Monday, February 17, 2014

"I am America" performance by the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Toronto.

The Open Program after I am America performance in Toronto (Photo by Gustavo Thomas © 2014)




Last night the Studio Theatre of the U of T was again packed, this time to see "I am America" by the guys from the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards.

It was a great night, full of energy and, as some of the people said during the short Q&A session, with many reminiscences of the Grotowskian tradition of doing things.

Once more singing was a very important part of the work but not the less the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, the vocal game and in some moments a very impressive fluidity of the movement of many of the actors.

If in "Electric Party Songs" we saw a young group singing, this time we saw and noticed a theatrical group of young artist doing very well what they wanted to do and that is remarkable, as spectator very appreciable and enjoyable.

Public was less shy in the applause and more enthusiastic in their comments after the performance.

Some of the guys of the Open Program are very young but it was impressive the way they grew on stage during their actions.

Being a critical work on America, the country, through the voice and questions of immigrants (if I understood correctly) I felt opened to the critic of the Americanism, and some of the ironies there were very enjoyable; America is a country and a being who they (or we?) dream with, fall in love, hate and think eternally about.

I kept some images in my memory, especially around the American flag used as a dress and wings, and some remarkable vocal and physical moments.

I couldn't avoid to recall the taste of "Akropolis" (one of the great works directed by Grotowski) during some editions of actions and in the tempo of the actors' work.

At the end, again during the short Q&A session, and old man mentioned about the difference between the joy he felt in this work and the suffering (probably he used other word) people felt in the first Grotowskian works, and Mario Biagini made him notice that the inner work of the main actor in The Constant Prince, Cieslak, was a line of associations related with a very pleasurable moment during the adolescent years of the actor (his first sexual encounter) but the public, worked by the edition of the actions by the director, saw other thing, a man being tortured. Joy then has been always present in this group, even without the physical presence of Grotowski, and this time openly exposed.

Finally I can say that Mario, actor himself, is a master of directing audiences when talks about his work with Grotowski and the group, using his own skills to reach the people who is listening to him, we all were almost static with his words about Grotowski giving to the people through his work, founding the truth (Mario’s truth) in his voice and body in every sentence, giving us what is in his experience as an artist and as human being.

Lovely moments, and now looking forward to see what will happen next in this residence of the Open program in Toronto, with their masterclasses, screening and performances to come.

(I didn't take any photographs of the performance, sorry. I wanted to concentrate myself in the work I was going to see. So, you have here only two of the group during the applause, just as a visual document of the event).



Mario Biagini speaking after the performance of I am America in Toronto (Photo by Gustavo Thomas © 2014)





Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.




Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Phantom", a Butoh improvisation in front of Athabasca Glacier, Jasper.

Silent Shout -Butoh improvisation in front of Athabasca Glacier- (Jasper National Park. Gustavo Thomas © 2013)
Silent Shout -Butoh improvisation in front of Athabasca Glacier- (Jasper, Canada. Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

The Rocky Mountains are an impressive line of mountains which goes from the United States to northern Canada. Following one to another dozens of national parks were created in the two countries for the conservation of these natural wonders. As myself living in Canada considered a must visiting this place and this summer of 2013 went to the national parks of Banff and Jasper in the province of Alberta.

Very personal reasons (as always happens) took me there, but I kept the wish to do some Butoh improvisations in those landscapes full of snowy mountains, huge glaciers and beautiful lakes.

Performing Butoh in these places was not only for framing my work with a beautiful -or impressive- natural setting, but also entailed a real Butoh practicing in total relation with the basic teachings of  Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, the creators of Butoh in Japan: the dialogue with the natural environment with our movement. Our body, in the thought of Hijikata, has been domesticated in every way through the life in the city, our movements are codified and we must seek break those codes (Kazuo Ohno spoke of moving our body with the impulse coming from the heart); a way to break those codes of movement is going back to our natural sources, places which by their unique force bring us back to our primordial state. That means, of course, hard work, practice and exploration, but since I started my work with Butoh I decided that this exploration with the natural sources should have a big importance in my professional life, a big importance in my own technical findings.  


I am a man born and raised in a city, so I could not go to find my sources to my original place out of the city -like Hijikata in the Akita region, for example-, but I can go to places where I feel impressed by their beauty or by their own force. Every improvisation in those places brings the source I'm looking for, it is an adventure and I feel how my body revolutionizes itself, feeling the soil, the wind, the sun, the extreme weather.

