I've written in the past a little bit about the value of making mistakes. It's one of those lessons that I just keep having to learn over and over again, more recently in the form of trying to learn Italian. Last night was yet another lesson for our workshop at Marywood University, and a lesson to all of us, I think, in a willingness to make mistakes. The fact is, we learn faster with the more mistakes we make. The obstacle is, we all seem to want to "be good," to impress our peers and maintain a high status by way of proving something. Some of us (Me) have more difficulty confronting this obstacle than others of us (Friend Todd). It takes a very real courage to leap in and start trying, blind. Ironically for me, this is one of the things we are trying to teach to the students at Marywood.
Just maybe, however, it's getting to be easier for me.
Last night was not an enthusiastic success as far as my comrades were concerned, yet I found it to be very gratifying. Several of our exercises with them went a bit too long, or didn't grab their imaginations. Of course, it was a much more exercise-intensive workshop, as opposed to the game-intensive ones prior to now. This was part of our effort to emphasize a shift to skill-building for the festival performance this Monday, but also to demonstrate to the students what that work would really entail before they had to make their decisions regarding whether or not they would continue in our course. So after a few quick, energetic games to get spirit up, we delved back into exploring animal physicality, this time with an animal of their own choosing, which we segued into the improvisational game "Party Quirks," only with animals instead of psychoses or professions or some such. It was very interesting to watch them integrate (and fail to integrate) the lessons of listening and specificity from the day prior. It was also curious to see them tend to push their animal characters into an intellectual, or "clever," place instead of using simple physicality and appetites. Getting them out of their heads is proving an interesting challenge; small surprise there, what with the rest of their days probably being devoted to typical classroom education.
After the break, Paulette Merchel introduced the second half by explaining to them their upcoming choice in some detail: the time commitment, the nature of the work, etc. According to our plan, I undercut her somewhat dire announcement by entering midway in the character of Dewey Cheatem, a very broadly characterized horny old man character (imagine the personality of Pantalone with the physicality of Dottore) from our show
. The students were somewhat shocked by his ribaldry, but it also broke the tension, especially when he hit on Dr. Merchel. It was nice to play him again. It's a character that really knows where to go, and what he wants, so is also hopefully a good demonstration of the kind of character that makes public performance somewhat easier.
In the second half we worked with them on character impersonation, utilizing one another and their homework to observe a stranger and emulate his or her physicality. Unfortunately, many of them either misunderstood or didn't prepare the assignment, and ended up bringing in a person they already knew, which taints the observation with prejudice, making it more of a caricature than an exploration. Still, there was value in their demonstrations of these people en masse, as we stepped back and watched them work. Afterward we discussed, and tried to suggest to them a need for impartial observation and discovery.
The last thing we did was to simply sit down with them and discuss the details of what they could expect from both La Festa Italiana and
, should they be cast in the latter. This was most helpful, and gratifying, as it was clear to me that we had gained their trust and that they were interested in at least the show, even if they were cautious. I do worry that they are
too interested in La Festa (there were rather fewer questions about that, which I would expect there to be more worry over if they were planning on being a part of it), and so we've discussed--in light of that and various scheduling conflicts students have with it and
--allowing anyone who wants to attend the workshops to continue, and just be clear about whether or not they're a part of La Festa.
Today will be very interesting. We may fall on our faces, as only a few (or perhaps none) choose to be involved with the next step. At least it's good to consider that such a mistake may lead us to making an even better choice.