One month of Theatre Equals Life

One month of Theatre Equals Life

I opened this blog one month ago. Writing daily has been a problem. The problem was not the lacking of arguments. Life, at times, likes to take its predominance on theatre since the common knowledge gives to it the precedence on theatre. For one reason or another, I have not been able to keep my word, “one post per day”. It is just as it is. Aside, one month after, how much theatre is in every part of life still amazes me. The chaos accompanying a walk outside is as much theatrical as tragic. Heat is devouring people, making them act as crazy. Bodies make a show of themselves in a competition for who is the most beautiful, shouting is increasing of number, and, unfortunately, street accidents and fires make the ambulance and police’s sirens echo constantly. During the night then, the fresh air colliding with the skin gives a sparkle of novelty that is energizing. Notwithstanding the fact that it is also the time in which people leave for their vacations, still someone cannot but run, feeling always in delay. Life, in these last years is ever faster, never waiting for anyone. Trains leave for the success highway any minute, but only a few people ever make to it. In addition, when we are alone it still seems someone is still running behind us. Deadlines kill for real. Which deadlines?

It is my greatest pleasure that even in this chaos I found some time to dedicate to the reading of the book Acting: Walking on the Tightrope of Illusion, by Michael Beckett, an esteemed professor at HB Studio (120 Bank St). I took one of his classes in the first spring term of my college experience, believing I was as good as an actor to be already under his vigilance. I failed miserably, but I am glad I had the possibility to assist to a professor who is like a power of nature when sitting on his chair and looking at vary exercises. The wisdom he transmitted with the tone of his voice and the weight of his arguments was scarily attractive. It seems that I took the idea of calling my blog as I did after I read his book, but I did not. I am just beginning to read this extraordinary travel above nothing and about everything.

Michael Beckett wrote this book as the sensational teacher he is, taking inspiration from questions his students raised in his many classes. In fact, reading I felt like being in class with him again, only that the book is definitely a more condensed dose of wisdom. He is passionate about the eastern arts of patience and wisdom, and he applies these to his teachings. In the first pages of his books, he inspires an eternal calm in our lives. He bases his first thought on being able to hear the silence, a quality that requires understanding, patience and attention. Then he approached the fact that an actor shall not solve the scene. Instead, he should give up his ambition, and once full of humbleness, he should take his time to process. Nothing would be running behind him and, in fact, there would be no place to get at, but just the moment one is living. The second paragraph is centered on an idea that I was grown with, as an Italian, and that, however, I was sad not finding it in New York. The idea of never taking one’s own self too seriously. The idea of joking on one’s own ideas and behavior. It is a way of living lightly, of seeing what is happening, from another point of view. There is no sadness in this laughing, just a connection to another level of comprehension. The fun of freedom. The fun of being just who we are in this moment. No reason to fake it, just to understand it.

I am happy I began this reading. It taught me already something: as there is no one running behind me, or nothing coming as a direct opponent, but just a lot of patience to have, there is no reason I shall ever feel behind my own idea, in life. As in theatre, there would just be a reason more to being happier with one’s own self. Present in the moment and forward with one’s own thinking.

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People do not talk

People do not talk

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In my opinion, it is death. It is not life. Because man is such thanks to reason. In communication, his reasoning come out with words, talking. Words flow, words connect, words differentiate. Instead, now, there is plain silence. Sure, silence is important, but it cannot be dominant. When silence is not communicative, it is noise. It is loss time. However, life, in big cities like New York, silence has killed all discussions. No person talk with other strangers, no matter who these are. The old fearful rule that recited, “Do not talk with strangers” referred only to little children. Once adulthood overcomes adolescence, strangers might always become new connections. In addition, not all strangers are so. Eye contact could direct trust. Silence, instead has favored solitude and singularity to the need of being in company. Social, now, is being on the cellphone. Cellphones should have just extended the possibilities of communications. Instead, as life improved, they gave the final blow to life.

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The event that, for last, made me reflect happened on the LIRR train station. A woman thinking that the one in front of her was not her train, she looked at me, decisively embarking: “Excuse me,” she asked “are you sure this is the train that goes to New York? I am trying to understand where it goes, but nobody tells me anything.” Since I knew, and I told her that that was the train, she decided to give up waiting, and followed me inside. Her thanking was sincere. “Nobody talks anymore,” she said with a South American accent, “Not even the announcements do say anything.” Her words resounded in a particular way with me. The fact that she was a “foreigner” as I am was another confirm.

