When you read the word 'theatre,' what images come to mind? Vaudevillian costume? Bright, dazzling lights and roses on the stage as the curtain is drawn? Maybe you think of the stage designers dressed in black who run the show from behind the scenes.
Even so, what many fail to think of is the work that goes on before the curtain is called.
On 14/15 February, QACI's newest Year 10 theatre ensemble took to the stage dressed in theatre blacks and socks for two 8-hour days of Suzuki Intensive training.
Suzuki Tadashi is a world-renowned Japanese theatre director and the creator of the Suzuki method of actor training. Through this method, actors become extremely aware of their own bodies---particularly their centres, where, in Japanese culture, the soul is kept---and of their surroundings and ensemble. Like soldiers, actors stand in line on stage with their knees bent, shoulders relaxed, and eyes fixated ahead. This is the neutral position. The actors appear to be completely frozen. Yet, still, the audience is captivated by a sense of bursting energy through each of those on stage. Ellen Lauren, an artistic director at the SITI Company, a teacher at Juilliard, and a guest artist with the Suzuki Company of Toga, said; 'Suzuki likens the actor to a spinning top that appears most calm and still when still going top speed.' (2011)
To stay still in a world that is constantly moving is a difficult act. Even more difficult, maybe, is the act of keeping the illusion of stillness while moving along the floor.
This brings us to our first exercise---the Stamp and Shakuhachi. The actors position themselves at random in front of their audience. The music swells. At the count of eight, the actors spring into motion; stamping their feet on the ground and moving across the floor, while their top half remains completely still. Imagine covering the entire lower half of an actor with your hand and watch as that actor now moves through the space as though moving along a travelator. Then, as the music comes to a close, the actors will begin "Moving to the back!" and form a line upstage, still stamping to the beat of their ensemble's drum. Finally, everyone falls to the ground.
The audience is still captivated.
The actors are rising up now, slowly, onto their feet. They move downstage, staring forward into the audience. Their expression calm; their legs shaking. One foot after the other. Forwards, forwards, forwards. This is the second part of their act. Each actor creates an image with their torso, the first image that came to mind when they fell to the ground. It's intimate, and it's slow, but the audience can't look away. The ensemble is magnetised.
After participating in one of QACI's infamous theatre traditions, the stair run, (which some members of the ensemble grew extremely fond of,) the actors also engaged in a few storytelling exercises; Manhattan Story, Chicago Story, and Prague Story. In each of the exercises, the actors lined up in even lines on opposite sides of the studio. Then, in three trips, they moved slowly towards each other, and created a story as they went. In Manhattan Story, each of the members of the ensemble acted as 'The World's Best Assassin,' and had to use an improvised weapon to kill their partner. Tools of the trade included knives, arrows and guns as well as the lesser known sandwiches, books, and dice. Then, in Chicago Story, the actors created a romance between themselves and their partner. Roses, wedding rings, and happy endings. Prague Story changed the game----the ensemble was allowed to kill their partner, fall in love with their partner, or both. Kiss, Marry, Kill.
Nonetheless, the Suzuki Intensive brought members of the ensemble extremely close to one another. The two days were as the name suggests: Intensive. Yet as intense as they were, each actor left the studio in their blacks smiling, energised, and ready for the three years ahead. They were a learning experience unlike any other. If you happen to pass by the theatre studio, don't be alarmed to hear rhythmic stomping, loud thuds, or the wailing of dramatic deaths.
This is now a way of life for QACI's newest ensemble.
...article written by Bea Callander, Year 10