Emily’s Meta-Primer #2: E is for Entry, Points of

| March 18, 2014

I majored in theatre in undergrad, and one of the better courses I took was an acting and textual analysis class entitled “Masters in Movement: Text Into Performance.” The instructor, Daniela Varon, had us read plays from a variety of eras and social contexts, discuss them, and perform monologues and scenes–all of which is fairly standard in such types of classes. However, for each play she gave us assignments which offered us a different sensory “in” to understanding the texts. Some examples of this included using Kristen Linklater’s physio-vocal technique to embody Shakespearean text from “The Winter’s Tale,” making collages depicting the different converging worlds and cultures in Kushner’s “Angels in America,” choosing theme songs for each character in “The Glass Menagerie,” or creating memory-inspired dance pieces a la “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf.” One particularly distinctive session involved a Victorian-style tea party for “The Importance of Being Earnest” in which the women in the class wore corsets from the theatre department’s costume shop to get a sense of the physical and social uprightness and restrictions which informed the characters’ conduct. These various points of entry helped us connect to the work on a variety of levels, both as students and as actors, and I still use some of the techniques and methods I learned in that class to this day (short of mincing around in a corset, of course…). Since a lot of our recent discussions in this class have dealt with the somatic experience, or lack thereof, in relation to learning, I’ve found myself reflecting on Daniela’s course as proof of how effective it can be to discover or create sensory points of entry in such contexts, as a supplement to traditional teaching methods or even in place of them. If we want to impart some kind of knowledge or information, it’s not only more effective but more resonant to engage people beyond the intellectual level.