I think I’ve landed a little since last night.
So let’s start discussing how to get practical.
Augusto Boal has a four fold process to transform a spectator into an actor, described in his book “Theater of the Oppressed.”
- “1st Stage. Knowing the Body: A series of excersises by which one gets to know one’s body…its social distortion and possibilities of rehabilitation.
- 2nd Stage. Making the Body Expressive: A series of games by which one begins to express one’s self through the body…
- 3rd Stage. The Theater as Language: One begins to practice theater as a language that is living and present, not as a finished product displaying images from the past…
- 4th Stage. The Theater as Discourse: Simple forms in which the spectator-actor creates ‘spectacles’ according to his need to discuss certain themes or rehearse certain actions.”
Boal goes on to list varying exercises by which one will complete these stages. I am still reading about these varying exercises and honestly should not list them until I know what I’m talking about.
Seeing as though I rarely know what I’m talking about, however, let me make a first attempt to begin applying these stages to my journey in Peru, keeping in mind the overall theme (the relationship between art and politics) and my four personal themes (theater, gayness, spirituality, my feelings.)
So, in grand self-reflexive-write-about-your-feelings tradition, here’s the 1st and 2nd stages as trying to relate to my own private “performance” during this journey. (In the street, in class, when trying to order coffee and getting every social detail wrong wrong wrong.)
How to recognize social distortions in my body and being?
Boal suggests “muscular alienation” in exercises which force the spect-actor to move in ways he didn’t ever expect to move.
But I’m not in his theater class right now. So….Hmm…
There is a tradition here of kissing as a greeting (only boys on girls and girls on girls but boys on boys too when things are chill.) This is much different than the stupid limp ass handshake I get when I’m greeted in Seattle. (Still love you Seattle, but seriously.) So that points something out to me.
But that example is lame.
What about…hmmm…well, eye contact.
That example is not lame. Eye contact is really hard. Don’t lie and say its not because you are probably just good at it. It takes practice.
Its been the hardest thing lately to sustain such eye contact, especially when I’m struggling in another language. Why is it hard? I don’t know. Some Fruedian/socially constructed/some other reason.
Maybe its my anxiety disorder. Who cares?
Fact is it that that is an example of a social distortion. And so a daily excersize is making eye contact.
(If you’re wondering if this blog is going to become about self-help, know that I am too, and I’m trying not to go to far down that road. But bear with me. )
Another is the slumping of the shoulders; another is the pause in the middle of the sentence (which screws up anyone understanding my Spanish); another is walking on the balls of my feet. Rolling the eyes, playing with fingers while speaking, biting the nails.
Slumping of the shoulders is looking at the ground and my feet is the desire to be alone is the feeling of irreconcilable uniqueness.
Pausing is searching for correct articulation is the desire to be clear is the desire to be myself.
Walking on the balls of my feet is a lack of exercise is being bored by exercise is not liking machismo exercise is not liking the feeling of having to compete.
Rolling the eyes is fear of eye contact is fear of being caught.
Playing with fingers while speaking is too much energy is desire to move around is needing to communicate more than I am saying.
Biting the nails is desire for something in my mouth is I quit smoking and try not to smoke is thinking really hard and needing to release energy is everyday getting better at focusing.
All of these can be considered to be socially constructed, especially considering the concept of the “Looking Glass Self.” Each of these little habits are related to the struggle to communicate.
And none are considered with judgement but rather consideration.
How to make the body expressive?
“In our culture we are used to expressing everything through words, leaving the enormous expressive capabilities of the body in an underdeveloped state. A series of ‘games’ can help the participants to begin to use their bodily resources for self-expression. I am talking about parlor games and not necessarily those of a theatrical laboratory. The participants are invited to ‘play,’ not to ‘interpret,’ characters but they will ‘play’ better to the extent that they ‘interpret’ better.”
And so Boal would send participants around the room pretending to be hummingbirds.
(And this is probably why people sometimes make fun of drama class. And they’re right to do so. )
Is there a way to train one’s self to become more expressive?
Going back to the previous step (and all of therapy last year) wherein I identified my “social distortions”, clearly expressing my self probably involves:
- Talking with my hands too much. (Though this quickly becomes a distortion.)
- Speaking directly into someone’s eyes. (However strange this may seem.)
- Trying to actively listen, especially when I do not agree.
- Writing this blog.
Good god, this all still sounds like Oprah, like saying affirmations in the mirror.
So the next goal is to move from internal silly time sweet self talk to actual action.