"Every production has its own laws," said Tuomas, one of the cast members when we were discussing the play a while ago. It implies two things in my mind. One is that there are countless ways to conduct rehearsals to make the play work. The other is that one needs to stay flexible to different rehearsal situations and demands. From my own experience, I can also say that not one production in which I was involved had the same rehearsal structure as another. So, how about this one?
As a training leader, I want to focus on a couple of things during rehearsal. One is, of course, to get us physically and mentally fit for the show. The other thing is to encourage a long-term, interconnected way of thinking for our artistic development: Everything we strive to practice in rehearsal is and would be relevant to other artistic activities. This might be self-evident to some people, but when you can put yourself in a bigger context than just being in one special performing arts project, the quality of your practice and your attitude towards the process would start to change. What if you're learning and practicing some skill that can develop till the day you die? What if you discover a challenge or two to make you a better artist in every rehearsal?
I start every rehearsal with a Kyokotsu exercise. It seems to help to not only warm up the body but also to induce the quality of attention that is deep and focused. This is probably the only fixed thing in this first phase of rehearsal.
Today I had us do a few exercises from Hino Method to investigate how to connect the body with a specific focus point, how the focus point affects the articulation of the body, etc. There was not much visible movement involved. For example, person A stands and person B holds A's arm in a way that its elbow is at a right angle. A lowers his/her arm without leaning on B. There are a few approaches to perform this task. One is to focus on the elbow. The other is to focus on a specific point on the floor and aim for the point. Today we tried the latter, making one fingertip of the arm that was being held go for a point on the floor. The difficulty is the partner's resistance. But one shouldn't "force" the arm to go down. The challenge is to find a way to use no muscle strength and feel less or no resistance from the partner. In trying to figure it out, you get to experience how you're using your whole body and where your focus is or isn't.
I struggle with this type of exercise, so I "fail" a lot. But what I consider most fruitful in this kind of training is the failure part. When you know that you cannot perform a certain thing, you start a process of learning: You have some place to get to, a destination, a goal, or a focus. If you're already perfect where you are, you'll never embark on a journey to get to other places you've never been.
I keep reminding myself that when frustration towards my inability surges in me.
Anyway, we moved on to a few Suzuki exercises. Somehow the theme of having a specific focus was still present. Simple going up and down with a straight back at certain tempo, Standing statues, etc.
By this time, I could feel that we were physically exhausted.
So we switched gears for the second half of the rehearsal. It was about building physicality of the character. There were four Chorus members present. I asked them to come up with answers to the following three questions with physical movement:
(1) How does your character(s) walk across the stage?
(2) How does your character(s) meet one another?
(3) How does your character(s) interact with one another?
I also asked the others: Niklas and Tuomas to do the same. 30 minutes to think and experiment. Then we showed each other the answers. The Chorus is a very important part of the show, so we took quite a bit of time to work on their stuff.
What the Chorus people came up with was very interesting. I gave them a few suggestions to connect them more to what we have been training: listening with the whole body. Then there were a few compelling moments where they looked like one unit.
Something started cooking in them while they really tried to move and think as one unit. I think they will make great Chorus. Thanks to their work today, now there are more ideas and possibilities for the show.