Butoh Improvisation in Front of Athabasca Glacier (From my Butoh Vlog. Jasper, Canada. Gustavo Thomas © 2013)
The walking phantom -Butoh improvisation in front of Athabasca Glacier- (Jasper, Canada. Gustavo Thomas © 2013)
Weeks before this travel I had many rich and powerful experiences with several masters of Butoh, first in Japan with Yoshito Ohno, Natsu Nakajima and Seisuko, and after that with Denise Fujiwara, and Ko Murobushi who visited Toronto. All of them have a different interpretation of Butoh but they are also great teachers and guides, so I can find my own way of absorbing their teachings without any fight in my mind. Those teachings were practised in these improvisation in The Rockies and I felt great.

In this post I share one of the four improvisations I performed there, but my plan, if I find the time to edit everything, is to share the all four, of course.

With this video in the Blog you can see some photographs I considered of some value to illustrate better what I experienced.

Video "Phantom" 
Gustavo Thomas Butoh improvisation in front of Athabasca Glacier, Jasper



Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Butoh Solo Improvisation at Saurbaer Church Graveyard, Northern Iceland (December, 2013)




Here the video I extracted the photographs posted in this Blog some months before. Remember that the temperature in Saurbaer was almost minus 15 degrees Celsius with cold winds, so just I'm asking you to imagine that the movement of the camera is what filmmakers call "subjective shot" and not someone dying of cold.

As is common with my Butoh videos, the music you listen is not what I was listening in that moment (in this case none). Hope you like it.

Video
Butoh Solo Improvisation at Saurbaer Church Graveyard, Northern Iceland (December, 2013)




Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.


Friday, June 28, 2013

An Interview about González Caballero's Acting Method




Last May 14th the book on Antonio González Caballero’s acting method was presented during the week dedicated to commemorate his work. Due to engagements I had previously committed to, I could not attend in person, so I sent a video of about 10 minutes to do the presentation in a virtual manner.

For that same event, Diana Ham, a member of the Teatro de Árbol group (the organizers of the event), sent me a series of questions - an interview - for me to answer in another video that would be shown during the presentation. The lack of time (and possibly of interest, which I’ll explain later) made it impossible for me to record yet another video with these answers, but just days before the date of the presentation of the book I decided impulsively to answer them in writing so that at least they could be read in part that day, which is what happened.

For some years I’ve decided not to speak directly (in public) about the acting method unless I had something written in advance and that had been reviewed carefully by me. When one speaks while thinking, interesting things happen, but also unforeseen ones that lead to big misunderstandings that I do not want to repeat, at least consciously. So putting things in writing was ultimately the best way to fulfil this commitment.

Answering these questions has, in turn, helped me define my own position on the research, collection and analysis of the method of Antonio González Caballero, and I thought it important to publish them on this Blog (and on the sites that talk about the method) so they can, if such is the case, be discussed or analyzed.

I have left the questions exactly as Diana Ham sent them, while my words may differ somewhat from what I initially sent for the presentation.

Here is the interview:


1. How did you meet Antonio González Caballero?

The first time I had contact with Antonio González Caballero was when I was a teenager, in October 1982, at Arte Escénico (Instituto de Arte Escénico) where I studied acting; he was substituting for an acting teacher. While other teachers put us to work directly with scenes of plays, he directed us through an exercise of footsteps and elements that opened an unknown door towards my sensitivity and creativity. His personality, on the other hand, was very affable, comparing with the ego full of whims of the other theatre teachers I had known.


2. How was your experience like learning the method proposed by Antonio González Caballero?

As I spent more time at the school (Arte Escénico) I discovered that acting classes with González Caballero were giving me more than anything the other teachers were giving me in the same institute. After a controversial (due to its irreverence and absurdity) dropping out of school of most of my generation (we were against the policies of the directing body), we went to take the master's workshop at the home of Norma Román Calvo, who also offered to give us theatre history classes independently.

Dropping out is a decision I call absurd because I did not finish acting school, which eventually haunted me for years, though it was obviously a lucky decision for my creative life because it brought me to the method that is now a major part of that life.

From about six or eight students who started learning at the workshop, only two of us finished the whole process of assimilating the method, José Vera and me, which is why at the book presentation I thank José Vera for much of the impetus to write this method: he continually questioned the teachings of the master, I tried to explain them, convinced as I was of their usefulness, trying to translate them into a more general language to show they worked and why. That's what I've been doing for more than 25 years.


3. What difficulties did you face during the learning process?

Learning the acting supports ('apoyos actuacionales' in Spanish) posed no difficulty for me, every door they opened was to a world of creative and cultural opportunities, they gave me tools to solve technical problems in my profession, they made me read about the human being, learn about the history of theatre, observe life differently.

The difficulty in any case laid in finding that the directors I started working with did not know, let alone the method of González Caballero, but about acting, and that their directing methods were archaic or generally very basic.

