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INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

PHYLICIA RASHAD

BILLY CRUDUP

CAROL LAWRENCE

ANDRUS NICHOLS

MARTY RAYBON

ALONZO KING

JAKE LANDERS

KERRY GILBERT

YI-MIN CAI

MICHAEL SHANE NEAL

TONYA S. HOLLY

CAROLYN PALMER

Spotlight On
International
Artists

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

PHYLICIA RASHAD

BILLY CRUDUP

CAROL LAWRENCE

ANDRUS NICHOLS

MARTY RAYBON

ALONZO KING

JAKE LANDERS

KERRY GILBERT

YI-MIN CAI

MICHAEL SHANE NEAL

TONYA S. HOLLY

CAROLYN PALMER

Spotlight On
International
Artists

Ronald Rand in Let It Be Art


Essays

Ingredients Of A Creative Life: Sketches Summer 2017

The Method Acting Exercises Handbook

The Laboratory Instinct

All People Are Famous: Instead of an Autobiography

“CREATE! How Extraordinary People Live to Create and Create to Live”

Films That Make a Difference

Witness to Spirit: My Life with Cowboys, Mozart & Indians

My Life and Art

A Healing Art: How Eurythmy Lives in the World

Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell: Teaching Through the Lens of Neuroscience

Chasing Light: Notes on Creativity

Changing Ourselves to Change Society

An Excerpt from DAH Theatre: A Sourcebook

I Can Resist Everything Except Тheater: the Work and Role of The Macedonian Centre — International Theatre Institute

Real Life Drama


APPLAUSE
by Maribee


 

“To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.”  
– Marlon Brando

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
– Helen Keller

“The theatre should be treated with respect. The theatre is a wonderful place, a house of strange enchantment, a temple of illusion.”
– Noel Coward

“Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation...see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.”
– John Singer Sargent

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
– T.S. Eliot

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
– Harriet Tubman

“Feel is if you are reborn each day and rediscover the world of nature which are joyfully a part.”
– Pablo Casals, at the age of 96

“The secret of all natural and human law is movement that meets with devotion”
– I Ching

“You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.”
– Richard Bach

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
– Wilma Rudolph

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
– William Faulkner

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
– Ernest Hemingway:

“Art is a nation's most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a Nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
– President Lyndon B. Johnson

“My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet.”
– John Cage

“In a moment of grace, we can grasp eternity in the palm of our hand. This is the gift given to creative individuals who can identify with the mysteries of life through art.”
– Marcel Marceau:

“Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.”
– Ludwig van Beethoven

“Use your knowledge, and your heart, to stand up for those who can't stand, speak for those who can't speak, be a beacon of light.”
– Julie Andrews

“...Beneath the surface of an ordinary everyday normal casual conscious existence there lies a vast dynamic world of impulse and dream...”
– Robert Edmond Jones

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett

“Transform the work, yourself, and everybody around you...Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”
– Katharine Hepburn

“Being an actor is a religious calling because you've been given the ability, the gift to inspire humanity.”
– Sandy Meisner

“Whenever you are reading beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”
– Alice Walker

“The only reason to write is from love.”
– Stephen Sondheim

“To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.”
– Georgia O’Keefe

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
– Albert Schweitzer

“The meaning of life is to see.”
- Hui Neng

Changing Ourselves to Change Society

An Excerpt from DAH Theatre: A Sourcebook

As Dijana Milosevic, the artistic director of DAH begins a new project, the first question she asks is: “What bothers me in my relation to my society?” For an artist to embark on creating new work first comes the question. “What do I want to explore, examine, share, shed light on, be in conversation about, learn?” From the question comes the impetus to begin. Sometimes it is clear and obvious, as when we see something so appalling happening around us that we cannot not respond. While many artists may respond through their writing, painting, sculpting, for Dijana it had to be through theatre.

