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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Crosby

Improvisations 2020 - Disruption is the norm this year, serious, annoying and constructive.

Throwing The Thursday Group’s practice online is developing new modes of experiment.

Mulch Breaking Down / 2020.08.16

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Kathleen Doyle and Tessa-Marie Luminati

Once a prompt is delivered the authorship belongs to the actor. There is no better example than in the way Kathleen Doyle takes our experiments with Vygotky’s ideas on thought and the word. In this improvisation, the extremity with which she plays ‘bring the image inside’ creates, dare I spoil the delight, great comic effect. I’m reminded of the life and death extremes of a Feydeau character, but translated into a butoh-like becoming.

We have been working on Rilke’s ‘tree inside the ear’ from Sonnets to Orpheus, in which the appreciation of nature is achieved by allowing it to enter perceptions under the skin. It’s emerged in these improvisations that either the actor becomes the image or narrates the image, and as Alana Hoggart reminds us, any point on that spectrum in between. In this improvisation it’s also interesting to see Tessa-Marie Luminati playing the ‘receiver’ or as we have come to call the positions, Naranja the actor and Limón the receiver. Drop us a line if you have any comments – we’d love to hear.

Ancient / 2020.06.24

Watch the video here.

Rodrigo Calderón and Kathleen Doyle

In The Thursday Group’s marriage of the Suzuki Method Actor Training with research concerning Lev Vygotsky’s thought and word, I introduced the ‘thought’ part in summoning an image. You can see the actors count down into the ready position for statues, and in the moment before a statue is struck, we try to conceive an image from nature. As in the discussion of “Mulch breaking down”, we bring the image inside the skin in the way Rilke demands. However, in an online space, the manner that two actors relate will change. It’s not as easy to establish a leader and a complement, an actor and a receiver because the physical, audible, dynamic and peripheral, let alone the spiritual perceptions are either altered or absent in an online space. So, it’s necessary to develop vocal call-and-response techniques, and in the acquisition of image, for actors to decide within the run of an improvisation, who is the actor and who the receiver. In other words, while both actors might bring the image inside, it’s necessary to agree on whose image should be communicated. The act of conveying the conception of the image is the second part of the Vygotsky paradigm, the part where the thought is completed in the act of speaking the word. It’s the same as when you have an idea but can’t find the words to express them. Not until the words come from the mouth do you feel you’ve ‘got’ the idea. To me it is clear when Rodrigo Calderón allows Kathleen Doyle to take the lead. Interestingly, I don’t think he drops his own ‘nature’ image, it seems to ride beneath the commerce of the screens, but ultimately is subjugated in the desire to discover the identity of Kathleen’s persona. Take a look at the moment Kathleen finds the expression of the thought. We’re bound by the audio, so her microphone seems to limit (compress) the force of the delivery. To me, the locution seems to change from non-directed speech, what Vygotsky would call egocentric speech (common in under seven-year-olds), to a communication. ‘Communication’ carries the sense of commune, that is, a means of social interaction. It was this notion that first drew me to Vygotsky. In one sense, actors are nothing if they do not communicate with each other. When urges, the seeds of thought, are shared, the audience knows something real is occurring. And the verbalisation of thoughts is purposeless, indeed incomplete unless it is conveyed. I think you can clearly see when Kathleen changes from the egocentric form of locution, recognises the presence of Rodrigo and the need to complete the thought with communication. I think that when she faces him directly and expresses ‘ancient’, a word that she finds to label her inner sense, the connection between image, thought and word appears, further, the communication affects the gesture of her body. Lastly, when I watch Rodrigo’s response, I think that this series of Vygotsky experiments is bearing fruit because the image that he commenced with has yielded in pursuit of Kathleen’s identity, that is, he has been changed by the question she presents to him.

Drop us a line if you have any comments – we’d love to hear.

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