acting

Plea #2: sign up for Advanced Stage Combat

Reason Number 2 of thousands:

Six foot staffs.

Even in SAFD land, the six foot staff (what they call quarterstaff) is not often taught in the basic stage combat courses. This is certainly understandable to a certain extent, as it’s not one of those weapons that most actors will most often find themselves wielding.

This coming fall semester, however, I will be adding staff back into the Stage Combat curriculum. Fun fact: when I first designed the beginning Stage Combat course for Metro back in 2005, there were three weapons systems they all learned: Unarmed, Staff, and Sword (rapier). I later axed the staff unit, for to spend more time with the swords and the finals, and with the knowledge that the staff (though basic weapons training for me at the time in martial arts) wasn’t really a fundamental weapon most beginners would need to know about.

But it’s so very much fun!! And so this fall we will be wielding them again for the first time in about a dozen years. So if you’re an Auraria student or want to audit, get on your registration now so I can hit my minimum enrollment before cancellation. Do eet.

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Just Fuck It

You may remember, lovely lurkers, my dredging up of an old lecturette called “Drunk and in Charge of a Bicycle,” named after Ray Bradbury’s chapter from Zen in the Art of Writing?

Welp, I rewrote and refurbished it into an article for Writers’ HQ. Check it out here.

Musings Upon a New (ish) Semester

Well fuck. 

I use invective, lovely lurkers, with conscience and reason. Why I just used one of the words that would make my movie Rated R in America is that I just saw that the last post on this blog was posted in, like, mid-August. Seriously, what the fuck? Why do you tolerate this kind of behavior from me, huh? Are you all so busy reading Parallel Bars that you can’t be bothered? Can’t say I blame you, truth be told…

So I’m jogging in the reins of Week 4 at both Metro and Front Range, Week 2 of Regis, and the verrrry beginning of Week 1 at DU. And lemme tell ya about the cool shit that’s happening at all those fine institutions (okay, I’m going with this invective thing):

At Metro: I’m teaching that online Staging Cultures course I’ve told you about before. It’s a really good reading list, lovely lurkers. Let me know if you want it. I’m also doing a MW (that’s Monday & Wednesday, kids) Intro to Theatre, which is a delightful gen ed course I haven’t done in a while. Man are those First Year Success students bright eyed and enthusiastically bushy tailed! They’re just about to embark on their historical presentation projects AND their Raisin in the Sun unit, so wow how much good material can we stomach at 11am? A lot, apparently. Youthful energy, I’m tellin ya…

Beginning Stage Combat over at Metro is Friday mornings as is usual, but as is not usual, it’s SO FULL YOU GUYS! There’s, like, 24 or something people in it, and they’re all lovely young talented energetic insane theatre majors and I am having so much fun and getting so old…. They’re just about to start choreographing their Unarmed fights, and I could not be more excited!

At Regis: I have two lovely and talented grad students doing a one on one Writing the Novel course w me; and one other lovely and talented grad student doing my own self-constructed YA Literature course (one on one, natch. It’s nearly always one on one at Regis). It’s going to be some stellar writing, which will only make me wish I had more time to work on my own work….

At Front Range: it’s two evening courses: a Comp I and a Comp II. The former is revising their Mini-Essays as we speak (Er, as I type), and you know what that means! That’s right: the Mini-Essay Contest winner post is imminent! Let’s hope it’s not the next one, as I need to be more frequent than that here….

Comp II as is usual these days for me, functions under a theme of Creativity and Innovation. They just finished their (quite high quality) Elevator Pitches, and now have just been introduced to the Analyzing An Image essay, which is where they pick an ad or psa and analyze it in essay format. Should be some good reading.

And finally,

At DU: Children’s Literature started today! As my ancient, steam-powered laptop decided to become a doorstop recently, it was quite the challenge to get that course shell updated and ready to go for a fresh crop of Professional Writing graduate students. But I am nothing if not diligent. And, yes, I have a lot of work to do still, but hey at least it’s up and functioning, and thanks to the SO, I have a brand spanking new refurbished box I can now use to get everything even more ship-shape. Thanks to that generous soul…

Oh but that’s not all! I also continue to have professional endeavors:

Bronze Fox Burlesque is doing their next show at License no.1 under the loose theme of Clue (the movie) and murder mysteries in general. I am mulling over choreography for a duet and a new solo right now…

Metro is doing The Country Wife in a couple weeks, a ribald comedy of no manners at all, and I am consulting the period movement as well as choreographing and directing a raucous chick fight with fans. And maybe fisticuffs.

I’m still writing for Parallel Bars and Your Boulder, editing the SO’s spectacular new book, and I’m just now starting to think I could remount my Retro Reviews of Sherlock, over on Sherlock’s Home, now the 4th season is far enough away…..

