I've been acting my Quaker self for a couple of weeks: a retreat, a yearly meeting (PYM) full of sessions and queries and friends and Friends and new and renewed connections. I think I made a commitment to rejoining Quakers in the Arts today. I also "anchored" the afternoon session in which PYM passed the yearly meeting budget. To anchor means 'to hold in the Light," so I did not so much attend the meeting as I did feel the spirit of the session, put prayer around its attendees, their ways of testifying, and the smooth moving forward of the agenda. In previous years I felt the strong affect of a few people sitting aside to tend to the overall meeting, so I was glad to take on the role. I will pay physically for sitting so long, but I am full of smiles for doing it.
Before dinner I attended a "Telling our Stories" Holy Experiment (workshop) in which the leader talked a great deal about the importance of word choice and gesture and we told stories of our experiences with the nonverbal aspects of communication and how--despite commonalities across cultures--we can make some big bloopers. My story was about being in Italy with the members of a theatre company I was studying. We were praising the food in our effusive American way--and even broader--because most of us did not speak Italian and so we were gesturing and pointing, etc. Later I discovered that our hosts assumed we were overacting and not only being stupid, but also lying. They thought we disliked their food and trusted us less after that interaction.
Words. As a stage director, I called non-verbal run-throughs as well as normal dress rehearsals because I wanted to be sure that body language communicated even if my viewers were not English speakers. I'm not talking about overacting or "indicating" but I am talking about being theatrical. Fun theatrical moments can be made of an opposite meaning between what the body is doing/saying and what the words/tone are saying.
What's the equivalent for poetry? I think, like in music, it is the meter, rhyme and vocal emotion that reach beyond the words. Also sound choices like onomatopoeia and alliteration contribute a lot to mood and meaning. And PERFORMANCE! On the blogs, sound clouds allow the poet's voice to carry the poem and pictures add meaning just as they do in children story book.
I read my poem "Making Theatre" at the workshop because I thought it addressed the workshop leader's points, and now I realize that was MY holy experiment--to speak my art here. I do not know how the rest of the workshop went, because--believe it or not--I am an introvert who has to recover a bit from public speaking my OWN things (teaching is not a problem). It felt wonderful. It was a little story, a tiny piece of a life, but it took our talk of words and non-verbals in a slightly different direction and I felt great. Remember what poet Audre Lorde said? "It is better to speak." And to act.
The theatre director has to expose his uncertainties to the cast,
but in reward he has a medium which evolves as it responds:
a sculptor says that the choice of material continually
amends his creation: the living material of actors
is talking, feeling and exploring all the time —
rehearsing is a visible thinking-aloud.
-Peter Brook, The Empty Space
I wrote it.
I speak it.
I listen to an actor speak it
A wonder! it has more than I thought.
Where is she from and where is she going?
I ask, and starting here, the actor creates
the character's movement for me
with the actor’s added motivation,
always asking "what would I do if?"
what would I mean if?
and who am I doing it to?
and why? Why?
Wanting something is key
(at least in the Western world)
without desire there is no drive
and without drive, there is no show.
Even words are empty gestures
when they should be strategies.
Use s t i l l n e s s until you must
speak until you must move.
What would you
do if . . . ?
You must speak
called a script,
but this script
is mayhaps only 7%
of what I mean.