Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Balancing Act

Ensemble Director/Facilitator, Kali Quinn writes...

"It is a tricky point in our process where I fear many “ohshit” moments because we are getting closer to the product, the mountain. Howdo we stay true to our process at this point and let that conversation bedirectly reflected in how we rehearse? How do I acknowledge the fact thatactors will go further into the process as characters now and I will zoom outfurther as a director? How do I do this without losing the play? How do I dothis without feeling our very horizonal/consensus-based process turn hierarchical?Age old questions.

Some possible solutions:

1. Continuing to get more specific/articulate by addingcompositional elements: For example, tonight we witnessed four minute grouppresentations that all centered around “the heart of the matter” (whatever thatmeant for the individuals that had gravitated toward those partners). Onceseeing these, we had a much better understanding of what in our story was past,present, and future. Now, we can take those moments and sculpt them further byasking the groups to work again in a specific area of the space, add entrancesand exits, include a song, unison laughter, etc. and then instead of themfeeling like we are all of a sudden “blocking a play,” my hope is that theywill feel ownership of the material and their character’s point of view that wecan shape it together little by little. Similar to blocking, but not the samein my mind.

2. Calling out percentages: It’s important to know how muchof our mind is in character point of view vs. thinking as a playwright. Thisway we distinguish between the two kinds of conversation for ourselves and as agroup.

3. Acknowledging phases of convergence vs. phases ofdivergence: There are times in a devised process when we are out being huntersand gatherers of new ideas to put in our pot. I think of this divergence as anoutward, opened arm kind of energy. We are creating and accumulating newmaterial. Titling new vocabulary and putting it on post-it notes. Thenconversely there are times when we are bringing all of these ideas together. Ithink of this as a funneling, creating a path to bring things onto. Differentthan a pot full of stuff. Converging: Connecting ideas, connecting post-itnotes. Leaving some things behind. Sometimes this second phase feels more challengingas it begs for more decisions and letting go. We wax and wane between these twophases in order to moving forward. I will call this out at the top of a week ora rehearsal. We could even (in order to physicalize this understanding) stepinto a circle together vs. turning our backs and stepping outside of thecircle.

Overall, I don’t want to force my ideas, rather I want topresent a game which by being played can teach us all what wants to happennext. In a physical-based, momentum driven way can lead us into a popcornbrainstorm of “What if’s?” that we then use to take us into the same game witha new layer or onto a new island that we can discover, explore, and go deeperinto the gold of. This group has remained curious, open, listening, and dedicatedto their character’s and the overall play – so it truly feels like anything can happen!"

-Kali Quinn

Monday, March 25, 2013

"I got it!"

Day Fourteen

What do you got?! An important convention that we have been playing with in recent rehearsals is receiving and giving something powerful. That powerful thing, which has yet to been defined, is unique to each character. While our exercises always differ, the general game is to pass a "thing" from character to character in a predetermined order. The "thing" is invisible and mimed with the actors' hands and body conforming to the shape, size, and weight of whatever they're receiving. 

For Adam Wennick and Bronwyn Barnwell, not getting what they wanted was "frustrating and painful" while the thought of losing what Vicky Moyer was making her character Nero "paranoid."The characters were also asked to listen and react to other's receiving and giving this "thing", Kat Schmidt described certain character reactions as "triggers" to her own emotions. Every actor, during the post-exercise discussion, had interesting and unique responses to the exercise. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We're on our way there!


"We don't know where we're going but we're on our way there!"
-Designer Elaine Williams

Fresh off a House Party Weekend and BisonFest, the ensemble was glad to return back to rehearsal and   a routine. The evening started off with fairly extensive physical and vocal warm-ups which allowed the actors a chance to get ready and focused for the rest of the rehearsal.  

