As Tut'Zanni has been preparing to come together again in just a couple of weeks, we've been trying to go through everything we've wanted to work on creatively for FOOD, SEX & BIG CHECKS in our Google Hangout meetings, but this last meeting, we hit a wall.
Often in theatre, we talk about getting a show "on its feet". This refers to the point where you stop working around a table and put the actors up on a stage to start physically going through the play. In a more traditional show, this happens after the script is done being edited, it's been read through, the set has been created, and basically everything that can possibly be done without actors actually moving on stage has been done. In a commedia or physical theatre show, however, this happens, or should happen, much, much earlier.
The reason we could no longer really work on show material long distance is because we are at that point now. Do we have a script? No. We do have some basic ideas that we want to work with, and maybe a handful of scenes and characters we have from when we were on our feet working in January. But we know that if we try to force a plot too early, it will just be a waste of time and will hold us back.
This is because our best material really comes when we allow the body to inform the mind, instead of the other way around. I was sitting and thinking about this because firstly, it is something that makes this form's process stand out from others, and secondly, because it is absolutely terrifying and unpredictable, and 100% what I'm going to have to be doing in 2 weeks' time.
If you are trying out commedia or a similar masked or physical theatre form, you won't be able to escape this, so put the pen down and just get into a space.
The power of movement is incredible, and when we learn to trust it, having to get up and improv something becomes a teeny bit less scary. Although you are getting up (we do this work in a group, it's always better with someone to observe) in front of people with nothing consciously in your mind, you have a whole stockpile of muscle memory just sitting there. By the time you start moving, these things will start to come up. We have a great exercise that we do, where you begin with an everyday activity, such as vacuuming. You repeat this movement until it takes you somewhere else. Maybe the movement reminds you of swordfighting, or fishing, or maybe the vacuum motion gets bigger and bigger and wildly out of control. You continue through movements, each time letting that movement inform you, instead of thinking of anything ahead of time. This exercise is used to hone the skill of being informed by movement so you can also use it in a character exercise, in developing new work, or even in performance. I find it is one of the only ways you can honestly surprise yourself. You instinctively pull something from your unconscious mind (the movement is pulling from muscle memory) to your conscious mind, and that whole experience can be exciting and joyful, which builds real moments and characters that your audience will love.
Think of it as remembering something. For example, you walk into a home and smell fresh baked cookies and that brings up a memory of being with your grandmother. You weren't thinking of your grandmother, or even trying to come up with what cookies smelled like, your body just sensed it, and brought the thoughts to you. When creating, we often get stuck in conscious thought, where one thought can only be informed from where you currently are in conscious thought. It's like trying to get across town on the bus, and you can only get to one bus from the bus you're on, one to the next. Using movement to inform you and bring new ideas is like a helicopter coming from nowhere and taking you a whole new direction you didn't even know you could go.
Movement provides an untapped resource! When you are out of ideas, get on your feet. This is the stage Tut'Zanni is at with FOOD, SEX & BIG CHECKS, and I'm so excited to get in a room with these guys and start creating.