We Gotst Rhythm!

Third and final week at The White Church Theatre Project… this is the week I had to skip last year and the week the final presentation comes together. With 30-ish people onstage, that's a lot of coming together. It's fun to be part of the process and instructive to watch Corinne and Steve direct such a large group of people, of all levels experience from novice to professional, and working from a set of group improvisations. They had no set idea for a story or sequence before we started working. They just took things suggested by the improvs, asked for another improv on that, until there were enough pieces to start putting them together.

Even though Corporeal mime is known for it's precision, there's not a lot of technique-based directing happening. The actors on stage are at a wide variety of levels with the technique, and we've all been working on it for at least the past two weeks. So in construction is the time to trust the actors to make use of whatever they have absorbed. From a directorial point of view, rhythm is the focus. Along with stage directions which mold 30 people into a coherent choreography – and also keep us from lazily going directly from point A to point B (I blame the heat) – rhythm directions are spiked with an occasional note on form. Mostly they want us to go faster (I'm still blaming the heat, there's a reason southerners drawl). Well, OK, it's more complex and subtle than that, my point is that rhythm supersedes form.

This is a truth I have seen over and over. In Paris I had a classmate whose body was all angles. Weird angles. Every exercise looked awkward on him. Yet his sense of rhythm and comic timing was impeccable, so that on stage you totally forgot the awkwardness because you were laughing too hard to care. And as I myself am primarily a comedian, I know first hand that rhythm means the difference between getting a hearty laugh or silence for a gag. Drama also depends on rhythm – and that does not mean moving slow! Dean and I often create inner “songs” that help us give texture to our movement. I don't often get the chance to work timing with 30 people though. It's been an amazingly quick process and a ton of fun. At times it looks like barely controlled chaos – which makes the best kind of theatre.

 

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