Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preparations and Celebrations

Today is a day for celebrating! Last night was the last performance of our final shows for the MA CCT course at the RSAMD. I came back from Edinburgh at around 10:30pm and arrived to find my new neighborhood erupting with activity. Turns out moonrise last night brought Eid ul-Fitr or Eid for short. Eid celebrates the end of Ramadan for Muslims. Ramadan is a month of fasting and reflection where Islamic practitioners refrain from eating during daylight hours and Eid is the festival that marks the end of that period of devotion. It is a bit like Lent on the Christian calendar. As many in my local community are of South Asian decent, Islam is one of the major religions practiced in the area. The celebrations continue today and when I went to the grocery store I saw the streets are filled with people blowing party horns, children playing and silly string decorates parked cars and some people too! Everyone is dressed in their best clothes and the women and girls glitter in gorgeous salwar kameezes (a style of garment traditional in South Asia) rich in color and they are bejeweled in sparkling ornamentation from head to toe. Stunning!

The shows went well. On Thursday night I finally saw the other two offerings my classmates have been working on all this time. I thoroughly enjoyed their work and am intrigued with the stories. I can’t wait to see how these scripts develop and find out what happens! One in particular called ‘The Fever Dream: Southside’ by Douglas Maxwell is set on the Southside of Glasgow where I am making my new home. It was engaging to hear references to places to which I have recently been introduced and am looking forward to getting to know better. The future for these plays is bright and it was an honor to be a part of their beginnings.

I thought I would delve into what it was like for us before the shows each night. The shows started at 7:30pm or in the case of the Tron in Glasgow, 7:45. Fridays we were the second show to go on, around 8:45 or 9pm and Saturdays we were the first. The cast was allowed into the performances space for a warm up between 6 and 6:20 depending on the night. Each of us would have some time to do whatever we needed to do for ourselves. My standard practice is to start with some light yoga and other stretches. After I feel physically warmed up I move into a vocal warm up. This involves breathing exercises working the breathing mechanisms and focusing on breath control. Then I make some noise. I loosen up my lips and other facial muscles. I do some tongue twisters. I speak a little Shakespeare while focusing on the placement of the voice and breath support and I do the most annoying thing in the world, called “the siren”. This is what it says it is. I run up and down the scale of my voice by making and holding a siren sound at its height. I try to only do this twice because it is so loud and obnoxious. That is pretty much my individual pre-show warm up. It may vary a bit from show to show depending on what is required of me. After we all finished our own routine we came together and ran through a group warm up. This kind of thing varies from show to show, cast to cast. Sometimes there is no group warm up in a production but, with ‘Ashes Blood’ we had a standard practice. First was the number game. We would huddle together and try to count to 21 and then back down. The trick with this game is to not have people speak the same number at the same time. It is about group awareness. It’s about feeling the vibe of the group and learning to listen to each other even before anything is expressed vocally. Next we’d shake and stretch all the parts of our bodies to work out any kinks and get the things moving. Then we played a couple of games for energy and focus. In both Zip Zap and Red Ball, Blue Ball the players have to pay attention to each other and be ready to receive the zip or zap or the ball and then pass it on. After this preparation we usually retired to the dressing rooms to apply make-up and get into costumes and do a line run. The line run was a speed run. In a speed run we say the lines of the show and pick up our cues as fast and as accurate as possible. This warms up the text, gets us focused and energizes the piece. Then, show time! So there’s a little backstage tour for you from the actor’s perspective. Each production brings a different pre-show situation but most of the time there is an opportunity for some kind of warm up and it is most helpful for getting the mind and body ready for the performance.

This week we are all in solitarily mode as we work on our papers. I have about 11,000 words to write over the course of five papers and it’s all due on Friday at noon. The papers include summaries of the work on these shows, our staged reading at the Fringe, our viewing of shows at the Fringe, our discussions with the various professionals, our research projects and a summary of the whole year. It is a lot but it will be good reflection. However, with the deadline looming nigh, I’m going to sign off now and get busy!

When next I write, this whole thing will be over! Can you believe it?!?!
See you next week!

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