An extract of the script
(NOTES TO SELF) KEY IMPULSES: Explain what is going to happen, desire to spark spontaneity
“What an incredible pleasure to share this space with you today and to be able to test some new ideas out on The Pit stage.
I am going to share an approach to performance training that I am developing. It’s based on my own training with the theatre company Gardzienice. However, Gardzienice is a male-led company and part of a male-led tradition stemming from Grotowski (the famous Polish director). What I’m interested in is what it means to be a female exponent of this work, and how the performer training practices it involves could be more female-led/feminized/feminist.
My journey in research so far has led me to ask what female and feminist means and I have been working with participants to observe to what extent my sex might influence my practice.
I have been hosting working groups of performers in a Laboratory format. One thing we’ve been working on is ‘A Feminized Alphabet of Gestures’ and that’s the main thing I’m going to share with you today.
By gesture I mean a physical action made with the body and hand, which is associated with a particular word. The words include Femaleness, Sex, Identity, Body, Embody, Desire, Choice, Maleness, Agency, Difference, Gene, Love, Power and currently the full alphabet stands at around 40 words. The gestures are a tool for performers to visualise, feel into, bridge and interconnect their personal processes and the embodied self with the work of the actor developing a drama.
On this improvised journey I will also use a number of building blocks from my core training including ‘scales of the spine’, ‘pitching intervals’, ‘body resonators’ before breaking down and focusing on a gesture or two with you. Do feel free to have a go at that point if you want, sitting or standing with vocality or not.
I have composed 3 sound worlds using my cello, loop station, harmonium, voice and Ableton Live. This sort of work is normally done as a group – a chorus or an ensemble. As it’s just me, the instruments will be my ensemble and the cello will become an acting partner.
What I’m sharing is not a completed performance, it’s a little slice of a training process. It won’t necessarily make narrative sense. What I’m exploring tends to be hidden or ignored in male-dominated settings, but in this space, I invite you to pay attention to the quality of presence, moments when you felt a connection to me or the work, or can you spot any moment in the improvisation when there is a breakthrough in my voice or body movement or with the text?
AH sits down on floor near harmonium and opens a chord on the instrument
AH: “To begin I’d like to sound check with you. The presentation will stretch in volume. One minute quiet and silent and the next loud or high. This reflects the nature of an explorative process working with voice, and once again feel free to hum along or join in to help equalise the dynamics”
3 ERESHKIGAL/AIEE (Live acoustic):
AH: “I will now break down the voices that you heard as I entered, an extract from a call to Ereshkigal, who is the queen of the underworld in the Ancient Mesopotamian sung-epic ‘Inanna’”
Ereshkigal x 2
Aiee x 2
4 After Gardzienice:
AH begins to talk before getting up and walking across the space to MIDI keyboard
“The last time I played on The Pit stage was in 2006 in the production, Electra. A show I created and toured with the Gardzienice company over 7 years. My lived experience of creating and playing the role was different to the conceptual work of the director. But no less valuable in terms of generating new knowledge. We created each other. He spoke and I did. When talking about Electra Staniewski, the director of Gardzienice, has said that, ‘Real ‘acting out’ occurs when the man is able to break through the limitations of his male conditions and assumptions to reach the secret and the enigma of the female body. Of course you cannot get it” he goes on, “without identifying with the female soul and vice versa’.
AH walks to MIDI keyboard
With 13 years distance to that work I am focused on the creative agency of performers in a process and facilitating that in others. I’ve been observing the tools that female directors use in their work after Gardzienice? And to what extent are these tools are feminist while my practice centres around what a Female-First approach might be.