Taking that Leap of Faith

Positively ages ago I put that quote from that guy whose name escapes me about following your bliss and opening doors – it wasn’t Rollo May. …. found it:
When you have seen the radiance of eternity . . . when you follow your bliss, and by bliss I mean that deep sense of being in it and doing what the push is out of your own existence . . . doors will open where you would not have thought there were going to be doors.”—Joseph Campbell

I have been absolutely floored by an opportunity to work with an early childhood learning center that came about just because I signed up for the one day UVA Alumni volunteer day in the REad Aloud program. I have been absolutely terrified to contact the director and education coordinator again – it is that fear of leaving the comfort zone.

Today I shook that fear and bought some books. Tomorrow I am going to compose an email – if I wait for time at the college I get absolutey hugely depressed beyond words and become an inert immobile blob. Regardless how scary “something” different may be if I stay too much longer where I am, I will be spiritual toast. If not beginning to collect a folder of reprimands. Of which currently in 20 years I have “zero”.

I am going to do a flower based activity set to test the waters before I prepare my Nagual set. I found the most wonderful books on animals. Perfect for kindergarten.
I am just going to jump in and go. I am going to make my pink/orange volunteer apron (the reading volunteers wear blue). Part of me so longs to go back, and part of me is nearly paralyzed by anxiety.

Since returning from Montana, I have somehow come to the realization that I am really finished with architecture. I don’t want to discuss it in advising students, I am no longer interested in what is going on in the BArch schools. I am not interested in teaching some core courses in my program – I have thought about construction drawings and residential design as much as I really want to in this life time and I have had enough. I don’t care what the students pick out – not so much as I don’t care about their work, but I no longer can care about the subject. I don’t want to grade papers, because I don’t want to use up brain space and energy to think about the problems. It is finished for me.

The only subjects that still interest me are design -the exploration of ideas, drawing as a discipline and skill that can be perfected, and the ideas that relate building to culture and history. Who were those Anasazi people who built those irrigation systems? What were they thinking? How did they figure it out without formal mathematics – or maybe they did and just didn’t use any recorded symbol systems. What are the cultural and aesthetic values one invokes when they build a certain way in a certain location?

And since I was crawling around Borders Books looking for a flower story book, all of a sudden I feel energized and connected again, like I felt in NYC at Aole’s workshop. Talking about my authentic ideas, revealing my authentic self. Not my fake architect self who I never could embrace. Somehow I knew alll those years ago that this wasn’t anything more than a job for me – and my authentic self intervened in the only ways it could to prevent me from succeeding on the ARE. How else can you explain the mysterious high fever (102 degF) that just showed up the day I was to drive off to Pomona, to sit for the exam? I was so non-self aware then, that if I had become and RA (registered architect), I would have gone on and done all those things that I thought I would be “supposed to do”. I was a little more self-aware in the late 80s when I reached a sort of “do it – or lose it” situation with my documentation with the licensing boards. At the same time the opportunity arose to study flamenco, and work in the theater, which I had longed to do all my life. I knew at that time, I probably would be choosing one over the other. Everything I have done in investing in myself in the arts since 1991 is everything that has opened the current door. I have always been an artist. I was never raised to be permitted to consider myself one, or that I should permit myself that freedom.

Now this multidisciplinary creature I have become- competent enough to work with K-3 kids in singing, dancing, drawing, and now acting as well. With a strong “outsider artist” bent, and a committment to real multiculturism and cultural fusion in works.

I realized I didn’t have to figure it ALL out before I went back to St. Michaels Day school. Remember one of the most major lessons from Per Brahe. Life is a journey; if one is seeking – follow the path as it unfolds. My mind and spiritual wisdom can really embrace this. There are part of my wounded child spirit that believe that I am guaranteed to fall if I step off the path of the known.

PT and Destructuring

Both on Tuesday and today I was seized by an incredible urge to flip my legs over in “The Plow” position, get some tremoring going and destructure. ROFL
There is something so kewl about those PT padded tables. However. It think it would have flipped out my therapist. She might have called the men in the white coats to put me in a rubber room. 😉

Making the Acquaintance of Fitzmaurice, Grotowski, and Chekhov

Interesting folks in teaching the craft of acting. Mikhail Chekhov is an antidote to the iron grip of THE METHOD. His process is intriguing to me as it seems to be integrated in the physicality, mentality, and spirituality. “The Method” to me seemed like an obsessive-compulsive overly mental approach, or maybe that is the fault of the actors I’ve been well acquainted with who have been its devotees. Catherine Fitzmaurice has a method that focuses on the “right actions” of breathing and speaking, and since it is a physical process, the first part of “deconstructing” is physically based. I am not sure exactly what we took from Grotowski in our workshop, but if I study a bit more I can probably figure it out better.