An important part of mask work is the Lazzi, a joke or bit commonly found in Commedia dell'arte productions. Our characters are beginning to discover personal and group Lazzi's that can develop into more detailed and plot oriented scenes. While our work tonight wasn't focused solely on establishing these Lazzi's, they can be great starting points for scene work in a devised process like ours. Further exploration and development of these scenes will continue throughout the week along with musical exercises led by CJ Fujimura.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

From the Actor's Perspective: CJ Fujimura

"tonight i came from gamelan rehearsal. i focused on the "playing" of music. i find the cables and connections needed to make electronic music cumbersome sometimes, but the effort is worth it. i once said "these loops are finnicky" and brendan bormes (a musician and close friend) responded "but they're worth it." i felt these words tonight. kali and i had a similar conversation last night after rehearsal about working with the "jam man". (her loop pedal). 
the cast has established some meat to these characters and their relationships are happening on their own. i improvised sounds while members of our group played relationships into scenes. this way of working felt good to me. after a heady rehearsal last night (which was also good), tonight was an experiment in reveling in moments. i played the instruments that seem loud enough to hear from the audience without being mic'd. i also played samples and synthesizer sounds. we found a lot tonight. we've arranged ourselves as part of a silly machine that i love. i envision our show as an attempt to make seen the corners of this world. 
i find this group fulfilling. i think we've established a way of communicating well. i've gotten the chance to experience and connect with different creative people that are in difference places in life. i think we're all discovering and growing as artists. maybe this is will be the success of the show. this is a group that will make a little sumthin :)  

i see dichotomies in our work. i also see us working to make connections, which is more like unity or a singularity. the best part about working with other people is finding the presence that none of us can be alone. between two people it is the third presence that is not quite either of the two people. or three people."

-CJ Fujimura '13
Sound Director 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From the Actor's Perspective: Connecting Theatre History, Theory, and Rehearsal

"Circles, souls, melons, masks… these are but a few of the ideas and images that have been thrown around in the intense and incredible rehearsal process that is our “soon-to-be titled” production. It has been a phenomenal experience so far and what’s even more incredible, are the connections we discover between our work inside AND outside the theatre. As artist-scholars, we constantly connect what we learn in our academic classes during the day to our production rehearsals at night, and for me, some of my biggest connections are with my theatre history/theory classes.

WARNING! - What you are about to read are not final decisions made by the ensemble and production team for our production. The following are ideas that have been brought up in rehearsal and my own observations based from those ideas.

As rehearsals progress, our ensemble is incorporating hundreds of years’ worth of theatre, from the stage adopting a diagonal version of polyscenic juxtaposition that was used in Medieval Theatre, a physical division of Heaven, Earth and Hell similar to Elizabethan Theatre, concepts from multiple kinds of religious rituals, etc., but what strikes me is our progression towards the creation of a “unified” play. Not only unified in a sense that all of our work is coming together, but that it is beginning to fall into the criteria of Greek philosopher Aristotle’s concept of the unities, from his work The Poetics. For Aristotle, to be unified the action of a play must 1) be set in one place, 2) last no more than one day, and 3) must be within one plot. Having developed an environment for our stage, we have created one setting where our characters’ actions take place, which consists of many sections for different groups of characters. We have been discussing using a circular form for the structure of the play; the play ends where it began, possibly showing a “day in the life” of these characters. Finally, as we rehearse we discover how each character is connected in some way to each other and to the greater being that is the production (reminds me of the show LOST), which can lead to one plot within the circular form. As artist-scholars, this is but one of the many connections my ensemble members and I make every rehearsal, and it goes to show that no matter how much the creative process progresses, bits and pieces will always remain from the Souls of Theatre Past…"

-Matthew Dranzik ’13
Ensemble Member

This is a show about...


A dance party turned warm up turned rehearsal (it's sorta becoming the norm around here.) With character interviews behind us, today's rehearsal took a new turn. First, the ensemble had been assigned to write two sentences each, answering:

  1. What is this play about from your (actor's) point of view?
  2. What is this play about from your character's point of view?

This is clearly a pretty daunting task considering they only have one sentence to condense everyone's ideas into their own words but our actors were up for the challenge. Today, the ensemble was divided into three groups of six who compiled their individual sentences into one. These three views of our show were then analyzed, by the entire ensemble, and the most reoccurring words and specific themes were noted. This is a major dramaturgical step for the production and will push us forward into our rehearsals. 

After a short break and vocal warm up, it was time to get back into mask work. Our set has started to take shape and a tentative ground plan has been established. Director Kali Quinn is having the rehearsal exercises start to take place in terms of this ground plan to see what works and what doesn't. It also a chance for discoveries to be made by the actors.

The evening ended with a long discussion of the themes and concepts that we have been exploring. We are still in the exploratory phase of our piece, but are starting really make strong directional choices in terms of the story we are creating.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fire, Sound, Circles, and the Moon


Ask any of the ensemble members and they'll tell you that they can't believe we are only having our tenth rehearsal today! The amount of creation that has occurred in these ten rehearsals feels like we've been working on this project for several weeks.