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“People do not talk” seems a good title for a sketch. Theatre, instead, taught discussion. Words dominate it. Shakespeare based his mastery on the words he used. Their sound invites answering. They are thoughts’ cavaliers. Shakespeare chose the words he used because of their sound more than their meaning in order to achieve his goal. In theatre this works, because even if there is no clear understanding of the words, their sound always communicates. This is to say, that it does not really matter what words mean, but how they sound. There need to be discussion, or exchange of sounds, always. Small discussions or big discussions. Life can exist only in this way. Movement carries words that carry life. If, like nowadays, silence dominates, there is cold, loneliness and death. When people do not talk, life cannot exist. Life has the requirement of giving chance to dialogue. Of creating connections. However, maybe this pertains only to theatre. Life, probably, forgot what theatre taught her. This is a ground of discord between theatre and life. It is funny that, generally, in big cities theatre has more success that in small ones where discussions are favored by the environment. Perhaps, theatre succeeds in big cities because there, people enjoy seeing people connect, since their antenna is broken.

Genius

Genius

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Yesterday, I was lucky to be part as a cast member of a privately produced movie called East Hills. Young team, young actors and a movie for a young audience. Proactive and absurd script. The head addressed the entire team before the beginning of the rolling with the invite to anyone to have fun. Even if this announce sounded not the best for professionalism, the job done till now has been astounding. The seriousness that lies behind the cameras is incredible. The velocity of mind, the rapidity of intuition, the rigor of the choices, the Dalai Lama’s modesty and the sparkling air surrounding the set was vibrating. There was not time to praise anyone: unacceptable. Fun is work. That is what define genius. The ability of being efficient, organized and interesting.

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What I noticed made me spot differences in the two countries I have lived and love. Italy and the United States of America. When one walks, the other runs. Where one beautifies it, the other makes it efficient. One is family, the other opportunities. I do not prefer either. I love them both, even if not equally, but the possibilities even the two. I have always thought, even before I landed, that things worked much more in America than in Italy. I probably thought it true since I lived in a small city in Italy, and I came to huge metropolis in America. That small city, however, nurtured me and instructed me on how to be in this other huge city. One of the best professor I ever had used to quote a phenomenal movie (Amici Miei, or My friends) when describing genius. The quotation goes like this, “What is genius? It is fantasy, intuition, ability to glance and practical speed”. I believe that the knowledge of being able to possess such qualities instigated me to come to the States in order to follow my theatrical dreams.

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Because theatre works in the place where genius excels. Fantasy shall belong to any theatregoer, for definition. Intuition shall help to understand the complexities of man. Glancing shall seize the opportunities. Finally, practical speed belongs to those who are able to make things come true. In addition, if the word life substitutes the word theatre at the beginning of this paragraph, the sentences that before stay true. Finally, as movie making can be in many ways different but always connected to theatre, it is to appreciate the connection between these forms of representation, or of life.

Private in public

Private in public

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Being private in public is tremendously difficult. It goes against society. People do not want to be private in public. What would be the reasons to show one of the hidden part of one’s life? However, it is a fact that when one can be private in public, then this one does not have problems anymore. Because he has accepted himself. He can flow in life without problems like a feather landing on a garden. Because he has succeeded in doing the most difficult connection ever. The one within his self.

Being private in public is a requirement of theatre. Only then, there may be reality. Reality, in fact, is never around, but always inside. Anton Chekhov was a master in this. The relations he created were so sincere to be unabashed. For in those rooms, all the feelings would have come out just from sitting on a chair. E. L. Doctorow’s Drinks Before Dinner made the inner life of a quite group of friends sitting around the table, almost snap in a tragedy. Truth, therefore, is only private. When an actor can be as sincere as when he is private, when in front of an audience, then his acting has succeeded. He has done the scene. The eyes of the audience will never lose any of his movements. Because once a person acts truly, then he attracts. When a person is doing anything with an objective, then he is interesting. Being private in front of an audience is one of the most difficult act ever. I remember one friend of mine who told me he had gotten the essence of acting as he, in front of an acting teacher, had succeeded in masturbating himself. The only thought would scare me to death and, by the way, I would not be able. Another friend of mine went up for a scene in a class I was taking; he began washing dishes, meanwhile narrating the most private story I ever heard: his first homosexual experience. He did it, with such an honesty that I thought I was his image in the mirror. All the events he narrated felt as vivid as only life can be. He did that as honestly as he could have done when talking to himself while performing a mundane activity. His action was true. That is why he attracted all the class’ attention, and mine, forever.