But this "difficulty" also became fortunate: firstly, it forced me out of that small group of people who did know the work of González Caballero to seek out others who knew of acting and directing, and I have not stopped doing it since then, taking me this quest to the great living masters - and their heirs - of the theatre scene all over the world, literally; and secondly, it led me to become a director.


4. What elements or references from other proposals for acting training do you recognize in the methodology of  Antonio González Caballero?

For over 25 years I've dedicated myself to trying to find all the references and lines of similarity of the method of González Caballero with other techniques and methods around the world and through the history of performance, expanding now this search to the performing arts in general.

González Caballero was a great creator.  At the same time he was also was a huge collector and also a great interpreter of other methods.  Nevertheless it is clear that he developed his method based on the lack of methods at schools for actors in Mexico during the sixties and seventies, and also in response to what he considered a damaging interpretation of the method of Stanislavski, especially in regard to the use of the actor’s emotional memory. On the other hand, even though he didn’t follow the guidelines of performance exploration of Jerzy Grotowski, his voice method was mainly based on this research. His personal turmoils led him to the hermetic philosophy and to the westernized versions of Eastern teachings, especially the so called The Science of Mental Physics, which he used abundantly in the basis of the method itself: imagination and energy for transformation.

I think there is much more hidden there. Dozens of researchers and explorers are needed, as well as consuming time, to find all the references around the method of González Caballero.


5. Is the proposal of Antonio González Caballero a method or a technique? And why?

That’s a trick question because, from my point of view, it is a method as well as a technique:

- It is a method if what you want to discover in it is a creative methodology for the actor to create on stage, it is a way for creating (a total -or complete- character in this case).

- It is a technique because whoever has mastered this method has assimilated and obtained technical supports (the "apoyos") for a creative end (which one is not important).

The method, conceptually speaking, is a methodology for achieving a goal, the technique is the means used to achieve this objective: in our case, the technique would be the use of the acting supports, and the method would be the structure of these supports with the acting movements (corrientes actuacionales) -Realism, Naturalism, Super-Naturalism and Super-Realism- and the four authors -Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg and Pirandello- to achieve the creation of a full character for the scene in question.

Personally, now that the book of the acting method has been published, I'm more interested in the technical aspects of the method because it has given me the opportunity of using it in other fields of theatre, like in Butoh, for example, where it doesn’t matter if there is a character or not, but where I can freely use the method’s acting supports: I use the technique but do not follow the guidelines of the method. In that sense González Caballero becomes a theatrical scene theorist beyond the western modern theatre of Mexico and can be compared with leading researchers and creators worldwide.


6. From your perspective, what differenciates the method designed by Antonio González Caballero from other methods or pedagogical proposals for acting training?

The method of González Caballero is unique from the Mexican perspective, there is simply no other acting method as elaborate as this one in the history of Mexican theatre.  Even though there has been research and great acting teachers, both past and present, none of them has created a method from beginning to end like González Caballero did. In the world and in the history of theatre, that's even stranger than you can imagine: methods like these are few and far between.

These methods, which are rare to find in a finished state, acquire universality when one discovers them and explores their basic principles.

The method of González Caballero is unique because it is a creation of González Caballero himself, it is his own method.  Though he explored with different actors for over thirty years, it was him who gave names to the acting supports, he decided the path to follow, he decided the final objectives, he managed the exploration.  It is his own method, his personal creation towards which all who passed through his laboratory helped.

But I insist, the most important thing lies not in the differences with other methods but in its similarity to them and its twists, in that sense this creation is universal. Its universality is based on following certain principles that every creative being needs to create.

It is a Mexican method, which makes it different, and it is a universal method, which makes it a gem.


7. How important is the existence of an acting method created with the Mexican temperament in mind?

I do not think González Caballero had intended all those years to always address the Mexican temperament, I think it is much more simple: the method was explored by Mexicans because it was Mexicans who worked with him and it was a Mexican who created it. That would theoretically make it ideal for Mexicans to comprehend, but then I would get into a long discussion, because it is not always so.

I think it's a an acting method that has in mind the human temperament in general.


8. How is energy defined within the method/technique of Antonio González Caballero?

Energy in the technique is something concrete, it is physical, as in science. That’s all it is. If energy is not matter, if it is not a body, then it won’t exist on stage. It’s not about thinking it or desiring it, it’s learning to feel the transformation that it causes in the body. Practicing the acting supports ("los apoyos") makes us discover the physical powers of feeling energy, as simple as the basic footsteps exercise from the elements: it’s not about taking a step and acting that out, it is about stepping on the element and feeling it, its texture, its body, and being faithful to the impulse in order to start a transformation of the body. If changes in the body were measured while working the method’s supports we’d discover that there are specific physical changes (muscle tensing and relaxing, changes in the rate of blood flow, breathing, changes in the tension of sight, changes in body temperature), the energy the method talks about is physical.


