Masters of Fine Arts: Contemporary Performance Thesis Proposal
This thesis proposal, will encompass all three parts of the integrated thesis. This includes; research and writing, four performances, one outside of the program, three of my cohort members, as well as a fourth installation performances of my own, and the last part being that of a pedagogy of “physical theatre” to be taught at my undergraduate university.
List of Definite Components
- Research and Writing
- Research into somatic integration into Aerial Arts
- Outside performance with Frequent Flyers Productions’ Theatre of the Vampires
- Performance as Time et al. in Katie Jones’ Thesis Production
- Performance with Stephen Geering’s Thesis Production.
- Performance with Bobbi Kupfner’s Thesis Production.
- The creation of an installation, with the working titles of “In*still*ation” or “The Golden Black Box”
- Teaching a “physical theatre” workshop and ensemble building, based in somatic movement and viewpoints to undergraduate students.
Research and Writing
I plan for this component to integrate the work I am currently doing at Naropa with the work I plan to do in the future as an aerial performer and circus artist. The research will be focused on integration and support of somatics and Body Mind Centering in aerial arts. Aerial arts, (henceforth referred to as aerial), is a very strict art form requiring great strength, agility, composure, and awareness, much as gymnastics, acrobatics, or extreme sports.
Aerial has grown over the past century, as a feat of extreme athleticism and physical prowess, a thing to be awed at from afar as a performer risks their life for the joy of the audience. It formerly revolved around an insular culture, i.e. circus families, with little outside access to training, and even fewer avenues of teaching and methods of performance. This has began to change with the growth of recreational circus (much like the growth of yoga as an exercise activity in the last twenty years.) This leads to the need for research to happen to expound this art from the professionally trained, e.g. former gymnasts, to a wide held universal understanding.
Aerial, as it is now, is mostly based in the muscles and to some extent the skeletal system as a method of movement, but the possibilities for the other systems to underlie and support the movement are endless. From using the systems to support already established muscle paths to new systems being the primary movers, (the idea of the bladder as a balloon to help invert the pelvis above the head is one such idea I would like to research.)
I have already begun this integration and understanding in my own study of aerial and used basic concepts to further my understanding of the art, but believe many other avenues and connections exist waiting to be discovered and furthered. I plan on doing this first through my own work and understanding with work both in the air and in studio somatic research. I then hope to further this by working with both aerialists and somatic or BMC practitioners (cohort members or alumni). Ideally, I would hold two to three workshops with two to three members of each community (six individuals), in which I would instruct the aerialists in somatic work and the other practitioners in aerial. There would be one workshop, solely focused on basic somatic vocabulary and understanding, the other two workshops would have a thorough somatic warm up followed by a short aerial intro. I would then receive feedback from both parties to further the research. This will double as a research tool and an assessment. My final goal with the paper is to present the research and paper at ATHE, if not this year then next, as well as other theatre and circus educator organizations. I would do this research with outside advisors (Nancy Smith of Frequent Flyers Productions and her staff, Sonia Smith has also expressed a willingness to help.) as well as the support of Naropa MFA faculty, especially Erika Berland and her somatic teachings. These two separate entities will be guiding bodies as well as help with assessment of the process and integration. The product of this will be somewhere between a research academic paper and a practitioner’s report. The goal is to present the material in an academic setting, as well as to create a vocabulary that is capable of bridging between the two worlds of study and useful as a teaching tool, much as the words of Body Mind Centering, and Grotowski have melted into other teachings.
I have already begun to recruit people for the research process and aim to have this solidified by the end of the year. I will also have the basic exploration ideas and processes established by the end of the year.
- January-February. I will have the first somatic introduction and exploration in either late January or late February.
- Late February- March. The first workshop and exploration with aerial equipment will be either after the Thesis productions in February or in early March.
- April. The last workshop and solidification of the research will happen in April.
These are rough outlines, and if I cannot book the aerial studio for exploration I will work with the aerialists in the somatic workshops and open-gyms at the aerial studio.