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Being private in public does not pertain to life. It cannot happen. Nobody shall be as personal in life as when one is in the restroom. There, he closes the door. Nothing come out. Because what would, would not pass the requirements to exist in society. It would be unacceptable. However, man produces so much beauty at times, when alone. What if I say that whatever may happen behind that door would be the most exquisite form of life, ever. Because the most pure and sincere actions always come, when in private. One can understand the relationship between two mates when one speaks about the other, privately. Many times in public, it would be completely different. A couple would never act as in bed with one’s own partner, when on the streets. Never. Again, unacceptable. Life could not sustain seeing herself, if not in the dark. If a couple would show what happens when privately together, then the world would ostracize them. Life can only learn from theatre, here, how to believe and accept what it calls a crime.

Fireworks

Fireworks

What is in the fireworks that is so damning attractive? Explosions. Fire in the air. Lights sparkling all over. A belligerent conflagration of sounds and vision. These are the two most attracting senses, the easiest to excite. In this way, fireworks bring a feeling of joy and freshness in everyone, even in the people gathered in the unfathomable humidity of the beginning of July in New York City. These fireworks covey just one word: independence. Independence of seeing the most glorious of human invention. Because when the destroying power does not offend, it excites joy. Joy in the ability of being so uncontrollable powerful that it does not even matter if what we are producing is hell in heaven. In this case, it is a made-believe independence, because when destroying power is as an attraction, it is difficult to discern it from its dangerousness. Independence, however, is also the one of those who lose their mind in these fireworks. It is the one of those that stand alone in the crowd, as it is of those that are with friends. Everyone sees in these arrows in the sky millions of connections. Thinking about past, present, or future objectives, everyone mesmerizes seeing these shining colors in the dark sky. Like on a black canvas, the fireworks can take the shape anyone wants to see. The flowers that bloom in the sky, in a night with fireworks, are the lines on which everyone writes his own stories. Finally, fireworks celebrate the independence of those who actually made it, and that want to celebrate with explosions. Fireworks here symbolize those who shouted freely the separation from those others who were their enslavers, when smoke still gripped the earth. The separation from King George III is what today still inspires people from all over the word, on July 4.

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(Photo by Sonny)

                Fireworks belong in the same industry of theatre, too. For theatre, it is always an explosion of emotions in front of an audience. Sometime fireworks are the most exciting part of the day, in the same way as on the stage there always happen heightened moments, or moments that are worth seeing, moments that bring forward the story. Theatre, in this case dos not refer only to the one happening on stage, but also to any showing, or any acting in daily life. Like the acting of those who say something, meaning something completely different. In any case, this kind of acting aims only to bring the story forward, to create other connections. As theatre speaks about relations, fireworks symbolize how to move forward. Fireworks lighten the dark nights of festivities, because they are supposed to show the exploding potential power in everyone’s future.

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Wallace Shawn’s The Fever

Wallace Shawn’s The Fever

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Is this play talking about life? Under whose point of view? What is its meaning? Why so much talking? What does it discover? Is it theatre? If it is life, how can it be so dark? If the point of view is the narrator’s, is not our self-speaking?

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The mind behind The Fever is Wallace Shawn. In 1991, he wrote a 40 pages play on a thought he had in mind. He opened with this piece in Los Angeles, after having previously proposed it in many New York’s apartments. The author performed the piece too. The Fever is, in fact, a glorious solo performance. Perhaps, it had a little too much revision. For it is a monologue, but not a stream of consciousness. As it is an absurd piece, it lost some of the spark that absurdity brings in itself. Many arguments he writes about come out at the same time, in an almost too diametrical connection. Any paragraph changed the argument and the gear of the play. The result was a vivid fire. Unfortunately, though, this fire never became the conflagration it should have been. Wallace Shawn exposed his thought about an America that destroys and annihilates man.