9. How should one understand imagination with Antonio González Caballero?

Imagination is a powerful tool of humanity and its base is creativity, imagination is innate to creativity; the method directs creative imagination to achieve defined objectives; in the case of the complete method, the defined objective would be creating a full character as would be required from an actor in theatre, film and television today; in the case of each technical support (apoyo actuacional), creative imagination is the means to discovering emotions, depths, atmospheres, masks, etc.


10. How much of the method proposed by Antonio González Caballero depends on observation of everyday life and how much on imagination?

The use of your imagination will depend on the development of your observation capabilities, but if your imagination is let free, if it is channeled and it develops, even what little you may have observed in life will become great material to achieve something creative on stage. González Caballero knew that and although he asked us to observe the world he was not demanding in that area, he did not drive us to have experiences as other acting teachers do, who say that if you have not had diverse sexual experiences you can not be an actor, or that if you have not felt deep pain you will never feel that on stage. The most important thing for him was to use your imagination, with it we could create all necessary situations and achieve moments that were unimaginable for us but possible for a character.


11. How is the evolution of the ABC like during the technical process proposed by the methodology?

The ABC is one and it’s unique, it never changes: interior-body-voice will remain interior-body-voice to the end, it is a principle of work and is not something you can develop, it is something that is there.

What the actor should do is take conscience and let the ABC free and, with time and practice, that freedom develops to flow much better so we may achieve the creative goals that we may have set beforehand.


12. How did Antonio González Caballero arrive to the sequential order of the acting supports he explores?

After about 15 years, between 1971 and 1985, mainly through chance (as in all exploratory tasks). But more importantly, I think, was the exploration path he set with the four revolutionary authors of modern theatre (Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg and Pirandello) and the theatrical movements -or tendencies- (Naturalism, Realism, Super-Naturalism, Super-Realism) they caused; they were the precursors for the sequencing of the acting supports of the method, as he realized that each current was channelled in the exposition of a concrete part of the human being.

If the goal was to create complete characters with a strong sense of truth and the four authors exposed human nature from four major perspectives (Chekhov with Naturalism and character, Ibsen with Realism and personality, Strindberg with Supernaturalism and the unconscious, and Pirandello with the Surrealism and the superego), then the path to follow regarding the sequence of the acting supports was clear.


13. Why choose only four authors of modern theatre as a basis of a methodology for the creation of a total character?

They were not chosen by him.  They, and this is widely acknowledged, are the proponents (some people say "creators") of modern theatre as such, of the modern character, the one that is used today and which we should use as starting point to break or discover new horizons.

In any case González Caballero decided not to use beforehand what was usually done, based on the study of stage directors or of theatre theoreticians, as basis of a method, but not the technique.

Many researchers are contained in the acting supports.  The most famous that comes to my mind is Stanislavski and the acting support in the method called  'character's emotional memory', for example, where González Caballero transfers the application of Stanislavski’s emotional memory from the actor to the character: the actor does not use his own emotional memory to give it to the character but instead has the character create that emotional memory on stage , through improvisations that create that memory in the character. Even then Stanislavski's proposal is contained in Chekhov’s proposal.


14. Can we think of each of the acting supports as metaphors of human complexity?

The acting supports are technical tools, I would not call them metaphors, they are concrete tools.

You can philosophize much about them, of course, but they are practical tools, they turn creativity into something practical for the actor.


15. Do the supports allow becoming aware of human complexity, to then potentiate it on stage? Why?

When you view the method's acting supports from afar you discover a kind of deconstruction of our humanity, they are points of reference for our human encoding; if we look at them separately they are part of us, if we piece them together we see ourselves completely. Obviously their diversity and their combination create an unprecedented complexity, but through the method they become manageable, and they are technically very useful for any creative development on stage.

We could devote an entire creative career to just the acting support called Body Zones -zonas del cuerpo-, for example, or complete plays using only the acting support Masks; González Caballero didn’t ask for it, but it is a possible consequence of their exploration.

It is obvious that once one finishes the method and with the ability to create a complete human being on the stage we have greater awareness of human complexity, but also of its richness; by following your words, each acting support is potentially a way to address parts of our humanity.

González Caballero liked to say at some point that one of his goals was to make better human beings and that the best way to do that was through the method, that the method helped us to completely know ourselves or to be aware of all our human complexity.


16. Does the method / technique favour the construction of a fictional universe that takes the actor away from the idea of acting, to bring him to the experience of living a universe different from his?

