A Room of One’s Own

Good thing I have good walking shoes.  And an Unlimited metro card. Run around time has begun.

Started the new Pace class yesterday.  They are an awesome group.  I introduced Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (thanks to Unlocking the Classroom for putting my eyes on it) as I’ve been not 100% pleased with how feedback sessions go in creative situations. I wanted to practice on work that wasn’t theirs.  I asked them to choose a play we were all familiar with.  Perhaps it’s a sad state of theater that we couldn’t find a common play.  I went to film.  Someone suggested Star Wars, but not everyone had seen that either.  Somehow we ended up with a certain film about a man who overcomes his disabilities, class and a single-parent up-bringing to become an influential–albeit, haphazardly so–figure in history.  Yes.  That movie.    But that’s not important.  What’s important is that we practiced the process, with them taking turns as the writer and responder while I facilitated and they got quite good with it in a short period of time–giving and receiving feedback in a meaningful way.  And it really made a difference that the artist drives the conversation with their own questions about their work.  We will see how the semester goes, but I am quite hopeful and so glad to have found this new way of workshopping plays right off the press.

Started at Teachers and Writers yesterday.  I am meant to assist with their programs this year and to work on my own writing.  I am so excited. When I was taken to my new office, I almost started to cry.  A lovely little room, filled with light.  A red wall, two other walls of glass and the third wall with a window, from which you can see the Hudson.  A little red hand-painted public school chair that was apparently found on the street.  I have never had a room of my own in which to write.  It does make all the difference.

I am familiarizing myself with their programs and am astounded at how far reaching they are and what a lovely history they have, being founded by many, but Herbert Kohl and Muriel Rukheyser, who are two personal heroes.  Much to do.  Much to learn.  Much to look forward to.

Appreciation

Last week, I was working with young people who were working towards a show, a culminating experience that showed all they had worked on in the past two weeks.  Dance, combat, scenes and monologues.  We had students from all over the city, many different schools, aged 12-18.  It was a very compressed experience but my co-teacher and I realized that we needed to cement the notion of ensemble with them.  That for this time they must be family, they must look after one another and they must work together to make magic onstage.

Saying this is one thing.  But, how to make it happen?

I thought about an exercise I did a million years ago when I was working with Peeling.  We would make two lines and each person would move down the line, telling the person before them what they appreciated about the other person.  I thought it would work especially because they were 12-18 year olds, so they might not be able to acknowledge each other in public, but when presented with another person one-on-one, and with the right prompt, they might be able to speak the truth.

So, I began the exercise and said, “You will have a minute to look at the person in front of you and tell them everything you appreciate about them in the work you’ve seen them do in the last two weeks.”  I watched as laughter erupted, as they leaned into each other and smiled or blushed at what others appreciated about them.  And as they moved down the line, a warmth filled the room.

One boy, at the end said, “I feel so loved.”  Another boy said, “You think people don’t notice you at all, but then you hear that they do see you.  They hear what you say.”  Another boy said, “You think you’re like, an invisible person, but then you realize that you’re not.”

That says it all, I think.

While my partner and I didn’t participate in the exercise, two boys came up to us and wanted to tell us what they appreciated.  One of them said, “I appreciate that you’re tough on us and really keep us on track, but we know it’s because you love us.”  I said, “You’re absolutely right.”

I realize that I must find a way to do this more in my own artistic and teaching practices–tell people all that they are and all that I get from having them in the room.

Working with Theater of the Oppressed in Brazil

My friend and fellow playwright Kyoung Park just spent 3 months working with Agusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed organization in Brazil, researching, observing and participating in many programs.

Lucky.

He’s written an article for Korea Times that sums up some of Boal’s main contributions and a bit on exactly how far reaching his work was.

Check out his article here.

Clowns Finding a Home in Harlem

This is a profile on Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone, two wonderful TA colleagues at the New Victory Theater and clown partners in the group The Acrobuffos.

The story is amazing for two reasons.

It talks about the incredible work that they do in war torn countries to bring their art and joy to young people.  To help people to dream, to express, to heal.

They also found a way to buy their own home and make it a place where they can work and live, which for me, as a Teaching Artist, seems sometimes like a faraway dream.  Now I know it’s possible, so that makes me hopeful.

The future of the Ohio

kanoa lambretta by kanoa.

I was talking with a fellow theatermaker who just closed a show at the Ohio Theater with Clubbed Thumb about what a special space it is–it’s height, it’s depth, it’s location and it’s history of really wonderful projects that’ve run through there.  I saw Sung Rno’s wAve there some time back and they carved a river with running water down the side of the stage and then simulated the landing of a helicopter.  I saw Target Margin’s beautiful and strange Ten Blocks on the Camino Real there.  The first play I was ever paid to write was put up there. 

And there has been the talk of it closing, but it seems they’ll be able to be open for one more year.  One of the last, great downtown theater spaces.

We were mourning for it before it was even gone.

Now we can love it for a little longer.

Alexis Clements interviews Robert Lyons, head of Soho Think Tank/The Ohio Theater about the organization and the stay of execution.  Oh, and the tantalizing Ice Factory.