Ex-Nihilo – Improvisation
I publish here a short summary.
Improvisation stands both as a fundamental basestone of the performer´s craft and as a great justification for creative dilletantism. These two sides of the question must be dealt with when devising a way of dealing with this subject. Improvisation will be seen here first and foremost as a skill capable of giving the performers the knowledge of imprevisibility, how to accept it, how to make use of it, how to turn it into into a creative fact, not refusing the flow of the unexpected and, so, growing into the unknown.
Strategies will flow, roughly, FROM the usual interrogations: Who, What, How, When,Why, Where, for Whom, against Whom. Who Not, What Not, How Not, When Not, Why Not, Where Not, For Whom Not, against Whom Not. Roughly, means that there are specific moments when none of this is relevant. Sometimes the momentaneous Elan is enough to detonate the impulses of creativity and the pursuit of this Elan, that moves the psycho-physical whole of the actor rooted in organicity, demands that certain rigid methodologies are left temporarily aside. Organicity creates it´s own laws, second by second.
Performers will be asked, at this stage, to dig into themselves in order to act in the precise standpoint of the present moment, solving the problem of having to create problems, not being the least of them the fact that improvisation often appeals to lack of structure, to lack of remembering. This digging implies acute observation of the outside world ( essential ), acute observation of one´s own memories, acute observation of one´s own desires, of one´s dreams, of one´s imaginative reality. It also implies a much needed effort to think and to dialogue with what has come before, on the theatrical tradition, on this subject. From within to without and from without to within.
Performers will face themselves with the need to create a personal flow of acting, the arising of spontaneous structures and how to treat them with care in order not to fall into uncreative anarchy. There will be a much needed distinction between what one really wants to do and what is most confortable for one to do, and this reality will be treated at all levels. Theatre is conflict, as it is seldom said. Conflict will be seen as a creative fire to be nurtured with care as a pathway to metamorphosis.
Improvisation should lead the actor into the the consciencialization of His/Her personal responsability in any creative process, and the parts of this responsability that can not be passed to others. Students will be asked to undergo a dramaturgy of the living moment meaning, in simple terms, to know what is important and what is not, for themselves and for the global situation in the work area. For this, Contact is required.
Contact between actors is a non rational phenomenon and often contradicts the scope of this concept on daily socialized life, or on it´s surface. Performers must devise how to really engage in contact with the partners away from clichés and bannalities, and useless abstractions. This will be approached in rather physical terms, steaming from attentive watching and listening of Space, Rythm, Amplitude of Movement, Intention. Always in an non detached way and under the constraint of having to Do something, to React. Now.
The main objective of this work will be to make the performers aware of the potentialities and flaws of their Personal criative processes. And of how to overcome the latest in relation with themselves and with others. One has but to look within/without in order to know that there is already, within/without, much material to be acted, transformed, given and received, and placed in service of the theater or whatever needs to be served. Blockings and superficialities often result from failing to grasp this reality. Performers will be asked to Create from the start.
It is my belief , even taking into account the improvisational theatre as such as an exception, that the first time comes from inspiration, the second time will mosltly come from technique, the third time will evolve into art only if the bridge of the second is rather well built. Improvisation must be so, in this context, the making of a bridge between what one Might do and what one actually Does, in the Present Moment. Slowly but constantly.
The methodology will tend to a sinthetic way of approaching Improvisation. The schematic outline of each class will have two distinct moments. The first will consist on improvisation within the frame of external structures, in a sense determined by the specific characteristics those structures will entail. The second will consist on improvisation with no outside support, with the sole obligation of having to Create “ab nihilo” from the events arising in the present tense. This distinction is not rigid and a contamination and simbiotic relation between the two poles of the equation will hopefully become concrete. Spontaneity should infuse the first moment, and rigour the second. In the end the tension among these poles gives birth to One single moment, a Continuum.
Finally, a specific focus will be added, in the first steps, in the direction of the spoken word as a tool and material for creation. Vocal disarticulation/imagination will be used together with verbalization of fictional pasts and futures, verbalization of momentaneous subtexts, verbalization of the unsaid and the unsayable.
There are no definite authors on this subject, as there is not One method, and also as the theorical study for improvisation should embrace the multiplicity of the cultural phenomenon, with no prejudices : Mickey Mouse or an History of Football, might prove to be more important, in many moments, than Heidegger or Grotowsky, for example. The knowledge will gain more in being as encompassing as actual life is.
However, in the Performative world, the following authors might be useful as they give precise hints into several viewpoints of the creative process, in a creative way coming from a creative practice, wich is what matters here:
Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, Chekov, Toporkov. Brecht and Pina Bausch. Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Grotowsky. Charles Dullin, Artaud, Jacques Copeau. Peter Brook. Strasberg, Viola Spolin, Stella Adler, Thomas Richards, Richard Schecner, Rachel Rosenthal, Karen Finnley, Annie Sprinkler, Barba. There are many others. Performers should actively find what innerly resonates with them, in the perspective of someone who produces living culture instead of merely consuming it.
Hugo Calhim Cristovão