Wednesday, July 9, 2014

INTERPLAY WORKSHOP #3 (May 2014) WITH SHEILA COLLINS: Creating a container and engaging the audience

GETTING IDEAS FROM THE AUDIENCE. Here InterPlay performer Christine Gautreaux takes notes as Pittsburgh InterPlayer Sheila K. Collins (far right) instructs Atlanta InterPlayers, (right to left) Jennifer Denning (Atlanta InterPlay Director), Kate Savannah (Asheville InterPlayer), and Sister Jewel (International InterPlayer) how to engage the audience. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader in Training

Yes! We Atlanta InterPlayers are fortunate to have Sheila K. Collins, the dancing social worker, author, and seasoned InterPlayer instructing us on how to develop as an InterPlay Performance Ensemble. On her third workshop, we focused on how to develop our relationship with the audience.

"Create a container and engage the audience," Sheila explained. "Welcome people. Get everyone to breathe and invite them to breathe with a noise or a sigh. This is one of InterPlay's root practices--breathing. We improve how we feel using oxygen. We are all people, and we need to breathe." 

After breathing together with the audience, Sheila instructed us InterPlay performers to continue warming up the audience getting them to move in their chairs by stretching, clapping, and stomping. We could play with rhythm and noise, dividing the audience in half to do one or the other. This kind of audience engagement is part of the InterPlay practice.

Once the audience is engaged, it is time to delve into their creativity and get ideas from them on the theme. For our purposes, we worked with the idea of "wild places in nature," and we experienced what  the audience members might feel while generating the ideas. We came up with the following cues or triggers for performance: wisdom, cycles, birds, trees, peace, and fragile.

We reviewed InterPlay practices of ecstatic following and leading, simplicity, and repetition. We played with the side-by-side story, the gesture choir, the big body story, the dance-talk 3, and the three-sentence story.
THE GESTURE CHOIR. Here Sheila tells a story that is too large for one body to hold or express it, so InterPlay performers echo her movements. "It's a billboard instead of a flyer," Sheila described this InterPlay form. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Atlanta InterPlay's third performance workshop concluded with these insights from Sheila: 

  • The more we play together, the more our bodies work together.
  •  The idea of the "aesthetic group collective" is that individual performers make sacrifices or choices that help shape the overall group performance.
  • "The Mystery of the Still Point" is an incredibly fascinating way to create moments of newness said Sheila. Watch the group creation and ask "Where do I have to be for something new to occur?" Be in a place of stillness, "hanging out in the sanctuary." Allow your hand to move, create a shape, use your whole body. Four to five performers hold shapes as long as possible, experiencing the psychological edge. "Go into that place and have the next movement occur from that place."
INTERPLAYERS REUNITE. InterPlayer Marquetta Dupree and her son, Zaire, visited us at the end of our performance workshop. As Jennifer Denning builds our Atlanta InterPlay Performance Ensemble, we are collecting InterPlayers in the Metro-Atlanta area. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

If you want to read more about the Atlanta InterPlay Performance Workshops that Sheila Collins has conducted, check out these blogs:

ECSTATIC FOLLOWING: Learning what it means to be part of an InterPlay performance group! 


INTERPLAY WORKSHOP #2 (March 2014) WITH SHEILA COLLINS: Saying Yes and Finding the "thing"!

Monday, July 7, 2014

INTERPLAY WORKSHOP #2 (March 2014) WITH SHEILA COLLINS: Saying Yes and Finding the "thing"!

THE ATLANTA INTERPLAY PERFORMANCE GROUP.  This is our March 2014 InterPlay Performance Workshop with Sheila Collins. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
By Ruth Schowalter InterPlay Leader-in-Training

InterPlay is a big ‘YES,’” proclaimed Sheila Collins at the second performance workshop she facilitated for Atlanta InterPlay (see this blog about our first workshop) at the Mask Theater in the Little Five Points Community Center in March 2014.

Sheila instructed us to look for the “Yes” in our own bodies and in our troupe of fellow InterPlayer performers. In addition to taking “cues” for words from our creative movement, we also practiced “ecstatically” following one another in both movement and vocalization.

To build a performance, an InterPlay troupe works with a “theme,” one that is chosen ahead of time and then developed with input from the audience. For example, if a performance is being done for an environmental group, a variety of nautre-related words or phrases—such as relaxing, endangered, fun, climate change—might be gathered from the audience and used throughout the performance.

For our second InterPlay workshop with Sheila, we chose to play with the word, “creativity.” What might be our stories surrounding this word?
HELLO! MY NAME IS...I'M FROM....  Christine Gautreaux introduces herself at the beginning of the Pittsburgh form brought to us by Sheila Collins. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
We began playing with “creativity” using the “Pittsburgh” form—one that involves the entire InterPlay troupe. One InterPlayer begins a movement, which everyone on stage follows ecstatically. 
ECSTATIC FOLLOWING IN THE PITTSBURGH FORM.  Atlanta InterPlay Director, Jennifer Denning creates a new movement after introducing herself. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Then one player steps into the “spotlight,” introduces him/herself (name and city), says something about the theme (in this case, creativity), and generates a new movement and leaves the performance space, after the rest of the performers, who have been “holding” a shape while the spotlighted performer speaks, replicate the newly introduced move.  These steps are repeated until each performer has introduced him/herself and said something about the theme.
SIMULTANEOUS STORIES WITH A THIRD PERSON.  Here two InterPlayers tell their stories about "The Scariness of Creativity" while Sheila Collins moves. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Next in our workshop, we played around with a form called a “Simultaneous Story.” In this form, two people tell their own stories, yes, at the same time—simultaneously! And to spice it up, Sheila added a "mover" to the two story tellers. This time, the performance theme of “creativity” gets approached from a different angle—“The Scariness of Creativity”! The two storytellers are instructed to speak playing around with the following ideas:

  • repeating the words or movements of the other,
  • traveling around the performance space,
  • using silence, and
  • finding an ending.
 Sheila advised us that making a story shorter rather than longer and that finding an end or resolution doesn’t necessarily mean a “happy ending.”

After the simultaneous stories, we had the opportunity to see how a group of five people could perform together on the topic of “The Fire of Creativity.” Two people stood on the side of the performance space and chanted while three people moved. The progression of this performance occurred in this manner:
  • The players began by taking a solo shape then moving by themselves.
  • The chanters started after the movement and in response to it.
  • Then the movers found a way to interact with one another.
  • The form was completed when stillness was found.
Sheila’s performance workshop concluded with a whole-group performance, during which we moved in and out of the performance space as we wished—everyone could be performing, or five, three, two or one could be performing, the number of players shift continuously.
PLAY WITH YOUR BASKETBALL BRAINS. When moving together as a group, we are asked to think about spatial relationships and are invited to create the "dramatic diagonal." (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
During this last form, Sheila reminded us to think with our “basketball” brains, asking us to see how we were creating a range of movements in our performance space and paying attention to concepts of the “dramatic diagonal” and “spatial relationships.”

The fun part of this last performance activity?  It is looking for what we are learning to call “the thing.”  As a “group body,” each one of us performers gradually recognizes “the thing” that emerges out of what we are doing together. Ecstatically following occurs and our performance gains a “rehearsed” polish while remaining improvisational movement!

Our performance workshop with Sheila ended with us being energized from experiencing an individual and big body YES! InterPlay is, indeed, a big YES!
YES and FINDING THE THING! Here I am between two InterPlayers from Asheville, North Carolina, and I am say "YES" and finding "The Thing." (photo by an InterPlayer Performer)