Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Well, not really stagecraft but a short weekend course in theater. Claudia had organized this weekend class of theater with a teacher with whom she had taken a class once before. The idea is not that anyone attending is seeking to become an actor but in learning some acting techniques and doing some self-revelation that is part of the training, one can release some of what we all have inside us but keep hidden away. So, being game for almost anything, and Claudia having a silver tongue I signed up.

Flyer for the Theater class

Flyer for the Theater class


Subtitle of the flyer (more or less): “Theatrical study for one who has the will to laugh at himself” – If anyone Italian is reading this please leave a comment to correct my translation attempt.

So from the flyer that Claudia prepared (she’s the one on the left with the long hair) you can see that it’s 5 hours (!) on Saturday and almost 9 hours (!!!) on Sunday. Actually we started a little late both days (seems to be a very Italian way of doing things) so it wasn’t too bad. There were movement exercises designed to help loosen up, including some on the floor which are difficult for me so I mostly sat those out. Then there was free form dance for awhile – interesting and at first enjoyable but went on too long for me.

Then there were exercises in improvisation. I wanted to throttle the person that suggested that I should be a lamp… how does a lamp look, talk, walk??? Not easy and I really didn’t think especially useful. Everyone had a hard time with that. Stefano offered some examples but frankly, although he could be quite expressive with his face, body and voice, much of his depictions were pretty much the same.

There was one exercise where two people were paired up and instructed to have a strong argument with one another. I was paired with Elena the 19 year old German girl that is a student of Claudia’s at the school. She was to be my daughter and we were to be arguing. He said just speak in English and she can speak in German. We did and it really didn’t matter because I realized that in a big blowout argument people don’t listen to each other much anyway. In fact an interesting observation is that when Italians are talking and ESPECIALLY when they are arguing they talk at the same time and nobody seems to really listen to the other.

We each then sang a little bit. That was hard for almost everyone, not so much because most of us sang relatively poorly but also because we didn’t know the words to the songs. So the homework assignment was to pick a song, write out the lyrics and if possible memorize them. I found this to be difficult in an unexpected way. The songs that I like the best I found almost impossible to sing without bring tears to my eyes (I’m an incurable romantic). So I settled on Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis). One, I like it; two, it’s not a heart touching song and three, I figured that the Italians would be familiar with it – they were.

So when my turn came I sang it, then he said OK, now sing louder, I did. Now sing even louder and play a make-believe guitar and play to the audience. Finally he said, OK, now sing it as though you were a seductive woman. This was fun and when you consider the lyrics it adapted well to this version. This was one of the more straight out fun exercises.

Moving right along we had some exercises that were more self revelatory now that we had become more intimately acquainted by making fools of ourselves without becoming too self conscious about it. We did role playing where we had a conversation to get to know the other person followed by an argument. Then there was an exercise to recall a serious argument that you had with someone and think of what might have been thinking and wish that you could have said – one line. Then in turn each person got up and shouted that line. A really interesting exercise was to close your eyes and wander around touching whatever surface or person you happened across. People react differently with their eyes closed. One woman, for instance, who was fairly cold in demeanor was much warmer under those circumstances. She’s the tall one on the right in the photo below. I was pretty sure that it was her because of height hair and how she was dressed.

The final exercise was for each of us to assume the identity of an imaginary character and imagine ourselves in the waiting room at the airport. I found that because of my language limitations what worked best for me was to play to the reality. So I was an American with somewhat limited Italian. I purposely spoke broken Italian but tried to use English words that were very similar to Italian so that the Italians would understand them. It was kinda fun.

The group - please click on the image to see everyone.

The group – except for Claudia who took the picture

Stefano, the instructor is the one to my right with the gray sweatshirt.

2 Responses to “Stagecraft”

  1. Margaret Stroad Says:

    Joe, what an incredibly brave thing to do, especially in Italian. Bravo!

  2. Joe Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Margaret. Yeah, it wasn’t easy in Italian but it I was good me. After all, after over 12 hours of continuous exposure to the language you can’t help but pick up some increased knowledge. Not of vocabulary but how it is actually structured for conversation.


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