Workshops, Training and Residencies
What an audience sees on stage is an undeniably powerful piece of the theatrical experience. Movement, action, gesture, stillness, the imagery of the ensemble and of the individual help tell the story, often with more clarity and eloquence than text itself.
Residencies offered by Theater Grottesco are among the very best physical theater trainings available in the United States. Based in the Lecoq technique, these classes heighten presence, instinctual response, spatial awareness and ensemble techniques through the exploration of physical theatrical styles. Styles include Buffoon, Clown, Tragedy, Commedia Dell'Arte, Baal Masks (and other mask styles), Ensemble Story Telling, Melodrama, Basic Ensemble Training, Dance/Theater, and explorations in combined and evolving styles as yet unnamed.
This is about empowering the theater artist; broadening skills beyond the spoken word; creating a visceral visual dynamic that simultaneously stimulates an audience's emotions and intellect. Herein lies the potential to engage the experienced audience member and the child with the same production.
Professional Master Classes and Workshops for the general public are offered at the Theater Grottesco studio. Professional residencies are available for theaters and universities. Theater Grottesco offers corporate training and works in the schools, pre-school through high school.
This is the foundation of physical performance. The Neutral Mask connects the actor with instinctual response, rhythm, presence and an economy of movement. The Mask helps performers identify physical ticks and habits, a first step towards correcting them. Extensive work with the mask allows a performer to make every movement or stillness a conscious choice.
Adjusting personal rhythm and instinct to the group. Group balance of space. Imagery through sound and movement. Focusing the audience by focusing the ensemble. Trust.
Silent Story Telling
In 18th century France, as an effort to rein in the sacrilege of theater, a ban was placed on the spoken word in public places, except by the church. The theater community responded by developing pantomime blanche, a style of silent story telling. A story told today might contain devices from film including pans, close-ups, and pull-backs, where the actors are performing in miniature while creating full scenes through the use of sound and the portrayal of objects.
These are the large white masks originally created for Mardi Gras in Basel, Switzerland. They are often called larval masks because they contain only the slightest hint of form and expression. It is up to the actor to find the character of the mask and endow it with full emotional response. These are non-speaking masks that require a heightened sense of play rooted in honest human response while physically supporting a character.
Clown is the most personal of the styles Grottesco teaches. The company specifies a Theatrical Clown as opposed to a Circus Clown. That requires a search for the vulnerability of the individual, the state of simply "being" on stage without "performing". In this state we see the humanity of the individual and from that humanity comes humor. There are no tricks taught in a Grottesco Clown workshop. This state of vulnerability has broad application to any theatrical style.
This is a little known classical style based upon Medieval leper colonies and ships of fools, where those who were different were shunned from society. As Tragedy speaks to the Gods, Buffoonery speaks to the Devil. A workshop or masterclass includes the support of a physical disability. Developing a human state of being with reference to an animal base. The art of folly and mockery.
Tragedy & The Dynamic Space
Grottesco approaches Tragedy as a grand style. The Chorus is a dynamic ensemble. Text is often delivered as declaration and must be sustained physically, so as to create "moving sculpture" on which the text rides. The individual is physically ready for battle at any moment.
One of the best known and most difficult of the physical styles because it demands a rhythmic physical and verbal improvisation while supporting the mask. A workshop in the classic style includes a general history, repertoire of gestures, rhythms and motivations of the stock characters. This can be tailored as a modern workshop focusing on translating the spirit of classic commedia to contemporary characters including a research of modern archetypes.
Gesture as Cultural Memory
This workshop begins with the premise that culture is stored in our genes as instinct. Glimpses of these memories can be seen as movement and gesture, many of them unconscious. Where language provides oral and written history, and thought gives us world views; movement and gesture, on a deeper and subconscious level, reveal memories of cultures foresworn, family and tribal histories, present pop culture messages imprinting without our awareness or consent, and perhaps even portents of the future.