I plan on returning to my undergraduate university, Kansas Wesleyan University, and conduct a “physical theatre workshop” as well as ensemble building. I foresee this being a one to two day workshop of four to six hours a day with young adult college theatre students. Half the workshop will be spent on somatic movement and experiential exploration, and half on Viewpoints based group improvisation. Tools from somatics, Roy Hart voice work, Viewpoints, and applied theatre will be used to introduce these college students to physical theatre and the methodologies of post-modern theatre. The first thirty minutes will be a summary of what is going to happen as well as sociometry and applied theatre games. This will be then followed by a somatic based warm-up as well as a short explanation of experiential anatomy and the ability to create from the self. We would then move to voice exploration and then into a led viewpoints exploration. The focus of my teaching would be on introducing young artists to the inherent possibilities and creativity found in oneself. The tentative dates are either the beginning of January or mid-April. This would also change with the information from the school and the need of the students.
If a two day workshop is possible, I hope to work with a partner (briefly spoken with Bobbi, but no cemented work) in which my teaching and process would be the focus one day, with the partner assisting and recording the process, and switching roles the second day. I would discuss a syllabus and intention of the workshop with a faculty member, namely Joan, as my thesis advisor. I hope to use this experience as an exploration as to what exactly I want to teach and pursue. This will be formed as a taster into many little things in a short period of time, allowing me to teach a little bit of everything and start to isolate some of the things I would like to focus on in my future teaching endeavors. I would have trusted former teachers and colleagues observe my teaching. As well as have the participants fill out a survey and have an open discussion at the end of the workshop. This will also include a self-assessment.
My performance aspect is focused on integrating my learning into others creative processes and working with them, while maintaining the integrity of my creative work and needs. This is a four-part exploration for me with my working in four separate projects in a variety of levels. I recently performed in Frequent Flyers Production’s Theatre of the Vampires. This was an aerial dance show produced in a classical sense with a dance company and head choreographer. I worked with learning choreography in a modern style of repetition and following a choreographer. This process did allow for some self-creation and integration of my learning methods and basis of somatics in movement.
The other three are working within my cohort members’ thesis productions. I am portraying “Time” (as well as other characters) in Katie Jones’ Thesis, and creating moments, choreography, and character through that lens. I have given her seven hours of rehearsal a week. In Stephen Geering’s production, an extension of our moment work showing 7/20, I am working with being a supporting member and following an arc that is not of strong interest to me, while keep presence and supporting the project. Stephen has me for three hours a week. The last project I am involved in is Bobbi Kupfner’s work with Shakespeare. This is a shared interest between us. I have yet to rehearse with her, and from my understanding my involvement may be as little as lying dead in a bathtub. My assessment for this will mostly be self-reflection in the project, as well as assessment from the creators and the faculty.
The last “performance” an individual performance is an installation that was presented at the WIPS and was worked on with Leeny Sack in the Thesis Intensive. This is an exploration into presence and art as experience. I am using the forms of math, namely the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio or Phi, and John Dewey’s philosophy of Art as Experience to create an installation that provides the viewer/doer (my term for a viewer participant) with experiences in “The Golden Black Box.” The final product is an installation with no “performance” involvement on my part. It is a stand-alone art piece with the viewer/doer at the center. The piece will take part in 9195 for the WIPS in a completely contained, roughly 14 feet wide, 22 feet long, and 8 feet high, black box. The technical aspects of rigging this out will be established as part of the work with extreme presence in the work and creation. For the WIP, the container will be filled with 180 red envelopes, also in a golden ratio of 3.5 inches wide by 5.663 inches long. They will be hung from the ceiling with white twine in a constant rotation out, in what is called the Golden Spiral. In each envelope is an “experience”. What I consider an experience is still being explored. I do not believe I will find an answer to this and this is just a step towards a stronger theory. This is not the end of this project, but my perfect vision for it is much bigger and requiring more time and effort than I am able to right now, and I hope to continue a more finished product in the next five years. I believe the ideal project is a large completely built stand alone building that will eventually contain 1800 possible experiences in separate envelopes hung from the ceiling in a golden spiral for the viewer/doer to take part or not. I see this as a long-term exploration (lifetime, ten year, two year, or never to be touch again.) As a performer I am working with the idea of extreme presence and focus on the task as it is being done. A skill that is extremely applicable to a more traditional performance. The questions of “What is performance?” and “What is experience?” are at the center of this exploration.
- Theatre of the Vampires 10/31/14
- The timeline of the other performances I am taking part in is up to the creators, with the performance weekend being the end date.
- The installation work will be completed in the 18 days between now and my WIP date of 12/3/14.
My thesis as a whole aims to integrate the things I have learned in my time at Naropa, with the skills of my past, and the passions of my future. It will portray the amalgamation and convergence of past, present, and future in the research, performance, and teaching methods that I have absorbed in the, what will be two years of work within this world.