Fitzmaurice Voicework was developed by Catherine Fitzmaurice. It appealed to me as its approach is based in a union of the physical-mental-spiritual, where other speech coaching is very clinical and limited in the physical. It simultaneously works on many aspects – breathing, speech, resonance, an many others. It also has been adopted by speech rehabilitation professionals, which was a plus for me as repairing my speaking was my primary concern.

“Fitzmaurice Voicework explores the dynamics between body, breath, voice, the imagination, language, and presence. It encourages vibrant voices that communicate intention and feeling without excess effort. …The work brings together physical experience and mental focus. Destructuring, the first phase, promotes awareness of the body, spontaneous and free breathing, and vocal expressivity. Restructuring, the second phase, encourages economy of effort while speaking or performing. The resulting freedom and focus allow for a wide range of vocal expression without strain.” Its features are:

  • “Physicality: we develop awareness of patterns of vocal effort through a series of gentle and/or rigorous exercises, accessing the body’s own healing systems for deep release.

  • “Breath: we explore the central role that breathing plays in both voice production and the imagination, encouraging whole body oxygenation without forcing the breath.
  • “Vocal Quality: we cultivate the ability to accurately communicate our thoughts and feelings while meeting the demands of text, space, and the immediate moment, through both spontaneity and choice.
  • “Practical Results: we reduce strain in the voice, increase vocal range and expressivity, make speech easy and clear, and communicate intention more effectively, allowing creativity to flow.
  • “Vocal Rehabilitation: we can help to resolve many functional vocal difficulties.
    There are many practical benefits to improved vocal functioning. And, since breath and voice lie at the intersection of the material and the non-material, this work can also assist in creative, intellectual, and spiritual growth.”

Similarly the Michael Chekhov technique was appealing to me as it also emphasizes a physical-mental-creative union, and not based separately either in intellect or physical craft. He died before his work and process became widely known, leaving the Stanislavski “method” as predominant in acting training in the mid- to late 20th century. “The fundamental nature of the Chekhov approach is to bring the psychology of the character into the body through movement and gesture, creating an enriched and active inner life, making the creation of a character an imaginative, organic and playful process. The Chekhov work affords access to untapped inner resources and liberates the actor from the limitations of his or her own personal history, enlarging the actor’s creativity.” The Michael Chekhov Association

Post Deconstruction and Post Reconstruction

I am just plain tuckered out physically, but refreshed a bit mentally and creatively. On my way home from Aole and Studio 5, my mind was more creatively clear than it had been in months.

What to say about the Fitzmaurice workshop facilitated by Aole Miller. It is an intimate workshop that is held once a month for a half dozen people. All of us participants got to know each other a bit, in a setting outside of our normal arena, which makes for a baseline of honesty in interpersonal relations. Our expectations of ourselves and others are changed when working intimately in the company of strangers. My compadres were Adam, a damn good young actor currently a student at Atlantic; Bobi – a very young French transplant who is very serious about honing her craft, and Susan, who I called “Susana” in my head, a woman nearer my age but probably at least 10 to 15 years younger, a Pilates expert, and longtime actor. and of course, Elsie-cat, the clown-girl walking down a very new step of her journey.

This was my second attempt to go to this workshop. The first time I couldn’t make it as I had prepared only in the physical and practical aspects. I hadn’t given myself a minute to mentally or spiritually process prior to the night before, and the anxiety built to such a level, I could not sleep. Not to mention having to deal with the frenzy-energy of my husband whenever he is going a-traveling. The logistics we planned required a very early morning start – too early for me. I was completely spent even before I left the house. I hadn’t realized how much like stepping off the cliff doing this was going to be for me. Working in a small group of “real actors”. How stupid would I seem? Could I do it?