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Reading it, in this period, seems that Shawn wrote it, after having seen what happened 27 years later. For his ideas are recent. For his description of life is as naked and as dark, as today’s news narrate. For many, if not all, the affirmations Shawn stated are relevant in today’s life. His narrator ends the play, as he began it. He could not find consolation in any one. Not even in his own self. He could not change anything about the lacking of this world. He could only try to feel sorry, faking such an emotion. Shawn’s experiment deals with life in its entirety, in the connections and in the cruelty it produces, it noticed man when pondering over certain manners. His wondering about the meaning of everything brings him in being self-defeated, and in the end being sincerely sorry for his self. It is a play about the coming apocalypse. On July 4, evidently, the aliens are still seeing the earth as an ideal place. However, this time, they may find it empty.

Shawn wrote a play about the contrasts in life. The connections he makes logically come from the vision he has had about a world, of which he cannot discern the meaning. As any good narrator, Shawn exposed the problem he is seeing, in the hope that a solution may be in the coming. I would have liked to hear Shawn’s opinion on the Indian American flute singer, in the subway station of Times Square on the Independence Day, 2018.

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Improv and jazz

Improv and jazz.

There are so many arts infused in life and even only so many in just one event. If one is able to attend more events in a day is a lucky person.

I was lucky yesterday as I volunteered for the non-profit organization All Stars Project. I house-staffed for the Del Close marathon, organized by UCB. After that, I went to Brooklyn, at Flying Lobster (144 Union St, Brooklyn, NY 11231) to hear some excellent jazz by Nick Green, Alon Benjamini and Alon Neer. In this way, my day felt like magic.

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First, volunteering for UCB’s improv marathon has been fulfilling. Even without seeing any show, I felt part of each of them, improvising too. I got to help a huge number of people, even if just through eye contact. The passion and the excitement I have had from many filled me up with so much energy that I then could use to help even many others. Volunteering at All Stars Project always brings me in touch with wishful people. It is great to relate to each of them even if just for a few seconds. Some gratitude I got back was enough to make my day successful. However I felt realized also because I felt like improvising all the times I met anyone. For life, as for theatre, requires always to improvise, but then again, as for theatre, improvising is never really improvising. It is being able to play with something that is proper. The improv person can jiggle with his own personality while relating to many others and to their stories. All of this while paying attention to what is happening. Acting, like living, is an action that shall take place without thinking, in order to making it lighter and flowing. Like an improvisation. For the best actions always come when unwanted: when surprising, disconcerting movements come off from one’s own body and help toward the achieving of an objective.

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I thought a lot about this listening and seeing my friend Nick’s jazz band playing after volunteering. For always, what is happening in front of me surprises me. Jazz music, in particular, as a language itself, communicates me the joy of living. Tonight a drummer, a saxophonist and a drummer composed the band. As any band, they were so in tune with themselves to seem unreal. “What is happening cannot be true”, I thought. Just pondering about all that magic, I realized how lucky I was. I am speaking, as an ignorant of music, just noticing what I witnessed tonight. The players, so in tune with themselves, seemed having played so many times together. For they knew exactly to create uniqueness from all those sounds that they were producing. They seemed improvising while knowing so well their means. As the band played in unison, there came times, in which, each of them, stopped for some beat, and then reentered in rhythm with the others. This happened many times, with a simplicity that made me shiver. “How could it happen, so fast? Do all players know all those sequences?” I could not believe it. Probably I am just a stupid being surprised for something so natural to those who have ever played an instrument. Although, to me, a person who loves art and has listened to live jazz before, the connection the players are able to generate is always something singular, and captivating.

For music works, for music unites, for music puts everything on a wave of beauty that leaves a halo in the listeners’ heart that never fades. Music has this power, being a similarly-improvised art that creates connection. Between the players, between the audience and throughout everything it enters in contact with, music always astonish. Jazz, like a cupid, sheds its arrows all around. For without love there cannot be music, or art, or life. Music, in its entirety, succeeds because it is an art. Art succeeds because creates connections. As for theatre. As for life.