Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

'Do You Really Want It?'

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

'Do You Really Want It?'

Article excerpt

Perhaps the most compelling, memorable and effective learning experience that I went through during my time at a major Australian School of Drama in the late 1980s occurred early in the first semester, and involved an exercise conducted by a rather wonderful teacher. Drawing us - all thirty students of Acting, Directing and Writing - into a large circle in the middle of the sprung-floored room that we called 'the Movement Studio', the teacher framed the day's class with one of his characteristically mesmeric prologues, on this occasion expounding upon the power of want. Want, he assured us, using all the understated authority and status with which he had invited us to endow him over the first few weeks of our training, was capable of achieving great things. Further, want, he explained, was hardly ever, in the ran of everyday life, really experienced; rather, we tended to only think that we wanted things and had lost sight of the real power of want. Were we to rediscover that power, he asserted, there would be no limits to what we might achieve.

From the perspective of twenty years, it sounds like so much new-age hogwash - the sort of thing promised by the snake oil sales pitch on the back cover blurb of The Secret or somesuch. At the time, however, pumped up on our sense of self-importance - we were, after all, the chosen ones, those who had been selected from the masses of applicants and eager to please; we knew, after all, that our continued presence at the School was subject to the opinion of the teachers, that every year some, if not several, first-years did not make the cut into second year - we listened attentively, hungrily ... credulously.

The exercise, once we got to it, was elegantly simple. The teacher took a pen from his shirt pocket and brandished it at us, pinched between thumb and forefinger, just below eye level. Asking for a volunteer, he placed himself directly opposite that first student, reminding the rest of us to remain standing in the circle, focused upon what was to take place. If, the teacher explained, you really wanted the pen, then, with your eyes closed, you would be able to walk across the room and place your hand directly, in one clean grab, on that pen placed upon the polished floorboards. Want was that strong: it could - would - lead you straight to the pen; but only if you really wanted it. And so the game began.

It lasted hours, during which we shared what felt like the full range of human emotion. There were tears, shouting matches, surly resentment, smug confidence, feigned nonchalance, exhilaration and joy, and not just on the part of the student actually in the spotlight: we all felt every moment, sharing the frustration at a near miss, or worse, as a pinky brushed the pen; 'You didn't really get it, did you?' We all bought into the bizarre calculus that attempted to equate degree of want with the proximity of stretching fingers to object, counting steps, collectively holding our breaths and moaning - groaning as one - when a classmate stepped, all too confidently, directly over the pen. And all the way through, the game was supported by the teacher's virtoosic performance, cajoling, diagnosing, goading, reprimanding, editorialising, coaching, hinting, prodding; a masterly puppetry, a status game of the highest calibre as he tested and stretched each student's capacity to yield to untrammelled want. He put it to those who failed to grasp the pen that they did not really want it; perhaps they had never really wanted anything, had been spoilt, indulged, or else were afraid to risk want, to really want something, for fear, perhaps, of failure. Instead, perhaps, we had become adept at feigning want, and, frankly, pretend want just wasn't going to get the job done. Either way, the subtle moral condemnation upped the stakes; die room was electric with a palpable tension, a funk of desperation.

We all eventually got the pen. One of us - no names, no pack drill - got it at first go. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.