For Dijana, creating theatre is a way to understand what is going on around her, to help others understand and question and, ultimately provoke action. She is not interested in the latest fashion, the road every one is following. At its heart, Dijana’s theatre is about the individual — each individual involved in a project and each person who witnessed it. The experiences of an individual informs the action of a community. Dijana’s process of creating her plays mirrors this understanding.

ACT Women directed by Dijana Milošević

She begins with the personal, specific, unique stories of her collaborates (and her own). Telling stories is the oldest method societies have had communicating their histories, sharing concerns, illuminating truths and providing perspective on current problems. As our personal stories resonate with others in the community, we find a deeper connection to each other and are better prepared to meet common challenges.

DAH Theatre

I learned a lot about Dijana works by watching her teach workshops to other artists about her’s and DAH’s process. When you teach, you have to be even more specific that you would be with your own company who implicitly may understand what you mean. At the La MaMa Umbria International Symposium for Directors, master directors lead other theatre makers in a variety of processes that use in the creation of their own work. Participants are bombarded by contrasting methodologies, points of views, and modalities of creating works for the stage that come from a variety of cultural, ethnic, and pedological perspectives. As a result the participating directors begin to see how they might adjust their own processes of creation to enrich their work.

When Dijana begins her workshop at La MaMa Umbria, she has the participants create a map of the world. First, they draw one in their notebooks, so they see a representation of what they remember about the physical world. Then they create that map on the stage (or floor of the rehearsal space); the artists must decide and agree upon the spatial relationships between land masses, the relative sizes of bodies of water, what is “east” or “wet”, etc. Then Dijana asks each person to stand on the “map” at the pace where they were born. Negotiating  the relative space between locations, as a group they decide what distances are appropriate between cities, how to fit an entire world on a flat stage. Many people find themselves sharing a space that represents a popular location, They look around to notice who is where on the map; they see each other differently already.

Next, they are asked to walk on the map to their first place of international travel. Since most of the participants at LaMaMa Umbria are not Italian, they have made at least one international trip. Some people are well traveled. They look around again and notice who is where; each person speaks the name of the place they are standing in. “What is your dream place?” is the next question. This is the first time each artist has to look beyond a fact and begin to use their imaginations. A “dream” place means something different to each person. They walk around the map and stop in a place that seems right to each one. Each artist tells where they are now.

“What is your pace of sorrow?” Heads bowed, the group adjusts itself and the participants begin to move slowly across the map until they stop; some don’t have to move at all; some go back to their birthplace. Looking around again, each learns something new about their colleagues and collaborators. Next question: “What is your place of grand opera?” Dijana explains what this means: “Where is the place where your greatest work will be embodied?” (New York and London gets clumps of people, but there are people spread across the map.) Dijana asks everyone to look across the room to the place where you live. You can see the reflective gazes of the other artists as you look across the space. Then you walk to where you live.

DAH Theatre

Looking at the map everyone created in the studio, Dijana asks: “What is the route you took to arrive here in Umbria?” she asks. “Recreate it.” “This was dynamic,” says Dana Booll, a Symposium participant, “people flying and loving and stopping and making train voices and moving at all speeds.” They all huddled together in the agreed space of Italy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DAH Theatre

This example is just one aspect of Dijana’s work, but it illustrates how the personal becomes the communal and the communal becomes the societal. The result, as an audience member at one of her performances, you identify with the main beings on the stage who are sharing their personal journeys, and only later on do you extrapolate those personal stories to see greater resonance for the whole community.

Dijana Milosevic conducts a Workshop at Brandeis University 2011

While you can discern some of the content of her work through the example above, what you don’t see is the quality of the instructions, how they are given, how they are received, and what adjustment are made along the way. There are a couple of key elements that Dijana stresses as she takes her company through a process of creation: presence, alertness, focus and precision and at the same time embracing ambiguity, layering seemingly contrary ideas on too of each other and intuiting a story from oblique action. She uses a method of decontextualization, taking an object for a word that means one thing ion one context and repurposing it to create a deeper meaning in a new context. There is value, Dijana says, in a lack of (obvious) logic.

