WHAT EMPOWERMENT THROUGH THEATRE REALLY MEANS (TO ME)
Challenge used to be my favorite word in English, even when I was very young and just starting to learn the language. For me it was always the way to go. When there is a challenge: go for it! Because here you will learn, here you will expand – in whatever direction. You know when you start yoga and the stretches hurt – and when you get the first glimpse of how you can also enjoy this pain in the stretches? This is how it feels like for me: in my theatre classes you are invited to enjoy the pain of stretching your comfort zone into the space beyond, because it indicates growth, change, expansion. You stretch yourself into who you really are. Because that is what is usually happening for most of us: we do not fill the whole possibility of who we are. The space is there and it is constantly inviting us to be filled – but we usually do not dare. Most of the time.
For a while now I have the subtitle EMPOWERMENT THROUGH THEATRE on my website as well as a workshop series with that title.
I realized that especially Germans understand a different thing when it comes to EMPOWERMENT. For some reason it has a ring of bursting power, something that seems to be very necessary in society nowadays. I feel I should start to explain what empowerment means in my world.
we do not need to pump ourselves up in order to be empowered!
EVERYONE IS SPECIAL
When people come to me in my courses, everyone comes with a different disposition. Some people want to free their ability to move. Some people miss the freedom to play in their lives. Some people come with the deep wish to express their creative self but feel trapped inside. Some people have a fear of speaking in public. Some people love to communicate with other human beings in a subtle way, that is provided in Drama and movement classes. Some people realize that their every day live leaves something missing – some people have this passion for drama and want to get into a different skin/character. Some people find the depth of life in words of Shakespeare.
And it is true. There is something to be found in drama, that sometimes feels more real than “real life”. The way you can train up relating, communication, the way you are invited to make friends with yourself again, your own body, to relate – to everything around you including yourself. The way you are invited to be true to yourself. All of this might get lost in the every day rush of succeeding.
And here everyone is at a different point in their lives. In my classes I usually ask the people for feedback by letting them choose their favorite moment. This is a technique that was once developed for teenagers – to get them used to support end empower their fellow actors instead of only see the things that are not perfect yet. In my experience teenagers are so much more supportive of each other than adults are to begin with, because usually they know each other and want each other to be good.
Anyways. The reason why I ask people that, so they can train up seeing the parts that work instead of focusing on the faults. Something we have learned for so long, that for some people, including myself, it took a long time to un-learn this. The joy of seeing the good stuff in life, in people AND in yourself is seriously completely underestimated, but it can change your whole life.
The second reason why I start with this question, is, that I really want the people to also learn to give feedback, but I do not want to risk, people getting too scared to go on stage and try again. Plus: to succeed on stage can mean something completely different to anyone involved.
DIFFERENT PEOPLE – DIFFERENT CHALLENGES
Depending from what disposition you come from, it can mean the biggest success if you do not say anything in an improvised scene for example. For someone else it might be the opposite and it is a break through to voice out something, if they never dared to be free. Maybe for Paul it can mean the world to start realizing there is someone else on stage and start relating to them. For Kevin it would be fantastic to focus on himself for a while before he starts to realize another being on stage. You have no idea how tempting that can be for Paul. This inner voice that tells you to RELATE!!! Right away. Maybe we have learned that from childhood to be aware of the needs of other people – your parents, your siblings, your partner, now cýour children. Maybe the inner allowance to only focus on yourself needs to be newly established. This is what we do in our theatre classes. We identify those special dispositions with everyone – not loud at first, it is obvious. We do not go back and ask ourselves what happened in our childhood. We only realize it. Then we play with it. Then we realize the difficulty in changing it – and if you are a person who likes personal challenge, who comes to these courses because you want to grow, well, then it is a pleasure to be allowed these new and sometimes very subtle ways of trying out new behavior, new insights and instantly put them into action.
