Hookman, But Mostly About Grotowski

After a wonderful four weeks of shrieking audiences and fake blood, Hookman has come to a close. I feel so lucky to have been apart of such a talented, invigorating team. To sum it in a classic high school yearbook sentiment: don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened!

I forgot to mention: during the run, I had the absolute pleasure (and some physical pain) of taking a Grotowski workshop with Wendy vanden Heuvel, an actress and and really, really wonderful teacher who worked with Jerzy Grotowski himself. (Fun fact: Becca Wolff, director of Hookman and Devin O'Brien, Hookman of Hookman took it too!) In short: the workshop was incredibly illuminating.

At length: At the start of Hungry River Theatre Co.'s stint in Ridgecrest, we set out to create lab time for ourselves where we'd practice Meisner, Viewpoints and Grotowski, and any other acting or theatre training an ensemble member was interested in. When we started producing shows, lab time got squeezed out by rehearsal.

But before our humble season began, we spent about 30 hours a week practicing what we'd learned in college and teaching ourselves Grotowksi and Meisner from books. My experience with Grotowski from those sessions? Sweaty, achey, painful, difficult, disconnected. After a four-day crash course in Grotowski with Wendy, my experience is still: sweaty, achey, painful, and difficult. But not disconnected. Far from it.

When we were teaching ourselves, although we didn't know it, we successfully led ourselves through most of the physical forms in Grotowski (cat, corporeal, plastiques). But I couldn't connect the movement to imagination. I thought I was supposed to be picturing myself as a leaf, a creek or Something Else Grand And Deep. Perhaps I didn't understand the directions, perhaps my imagination muscle was weak, perhaps I was pressuring myself to be interesting. Probably all of the above at some point. 

It's a no brainer, but working with an experienced teacher like Wendy I learned the ideal forms correctly and how those forms free our minds, connect us to our bodies, and feed our imaginations. Incredible!

My two clearest takeaways were: 

  1. Whatever you are feeling about the work ("This is stupid," "I'm tired," "I HATE THIS," etc.), put it into the work. 
  2. Using the physical forms (cat, corporeals, plastiques old and new), you can access an unbelievably deep well of imagination and creativity. 

I have learned number one time and again, but it was liberating to receive explicit permission from Wendy with specific examples like, "UGH! Why the hell am I rolling around on the ground?" Number two opened a door to a brand new world for me. And now I'm hooked and eager for more.

Thanks to Clove Galilee and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks for bringing in Wendy for the workshop! On the last day, there was talk about an ongoing workshop... Got my fingers crossed.