Multiple Roles/Rapid Character Change
Body, gesture and vocal changes can happen in a split second. When done cleanly, an actor has performed magic. This work focuses on the quick change, physical precision and timing, inhabiting characters deeply, improvising solo and with other actors also working multiple characters. This work derives from Commedia Dell’arte and is best exemplified in modern theater by Italy’s Dario Fo.
Timing & The Inspired Moment
There is a precise and perfect moment for every action on stage, every entrance, every word. The fractions of seconds surrounding these moments will often work but they will not shine. Timing is the actor's musical skill applied to action. The brilliance of inspired moments captured in improvisation are often lost in the repetition of rehearsals and performance. In this workshop we will hone the instinctual sense of timing and the ability to recreate the newness of an inspired moment in repeated performance.
Voice & Character Development
Vocal gesture is as much a part of character development as physical gesture, especially in text based work. The ability to identify personal vocal patterns and alter them to suit a character is essential to creating a complete portrait. Voice placement and coloration, speech pattern, intonation and breath as well as tempo will be explored. We will be teaching basic Lessac technique combined with Grottesco physicality. Participants will bring two monologues preferably in different styles, and be prepared for physical and vocal work.
Creating Original Work
Any of the workshops can include a component of creating original work. Or a focused workshop is about creating non text based work using character, environment and dramatic situation. Participants will be expected to bring ideas for hands-on development of short pieces. Projects can be solo or multiple-actor. Texts are acceptable if they are utilitarian and not the major motor of the piece.
Humanities-based curriculum accompanying each production, allowing company members to lead classroom discussions based upon themes presented in the productions. Discussions are placed in historical and multi-cultural frameworks.
Organization & Corporate Training
Drawing upon theatrical ensemble techniques and those designed to advance the awareness of the individual and groups interacting, Theater Grottesco provides training in authentic interaction, self awareness and team building. Mirroring the work of Dee Hock, an ensemble in action is a "chaordic organization" - a shining synthesis of chaos and order where creativity is wide open, organizational advancement results are legendary, and the sum far exceeds the combination of the parts. Other trainings can be designed around any of the theatrical styles above.
DESIGNING A RESIDENCY TO FIT YOUR NEEDS AND SCHEDULE:
Introductory workshops and master classes: Choose from the styles listed above. Also available are acting for dancers, lecture-demonstrations, interactive open rehearsals, and discussions of style, creation, arts administration and touring. Availability: single sessions - several days.
CONSIDER THIS… is a 60 minute romp through the pre-history of American theater, from Greek Tragedy to Commedia dell’Arte, Clown, Buffoon, masks and more. Based on the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, Consider This… is available as a one or two person show.
Specific training for your production:Physicalize a production you are working on and heighten the cast's ability to support style and theme. Availability: single sessions to several days. One to four weeks for creation, two to six weeks including performances.
Creating original work: Intensive ensemble work focused in a chosen style leading to the creation of original work which can be performed at the end of the residency. One to four weeks for creation, two to six weeks including performances. Four to five weeks is optimum.
Performing with Grottesco: Add participant performances of short Grottesco pieces, and pieces performed by Grottesco's directors for an evening of short works that can fill a performance slot. Four to five weeks optimum.
Performing a full length Grottesco production: Basic physical training with intensive work in the style of an already produced Grottesco play. In mounting the show, actors put their training to use. Directors, writers, designers, builders and stitchers experience Grottesco's commitment to a startling, challenging theater that dares to break boundaries. Five weeks minimum.
Commissioning Grottesco: Witness Grottesco artists delving into the unknown to create a new production. Your artists may participate as performers, writers, designers, builders, stitchers. Three to twelve weeks.
Past College & University residencies include: American College of Switzerland, Vanderbilt, Emory, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado College, Virginia Wesleyan, Florida State, Texas Christian, Occidental, Pomona, Loyola Marymount, United World College, Creighton, University of Illinois, Notre Dame, Iowa State, Ohio Wesleyan, University of Massachusetts, Alverno, Stephens, Miami-Dade, SUNY Binghamton & Plattsburgh, St. Mary’s, MN Ohio University, Colorado State, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Miami of OH, University of Puget Sound, Bucknell University, University of NM