For Heather it could be a total challenge to walk a straight line and to not blink and make way if someone else approaches, for Laura it could be a success to actually do decide to let the other have their way and step back. For Sophie it meant the world the moment she was able to express a highly charged emotion like joy with her body and her voice and for Julia it was a break through when she started to feel an emotion for herself before she needed to express it overdramatically. And instead it could be really tender and she would allow herself to feel it before she needed to express it to feel alive. There is this incredible but subtle difference between feeling and emotion and let it be expressed by itself or the urge to shout out everything and show it to the world.
So the two opposite sides that Sophie and Julia apparently come from need a different approach that can be handled in the same session – because they not only experience and explore for themselves but as a team, they learn from each other. Julia makes way for the allowance field – she s so expressive that Sophie gets inspired and realizes that it is fine to be loud and expressive and emotional in this class. Sophie might inspire Julia to take a step back and both discover together that there is a moment before the expression. A tender and intimate moment where it is only about you, your body and your senses, your inner experience. A moment of intimacy only with yourself. And the discovery that the moment we truly allow us to be with that moment, whatever is present, shines automatically, you do not need to ex-press or sup-press anything. Like light shines from the sun. There is no denying it. Everything else is just the shifting of some clouds or turning the earth 🙂
a moment of intimacy with yourself through touch
Jeremy would explode on stage with passion but had no direction for it, so the scenes went all crazy and undefined and he had to leave the stage too early a lot, because he had nothing to hold on to in his mind and had no idea who he was on stage at all. Nevertheless, the pure ability to show so much energy and passion on stage was such a precious gain for his life, so that it is fine to leave that be for a while before giving him the hint, that now, he can start to use his exploding energy in a way that he can channel it into a clear purpose, a clear character with a mission, with a need, to define those AND fill them with energy. These experiences shape your experience so deeply, that you will not only be able to use this new knowledge on stage, but will find that you can start to use what you learned in every day situations. It comes naturally, because we train up in an experiential field and we repeat this training.
For Rose, it was fantastic to simply get herself on stage and stay with her complete fear of not knowing anything, not having any idea of what to do on stage, and instead always pushing the responsibility to the other by asking them obvious questions, simply to avoid her own feeling of feeling stupid, worthless, uninteresting, lame, bland, well, all you feel like when you attend a party and don’t know anyone and have no clue what to say, even when other people approach you and open up the conversation.
For Rose the way was to simply stay with her uncomfortable feeling, without doing anything BUT staying in the connection. And even though in other acting and impro techniques you learn how you have to bring the scene forward by adding something new to the scene, this is the first step of getting there eventually. First realizing and staying with what is. Now. And it can take ages (at least that is how it feels like when you stand on stage and have to bathe in your own uncomfortable state). And like I said at the beginning – that can be anything to you. For some people it is hardest to slow down and start to realize what is actually happening underneath a lot of activity. For others it can be to get active at all, because there seems to be some kind of paralysis going on, that prevent them from moving, feeling, expressing…..
some kind of paralysis that finds its expression in our daily lives and can be expressed on stage in a dramatic way
BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF
There is nothing more beautiful than to watch people on stage being true to themselves. What does that actually mean?
It means that you do not jump over what is actually happening in this moment. It is the moment where many people try to get to in meditation for example, or in mindfulness, yoga or whatever technique is your favorite. I tell you, you can also have this when you do theatre. When you stand on stage, improvising or with a text…. It really does not matter. Even in the exercises we do in the first part of the classes, you find your challenge. Very often it is about slowing down and starting to focus on one little detail. Eye contact. Breathing out. Combining movement and breath. Focussing. Relating.
Our theatre classes are a space where you can find out how to expand, how to grow, how to be who you already are – all in an environment of complete acceptance – we let you be who you are, we invite you to be even more who you are (and that might be the ultimate challenge to start with) and support you on the way. Whatever is appropriate for you. We find out together what it is that you need. In any exercise – usually the very simple ones, everyone can find their own personal challenge – no matter how “advanced” you may be already in acting or if you are just doing your first baby steps. Our exercises are designed in a way that they pick you up exactly where you are at.
That is the Empowerment I am interested in. Empowered to be your true self. To be who you are. In any given moment. Whatever that means to you.