Today the overarching theme of the rehearsal was "listening to others with the whole body." I think this is one of the most crucial elements for this production if not for all other other areas of life! And it's one of those things that are so "easier said than done."
After the Kyokotsu exercises, we did a little bit of Viewpoints-inspired exercises, too. (For those who don't know about Viewpoints, it's a technique of composition first conceived and developed by choreographer Mary Overlie and later adapted by theatre artists Anne Bogart, Tina Landau, and SITI Company. It provides vocabulary of time and space in a performance as the common language for ensemble-building and composition.) In Viewpoints, the whole-body listening is one of the core concepts. Attention is mostly directed to what is happening in the space and others and how you as a performer fit into that. It requires a different kind of listening than simply receiving auditory and visual information with your eyes and ears.
One exercise we did today was about moving together as a group in a circle. The group decided when to start walking, when to stop, or when to jump in a circle all at the same time without any verbal or visual cue. No one should "lead," no one should "follow." It must look like a group decision. Once again, easier said than done. But it is good practice for the whole-body listening.
Afterwards we crossed the studio diagonally with movement improvisation under the theme of "Repetition," one of the nine Viewpoints I learned from SITI Company and Anne. Repetition can be on many levels: physical shapes and movements, sounds, architectural patterns, time (Duration and Tempo), and even mindsets. When one repeats something, it becomes a pattern, something recognizable and memorable. And when one repeats it over and over again in a performance, it becomes something significant.
The reason I wanted us to practice repetition today was to gather material for the Forest (Chorus) in the play, which is an ensemble of six performers. By repeating something together as a group, maybe we could explore the mindset and atmosphere of the Forest in certain scenes, I thought. Today there was a trend of yoga-inspired movements, so the Forest looked and felt rather peaceful.
Then we worked on one of the last moments in the play where the Chorus speaks together. The text is the famous Macbeth speech "Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow..." The big challenge is how to make it sound like they are speaking as one unit. It's not about saying the same text at the same tempo at the same time. It's more about speaking from the same mindset, the same consciousness.
First, we played an improvisational game called "Choir" where Tuomas, who plays Macbeth, conducted the rest to make an impromptu jazz song titled "Macbeth's Last Speech." We did a similar exercise on the first day of rehearsal. This time, instead of random sound and voice, we had text to play with. In this kind of game, it's easy to get into the collective mindset, and plus it's fun.
After the game, I asked each character (Chorus, Woman played by Ulla, and Drunken Guy played by Niklas) to make a short "music video," a composition that has some musical and choreographic elements in it along with the text. I gave them 30 minutes for the task.
Then each one presented what they had made.
It was great to see how differently each group or person interpreted the text. I got inspired and gave them several suggestions to try out based on their compositions. Then I asked all of them to be on the stage and do the modified versions of their compositions all at the same time. Of course, it was chaotic at first. So I told them, "Think of yourself as a jazz musician, you know? You listen to other musicians and know when to play, right? It's the same thing, you listen to other people's speaking and start speaking yourself when you feel it's the right time." Listening. Listening. Listening. The whole ensemble started to look more focused and cohesive even though the text was deconstructed and fragmented heavily.
With this quality of listening, I feel like we can make any play work!