In Search of Stillness

Ellen Lauren's picture

I’VE BEEN HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME SITTING still to write about stillness.

What does the study and practice of stillness entail for the theatre artist? Perhaps my difficulty is an illustration of how elusive this knowledge remains, and how potent it is, once harnessed, in an unsettled world. Perhaps the difficulty lies in the fact that this subject, stillness, is at the root of all the essential values I hold in the making, teaching and study of the art of theatre. To achieve stillness as part of one’s expressive abilities requires training. In my case, the foundation of my practice and teaching has been the Suzuki Method of Actor Training. Created by Tadashi Suzuki and his remarkable Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT), the work is widely known for its exact and rigorous physical vocabulary that gives the actor insights into basic issues of control.

Getty Villa Day Three : May 15, 2013

J.Ed Araiza's picture

Day 3 and 1/2  actually

I am starting this late and  will surely not finish until this evening after day 4…but so it goes.
 
Last night just as I was finishing supper and about to start my section of the daily blog…. the doorbell rang.. or someone knocked….. long conversations and a few drinks later I went to bed my report undone.
 
but to back up.
Some early memories of our amazing days here.
I had been in LA since late Friday evening having flown here from Windsor Ontario, via Detroit for 2 Saturday meetings (which caused me too miss the GALA). 

Getty Villa Play Readings 2013

Will Bond's picture

Members of the SITI company are back at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles to begin our third residency to read and develop a production to be premiered here at the Getty Villa in the summer of 2014.  Our production’s of THE TROJAN WOMAN (AFTER EURIPIDES) and ANTIGONE came out of this same generous residency support.

Getty Villa Day 1 , May 2013

Ellen Lauren's picture

Upon beginning our residency of readings at the Getty Villa with GM, J.Ed, Ellen, Kelly, Bondo, Anne, Jessica Hanna 2013.

DAY ONE
 
We are back. Into the blazing sunlight, the heat of the valley where we are staying this go round. Into the scent of eucalyptus and jasmine and car fumes and sea. Today we wove, drove, up the canyon and down it- and just as you reach the other side, there is the ocean stretching endless-and back into the grove of the Getty Villa. My mind is filled with memories, but my body is what really remembers it. And just entering, just that much, I remember the warmth of the marble on our feet at night, the feel of the night getting cooler, the smell of lavender, the taste of the figs we’d snitch- the memories of another time in this extraordinary place when we made Trojan Women. But here, now, again to read these fathomless plays-The Persians, Bacchae, Ion.

Longing, Frustration and Desire

Anne Bogart's picture

The Buddhists propose that pain is caused by personal attachment to desire. Accordingly, I consciously and vigilantly police my own burning desires in order to live closer to and in harmony with the realities of the unfolding present moment.  I try to stay free from what I perceive as a prison of “wanting.”

In public I have often suggested that the word “want” is killing the American Theater. I propose that in rehearsal we employ the word “want” excessively.  A director says to an actor, “now I want you to walk downstage,” or an actor asks a director, “is this what you want?”  In so speaking I believe that we unconsciously set up parent-children relationships between the director and actors.  And I see this manner of speaking as an endemic and a serious spiritual and political problem in our field.

Community

Anne Bogart's picture

The subject of the theater is, at its core, community. The nurturing substance of theater is not only the story that the play relates and the manner in which the story is expressed, but it is also the actual event of a particular community gathering together to experience the “rite” of enactment.  A “rite” is the performance of a ritual and the theater contains vast amounts of ritual. 

In 1987 my dear friend, the actor Henry Stram, was performing the role of Cusins in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s play Major Barbara at Baltimore Center Stage.  Towards the end of the rather long and windy third act during a sleepy Sunday matinee, Henry made a crucial mistake. His character had an important plot line about his parentage and his appropriateness to take over the Undershaft Munitions Works.  In describing why he should be entitled to run the foundry, Henry misspoke a line from the play and rather than saying “My mother is my father’s deceased wife’s sister; and in this island I am consequently a foundling!” he said instead: “My Father is my brother’s deceased wife’s sister; and in this island I am consequently a foundling.”   To his immense surprise, the entire audience, who Henry had until that moment supposed was a sleepy, blue haired mass, gasped loudly, as one, at his slip.  And Henry at that moment realized that audiences DO, in fact, listen; that what we say on the stage really does register.

Direct Encounter

Anne Bogart's picture

At the Theater Communications Group Conference in Baltimore in 2009, “Generation Y” representative Nadira Hira bounded onto the stage and announced that she would not be using any PowerPoint in her talk.  Hooray. What a relief!  After several days of presentations and lectures with endless visual information displayed behind the speakers, I was relieved to be spoken to without technical support and accouterments.  Hira went on to explain that her generation is moving away from PowerPoint lectures because they understand the physical intensity of speaking directly to an audience.

Expectations Create Experience

Anne Bogart's picture

Human beings are expectation machines. We are constructed physiologically and neurologically to anticipate what will happen next.  This human trait, which almost certainly originated in ancient survival tactics, makes time-based performance a fascinating field and suggests that every theater person embark upon a lifelong study of how human beings perceive events. Alfred Hitchcock, in an interview with Francois Truffaut, explained that if a character appears screen-left, the audience tends to trust and like the person.  If the character arrives from screen-right, we worry that he or she might be dangerous.  These expectations are physiological and probably originate in the fact that in the west we read from left to right. In his film Rebecca, the forbidding Mrs. Danvers always appears unexpectedly from screen-right and then is motionless.  We worry about her.  We expect something bad from her.

Welcome to the new SITI Company website!!

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

With the launch of this new site, siti.org takes on an important new role in our electronic media activity along with our presence on Facebook, Twitter and our groupsite SEE.

SITI Company was one of the first theatre ensembles to have a presence on the world wide web with the launch of “Planet SITI” in the early ‘90’s. By today’s standards that website was a very primitive site. I had put it together with the naive thought that it would be cool if our young company had a presence on the web. My brother hosted it on his servers in California as a favor. The only expense was the token charge to register the siti.org domain.

Fact and/or Fiction

Anne Bogart's picture

Election season is upon us.  I watch HBO’s Bill Maher bang his head on the “Real Time” table in despair at the lack of communication that is possible between parties.   We wade into a season of debates, hearing persistent expressions of surprise that the “other side” does not recognize the logic of a particular argument.  But perhaps the surprise is unwarranted because, in fact, it is nearly impossible to convince anyone of anything via facts, charts, numbers or even abundant proof.  People are not persuaded to change their opinions with facts.  The brain does not respond vigorously to facts alone. But when facts are contextualized with stories, it is possible to effect peoples’ minds via the emotion and empathy engendered in the telling.

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