with the scale of this table, noting the effects of what happens when one, two, or many bodies stand on top of the table itself (hint: it becomes a lot like a stage!). We created tableaus by placing our bodies (or pieces of metal) into the space, one person at a time. How can you best build an image off of what someone else laid out before you? How does story begin to form itself? What happens when someone breaks the rules?

An Introduction

The first post on a blog is always a little bit awkward and strange. I’ve written this one twice now–once I just hated it and trashed it myself, and once, my computer ate my homework (true story). This is the third attempt–and the third time’s the charm, right?

Iceland, in all its glory. Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Iceland, in all its glory. Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.

So at this point, I think I’ll let this link be the actual introduction to what we’re all doing here, and we’ll proceed from there. And if you’d like more information on Bryn Mawr College’s 360 program in general (and it is a really amazing program), you can check that out here.

An Icelandic "fumarole." Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
An Icelandic “fumarole.” Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.

This blog will be about our rehearsal process for our April 2016 production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, about the way the show comes together from the technical and production end of things, about the work our students are doing with students at the EM Stanton School in South Philadelphia, and of course, about our upcoming trip to Iceland.

Iceland--it's amazing how beautiful snow and ice can be. Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Iceland–it’s amazing how beautiful snow and ice can be. Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.

Some of this blog will be written by me, Amy (I’m the production manager for Goodhart, the building in which the Theater Program is housed at Bryn Mawr, and I’m an alumna of the College). But much of it will be written by the terrific students involved in this 360 course cluster–after all, this whole blog is really nothing without their perspective.

I’m also  hoping that Mark Lord, Catharine Slusar, and Katie Croyle might share a bit here. Mark is the head of the Bi-College Theater Program at Bryn Mawr and Haverford and the director of our production of King Lear; Catharine is one of our other fabulous Theater Program faculty members, a professional actor, and our King Lear; and Katie is a recent Bryn Mawr alum and professional actor who will be playing Kent. The name of the actual writer of each post will be listed at the top of the post.

Astonishing. Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Astonishing. Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.

Right now, we’re deep in rehearsals for our production of King Lear, and we’ll be heading to Iceland on Thursday, March 3rd for some research, cultural exchange, and rehearsal in Iceland’s incomparable, dramatic, extraordinary landscape. Over the winter break back in December, Catharine acted as our advance guard, traveling to Iceland with her family to explore and make connections for us. Since then, she’s been working tirelessly to plan our upcoming trip, finding amazing places for us to stay and organizing all sorts of meetings and visits for us with Icelandic artists, college students, and middle school students. She also took several hundred photos (because, Iceland), some of which I’ve inserted for you above. Here are a few more, and you can expect many, many photos to come. Enjoy!

Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.
Photo credit to Catharine Slusar.