So.

Megan shows my Intro students the ropes. Literally.

Hm.

I guess there’s a reason it’s taken me so long to post here. Yeah, well. NO FUCKING EXCUSES, AMIRITE?

Ahem. Carry on….

Brecht and Storytelling part 1

I came across this old (OLD!!) paper in my continued culling of belongings, lovely lurkers, and I was still interested in its arguments, so I thought I’d share. It was the final paper for my Senior Seminar at CU Boulder, for my BFA in Acting, waaaay back in 1995. It’s a little longish for a blog, so I will post it in multiple parts. Here’s Part 1.


Brecht and Storytelling
Written by Jenn Zuko for Senior Seminar, BFA Acting program @UCB, 1995
PART 1

Audiences have difficulty engaging in and understanding Brechtian acting. Brecht’s idea of separating the actor and character is meant to touch the audience intellectually, to “alienate” the audience and let them watch the action at an emotional distance, but this idea often fails in practice. Brechtian productions, therefore, are done rarely, and when done, are met with criticism: “In his own home Brecht has been criticized … The cool, calculated, artificial, expressionistic acting is against our traditions and spirit” (Rouse). Having the presence of a narrator, whether in set design or textual style, violates what most theatregoers view as a “normal” play, and so most are thrown off by this style.

Storytelling, however, also has the presence of a narrator, and has a separation of teller and character that hits a viewer more in the mind than the gut. Yet storytelling continues to gain large audiences of all ages, and is practiced and performed with great success by many. Why is it, then, difficult for audiences to enjoy Brecht’s alienated acting, while storytelling (which is much the same style) still enchants and engages?

In my last paper, I attempted to answer this question by analyzing the acting styles and techniques of Brecht’s work and that of the storyteller. Here, I will pursue this question further by discussing character construction in both acting styles. How the character is formed directly affects not only the acting, but the structure of the entire play or story and how it moves the audience.

The character construction modern audiences see and to which they are most accustomed is the realistic system originated by Stanislavski. His way of creating a character is so widespread that his “Method” (or variations thereof) are taught as the only approach in most acting programs. That is, the actor and character are inseparable; as an audience member, one must believe that the person onstage enacting a role is indeed that character. As an actor, one delves into the past history and inner thoughts of the character, and strives to be “believable” in the role. Then, the directors and designers clothe the actor and her environment in authentic-looking costumes and scenery. This way, in all respects, the audience member succumbs to the illusion that this is a different person in a different place. This indistinction between actor and character may be one of the reasons (as I argued in the last paper) that audiences have a hard time sitting through Brecht, since Brecht tried to separate the person of the actor and their character. Kasimierz Braun describes it thus:

This is an actor, with a name, personal life, political opinions, a member of a specific society, and that is a character, a creature of literature and imagination. The actor was not subordinated to the character” (117).

One can understand why, when audiences are so accustomed to Stanislavskian realism, they would have difficulty engaging with this strange Brechtian separation.

Yet we still have not explained why storytelling, which is much the same in theory as Brecht (that is, the

The man himself, Bertolt Brecht. And the cigar is just a cigar.

separation between actor and character is certainly present in storytelling) flourishes marvelously with the same modern audiences, where Brecht’s plays remain relatively esoteric.

Perhaps Michael Kirby can help us. We have just discussed how Stanislavskian characters are formed: by the actor in effect becoming the character in psychology, physical bearing, and costume. We have also concluded that for realistic theatre, constructing a character constitutes creating the illusion of another person in another place. Brecht did not want to create this illusion as such; rather, he wanted his characters, through alienation, to keep the audience engaged intellectually, not fooled into a fantasy world and duped into emotional empathy. Michael Kirby (he of Happenings fame) describes acting as a “matrixed” performance: one that has a structured, imaginative situation surrounding it. In the following quote, Kirby describes the difference between the realistic way of creating a character, and his characterless performer of the Happening:

“Acting might be defined as the creation of character and/or place: details of ‘who’ and ‘where’ the performer is are necessary to the performance. The actor functions within subjective or objective person-place matrices. The musician, on the other hand, is non-matrixed. He attempts to be no one other than himself, nor does he function in a place other than that which physically contains him and the audience.”

Kirby’s concept of performers in the Happening is that none of them are different characters or existing in any other world besides this present one. So, though they are not acting, they are still performing. This sounds almost opposite to the realistic character construction, and it seems as though Brecht is trying to have both Stanislavski and Kirby present in his characters. Each character, for Brecht, should be real in their intentions and actions, but behind them is a consciousnesses which comments on those actions: that of the actor, who is only himself, and separate from his role. This combination is the center of why Brecht doesn’t do it for most audiences.

