Sunday, October 18, 2015

“The floor is the best partner an actor can have for it is unrelentlessly hard”

My first couple of weeks in London have been…bloody brilliant! My first week consisted of orientation 3 days a week, each one for about an hour a day. There was much room for sightseeing that week!

 My second week here, school started. I only have classes on Mondays from 1pm – 8pm and Wednesdays from 10am – 10pm. I don’t mind the long hours because this means more time for traveling on the weekends.

I think this is one of my favorite paintings
ever and it's at the National Gallery here! 
     My acting classes are fascinating. I am learning so much about my body, improv, and acting techniques. During one of my acting classes, we lay on the floor and we were instructed to just breathe. We noticed our breathing patterns and the rhythmic movement of our body parts as each breath filled us.

Then we were instructed to try as many different positions as possible and notice how our breathing changed.  I previously thought of my body as a blob that I carried around, now it’s my prop for communicating with others.

Westminster is one of the most
 beautiful places I've seen. 
Afterwards, we were instructed to move, but keep one or two points of contact with the floor at all times. Points of contact meaning one or two surfaces of your body touching the floor, the goal was to see how many funky positions you could twist your body into. Using the heel of my foot and the palm of my hand as my points of contact, I was in mid lunge. So focused on balancing to think about other positions I could transition to or other points of contact, I fell hard on my thigh.  My instructor came over with “I loved what you were doing with your body and you can go so many places from there.”  She placed herself in my position; balancing so much better than I did, and showed me the flexibility I had in that position. She effortlessly transitioned into 5 more positions and left me with the task of finding more. After she untangled herself from a pretzel like position, she comforting said “Sorry you fell. The floor is the best partner an actor can have, though, for it is unrelentlessly hard.” I had never thought of the floor that way and I loved this new idea that the floor was my partner. I was willing to try again. Previously I thought I had exhausted the different positions I could make holding myself up with my palm and my heel.  Since I was blank on inspiration, I started pulling inspiration from water, food, etc. Essentially, asking myself if someone poured water on top of my head, how could I guide it down with my body, like a water slide? However, if I could push through, let my body guide me, and pull from multiple depots of inspiration, it opened up a whole new world for possibilities.

Right next to Westminster is Westminster Abbey,
the most beautiful Cathedral 
Pushing through and pulling from other sources of inspiration came in handy in another acting class. The improv game felt like it was going on forever. I have a hat of ideas and when it feels like I might get to the bottom of my idea hat, I think back to that day and think about other sources of inspiration. I think about what I’m not thinking about, about my facebook news feed, about my cooking experience, about any films or anything I’ve seen recently. Usually, then I can form an idea for a scene. With improv and with other things, you don’t have to plan out the entire scene. You can have an initial idea and just go with it to see what comes out! I feel like this was an important lecture for me. Just letting go and instinctively, reacting with my body and my words. Because acting is about reacting! Writing this blog post and reflecting on pushing through and pulling out more creativity reminds me of Ben Linder’s bird lecture.  

I found Big Ben sightseeing!
This wasn't super hard to spot! 
For those of you that don’t know, first years at Olin College take a course called Design Nature where they design animals inspired by nature. It’s an introductory design and machining class at Olin College. Ben Linder, the Design Nature instructor, once challenged us to individually scribble on a post-it note as many birds as we could think of in 1 minute. I recorded 20, maybe?
Post exercise, the students shared their count of total birds. Unless you were Riley Chapman, most of us had around 20-30? Then Ben Linder asked Debbie Chandra, another instructor who participated and swore she did not know the topic beforehand, to share her bird count and she had around 80! AROUND EIGHTY! In his lecture, he revealed that the secret to listing as many birds as possible was FRAMING. Instead of asking yourself to list out all the birds you know, you should frame the problem differently. You should first think about all the places where you might see birds. Then go through each location and write down the birds you see at that location. Then, move on to another location.  For example, start with downtown, ask yourself how many birds you know that belong around the city. You should then think about the zoo and ask yourself what birds you would see in any downtown city.  Instead of going hard at once and writing down all the birds you can think of at once, frame the problem into categories.  I feel like framing is coming in handy during my improv games!

It’s weird, I didn’t think much of this semester would tie back to Olin! But hey, surprise! The process of generating creative ideas for improv scenes can also be applied to generating creative ideas for engineering projects! Framing is important for fruitful and diverse thinking apparently!

Also the rumors are true, Wicked is the best musical in town. Simply amazing.

Oh and also, the Buzzfeed article was a lie! I have located both avocados and peanut butter. The avocados taste just like they do at home. I bought 3 huge avocados for 2 pounds at Borough Market on Friday and made guacamole for dinner yesterday. However, I haven't tried the peanut butter brand here since I'm not done with my large tub of peanut butter that I brought with me from the states! I will keep you updated! 

Later, friends! 

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