Vibrancy comes from allowing whatever comes into the rehearsal room on a particular day to inform the work. As a director, you are balancing your own ideas about a new work with the ideas that come from your collaborators. The director makes choices based on her now values system that guides all decisions, When you value creating a work that is truly honoring the stories of the actors as well as writers, the director, and others, you must listen intently to whatever comes through the door

Dijana describes the process: “The directors and other collaborators bring their burning needs and I bring mine, and then we meet, and then we start from that topic that we formulate, and then we bring in different materials, as they say, and it could be a text, it could be visual art, music, films anything that could be useful to eh process. And then it’s really a rather long process, we have long hours of rehearsal in the studio. Like the last performance, “Presence of Absence.” We rehearsed for a year, and of course, we are not all the time in the studio; we traveled; we had holidays and so on, but we were rehearsing for a year, and then before that for some months or maybe for another year, I was contemplating and reading and talking to people and may colleagues were as well.”

DAH Theatre

“And so, it means that if we want to do devised theater, we need time, to develop ideas, to go deeper and deeper. And for me, it is like taking the essence. It’s like with a good rhyme, it’s a distillation process. So taking the essence of the universe, the meaning that we’ve created has lots of themes, lots of improvisations; we invite people to talk to us.”

How can you honor everyone’s input and still create a coherent piece of work that feels organic and of a piece? This a great skill of Dijana’s. By listening, questioning, repeating, refining, and being regroups about exploiting the fullness of each moment, she is able to mold the many voices into one resonant theatrical experience.

But it’s not always easy. Dijana describes her experience with “Presence of Absence,” which was recently presented at the La MaMa Spoleto Open Festival.

