ZdG Busking Workshop Day Four: Character Hunting

The only complaint I have about last night's workshop was that we were relegated to the old gymnasium, owing to some dance team or other vying for our space. The old gymnasium (for those of you planning a trip out to olde Marywood U. in the near future) is a place most resolutely to be avoided. In the spirit of old gyms everywhere, it is hot, stuffy, and cavernous. The floor feels like hardwood laid on concrete, and no amount of fans or open doors solves a damn thing. We had to be sure to offer plenty of breaks for water and rest to our dozen students last night.

That's right: a dozen. We have our players for La Festa Italiana, and I am very happy both with the numbers and the spirit in the rehearsal room. The players are eager, and receptive, and last night we started them on building their characters. In spite of the heat--and perhaps, in some ways, because of that shared adversity--we really came together in the fashion of a familiar ensemble and began to work in earnest. After getting them started on building characters through all three walk-about exercises (leading centers, animals and appetites), we briefly outlined our vision of their scenario as we discussed it that morning. That is, a pair of feuding families--the Rossalinis and the Verdelonis--who own restaurants in town and are vying for the support of the public.

It's an exciting phase. They are well on their way to creating something detailed, tangible and fun that will stay with them well beyond the use in La Festa, and possibly

Prohibitive Standards

. There were a few surprises last night. I had forgotten just how emotionally available I had been at their ages, and some of the players took the character building to a very dark place and serious emotions. I was concerned for a time that we may have led one or two down a primrose path to self-doubt and difficult pain. We discussed it extensively, however, and found that those who went to dark places were better equipped to accept that as part of the work and move on. I tried to emphasize that all their discoveries, even those that feel like no fun, are valid in contributing to the creation of a character. I also made sure they knew, however, that they must love their character, no matter how flawed he or she may be, in order to play it for some time.

Tonight we get down to some real nitty-gritty stuff, developing specific relationships and encouraging the students to discover solo performances they can use in a public context. It's so exciting. It's so rewarding to see the tools I've been using for years--not really from any one place or specific training, but from experience and improvisation--working for other people. Not to mention learning all-new approaches from Geoff and Dave. It's great work, and I'm grateful to have it.