Tuesday, September 11, 2007

First Registrations for A.I.R.E. Actors' International Retreat Experience

As we head into our 9th annual event of the Actors' International Retreat Experience and are already receiving registrations from as far away as Washington DC, I thought I'd post our 2008 instructors and some quotes from A.I.R.E. alumni.

2008 A.I.R.E. Instructors

Ted Hoerl - Act One Studio instructor & Casting Director, teaching Auditioning with prepared monologue from contemporary theatre.

Molly Lyons – Director of the Green Wood Studio, international director/classical teacher, teaching Playing the Classics with prepared soliloquy or monologue from classical theatre.

Rob O'Neill – NY based Performer & International Movement Coach teaching Embodiment.

Steve Scott - Associate Producer of Chicago's Goodman Theatre teaching Scene Work with prepared scenes.

David Smukler - York University and Canada's National Voice Intensive teaching Voice.

You can read full bio's on the instructors and find a ton of information at:
www.greenwoodstudio.org and follow the links to A.I.R.E. on the home page.

Actor Quotes

Describing A.I.R.E. is difficult because I tend to feel as though I am exaggerating and simultaneously not even getting close to communicating the impact of the experience. Let's just say: I now measure my artistic life in terms of Before A.I.R.E. and After A.I.R.E. I expected it to nourish me as an actor; it did that, but it also fed me as a writer, as a musician, and as a human being.Come ready to work. And work. And work some more. But also to rediscover the absolute joy of this work, and to approach your entire life with a new sense of purpose and truth.
Elizabeth Bagby, Chicago actor, writer, artist

Thank you for the wonderful experience. Thank you for filling up my tank with all that good stuff.
Kenny Hull, LA actor, director, producer

I have never before been so immersed in my art -- constantly creating while also being creatively filled. The instructors are truly gifted, insightful and specific. They teach with love and respect, while being fully willing to jump in, play and learn along side you! The environment itself also fills the artistic soul. I definitely recommend it.
Lisa Benner, NY actor

I learned more in one short course with the Green Wood Studio than I did in two years at a training institute.
Melina Pyron, Soprano, actor

If you're serious about your craft, willing to do the work, and unopposed to having some fun in the process, you'll not find a better learning opportunity, or value for your money. The setting is sweet, the meals tasty, the staff welcoming and helpful. But it's the program that'll keep you returning year after year ('07 will be my third). The instructors are superb, the best group of teachers I've ever worked with. They're not simply knowledgeable, perceptive, humorous and fully human, they know how to teach.
Norm Stamper, Orcas Island actor, writer

This acting retreat focused my passion and sharpened my skills. I was given the truth about what I was doing in a useful constructive way. Your Integrity is Respected.
Tom Pickett, Vancouver actor

Every person should attend this retreat, whether they’re an actor or not. Molly Lyons and her incomparable team of instructors not only teach us to be stronger actors but better people. Through their combined genius they encourage us to face our fears and embrace our passions. Together we strengthen our work as artists and our spirits as human beings. I recommend everyone to experience what I have had the joy of experiencing, a safe, enlightening and joyous atmosphere in which to grow, learn and laugh with people who are truly inspiring.
Dan De Jaeger, Winnipeg/Vancouver/Prescott actor

I never would have had the confidence (to play the part) without having worked with these great teachers.
Annette Clark, South Carolina actor

I don't know when I've felt more alive. This work is magical and transformative.
Louise Carnachan, Orcas Island/Seattle actor, improviser, producer

The retreat is an experience I give myself as a gift as often as I can. As an artist in this unforgiving world at times it is easy to lose focus and lose the wonderment of the craft. I come to the retreat to stretch my creative muscles and fill my spirit with the magic of the work. Every year I have attended the retreat I have left feeling full of inspiration, with a new and renewed awareness of my craft, my instrument and my artistic self as a whole. I am absolutely nervous, excited, and blessed to have this opportunity. The retreat to me is a sacred place to nuture the artist within by working with people who have the same passion an love for this work. I come to refill my well!!!
Betty Lorkowski, Chicago actor

The whole week was beyond belief. I loved the commitment and the intensity we had. Everybody worked so hard; I learned so much. I came to [the retreat] alone, not knowing a soul, and left with new friends and a wonderful experience of theatre.
Robin Hall, Washington DC actor

Nowhere else have I found such immediately applicable and long-lasting coaching and career advice than this week-long intensive.
Ian Farthing, Vancouver actor

I had my first audition since I've been back and I got the part! I cannot tell you how different my experience was. I was so much calmer and 100 times more confident. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Stephanie Pottruck, LA actor

Thank you for the life lesson.
Abe Brown, LA actor

This is where I go every year to re-open as an artist and sharpen my skill set. Plus you simply can't find better instruction - all assembled in one intensive week - anywhere else in the country. These are instructors who are Masters and it is inspiring to work with them. I can't recommend it highly enough!
Emi Clark, Chicago actor

I used to think your marketing materials claim of "life-changing event" could not be true. Now that I've attended the retreat, I know it is true.
BD Freeman, LA actor, comedian

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Working with what I've got

As I reflect back on my recent work at the Shakespeare Festival, where I have had the pleasure of working for three seasons, my mind races with all the valuable lessons I learned during this one paradoxically glorious and tumultuous summer.