Today was another important day in working on further developing our characters and building character relationships. In addition to finishing up our character interviews the ensemble was given time to play together, in mask, to continue to explore the movement and voice. While we have been doing these exercises from day one, each rehearsal our work becomes more detailed and more complex as the characters start to take shape. This type of devising work will also help us identify common threads and themes that could be further developed into our storyline. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mask, Movement, Mayhem and Melons


You know your production has started to take some direction when you here your director say to herself, "I'm holding a watermelon but I don't know why...a personal watermelon..." 

The evening started off working with actor and sound director CJ Fujimura who is working on creating the score and sound identity for our production. The actors got to play both in mask and out of mask with the core melody of our piece. It was a great warm up exercise and way for the ensemble to get a feel of the direction our show will be taking in terms of sound.

Sound Director CJ Fujimura, in mask

Today we also continued our individual character interviews (see: Character Interviews) but we decided to move the audience into the house. This change allows the actor on stage to have freedom of movement in any direction and to start performing to the house. Each interview is followed by a short discussion which allows both the interviewers and the interviewee to discuss and digest anything important that they discovered. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

From the Actor's Perspective: Character Interviews

"Today several cast members had a chance to be interviewed in character by the whole ensemble. Not only was it great fun and revelatory to see how each character answered often quite difficult questions (such as “What does power mean to you?”), but it was also amazing to see how quickly through-lines and motifs began to develop between characters and their backstories.

Three of our high status characters tentatively grouped as “untouchables--” played by Gabe, Bronwyn, and Adam--were interviewed early in the process. Their storylines quickly brought forth a recurring theme of souls, which was deepened through other interviews. We uncovered many different incarnations of this “soul” theme and related actions: selling souls, buying souls, stealing souls, losing a part of your soul, fragmenting souls, and so forth. I found it particularly interesting to consider the “soul” as a commodity in our capitalist system. Different characters also gave interesting perspectives on what a physicalized soul might look like. Other themes that came up were money/greed, lost loves, and what it means to give a gift.

Kat’s and Matt’s characters contrasted interestingly with the demons. They both possessed a certain innocence and child-like spirit, they are connected with confined spaces (a sandbox or a cage), and they had a fascination with things that are “above—“ the sky, birds, clouds, etc. We found out that Gabe’s character might have a tender spot for Kat’s Sandbox Boy.  

Finally, having a chance to do the interview myself was so helpful in discovering what initial character ideas stuck the most and could develop into something beyond a mere idea and have resonance for our show. Answering questions on the spot is a great way to get out of the headspace and more into the intuitive space and also try out sustained character physicality. There were certain things I just knew already about my character Nero—such as his obsession with watermelons or opera—but in the interview I discovered how these seeds might come to fruition (ie: working in a grocery store for most of his life as guy who sells melons? using music as the primary channel for his passion and connecting to his father through playing violin?). I also interestingly discovered a connection with Gabe’s character that has to do with tricking him in a money-game. There is also some mysterious connection with Gabe prior to when he “sold his soul.” Did they work together once in the grocery? I also deepened my understanding of family and the relationship with my daughter (Gwenn’s character). The idea of “soul” came up again when Nero said he lost half his soul when his wife died. Other quirks about Nero that came up were frequently forgetting things and possessing a sense of paranoia for which I have yet to fully understand the cause.  After my interview, it was interesting to see how Gwenn’s interview both built upon and added new layers to ideas I brought up as Nero.  

Overall, I feel I personally made good progress today, and perhaps more importantly the group as a collective made tremendous leaps in discovering common threads that will help us build a dynamic
show.  I can’t wait for tomorrow to learn about the rest of the characters in more depth!"

- Vicky Moyer
Ensemble Member

And we're back!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The ensemble returned today after a nice, week-long spring break ready for another intensive day. The actors all had time to gather both written and recorded interviews in regards of power. These interviews will be used not only in the rehearsal process but also in the dramaturgical process (the writing and plot structure of our piece). Our day started with a check in and chance for all of the actors to catch up with each other and get a feel where the ensemble was at in terms of energy and emotion. 

