updates connected to the book Idylls for a Bare Stage
& to performances of the Idylls
& other initiatives related to the Art of the Poetic Monologue

Saturday, February 11, 2012

In Others' Words: Idylls as Book, and as Approach to Acting

Now that Idylls for a Bare Stage is out, a definite shift has occurred with regard to "releasing" the work:  from creating and doing performances off a manuscript, and towards the publication of the book, to... the book itself, vehicle for the Idyll idea and form, both on the page and in its activation off the page for performance.

Here's how others - interactive with the project along the way - have taken the work...

On the book itself:

Magnus has performed his versions of Heraclitus as multi-voiced, choral readings improvised from texts by performers and audience, as texts to be read with musicians, and as philosophy in his book Heraclitean Pride.   In this volume, he presents “Idylls”, a form originated by the Greek poet Theocritus.   These are not idylls as pastoral, rustic poems, but, as Magnus describes in his introduction:  “street theater for daily life, skits done anywhere, solo performers and small groups of actors as part of the activity of the marketplace.  Scenes of daily life, in daily life.”   These idylls, versions of Theocritus, Sophocles and St. Francis, and stories inspired by Whitman, Colette, and Borges, can be read as poems, or performed as dramatic monologues.    M. brings a poet’s feeling for the texture of language to these dramatic works so that each character speaking a monologue uses a unique vocabulary and unique speech rhythms.   He opens with a sorceress and ends with the mythical inventor of the alphabet, taking us from magic incantations to the magic of writing.   Magnus has given us rich, evocative texts, ripe for private reading or public performance.
                                           - Chris Mason, author of Hum Who Hiccup, member of TheTinklers, Old Songs, and Coo Coo Rockin' Time

And on the Idylls as theatre, along with specific acting approaches tailored for the form and useful for any poetically-charged performances, as described and theorized in the book's introduction, and as developed in hands-on workshops by the author (the performers quoted engaged the workshop techniques with me, and went on to perform the pieces in contexts described earlier in this blog):

The words that Magus has crafted into idylls are so rich and joyous to speak that there are endless possibilities for experiencing their inherent power.
It has been invaluable for me to work without an end in sight and to work so deeply and one-on-one with this text, with Magus, and with myself. It's freeing for me to have a consistent practice and continuous work. Now I'm not just working when I land a job or for the next audition, but towards infinite opportunity to stand-up and perform a poetic monologue for anyone who might be available to watch and listen.
The concept of monologue as performance, not just performance within a larger script or as something to use at an audition, but as self-contained artwork gives me confidence as an actress. I'm not sure I can explain the significance of this idea, but I see sunlight when I think about it. Perhaps reasserting the monologue as performance gives me a sense of creative control over a form of acting that is often termed loathsome, annoying, arduous, and impossible to wrangle.
The technique's emphasis on being present with everyone and everything in the performance space has been supremely important to me.  In my experience "stage presence" is theater vocabulary often given short shrift when learning how to act. It is tricky for the actor to both completely imbibe the surroundings, allowing impulses to enter and leave without blocking, altering or suspending them, and then simultaneously craft a visceral experience fully manifest in a different time & place. A shameless spirit of imagination must takeover and pull the actor from moment to moment without hesitation. And every step of the way, the imagination is fed by the power of the words which given freedom to move will work magic on their audience.
                                                               -Genna Davidson, actress/musician/puppeteer

Working with Magus on his idyll, "A Mother Feels her Estranged Daughter's Labor Pains," has been a revelation for me. Numerous directors have told me that I don't need to "do" so much when I'm on stage, but they never really explained what they meant. Using Magus' approach of focusing on the power and expressive potential of the words, and working with his beautifully crafted poetic monologue, I've learned how to immerse myself in the river of words and let them carry me through a thoroughly honest and moving performance. I've used an excerpt from the idyll for several auditions, and each performance has evoked a thoughtful response from the auditors beyond the usual "thank you."
                                                                               - Harlie Sponaugle, Actress/Singer

  As an actor, working with Magus has opened my eyes to the raw power inherent in the text. When I focus on the sound of the words, I bring life to their meaning. Playing with pace, volume, and emphasis frees up my voice and moves me away from dry analysis. His body and voice exercises calm me and prepare me to genuinely embrace my surroundings and the audience. I find that as the text begins to breathe, my imagination is released and I become open to discoveries about my character. Magus has developed an approach that has transformed the way I work on a role. It will infuse energy and power into any performer's work.
                                                                                         - Sue Struve, D.C.-area Actor

This approach to acting has been incredibly empowering.  The ideas of embracing the audience and embracing yourself as a performer free you from worrying about naturalism and lets you savor the poetry of powerful language, giving you and the audience a heightened sense of what's possible.  As an actor you can feel the audiences imaginations feeding you and letting you take a fresh journey with the material each time.   So often we want to shut out the reality of the performance, but by embracing it, we are empowered to actually create a greater reality on stage and an exuberant experience for audience and performer.  It has freed me as an actor more than any exercise or method I have ever tried.
                                                                                         - Rachel Morrissey, actress/storyteller