As summer ambles on and the sun’s warm glow rises on the newborn month of August, the season’s festive, balmy revels carry on, giving little thought to collapsing even under the weight of the most oppressive of dog days. Surf’s up, Azuka gang!
Our very own Kevin Glaccum has also given no signs of stopping his incredible journey at and around the LaMaMa artists’ retreat in Umbria, Italy. Once again, I checked in with him to hear what was new on his trip. The next voice you hear...will be Kevin’s. Kevin?
“Ciao! More news from LaMaMa Umbria.
Let me talk a bit about the Master Teachers that have come to Italy to work with us. The first week we had two wildly divergent theater artists. Stefanie Batten Bland is a dance theater maker based in New York and Semion Aleksanderovskiy a very well known (in his own country) Russian director.
Stefanie’s classes were a revelation to me. If you’re reading this you most likely know that ‘dancer’ and ‘dance-theater’ aren’t the first two words that pop into your head when you think of me. However, this is exactly why I wanted to come to LaMaMa, to try and expand my vision of how to create theater and to incorporate more ideas outside of my normal narrative storytelling style. Stefanie was amazing. We were up and working moments after we met her, well not up—lying on the floor imagining we were being cooked! Yes, covered in butter and sizzling as she turned up the temperature. This was followed by a similar exercise on our feet and then she proceeded to expand our vocabulary of how bodies can tell stories. She was specific, gentle and incredibly supportive…everything was good, every movement was usable. It was truly exciting. Oh yeah, she’s also six months pregnant! I kept thinking of how I could incorporate some of her exercises into my rehearsal process or my directing classes. There was one exercise where we were seated next to a partner. We then moved our partners’ bodies in three distinct movements, after which they did the same to us. Then we did them all together, then exchanging movements, then all six movements by ourselves. It was fascinating to do and even more fascinating to watch. We were creating these small dance pieces just sitting on chairs at a picnic table!
Semion’s work was the complete opposite of Stefanie’s. Semion creates work that can be considered both performative and also like an installation. He works from a theory that re-creating truth on-stage is impossible, only by creating a bit of distance between the actor and the story can a real truth be revealed. He tries to use the text as almost a separate character, something that’s referred to as opposed to directly spoken. He used the example of being in a fight; when you’re in it you don’t have the capacity to see it for what it is. Only through distance does the event become clear. The exercise he had us do was to take a piece of text and before each line say ‘He said’/‘She said’ or the phrase ‘for example.’ I had a lot of trouble with this theory, as it seems to fly in the face of 3,000 years of Western Theater. I just generally disagreed with the concept that you can re-create truth on stage. The actors in our group bristled at the idea as well as it made their contributions not much more than being the vehicle to deliver the text. At the end of the week he had us work in groups and try to utilize the technique with a piece of text. Some of the groups made some interesting choices, but for the most part the process left me a bit cold. I will say he showed us a piece he’s done in a couple of different cities that I found fascinating…but I can’t tell you about it because I’m hoping to get someone in Philly to bring him to town and do it!”
Cross your fingers. Thanks for the update, Kevin! If you missed it, be sure to check out the last blog post and follow the full adventure. And keep tuning in for more news!