Saturday, May 19, 2012

Visual Thinking

Visual Thinking is a formative concept for me as a performing artist and thinker!

When I am generating ideas on paper the act of writing itself is a kind of thinking outside my body. The arrangement of words on the page says as much to me as the actual words themselves. This is why I use bullets and arrows, it is why I go back for a second swipe with a pencil or a different color ink to circle and underline words or whole paragraphs. This second layer of purely visual information tells me what is most important, what pieces of information go together, and which ones lead into each other.

It is the same with space itself. When I am developing a piece of theater my relationship to, and interactions with both the scenery and the empty space around me inform the actual “story”. My experience of a narrow hallway, or my attempts to navigate it or relate to it tell a visual story without words. Perhaps I breathe it in and walk firmly back and forth suggesting that I am in control of my tiny space. Perhaps I claw at the walls proposing that I cannot extend my person enough to feel free. Perhaps I do both, suggesting that I need a small space in order to be in control of it, but inherently feel trapped. This is all purely visual information that an audience can immediately understand.

Objects. Objects are my main method of making theater. When performing with an object there is the performer and there is the object. This means that as a performer you may be primary or you may be secondary to the object. This creates an opportunity for you, the creator, to choose which one is primary and at what moment. This changing relationship to the object, be it a chair, a book, or a dog puppet enables you to breathe a life force into a thing that exists outside of you, handle it, let it live, allow it to express power, and relate to it. You could even be encased within the object (a costume that extends or transforms the body of the performer) and become a chimera where you and the object are together one primary thing. These relationships between objects and humans are visual and visceral in nature. Audience see and understand. They do not rely on words, they are created through the craft of manipulating the rhythm, shapes, and energy of the body of the performer.

I teach the craft of movement in the body of the performer and how this craft can be used to breathe life into objects and space.

In addition to learning the workings of your own body in my practical classes, I also teach the importance of understanding and using the expectations of your audience. I teach how to set up what those expectations can be, whether it is in relation to your “story” or the environment of your performance.   

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