In our workshop with Leon today, we began creating our 22 different Titans for our performance coming up this Saturday. And since Leon is a bit of a philosopher, we got into some fascinating ideas about theatre more broadly, too.
After some Suzuki work, we discussed the physical tradition of theatre. Leon pointed out that theatre, in many Western cultures, is disconnected from its roots. He said, “We don’t know how the first Greek theatre was performed!” While in some places, like Japan, traditions have been upheld for hundreds of years, others have been stamped out by the onward march of time, preserved only in part in writing. The issue stems from the physical nature of theatre. It is more than just what is written down? It is an embodied art form that lives in us and relies on techniques and feelings that writing cannot touch.
Leon also talked about the difference between traditional Aristotelian structure and the traditional Japanese artistic concept of jo-ha-kyū. Rather than having a beginning, a climax in the middle, and an end, jo-ha-kyū follows an upward trajectory. Things emerge, embody, and then explode! We used this concept as we did independent physical improvisations based on metaphors we created for our titans. And after exploring for a few minutes, he asked us to start over, finding new things by working from a blank slate rather than getting stuck in any particular choice (even if it was a one we liked).
Something Leon said that resonated with me was that “the access point to universality is specificity.” Our titans generally represent broad concepts, but it is more interesting to watch and perform if we find bits of nuance that we can embody (an animalistic quality, for example). He encouraged to fail big, too, which I really appreciated because it gave us the freedom to try new things and let mistakes be generative.
Before the workshop I was feeling nervous about how I would go about the embodiment of a Greek titan, but now I’m really looking forward to our performance on Saturday, and am already seeing the fun distinctions between the 22 titans in our midst!