Sharing the Stage with Someone (the terms “stage” and “life” are interchangeable here 🙂
One of the most challenging topics – because it is so dear and close to each of us – is the play with our personal space and with encounter. In one of my last empowerment workshops with the topic of presence, we went through a series of solo stage performances. It was about presenting ourselves to the group and our only tool was our purse or backpack or whatever we brought to carry our stuff in. It was a magical journey where each of the participants went through a personal challenge and had some break-through moments. Beautiful for all to experience, also the audience – because this is what my understanding of theatre is, to take the audience into a space of truth or authenticity with you on stage. Anyways, on Sunday I thought I’d round the experience up with something light, so I asked my participants to share the space on stage with their solo performances and find a way of giving each other space, maybe even supporting each other in their performance without interfering too much with each other. We actually went through a series of exercises for exactly that beforehand. Said and done.
What happened on stage completely threw me off my game for a moment, because I did not expect that to happen. All of the sudden the two people who before had given us both a fabulous solo performance, started to solely focus on each other, gave up their own THING and pleased the other person on stage or tried to get their attention in a way that was painful to watch.
So what happened here?
Maybe it is important to mention that all the participants of this workshop were female? May that have something to do with the readiness to throw our own strengths gifts and talents, that we allowed to explode and shine brightly on stage before over board in our solos?
The simple fact that there was another person on stage with us threw each one off their game completely. There seemed to be two choices:
To only and completely focus on themselves and neglect the other and not give space at all
To give up their own space completely and try to get attention of the other
Depending on how their natural disposition was, it resumed in giving up on stage or throw an emotional fit because they felt neglected or to either talk like crazy and leave no pause for anyone or anything, but also getting into some kind of automatism, anyways real encounter or contact was not possible at all.
Watching this reminded me so much of life itself. Isn’t that the area where we all start to struggle, when another one comes in (or two or three or many). One moment we are fine and self aware and in contact with ourselves and then someone comes in and Poof! Gone.
In my acting course STAGE ENCOUNTERS we train exactly these moments over and over again. Usually it starts off with A coming on stage and creating the space – (where are they, what do they do, who are they) and at the appropriate time, when A has introduced themselves B comes along.
What happens now is that B mostly already comes on stage, only looking at A – their only focus. The result of this behavior is that the space closes to a tiny space between the two of them and it is kind of hard to get into as audience. You also completely miss the moment of when they meet for the first time – the most important moment for the characters and also for the audience. One of my teachers from the beautiful Actors Space Barcelona once said: you will never be able to get this moment back! Once it is gone, it is gone! –
WANTING SOMETHING FROM THE OTHER OR TRYING TO “SAVE” THE SPACE
So the work here is to get the participants to become aware of this precious moment – AND to actually be able to come on stage as A SINGLE CHARACTER… Focusing on themselves, so they become visible, they become a person, a character – not only to themselves but to the audience as well. Otherwise it is simply a mass of atoms moving on stage and WANTING SOMETHING from the other person, like:
- Help me lose my fear of being on stage!
- Help me to feel myself!
- Don’t leave me alone in this!
- Give me ideas of what to do.
Or the other choice: to “save” everything on stage, thinking you are the only one responsible for making it work. Which leads to taking over and leaving no room for the other at all.
It would be really interesting to have a microphone in the players heads to listen to why they turn to the other person right away instead of daring to stand alone for a moment, to set up their character BEFORE they start a relationship. I know I am sounding like a relationship coach now, but that is actually what happens in my classes. You get to see yourself in all the clear details of your life. You are only able to do on stage what you are able to do in life. Simple truth. If you cannot hold eye contact in real life – you certainly will be presented that on stage. So the stage is a wonderful training ground for relationship issues.
And especially when you deal with physical theatre. Because what we do here is we bring it all down into the body. So we do not have to talk about anything (thank goodness, right?) but we get to feel it all (oops!) – IN SLOW MOTION. Because I will interrupt you and we all get to have a look at those moments together – in front of an audience. Or you might call it witness. And that is great – because that is what we do in this work. We get on stage and feel all the struggles that come along with exposing ourselves here – and we do not only do that for ourselves, but we do that for all of the people present. Yeah! We do the work and those who watch do the transformation with you – because the moment we are emotionally involved it means we feel with you – they are our own feelings.
So what do we actually learn here, why am I writing about this?
We learn how to start balancing the focus on ME AND on YOU – at the same time!!! This is the training. To become aware of what is happening with me when other people come along, when they share the space – any space with me. What patterns of behavior are starting to show in class – why do they feel so incredibly familiar? And then it is of course totally up to you how you want to use this information. I can only offer you a space where you get to train up relating on stage, with one person, with many people, to open your imagination for other possibilities, to invite you to hold eye contact for a second longer than you dare, to feel what is actually the essence of that contact between you and the other one on stage – for a short moment – and then relax body and mind fully into that moment and boom – you know what to do – naturally. And YES! It is also inspired by the other person on stage – but it comes from that lovely little space that opens up BETWEEN YOU. When both of you allow themselves to be there fully, before drifting into unaware automatic patterns of behavior – that are usually fed by the old fight or flight impulse. I know it is so boring to come back to that old motif all the time not even knowing what we are fuelled by, instead let’s wake up and dare to relax into this before we start acting. Acting in the very sense of becoming active and doing something, because we just know what to do.
Oh you can see how my passion for this matter takes me up – I am so incredibly happy that I found a tool (acting, moving, playing) that allows to break all these incredibly basic and fundamental behavior patterns into a clear guideline of how to act naturally and instinctively. That allows us to not only be fantastic on stage but to come to that point in such a relaxed way – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt sometimes – but it is you who decides to go there. I might push you sometimes, but only If I feel you can take it yet and you give me your permission.
Mostly it is about being so curious of what happens in these moments of encounter and being open to explore them in order to incorporate them into your life. Because this is what we are here for: to love our lives in the best way we can, no? To feel and live our potential in our own unique way. And here is a space where you can train up a part of what seems relevant to you. Come as you are and leave as you are – fully empowered to be you!