The actor is not taken away from the idea of acting, but from idea that it is him who is the character: it is the character who is the character and who comes to life.  That creates a new experience: it's like living other lives without those being yours and without being affected yourself by them, except by increasing your experience and wisdom.


17. Is each acting support a door leading an actor to activate his infinite creative imagination? Why?

They are doors indeed, they are supports that support the actor in achieving certain goals, they are working tools; by being means to discover and explore a part of the human being and being something you can use on stage to create a character they become, depending on the artist's interests, endless possibilities or a specific training to address an issue in the scene: it needs emotions and complicated, deep, non-specific feelings, there are the Levels of Interrelationships and the Haiku, but if you want you can use the Levels of Interrelationships to create entire plays and the Haiku, needless to say, is an art in itself.


18. Is the method / technique functional for a director's work? (If the answer is yes, how?)

Directors who use the method of González Caballero can use, in a very interesting way, the actors educated with it, but I should warn that, according to González Caballero, it should not be an obstacle: the actor does his job and so does his director.

I am of the idea that a work with a unified common language between actor and director can help prevent problems, but that's my idea; González Caballero prepared us for going out and working well with directors who could either know the method well or ignore it completely.


19. What was a character for Antonio González Caballero?

A living being, just like any of us.  But even more so, since there are no limits to the imagination of the actor on stage, anything can be a character.


20. What is a character for you?

I believe in González Caballero’s open concept: any creation on the stage is a character. A character, according to modern theatre conceptology, is a complete human being, but the door is open, anything can be a character.

It is when we study and practice Strindberg proposals and the unconscious in acting when we discover that that Gonzalez Caballero wanted to see, how far the actor’s creation could go, where imagination and the magic came together, where we could devote hours to "forms", to "beings", to "projections" that open new paths for theatre. He used to say that Strindberg was the creator of the new theatre, and what he meant with this was that the subconscious was the door to the new theatre. My concept or what a character is would lean towards that perspective: it’s anything that can happen on stage.


21. What do you think is the importance of Antonio González Caballero’s pedagogical proposal for the actor of the 21st century?

That will depend on the amount of people who are willing to assimilate it, use it and explore it to find new paths; it will depend on there being groups wanting to work with it, schools that wish to use it and actors who want to do something with it; it will depend also on there being people who want to do something else, in open new frontiers with the principles of the method as starting point. If that is achieved, it will be very interesting, it will be fertile ground for many more things.


22. Do you consider that the proposal can evolve? Why? (and if the answer is yes, how?)

Obviously I am a fervently interested in the idea that González Caballero’s proposal itself may evolve. But the acting method, in the case of the book, is a moment in the history of that method, it’s like a stop that helps us discover the method in a way that would be very difficult to do if we were always in exploration and movement. It is not a formula, it is not a closed proposal, it is like a photograph, a stopping in time that captures texts, voices, ways of doing something; it is a document and therein lies its importance.

We know very well that González Caballero’s method would evolve if he were alive, surely some acting supports would change in his hands, others would surely be added, new doors of exploration would be opened; that was being done with the study of energies and with some supports.

González Caballero is no longer with us, but if we keep the premise that he had, of an ongoing exploration, the method will be open to keep evolving with us, his heirs.


23. What is your responsibility to the method / technique of Antonio González Caballero?

At first, 25 years ago, I thought that my responsibility was the commitment of finishing writing the book and publishing it.  Then I thought it was also passing it on.  Now I know my responsibility to the method of González Caballero has split into two: making it known and expanding it from the point of view of its technique.

The method is an ingredient of my professional life for creating a character, the supports are the technical basis of my stage creativity, my interest lies then in further exploring those supports while following at the same time my personal creative interest, no doubt.  I do that with each support, I write with them, I dance with them, I act with them, separately and fully, I follow my personal exploration and document it, trying to keep in mind the bases and principles from which I start, the exploratory work of González Caballero.

Answering this questionnaire-interview for you is also part of another responsibility, to keep expanding the knowledge of what was so functional for me as a student of acting and what was essential in the early years of my life as a theatre professional. I strongly believe it will be so for others who come to the theatre to find tools and can’t find them easily, for those who are not as attractive or great as to be blinded by instant fame.

As Stanislavski said: “Not all of us are talent geniuses, for those of us who are not there is the method, the observation of geniuses to repeat what made them great."


(Many thanks to Tadeo Berjón for his invaluable help in the translation of the original text from Spanish)




Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.



