The Warm Up
COVID-19: Cultivating Empathy and Muditā
In March 2020 I flew to Los Angeles to collaborate with Playboy to create a series of movement-
focused videos showcasing female strength and sportsmanship in celebration of the forthcoming
2020 Olympics. I landed in LAX and promptly had to return to London; all production had been
halted due to COVID-19. Three days later the United Kingdom locked down.
My household is vulnerable, and as such I have not been physically on a set since March. It’s easy
to allow the ego to take charge; to view professional stasis as a personal failure, or to be envious
when others have opportunities to safely create. We must employ empathy toward our own
practices and selves. Your worth as an artist is not measured in a year of lost productions, nor is it
diminished when it becomes safe for others create once more. Muditā is the Buddhist practice of
sympathetic joy, or vicarious joy from other’s success and well-being. With a vaccine and a
possible end in sight, this active employment of muditā can help cull envy as we rebuild our
industry. Now, more than ever, any of our successes are all of our successes. I anxiously await a
future where we can gather in theatres. I believe that future is near. Until that time, remember that
regardless of when you return to the stage, your journey, process, and practice are valid. Your
worth is not diminished by other’s success. We will recover.
To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
By Morgan Barbour
November 30th 2020
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself asking the same mind blogging question, ‘Did I re-pot my aloe vera plant too early?’ You’ve probably already gathered, I’m not a committed die-hard plant lover – I simply water the damn things, and I hope they make it through the night. Needless to say, I found myself rooting for little ‘Ally’ and hoping I hadn’t committed plant murder. Nevertheless, I’m happy to announce, ‘Ally’ the aloe vera plant made it through and is slowly growing into her new home. This whole palaver, however, got me pondering on my portfolio career and this notion of being uprooted prematurely. There have been seasons (more often than not) when I’ve felt overwhelmed, misplaced and out of my depth within the sector/project – mirroring this sudden uprooting concept. Equally, there have been occasions when I have felt frustrated, crippled by my self-doubt and haunted by comparison, which has undoubtedly hindered my growth and kept me grounded within a suffocating and overcrowded environment. So, I ask, ‘Do you need repotting?’ As you go about your day, try to take note of what thoughts pop to mind, what frustrations annoyingly resurface and what your priorities are during this season. I then, urge you to pause, reflect and re access in order to be transparent about your current condition; but also shed some light on what conditions will enable you to thrive and not simply survive. As seasons change, so do you. Ergo it’s critical, to be honest, to be realistic and seek help/advise if needs be. Most importantly however, if upon reflection you feel you’ve outgrown your current plant pot, it’s fundamental and position yourself within an environment that requires you to be uprooted – allowing you to grow into the ‘Ally’ you’re intended to become.
By Sara Dos Santos
May 28th 2019
For the last 3 years I have been teaching movement for the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. The Birmingham Conservatory is a 20-week training program for mid-career actors to train with professional coaches and directors and get paid. This also provides them a spot in the Acting Company the following season. One of the most interesting things about this contract is that we do something often talked about in theatre but rarely put into practice. We team-teach. A movement practitioner and a voice practitioner share their sessions and teach together. Not only that, as a relatively new practitioner, I am paired with an experienced coach. For my first two years I was actually paired with the Head of Coaching at the Festival, Janine Pearson. Movement is still in its early days here in Canada and it doesn’t exist in all spaces yet. Of course, there are exceptions, but it is not common practice here yet, so the opportunity to be in a professional room is invaluable. I have even had opportunities to sit in on sessions with a Speech-Language Pathologist who teaches the mechanics of breath and language, very informative for a movement person. When I went to theatre school Movement and Voice were taught separately and seemed very disconnected. This work has allowed me to witness what the actors are doing “in the other room” and this informs the work I do, what I work on and even the language I use. It brings some cohesiveness to training; we can see the contradictions actors face in training and look to bridge the gaps. It can also create a sense of play between practitioners, inspiring new ways of working and offer different perspectives.
By Katie Grube
March 27th 2019
Class and the Aspiring Movement Director
Whether it be the lack of established working-class Movement Directors as role models, restricted access to sometimes expensive and (more often than not) London-based training, or simply not feeling the same sense of ‘entitlement’ to those raised with a continuous engagement with theatre… Working class Movement Directors (and those aspiring to be) are facing practical, social and financial barriers along their route into the industry. Class is now a notoriously hard thing to define, especially as even being seen to engage with the world of theatre associates us with being ‘better off’. As a result, it’s hard to know how many Movement Directors today would self-identify as working class, let alone open up a discussion about internal and external barriers we face during the ascent into the role. I’m eager to know, what more can the industry do to support this?
By Natasha Harrison
October 11th 2018
The Job Interview
Job interviews. They induce excitement about new opportunities and invoke terror in equal measure. Luckily, there is no need to worry about job interviews because movement directors do not have them. We have meetings. Whether you are established in your practice or just starting out, the first time you work with a director you will probably have an initial ‘meeting’. A cafe in a theatre is often a favourite location to have a relaxed chat to get to know you and for the director to share some information about an upcoming production. There is no job description, no interview panel, no PowerPoint presentation to prepare, perhaps just a script to read. The conversation begins and by the time you have been asked to share your professional background, talk through the movement potential of the production, articulate your practice and provide examples of your work, the conversation might be relaxed but presumably will not be relaxing. Okay, it is not always like that but like interviews, there definitely is a delicate act of balancing the personable and the professional. Let’s face it you are trying to secure work and the need to come across as adept at movement with an ability to confidently hold a rehearsal room is going to be pivotal. Equally important, though, is opening up the space to let your creative energies meet and start to germinate. It is not easy to discern whether there are clear dos and don’ts or how to steer these encounters live in the moment.
By Diane Alison-Mitchell
May 14th 2018