“It’s like really experiencing an adventure with a group of people because we know what we want to explore, but we don’t know what we are going to find. And in the process of the “Presence of Absence,” it was extremely difficult and this is so there are no promises, like, do you work like this and you will feel great all the time. I mean, that it could be extremely difficult and complex, and especially if it is a difficult topic and we ourselves had different disappearances of actors in the performance. I’m speaking metaphorically; some of them left the performance for different reasons, but it was very much a part of the process.”

~~~~~~~

Through the years after those first performances, training has become an internal part of DAH’s work. Dijana travels around the world training theater artists and she continues to work with her company as they prepare new works to be performed. It has become common, because of the way they work, for the issues, problems and concerns of the company members to become integrated in to the performances.

This became evident during the creation of another piece called “Shivering of the Rose,” which echoed a difficult time for the DAH company in 2014. Through the creation of this piece, Dijana and the company were able to explore what they were experiencing as a group and reconcile with the changes they were going through. Dijana herself became an actress and appeared on the stage for the first time with the company.

“Because I’m not an actress and I never wanted to be an actress, so it’s very interesting how to involve the audience into eh exploration of the creative process. I’m trying to reconstruct my process and to somehow work with what the triggers were for the ideas that I had inspired the actors and vice versa, how did they inspire me?”

The piece became a response to “Presence of Absence,” a way to explore the process of creating that play, through the creation of another.

As Dijana explains: “It was not really planned, and it is a result of a very, very hard period in my group. I can speak very openly. And an important performance was created through those hardships. And it’s very interesting how, at some point, it all started to make sense, all the hardships and the difficulties and so on, started to make sense, and so this is now — the performance is there.”

“So it’s really the transformation of the hard experiences and again, I think, this incredible ability of the art and the theater to transform or to put in context to to give the sense to, the different experiences, even the hard ones that we go through.”

Witnessing a performance of “Presence of Absence” is a bit like being punched in the gut; you don’t really think about what has happened until you start to regain your breath. You start out with some fascination as a woman pushed by you carrying a large garbage bag. It seems very heavy and she is determined to put it in its proper place. When it is done, she goes back to get another heavy garbage bag

We, the audience are strewn about an art gallery, standing, watching from many different vantage points, peeking around corners so we can see what is going on. She places the second bag down And then she gets another. And another. And another.

We see what is happening, but it is happening slowly and deliberately, with an attitude of determination and at the same time, resignation, After a while, the bags are everywhere. We wonder what is going on, what is in the bags, why does she keep bringing more and more and why do we have to stand here while she does it?

It is uncomfortable for the audience but it becomes clear that that is the point. The woman is left behind to do the work, the heavy lifting; it is up to here to take care of the bodies of the men who had gone off to war and returned as “trash, at least ij the minds of some. When you realize what is happening, it knocks you off-kilter.

Eventually you follow actor to another space, a more traditional theatrical space where we witness scenes of the women who have been left behind. We hear their stores of disembodied voices over a loudspeakers act woman has a particular loss to deal with and her own method of coping. One woman keeps ironing. It’s as she’s preparing for her love to return. He never will and she knows it.

The title, “Presence of Absence,” is a prescient one. “Absence” does have a presence in that we can feel the energy and space of a person who once was with us but is no longer. Each of the women enacting scenes from their lives, after the men have gone, experience that absence in a different way.

What emerges is a kaleidoscope view of loss that is all the more powerful for the cumulative effect of diverse reactions to it — just like the cumulative effect of all of this garbage bags that clogged the gallery space in the long first scene. In this piece, the emptiness felt buy these women is specific and personal to the but it resonates on a large scale when, as an audience, you are confronted with the massive toll that such sadness takes on a whole community, on a society.

The directors and students, who with Dijana at LaMaMa Umbria and other venues come to see is, how a rigorous practice combined with powerful listening and close collaboration can lead to a theatrical presentations with extraordinary texture, which deal with society’s most intractable problems in a human and humane way.

According to Dana Boll: “What was remarkable for me was to see how Dijana was able to lead a complete generative process in such a short time with a huge group. We were eighteen perhaps? And we learned about each other’s sorrows, dreams, ancestral stories…Dijana would listen intently, patiently to each of our stories as we sat in a circle and then immediately choose words and phrases for us to bring to the score She made connections in our histories, physical movement patterns, and vocalizations, and layered the in varied tempos. The process was thorough, clearly outlines and yet allowed for deep explorations of individual creativity.”

In work that is about our personal journeys and our society’s changes, DAH Theatre puts it open heart in stage for everyone to see. It’s clear from seeing the work and the process that created it that DAH’s theatre is as much about personal transformation as it is about community transition. Social change is possible when we can change ourselves.

When we attend the theater, we seldom think about how the process of putting on the play is affecting the actors, director, and other collaborators; we just want to make a connection ourselves. It isn’t important for the audience to know what the collaborators are going through, but artists grow through the process of creation. And we, the audience, benefit from their growth. •

2016 Excerpts from DAH Theatre: A Sourcebook Edited by Dennis Barnett, Foreword by Eugenio Barba. Published by Lexington Books. Excerpts from “Changing Ourselves to Change Society” by David J. Diamond. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher.

David J. Diamond is a theatre consultant, producer and career coach for theatre artists. Current projects include working with Mia B. Yoo at the La MaMa International Symposium for Directors, now entering its sixteenth year and The Playwright Retreat, now in its ninth year at La MaMa Umbria International in Spoleto, Italy each summer. He has presented his workshops at Yale School of Drama, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon, San Diego’s University of California, DePaul University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, University of Colorado and Fordham University, among others. He was Executive Director of Stage Directors and Choreographers for close to a decade, and published The JOURNAL for Stage Directors and Choreographers and co-edited the Stage Directors’ Handbook. He was General Manager of United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Managing Director of The Barrow Group Theatre Company and Management Services Assistant at Theatre Communications Group. He edited ArtSEARCH and has written articles for American Theatre, The Drama Review and The JOURNAL. Mr. Diamond served as Chair of Community Board Five in Manhattan. He currently serves as Chair of the Board’s Theatre Task-Force.



"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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