Realizing that I hadn’t allowed acknowledgement of my mental/spiritual energy, I sort of rectified it for my second stab at this. I really had to just tell my husband to jump of a cliff, and I was going to process this one step at a time at my own pace. If that meant the “planning and scheduling” that makes him comfortable wouldn’t occur, then he just plain didn’t have to participate. This was about me and my develoment, not a couples weekend away. Even though I wasn’t 100% certain I was even going until Friday night, it all worked out one way or another – step by step. To save money, I wanted to drive up partway the night before, so I wouldn’t have to get up in the wee early dawn hours. This was something that was going to require immense physical and mental energy – I needed to be reasonably rested.

La Aurora de Nueva York

This is the piece I hope to work with in the voice workshop. Time will tell exactly when I trave to Studio 5 again to work with Aole Miller. If I am lucky and organized, it will be tomorrow.

La Aurora
Federico Garcia Lorca
tr. L.A.E. Cripps
La aurora de Nueva York tiene
cuatro columnos de cieno
y un huracan de palomas negras
que chapotean en aguas podridas.

La aurora de Nueva York gime
por las inmensas escaleras
buscando entre las aristas
nardos de angustia dibujada.

La aurora llega y nadie la recibe en su boca
porque alli, no hay manana ni esperanza posible.

A veces, las monedas en enjambres furiosas
taladran y devoran ninos abandonados.

Los primeros que salen comprendan con sus huesos
que no habra paraiso o amores deshojados;
saben que van al cieno de numeros y leyes,
a los juegos sin arte, a los sudores sin frutos.

La luz es sepultada por cadenas y ruidos
en impudico reto de cienca sin raices.
Por los barrios hay gente que vacilan insomnes
Como recien salidas de un naufrago de sangre.

The New York dawn has
four columns of mud
and a hurricane of black doves
that wade in putrid water.

The New York dawn mourns
within its immense stairways
seeking among its edges
pinprick blossoms of fine drawn anguish.

The dawn comes, and no one can take it in
because there, there is no morning or possible hope.

At times, the monied in furious swarms
impale and devour abandoned children.

The first to go out understand deep in their bones
that there will be no paradise or loves shorn of history;
they know they go to the mud of numbers and laws,
to artless games, to fruitless sweat.

The light is entombed in chains and noise
within the impudent challenge of artless science.
In the neighborhoods, sleepless people falter
as if just delivered from a shipwreck of blood.

I intended to use the translation of Spender and Gili that was printed in my book, but in English the poem lost both meter and all sense. When I read it in Spanish, lo comprendo. When I read the translation, I thought “Whaaaaa?” My first challenge in preparing for the workshop was to render into English a translation that made some sense of the meaning and imagery of the original. I still am unsure if I will work in English or Spanish version, but without a translation the coaches would have no clue of what I was saying. Ergo, a workable translation was imperative.

The printed translation was a reasonably faithful word for word – swap from Spanish to English, except for the word “aristas”. In no source, online or otherwise, could I possible discern where the original translators had gotten the word “groins”. It means “edges”. Even so a word for word rendering makes for a nonsense poem in English. It was my task to return the sense to the text, and hopefully a little of the majesty. I had my course with Cecilio Benitez at the Instituto de Artes Espanoles in New Mexico as a foundation, an army of online translators, more than one print dictionary, and a baguette and espresso. I went to work.

I first investigated in depth the many meanings of all the words I either was personally not to familiar with, and the ones I had issue with. I made lists of connotative uses. I crossreferenced translations back into English. I had all of the words solved to my satisfaction except the obscure word “nardos”. This word was in no dictionary, but a Google search in Spanish yields the fact that it is a type of flowering plant that grows on very tall spikes, similar to xxxxxxx. The original translators rendered it as a “spikenard”. Having the building blocks of potential vocabulary transformed as best possible, I set to reconstruct the whole.

I believe it is critical in interpreting all of Lorca’s poetry to remember that he was also a painter, and many of his poetic phrases conjure painterly images fraught with emotion and layers of meaning. It is often only within the images can the poem seem to have some sense. Take for example, La Sonambula. What intermediate Spanish student has been assigned to learn this classic, who hasn’t wondered what the heck he was talking about …. “Verde viento, verde ramas ….ojos de fria plata [Green wind, green branches… eyes of cold silver] If you read it for logic, you will be lost. If you read it to see a word painting, the emotion and meaning can emerge. I approached La Aurora in a similar manner. From this my choice of phraseology may not be at times the most literal, but I hope it conveys the word painting better than the mishmosh in the book.