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If you read in Spanish you might be interested in my book about Gonzalez Caballero's Acting Method, "El libro del método de actuación de Antonio González Caballero"


El libro del método de actuación de Antonio González Caballero (NO incluye el Método de Voz), en su versión en papel (en especie) está a la venta solamente a través de Internet, y en tres sitios: 

Amazon España:  
http://www.amazon.es/Método-Actuación-Antonio-González-Caballero/dp/1466261919

Amazon.com: 
http://www.amazon.com/Actuación-Antonio-González-Caballero-Spanish/dp/1466261919 

CreateSpace: 
https://www.createspace.com/3677417


También está a la venta en formato electrónico (libro electrónico o ebook), en la tienda Kindle de Amazon:


Kindle amazon:  
www.amazon.com/Actuación-Antonio-González-Caballero-ebook/dp/B009HUT5AA



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Thursday, May 9, 2013

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (2013)


To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)



I was just going for a walk on Kamakura beach; some colleagues at Kazuo Ohno dance Studio told me that it was nice to come to Kamakura and just walk on the beach instead of going to the temples which is what the city is known, as I'd already visited most of its dozens temples I decided to take the advice and have that walk.

I didn't expect to see Mount Fuji from there, never!

And it's not always like that, Mount Fuji is a shy guy, usually is not visible and hides himself behind clouds or the brilliant sunlight, today it seemed something special was happening over there.

My excitement at the moment to see that Japanese icon appearing behind the mountains -and in a so clear way- was so big that I stopped my walk, immediately set my camera on the tripod and started to move in his honour, with my Butoh dedicated to him.

Here you have some of the still images from the video I recorded, just sharing what I consider some of the best moments of that "dance".


To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)

To Mount Fuji. A Butoh improvisation at Kamakura beach (Gustavo Thomas © 2013)




Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A dream about my teachers (Looking for the teachings of a brain that knows how to tell stories)



I was very tired, I was supposed to write a text about my work with Butoh; I felt devastated: even though I am a man who has come to maturity and has dedicated himself to the performing arts for many years, I am still like a child when it comes to Butoh... a beginner who, thanks to his background, learns things fast, moves forward without restraint and has managed to find the teachers needed to start a real career in it, but in the end I'm still a beginner. After several exhausting drafts, I succumbed to a nap, the kind that saves one from suicide - even if just metaphorically - or simply from depression.

In the delirium of falling asleep I began to feel as when I was a child, afraid of dying and never getting to grow up, asking to hear voices that would tell me what to do, voices of inner teachers who could teach how to continue with my work and believe in it.  The dream did not disappoint:
 
I dreamed I was at my parents’ house (a house that is not my house anymore) and that a party was being prepared with the exact layout of furniture as we used to do:  moving it near the walls to have more space and welcome a large group of people. The main guest for this event was famous Butohka Ko Murobushi - who’s never been my teacher -, who was appreciated by all the guests, especially the Europeans, a group of wealthy married couples that were art lovers.  After quite a long time at the party and in a kind of almost erotic seduction consisting of glances between an older man and a young man, I came to find myself sitting next to him, and we started talking.  In his slow, methodic Japanese accent - he spoke in English - he exposed part of his work, that of his teacher Hijikata, and also exposed some personal views.  Nevertheless I sensed he was not telling the whole truth, that something was not quite clear, that he was not talking about his real relationship with him.  I wanted to hear his fears, his desires, his true exchanges with the teacher. He drank constantly (the Japanese I know like to drink a lot), and at some point his talk began to change, and became somewhat distant; then I asked him a direct question about his fears when he found himself all alone once his teacher was not there any more (Hijikata died relatively young, before he turned 60, in the eighties).   Murobushi then began to expose himself in a strange way: his skin flushed like all Asians when inebriated, his speech became ever more difficult to understand, he was slapping the table with his hands, gently but firmly; he was in a trance.  I told him I did not understand what he was saying anymore, and he began to cry; he said that what he was doing - babbling - was what he heard from his teacher, that his teacher was incomprehensible to him, that he was alone, that he had to go on alone trying to discover those words that he had never understood when they were said by Hijikata.  He got up and tried to talk more, but his pain didn’t let him.  The foreign married couple (now there was only one) hugged him, and soon more people came and he was embraced by dozens of guests, being comforted because he was admired.  Me, trying to apologize, explained all I was doing was have a conversation with him.

I really did not know what to do, I did not know what to make of a man I considered a great master of Butoh and who I thought was going to clarify the way I needed by telling me about his own experience.

