A Report from Rehearsal

(This post is by Alexandra Seits, BMC class of 2016.)

We rehearsed in the afternoon, after our morning visit to Stanton. Gloucester, Edmund, and Edgar convened with Mark, Maya (our assistant director) and Sam (our stage manager) to go over text cuts.

With this small section of the ensemble, Mark discussed the importance of “sphere work” pertaining to certain lines and how being able to be in our inner world and then emerge to come into relationship in the second sphere is vital for our work.

We then came together as an (almost full) ensemble and went around using Miciah’s suggestion for a check-in, which was to choose a theme song for our day. Miciah chose “Wiggle” for her theme song. I chose “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead, the lyrics of which start off:

Her green plastic watering can for her fake Chinese rubber plant In the fake plastic earth.
That she bought from a rubber man in a town full of rubber plans to get rid of itself, it wears her out.
She lives with a broken man,
A cracked polystyrene man who just
Crumbles and burns.
He used to do surgery for girls in the eighties but gravity always
Wins and it wears him out.

We did a warm-up in somewhat of a popcorn style, wherein people were able to request different exercises from our toolbox of warm-ups. We went through several, including ice walking; Katie requested yoga, but I had emailed Mark that I was not sure I would be up to teaching that day. I requested prana work.

We then moved into working through the first scene of the play, into the Edmund and Gloucester scene, and then finally the Edmund and Edgar scene. After running the first scene, we talked about who owns the table. We decided that when the God’s spies enter, it is the God’s spies, but when Lear starts speaking it is Lear’s table.

A Report from The Stanton School: Telling the Story of Lear

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

Today at Stanton we warmed up with the chair game, and played around with having specific restrictions/rules in place (example: being required to move gracefully, being required to make direct eye contact with another person before getting up out of one’s chair). We then played around with having absolutely no restrictions whatsoever.

We then spent the remainder of our time together working to create an existential, campfire storytelling sort of version of King Lear. Each Stanton group was responsible for telling the specific act that they’ve been working on (Roz and I were responsible for Act 5). Each person was also responsible for creating at least one “illumination” (as their Lear character) during an act that was different than the one they were telling with their Stanton group, and Catharine, as Lear, was responsible for creating an illumination/disruption for every act. The “illuminations” were meant to enhance/go beyond the story, and were representations of the introspective, internal lives of our Lear characters.

The experience of creating this “campfire” felt incredibly evocative and meaningful. It allowed us to visualize both the literal events that occur during the play and the introspective events that occur inside the minds of the characters. I thought it was especially fascinating to catch a glimpse into the secret lives and struggles of each person’s Lear character, which we never get to do while simply reading our lines aloud. This experience also allowed us to really feel the weight of the numerous deaths that have occurred by the end of the play, to which we sometimes feel desensitized due to their sheer number and to our constant, direct involvement in them as our Lear characters.

Contemplations on Non-Verbal Check-Ins, Meditations, and Awareness

(This post is by Alexandra Seits, BMC class of 2016.)

In our prep class the day before our February 19 trip to Stanton, Catharine gave us some verbs to help us tell our scene in our act, including “to engage,” “to enthrall,” “to excite,” and “to captivate.” The next day in our post-Stanton debrief, we discussed the successes and challenges we encountered. Ultimately, one of the challenges that we tossed around was doing the work we need to do (being fully engaging and game for the students) when we are not totally in the mental space to do so. I am putting it into my own words, however, essentially just not feeling up to par to be able to show up fully in ways that are expected of us. For me this brought up the times when I have had to teach yoga classes when I have not felt yogic at all, and how I try to deal. I am hoping to use these tools when I encounter not feeling up to par to act or teach in our 360 so that I can be as fully present, flexible and creative as possible in given instances.

As we have been doing three word check-ins as a group, I have thought about how oftentimes when I am feeling off before teaching a yoga class, I move through what is similar to Mark’s ball of light meditation; however, it is just a quick closing of my eyes and sitting with myself and moving my awareness through different stacked spaces in my body. Having physical spaces to check in with in my body is really vital to my ability to notice and then choose to let go of what is holding me back from being able to teach. One of my goals for myself in this 360 is to start to implement this tool (especially as I was inspired by this challenge we discussed during our debrief) as a prep to show up and step into my full capability. An example of how I often do this is I check in with seven centers from the root of my body to the crown of my head. For example, oftentimes I have something come up in my solar plexus area, which is a place I hold a lot of doubt or insecurity. If I do not move my awareness through my body where I may be carrying anxiety, doubt, or exhaustion, it is nearly impossible for me to even speak, and I cannot ground myself in a way that allows me to show up in ways that are needed of me–whether that’s helping Caroline and Kristin teach our Stanton group, or in a new game, or reading our text.

The link I am including in this post discusses the “system of channels (nadis) and centers of energy (chakras)” which are just different vocabulary or ways of thinking about the ball of light moving through us in the meditation Mark leads us through. Personally, this has been the most help for me to have different places to bring my awareness and have an inner knowing of what I am checking in with as the ball of light moves through us in Mark’s meditation. Just like our three word check-ins or non-verbal check-ins we used with the Stanton students I find it helpful to know what I am checking in with in each of these seven places. Hopefully the words “spirituality” and “energy” in this link do not turn too many people off, and the other vocabulary used in this link can help your awareness expand in your meditations and check-ins.

Also I find that yoga is an interesting thing to consider as we maintain our awareness in our journey of going into Stanton with the privilege we carry into the space of Stanton as college students. Personally my teaching of yoga, as a white female using an appropriated practice and translated vocabulary is something I feel I need to acknowledge; moreover, the tricky dance of sharing the gifts that the practice of yoga holds while maintaining awareness of my privilege feels like an area of examination and exploration similar to that of walking into Stanton as an able-bodied, upper middle class, white college student. The “given circumstances” for my life are important things for me to acknowledge as I challenge myself to use the practice of yoga to show up fully in our work in the 360.

This link above gives the seven major chakras in Sanskrit, so I’ll list them below in English:

First Chakra – Root
Second Chakra – Belly (Sacral)
Third Chakra – Solar Plexus
Fourth Chakra – Heart
Fifth Chakra – Throat
Sixth Chakra – Third Eye
Seventh Chakra – Crown

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.