Where does storytelling fit into all this? In practice, it distances the audience by separating the teller from the characters, and, like Kirby’s performers, each teller wears no costume, puts up no set, and attempts to be no one else but herself when she is the narrator. So why is storytelling more widely practiced with success than Brecht? There is one major difference between the two that might be the cause for success in one and not the other:

THE NARRATOR.

 


Stay tuned here for Part 2.

(Image credit. Works Cited will appear after the final installment.)

Outrageous Fortune

ofbwtherapy

Rehearsal for Outrageous Fortune. The Dr. Ruth-type Prospera coaches we Tragedians Anonymous into embracing our tragedies and moving forward…

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Stage Movement begging session to praise to the skies a theatrical project I’m a part of: Viva’s Outrageous Fortune. Viva is a company connected to Boulder’s Society For Creative Aging, and as such, its large cast is quite diverse both in the age and the experience areas. The Boulder Weekly has a thoughtful article on some of the philosophies behind it, which you can read here. Basically, it’s Shakespeare’s tragic characters in group therapy in an attempt to find closure with their tragic lives, and things go rather amuck when some characters try and change their Outrageous Fortune to make one of their own.

On a personal level, I’ve had a lot of fun cultivating my Valley-Girl-Desdemona character, but also in choreographing the second largest fight scene I’ve ever had to tackle. An extra challenge in coordinating this giant fight scene is knowing that around 85% of the players are of an advanced age, such that certain moves are not only difficult, but dangerous and even impossible. But I am very happy with how it’s turning out, and the show as a whole should be a heckuva lot of fun to see.

Outrageous Fortune opens this Saturday and runs two weekends. Find your tickets here.

Stage Movement Class: sign up please pt. 2

Yes, lovely lurkers, I have taken to begging for students to take the Stage Movement course over at MSU Denver. Well, yanno, it has been cancelled due to underenrollment enough that I feel I need to explain what makes this class such an essential part of a student’s experience at Metro, especially in the Theatre Department.

Here’s the thing: the skills learned in this class don’t only apply to

Don't make this sad clown even sadder. Sign up for Stage Movement.

Don’t make this sad clown even sadder. Sign up for Stage Movement.

the performing arts student. Not at all–actually I’ve had the following diverse folks take this course (beyond the theatre majors, for whom this class is required):

  • a major in accounting
  • a 75-year-old auditing the course for fun
  • an 8th grader interested in the clowning arts
  • a poli-sci major
  • a couple English majors
  • someone who was undecided, who wanted to be able to have good presence in front of a crowd

Recently I have received some advice from an intimate friend in the career reboot department, and I am realizing that these skills are all excellent ones for building my corporate consulting practice. All of these things (body language, vocal work, social status manipulation, presentation skills, etc.) are the difference between a corporate drudgery and a successful businessperson.

 

I Miss My MTV already…

The backdrop as it looked in Fort Collins’ Bas Bleu Theatre, made by talented tattoo artist Sal Tino.

 

I Miss My MTV version 2.1 has come and gone, and it was a helluva ride. The reboot held many of the same core pieces as v.1.0 (the 2014 Boulder Fringe Fest), with some revisions and recastings all with a positive result, IMO. I’m glad in this reworking that I got to dance in an el-wire suit, and got to join the complex Cut Copy piece (the one with the suits and briefcases and plentiful bits of paper).

My favorite bits in this show overall were the Depeche Mode piece which took place at the bar at the end of the world, the opening dance medley filled with classics from ’80s vids (Pat Benatar shoulder action, anyone?), and, weirdly enough, the quietly sublime David Bowie Glitter Portrait bit. That last mainly from the consistently wonderful audience reaction to the reveal.

My favorite tweaks from v.2.0 (DCPA) to 2.1 (Bas Bleu Theatre) were the new band members, and the casting of James as The Norwegian in the A-Ha video sequel.

And if you missed it, you have no idea what I’m talking about, but no doubt really wish you did. Farewell, I Miss My MTV. “Don’t you / forget about me / I’ll be alone / dancing, you know it baby…”

Don’t You…

Linky’s Fun Club

(Raise your hand, any of you lovely lurkers who remember the show to which this title refers.)

So back on the old blog, I often would post little lists of essential readings in relevant topics to this blog, like, once a week or so. I’m going to start doing so again. You’re welcome for the free mind expansion.   ~Jenn
————————————————-
Kurosawa’s Seven Best Samurai Movies
The Professor, The Detective, and the Genderswap
They used a real antique gun?! *facepalm*
Theatre Students Back to School
Don’t Hit Your Friends

…and finally: what is posted as the Top Ten Fight Scenes of all Time. Do you agree?