Sunday, March 9, 2008

Open Call

On Wednesday I finally got the opportunity to go to 'Open Call' which I have been hearing about and been dying to go to since I auditioned for Guildhall. Open Call is not a class or a performing group- it is a space for musicians and actors to get together and explore what happens. Open Call is run by Sean, the head of the Professional development department (what my program falls under) and Christian, the head of the drama department.

The format is different each time, but this past week what we did was each of the musicians (50/50 instrumentalists and singers) had to play/sing a piece of music or a fragment of a piece or an improvisation that meant something to them; and then everyone else in the room had to react.

I went first because I'm volunteery like that. I played a couple of phrases from the second movement of the Eccles Sonata which is very dancey and lively and baroque. I had everyone stand in a tight circle so that their shoulders were touching and played to them from outside of the circle. After a minute or so Christian came over and whispered to me that I should move into the circle, so I did. But keep in mind that this is a very small and close circle so my audience was right there. The next thing Christian told me to do was to make eye contact with the circle. People were very much of the mindset "I am being serious, this is serious" so they would just stare back with a totally straight face, either that or smile in an embarrassed sort of way because having someone play music to you while staring at you is a fairly intense experience. Then Christian had the circle start whispering to each other. I started faltering in my playing-I don't really get nervous for performances but oh my gosh that was awful. So now I sort of feel like I know how people who get a lot of stage fright feel.

One of the things that Christian pointed out after the first few of us had had our turns was that we were each allowing the audience/main group to remain solitary and independent- away from the group. I started out mine with every one's backs to me. The next singer started out with everyone sitting on their own somewhere in the room. He asked us to make it easier on ourselves- both from the audience point of view to be welcoming and engaged and the from the musician's point of view to be engaging- making sure that everyone is engaged and exploring how to do that. He pointed out that the audience wants to feel important and needed- like the performance couldn't happen without them.

As we went on we got more and more open to what was happening with the rest of the group. A cellist played and asked us to imaging that we were walking in a forest. We decided fairly quickly that we were no longer in the forest and (oh, all of this is non-verbal by the way) the music changed as well. Somehow at the very end of his turn all of us were on our hands and knees, aggressively rushing towards him. All of us. And it happened in an instant. The general consensus after that cellists turn was "well, that was intense."

A pianist played and we moved the piano around while he was playing. Christian pointed at the actors and said "text" so they started spouting Shakespeare. Well, Ashley did- Patrick started reciting a poem about silence which none of us really knew what to do with...

At the end of the evening (the class/session/whatever was supposed to last for two hours and instead lasted for nearly three. The building was closing up as we left) we split into two groups to write a short piece that had to involve everyone in the group and text. Hennrikke- my Norwegian oboe buddy started playing this totally schmaltzy theme from a movie I haven't seen so we decided to just embrace the cheese and make the piece as syrupy and ridiculous as possible. Patrick recited part of a famous poem that I really should have known but didn't about death and the rest of us improvised around Hennrikke's oboe line. We giggled as we rehearsed because it was just so ridiculous. Then the other group came back into the group and we played our piece for them and suddenly it was sincere and affecting and one of the other group got teary eyed...where on earth did that come from? We were trying to be over the top and somehow once the audience came in, even though we were playing what we had played only a moment before, the mood changed and we were all being honest with the material. It was extraordinary.

After Open Call Dave (of the dinner club) came over because he now lives far away from school and likes using my kitchen so we made dinner back at the flat and Patrick and Latana and Moises were all cooking too so we were all jumbled over each other on our little hob and Patrick and I were enthusiastically telling everyone about Open Call and Latana brought some soul music into the kitchen and we were all dancing around and singing and oh, I love my flatmates.

Since Wednesday those of us who were at Open Call have been running into each other around school and talking about how even if it doesn't get continued next term officially we should totally get together and keep it running ourselves. Because that is how awesome it was.

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