The first two stanzas were not too difficult as the majesty of the original Spanish conveyed to me the image of the city of New York beginning to appear to view in the early dawn light. At first you begin to see only differences between the sky and the skyscrapers as flat planes of color. There is no detail; the skyscrapers are flat brown columns around which the colors of dawn begin to appear in the sky. The flocks of the omnipresent pigeons (which Lorca terms “doves”) are early risers and swarm from their high perch nests to the streets, and the puddles of dirty water left there. The early sun is obscured by the towering buildings, its rays of light glitter up and down their tall edges, like blossoming spiky flowers.

In the next stanza, I deviated from the exact word for word, because Lorca often uses the phrase “por la boca”….taking things through the mouth without meaning it literally. Imagine standing viewing the dawn with an open mouth. If your soul is open, you can “la recibe en la boca”. Personally, I thought “recieving it in the mouth” , although does directly connotate the holy communion, I wondered about it. Perhaps I am translating for the vast mass of agnostic or non-Catholic readers who might not get the connection. So I render it “no one can take it in”, as in our language “taking in the dawn” does have a common connotation. I feel confident that “las monedas” refers to “those with money” not money itself, and the juxtaposition of the swarming of the rich without consideration for the poor, reflects a lot of themes of Lorcas art. It was in the many connotations of “taladrar” that yielded up the synonym of “impale” for “perforate” which parses much better and is more powerful in both meaning and emotion.

Lastly that brings the work to the incredible phrase “amores deshojados”. What an image that is! Of a love with the pages ripped out, as from a book. But how to put that in the poem? “Stripped of leaves” was the choice of the original translators. Love stripped bare? But the precise definition is “tearing leaves as if from a book”.
This was a puzzle. I am still not quite sure if I like my “shorn of history” solution. Something to ponder on the drive to New York. Time to go.

Aole called. It is a go. Time to get on my way.

Aole’s Workshop

I am planning to go to Aole Miller’s voice workshop.

Its description:

Fitzmaurice Voicework, Michael Chekhov, Monologue Workshop

Through Fitzmaurice Voicework and Michael Chekhov Technique, Aole will address the issues of voice, movement, speaking, and the pressures of performance on stage and screen while implementing what he calls the “Rosetta Stone” of acting, which helps actors energize their actions through character without being intellectual or heady.

This workshop will cover both the Destructuring and Restructuring elements of the Fitzmaurice Voicework. Whether you are new to Fitzmaurice Voicework or have been using it in your acting for years, this is an opportunity to get a deep hands-on experience targeting your personal goals with your voice. After covering the breath release postures of the Destructuring series, Aole will go over the Restructuring technique of efficiently asserting the voice with each participant helping them target potential solutions. Because of the small class size, this is a great opportunity for those who are still learning how to Restructure and who are still working on reducing counter productive speaking habits.

The second part of the day will focus on the “Rosetta Stone” of “the actable action” through character transformation inspired by the Michael Chekhov technique.

Aole’s Bio:
AOLE T. MILLER, Creative Director of STUDIO 5 in Brooklyn, New York, has been an actor, director, writer and teacher in the United States, Denmark and Bali, Indonesia since 1992. He has been Director of the Bali Conservatory since 2002. He is the first African American Ceremonial Mask Dancer of Bali and the first teacher to bring Fitzmaurice Voicework to Denmark. He teaches Mask Work, Fitzmaurice Voicework, Michael Chekhov, Viewpoints, and Grotowski’s concepts of the physical container and the plastiques for character development. He is a member of VASTA and is on the faculties of The School for Film and Television and Chautauqua Theatre Company and has taught at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Yale University, Wayne State (MFA), SUNY Purchase College, The Bill Esper Studio, Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, The National Theatre Institute, Western Michigan University and the Michael Chekhov Conference 2002. He coached Michelle Williams for her Golden Globe nominated role in Ang Lee’s movie Brokeback Mountain. He directed Voices of Juarez at the 2004 International New York Fringe Festival. He holds a B.F.A. in theatre from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.


HElmkamp HouseThis was the house my mother grew up in. It was always my dream house. I was extremely distressed twenty years ago when we had to sell it after Grandpa passed, and I had no earthly reason to live in Rochester New York. If I thought I could handle that much winter, I would have stayed in Chicago. Now that is a really kewl city. They leave things like this just strewn around for our fun…
Louise Nevelson in Chicago