Disappointed and leaving him while he was being comforted by those foreigners and guests I went to where my family was seated as they used to in the reunions at my maternal grandmother’s place, with all the chairs with the backs to the wall and the old relatives looking into the open space in the middle of the room where the guests stood and the children played: they were there, my mother, my older sister and my teacher Antonio González Caballero, who had the appearance of my grandmother when she was over 90 years old.  He - who was her too - was smiling because of what I had experienced with Murobushi and he tried to explain to me what had happened, and he did it in the same way that my teacher used to do in other situations, but there was a problem, he felt uncomfortable in his seat and he couldn’t explain himself clearly either.  Then I tried carrying him to another more comfortable armchair - his body felt exactly as if it were my mother's body at 80 years old -.  When I sat him into the other seat, his head hit a shelf on the wall, gently, but that was enough for him to pass out because of the blow.  Everyone came to see the unconscious grandmother, and I knew that because of my action my teacher was sleeping - or dying -, I realized he would no longer be able to talk to me. His face was that of my old mother asleep, his sitting was like my maternal grandmother at 90 years old, his presence was that of my theatre teacher.

I had caused such chaos at the party demanding teachings from those who suffered because of them or who were too old or dead to say anything of value to me!

Should I think about a moral to the dream as if it were a story?

Maybe, in the end the brain is the best storyteller we have and it’s inside of us.

 
 
Gustavo Thomas © 2013


 
 
 
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Images of transformation in Tatsumi Hijikata's methodology, and the "Elements" in González Caballero's Acting Method.

Tatsumi Hijikata performing "The girl" (Still Photography extracted from a video in Youtube)



Reading the article "Tatsumi Hijikata. The Words of Butoh" by Nanako Kurihara (1), I found a description of an exercise by one of Hijikata's disciples, Ashikawa Yoko, who proposed the dancers (actors-dancers) to transform - through the guide's words and in a continuous guidance of that transformation- into insects formed in turn by thousands of small insects that entered them through their skin pores. (2)

At the beginning, reading this was nothing new to me because I am more than used to guided body transformation exercises, thanks to González Caballero's Acting Method, where 'the elements' ('los Elementos': concrete physical images) enter our bodies and transform us completely.  But it was Kurihara's conclusion that made me stop and think about the importance of that "coincidence" and which prompted me to write this short note.

Here’s the quote as it appears in the book (in its original English version):

"The most difficult part of this exercise was that one had to "be it", not merely "imagine it". This was emphasized in the class again and again. The condition of the body itself has to be changed. Through words, Hijikata's method makes dancers conscious of their physiological senses and teaches them to objectify their bodies. Dancers can then "reconstruct" their bodies as material things in the world and even as concepts. By practicing exercises repeatedly, dancers learn to manipulate their own bodies physiologically and psychologically. As a result, butoh dancers can transform themselves into everything from a wet rug to a sky and can even embody the universe, theoretically speaking (Kurihara 1966)."

Anyone who has worked with González Caballero's Acting Method will recognize and fully understand the text quoted above, especially the description of the transformation through images (in this case guided by a teacher).  The "apoyo Elementos" (Elements) are indeed the same as those 'images of transformation' in Hijikata's method.

The transformation I've experienced using González Caballero's Acting Method is the same I’ve had exploring the Butoh technique, and so I've found it somewhat "familiar", never feeling a conflict between my creative tools on the stage. Antonio González Caballero wanted the actor to transform, and so wanted it Hijkata with dancers, both virtually through the same method; I, working and exploring both methods, have never experienced any problem or misconception.

The ultimate goal of both methods is the transformation through "embodying" what is referred to (during the transformation) through the guide's voice (or sounds), while being imagined by the actor, and making the process of that transformation into a habit. The literature through which both tell the experience is different, of course.

Theatre Anthropology has found certain physical principles in all human activity on stage, it would be important to find the similarities and possibly principles of transformation between the different methods explored during the second half of the twentieth century. If we add to these methods the exploration of physical actions based on the actor-dancer’s inner monologue worked by Grotowski in the sixties and seventies then we could open an even bigger door to discovering these possibles principles of transformation, and thus extend the experience of the artist's creative spectrum.



Gustavo Thomas © 2013





 




(1) The article "Tatsumi Hijikata. The Words of Butoh" appeared in a TDR magazine edition dedicated to Hijikata (Vol. 44, No. 1, Spring, 2000)

(2) Being stuffed by insects is other version of this exercise. Here the quote of the description of this exercise in the article: “In Ashikawa's class, there were routine exercises. One of them was called mushikui (insect bites). A student is first told, "An insect is crawling from between your index finger and the middle finger onto the back of your hand and then on to your lower arm and up to your upper arm." The teacher rubs a drumstick back and forth across the drum, making a slithering sound. Then she touches those particular parts of the body to give some physical sense to the student. The number of insects increases one by one and finally, "You have no purpose. In the end, you are eaten by insects who enter through all the pores of your body, and your body becomes hollow like stuffed animal." Each insect has to be in its precise place. One should not confuse or generalize the insects even when their numbers increase.” It remembers me the word repeated by González Caballero when he wanted the actors to feel the element inside his body, “retacarse del elemento” (probably the most precise translation be “stuffed”)
In both methods the actor shouldn't react to the presence of the insects, bites or being stuffed by them as if they were acting or suffering the experience in a naturalistic way, instead of it they have to feel the transformation and let it be freely using the images.


Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked otherwise. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Sayonara" and "I, Worker". Japanese contemporary theatre in Toronto (2013)

"I, Worker" (Photo from the program by Tsukasa Aoki)


After some months without seeing any theatre performances (totally dedicated to publishing my plays, writing poems, training Butoh and editing photographs) I returned as a spectator of two short plays by Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata: "Sayonara" (さようなら) and "I, worker" (働く私) as part of the Robot Theatre Project. 

The performances were also part of a cultural festival around Japanese culture, Spotlight Japan, here in Toronto, Canada at the Berkeley Street Theatre

It was interesting to come back to the theatre not exactly because of the quality of the plays and performances but because of the performers: half of the cast were real robots. 

The program says the following about the project:

"Robot Theatre Project began four years ago at Osaka University. The initial goal of our project was to change the status of robots from being merely displays at expositions to becoming essential elements of theatre arts. At these expositions, where scientists gather to present their latest technologies, we saw that while robots "impressed" audiences, they never "moved" them - and we wanted to show that robots could really move people. We believe that our mission should be to help lead current research efforts that examine how robots can be part of the future of human society - how robots can be created so as not to alienate people, or scare children or the elderly."

Sayonara was in English and Japanese (with subtitles) and I, Worker totally in Japanese (with subtitles as well), so there was no problem in understanding what what was being said on stage.

Sayonara, as the name refers to directly, is a "Good bye" from the life of the real human, a lady, and of a kind of android which has served as her company. The play is full of poems and also some references to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. 

I, Worker is the story of two couples, two humans and two robots and how they interact when one of the robots begins to refuse to work, like the man of the human couple did, it seems, some time before as well. 

Real robots in relationships with humans in an almost no science fiction imaginary. Interesting for the questions the plays provoke in the spectator's mind (not much, you will see), but I think still a little bit short-sighted about those kinds of relationships in a not so far future. 

Robots don't work in our houses yet, but they have been in fiction films for years, from the stupid ones in the sixties to the one in Kubrick's masterpiece, "2001, A Space Odyssey", and so on -Star Wars, Blade Runner, Terminator, etc.-, doing all we can ever imagine and more each time. So, we are trained to see those things as spectators, no doubt, but to our disappointment we only see on stage, first, one that almost has no movement and, afterwards, two more others which interact like those in those sixties series but without being really funny. So, where and what is the new thing here? Thinking about real relationships with real robots? But haven't the best films and novels about them done that now? Of courses, and very well! 

They only new thing I can see here is that real robots are coming to the theatrical stage too, as in novels and films, and the company gets a good promotion for working as a kind of artistic show of whatever happens in the industry, specializing in human interaction (like 'commercial happenings" in public relations or in advertising), and we'll have to wait many years to see real action with those robots live. Then we won't have to write short long-term fiction, and will see real problems in our relationship with them, we'll be impressed and actually moved by them, I hope.


Here the promotional video by the Japan Foundation:






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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A new short by Omar Ramirez using a poem by Gustavo Thomas

Photograph by Omar Ramírez (Omar Ramirez © 2012)

 I knew about a loss and its pain, when I saw that image (posted above) depicting those moments in the life of someone very dear to me I could only write a poem about what this image evoked in me.

As the original poem is written in Spanish I'm publishing here both versions: the original one and an almost literal translation in English: 


Sigo tus pasos

Miro aquello que de tí me queda
y en tus olores me desvanezco;
no siento ya mi sombra,
que es tuya,
porque estoy solo,
porque tu color yo pierdo,
porque aquí sin forma 
tú,
descarnado me dejas.

(Gustavo Thomas © 2012)



Following your steps


I'm looking at that which I've left from you

and I lose myself in your smells.


I don't feel my shadow which is yours,

because I'm alone,

because I lose your color,

because here, shapeless,

you … leave me ...

fleshless.


(Gustavo Thomas © 2012)


Then Omar created his own poem in video, using my voice and the poem itself, which I greatly appreciate, because the product is absolutely beautiful and strong, very strong, and yet full of great tenderness.

Here you have the video:


Video: Volcano (Omar Ramírez © 2013)
 







Texts, photographs and videos in this Blog are all author's property, except when marked. All rights reserved by Gustavo Thomas. If you have any interest in using any text, photograph or video from this Blog, for commercial use or not, please contact Gustavo Thomas at gustavothomastheatre@gmail.com.


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