As the season began, I was full of doubts as to whether or not I was up to the task of playing Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Hippolyta/Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

My friend, Ian, gave me the book Will & Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life by Dominic Dromgoole, currently the Artistic Director at the Globe Theatre, London. The book became my muse for creating the characters.

Feeling fairly insecure & as if my very messy life would somehow wreck my work, during rehearsals, Dominic's words about being “human” helped me a great deal. Some of the most important quotes which struck me deeply are:

  • "All through my life, when wounds had opened, Shakespeare had appeared with comic balm or tragic suture, to patch things up."
  • "With such a shining example of rich and creative complexity before us, how can we not attempt to be as human?"
  • And, although I must paraphrase - forgive me - because I cannot find the exact quote, the idea which moved me most to trust that my life, however messy it may be, is all that is necessary to live under the text:
    The richer the text, the less we need to embellish but rather let the words remind us of what we have lived. (which was the response I wrote in my journal one night when reading the book.)
Providential timing, really, that I had this book to read during this summer. (Thank you, Ian.)

As I mentioned in the post below, my other great inspiration over the summer, during performances (thanks to my Canadian colleagues in the cast), was the Canadian television series, Slings & Arrows, about….a Shakespeare Festival in Ontario! The all too brief series (compared to mediocre American tv series which seem to go & on season after seaon ad nauseum) quickly became an addiction for me. I devoured all three seasons, including the extra features like out-takes, interviews, etc. Co-creator Susan Coyne’s comments also moved me to trust the very human experience I found myself struggling with all summer:
  • If I have a mission [about Shakespeare], it is to present him as a living playwright for today.
  • 400 years later, we're still laughing at a joke ... because we know who these people are ... they're human as we are.
  • (About presenting theatre on tv) What we do, the theatre, might be important.
My conclusions:

Shakespeare, the actor/playwright, wrote of human behavior and it is my job as an actor to get to my most human behavior when performing. Audiences come to the theatre to see human behavior onstage; to see me “hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature” and let them recognize their humanity through the expression of mine. To keep my humanity at arm’s length will keep the character at arm’s length and, therefore, the audience at arm’s length from the story Shakespeare wants us to tell.

Oddly enough, during the rehearsal process, what I feared I might lack, I discovered were the characters’ fears; what I was afraid might be “inappropriate” for the character in some given moment, I discovered was the most appropriate experience to reveal the soul of the woman in that very moment.

The character who taught me the most about myself was the one I didn’t think, initially, I was at all comfortable playing: Nurse in Romeo & Juliet. I told the director, Craig Walker, when he wanted to cast me in the role that I felt 1. too young, 2. I didn’t get the comedy of her and 3. I always thought I was more like Lady Cap.

The “too young” part was substantiated for me by, of all things, the character, Ellen, on Slings & Arrows, who said to the young woman cast as Juliet: “It’s the lot of the actress, my dear. You play the leads, the queens, the duchesses, the dreaded Nurse, then it’s a bed in [the actors’ nursing home]." I suppose the age issue was soothed a bit by the fact that our Juliet really did look about 14 and it is, primarily, in her eyes that the Nurse seems: "old", "lame", "heavy", etc., and because she is impatient for news Nurse is to bring of her love. So, thanks, Emma!

As for getting Nurse's humour, I finally decided, partly because Craig told me that, onstage, I relish being funny and also based on Dominic’s quote about “how can we not attempt to be as human?” that I would simply pour all of myself into Nurse. Now, this at a time when I have been moving through a season of my life where I felt pretty far from the woman I used to be; the woman I think I can be; the best woman I always have been.

As for being "right" for the role ....For nearly twenty years, I have longed to play Titania and I had the time of my life every second I played her. My great surprise this summer was how pleased I was when I read my R&J director’s opening night card and the description he wrote of the Nurse, as I created her, is closer to the real me than I have felt in a long time.

Without even realizing I could begin to heal & find my best self again through my work, by simply deciding to bring all I had to offer to the circumstances of each character in each play, I came damn close to finding that woman again.

Since closing, I continue walking on the healing journey which began when I felt called to get back onstage and was furthered at the Shakespeare Festival while exploring these three glorious women: to find my most honest & glorious self again. I believe the walk will take me every day closer and, now, finally, I am ready to move forward into it.

To think, a few years ago, I wondered if getting back onstage was the best choice for me; if I still had what it takes to do the work truthfully and skillfully. This summer, I found that, for me, I did indeed make the best choice and I am simply grateful and joyful every time I get onstage. I feel ready for just about any role any one wants to offer me knowing I can approach it with confidence: trusting that my “mess” is all the humanity any character needs.

I simply need to work with what I’ve got and all of it.


Photo credits of my work with colleagues this summer at SLSF:
Titania & fairies (Emma Hunter, Ashley Keefer, Kaylan Lindsay, Kyle Evans;
Hippolyta & Theseus (Ross Neill);
2 - Nurse & Juliet (Emma Hunter)