The actors got another chance to study each others' image boards and masks, an important step in really understanding all of these very unique and already complex characters. We hope to have these boards on display before and after each show so the audience can experience the type of work we did to create this production. 


It was then time to get back into mask and awaken their characters that they hadn't been able to play with in a week. Revisiting sound and movement was an important part of restarting our process. As our characters start to get to know each other and establish relationships our piece, which will revolve around themes of power, is starting to take shape. While still very early in the creative process, it is amazing to see how much has already been created. 

An important task that we started today was the individual character interviews. Each character will receive the chance to be interviewed by Kali and the entire ensemble. While long, this process is extremely important. It allows for every character to be well introduced and, as reoccurring themes and story lines appear, we start to have material to design a story around. We will be trying to get as many interviews done each day until every actor has a chance to be interviewed in character.

FOR MORE, CHECK OUT- From an Actor's Perspective: Character Interviews

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Last Rehearsal Before Spring Break!


After making a lot of discoveries about their characters on Day Six, the ensemble was excited to reunite to share and further explore their characters. Actors had the chance to play with costume choices again and explore sound and movement.

A fun part of the rehearsal were brief character interviews. Each character had the chance to present their image board to the other actors who then asked them questions. For most actors, this was their first time meeting the characters. Establishing character relationships will be an important part to creating the final production and today was a good first step. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Image Boards and Interviews


Our ensemble did not meet for rehearsal Wednesday, but the actors were given a specific assignment to work on before Thursday night. An important part of the devising process for Mask, Movement, and Mayhem is each character's image board. These boards are reflections of the characters, physically and mentally. Components include 3 adjectives to describe the character, games they like to play, a song or rhythm they enjoy, and a dance step. Every board is unique and will be a continuing project throughout the rehearsal process. 

Each actor had the chance to present their board, in character, to the ensemble Thursday night.
Another important part of Wednesday's assignment were character interviews. Each actor had a partner whom they interviewed in character. Interviews could include questions about name, family, interests, and relationships. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Big Step Forward


Our actors all left rehearsal yesterday excited about their mask choices yet nervous about what the future nights might hold. Today's rehearsal started with breathing and meditating exercises to warm up the actors and this calming reflection flowed into our mask work as the cast started to discover the thoughts and physicality of their characters. Characters were given the opportunity to be interviewed by the cast, requiring them to think of answers their characters would give. While our rehearsals have not even hit the one week point yet, the entire ensemble has made big steps devising our piece!


Estie Pyper

Emily Mack

Evan Turissini

Ethan Van Buskirk

Adam Wennick

Kat Schmidt

Another large component of tonight's rehearsal was the selection of suitcases. Each actor has a unique suitcase in which to not only store their mask but to start collecting potential props and costume pieces as well as any other inspiring materials for their characters. The suitcase may or may not be used on stage but will be an important factor in building their characters. 

Victoria Moyer

Estie Pyper

Kerry Dziomba

Matt Dranzik

Emily Hooper


Gamelan (Gah-muh-lawn) is a ensemble style of music mainly from the Bali and Java regions of Indonesia. Bucknell University is fortunate enough to not only have Professor Bethany Collier, an expert in Gamelan, but an entire Gamelan ensemble. Cast member and sound director Cj Fujimura studies Gamelan and will be incorporating its unique and beautiful sounds into our production. Director Kali Quinn went with CJ today to experience Gamelan for the first time. Check out CJ's demonstration in the video below:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Back to Routine


After an exhausting yet incredibly fun intensive, we were excited to return to routine today. For the cast and crew today was the first day back to classes since rehearsal began. We will all admit that a lot of worthwhile procrastination went on this weekend but now it is time to get back to school. While rehearsal was much sorter today it was clear everyone was glad to be back in the theatre working on our production. 

The actors had to take a huge step tonight: picking a mask. While no decision is final, it's time for the actors to start heading in a specific direction in terms of selecting a character. This decision process had no real time constraint, actors could explore their favorite mask or masks for as much time as needed to settle on one.  

The criteria explored for mask selection was as follows:

  • Practicality
    • Fit and comfort of the mask on the actor
  • Head
    • What mask do you think would be a strong choice?
  • Heart
    • What mask do you love?
  • Gut
    • What mask do you feel is right for you?
  • Challenge
    • What character choice would be a challenge for you to explore but one that you can accomplish in less than six weeks?

Sometimes its good to just fall on the floor and laugh for no reason.