Get on the Floor and Boogie: How Do You Create Virtuoso Human Beings? A Director Explains His Approach

By Bieganski, Ron | American Theatre, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Get on the Floor and Boogie: How Do You Create Virtuoso Human Beings? A Director Explains His Approach


Bieganski, Ron, American Theatre


DEVELOPING VIRTUOSO ACTORS DOESN'T START WITH ACTING exercises--it starts with virtuoso creative humans. That's what I've learned in my years at Free Street Programs, a Chicago organization whose mission is to open the potential of youth through theatre and writing, so that the youth can be creative, active participants in their own destiny. That is our blurb. Like, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

In my time, I have watched way too much bad youth theatre--not theatre by untalented performers, but theatre by young people who have developed skills that feed into their own insecurities and lead to many "actor-ly" problems: overacting, unfocused intentions, showing off, self-consciousness, etc. These performances are truly happenings that only a mother could love. Part of the problem, I have come to realize, is that most acting training takes for granted that the actor already understands where creativity, emotion and spontaneity come from. But the more I've worked with youth, the more I've realized that they don't understand these things. So developing a training process--and, more generally, a working process--that is about being an artist and opening creative potential has become my mission.

In 1985, when I started working with at-risk youth--by "at-risk" I mean any young people who are not reaching their potential because of economic, societal, educational or family reasons--at Free Street, I asked myself the following questions: How do you develop focus to stay in the moment? How do you develop an open, fluid emotional connection within your work? How do you develop a nonjudgmental attitude that allows your body to be a virtuoso reactor? And isn't all of the above something I want to develop in youth whether they are actors or not? Isn't this something I want to continue developing in myself?

In response to these questions, we have developed a specific training system that forms the basis for the work of MadJoy Theatrics, the Free Street program that works to create new forms, structures and language to tell non-autobiographical stories. Our theatre training starts with the development of a nonjudgmental emotional openness and leads to whole human development. To a certain extent, this system has been influenced by my own experience performing as a juggler, acrobat and dancer; working with the Ark theatre in Madison, Wis.; practicing contact improvisation; and even getting a degree in biology--which has shaped my ideas about human development. But the most crucial factor in developing the system has been my breath and movement work with young people. I've found that the more focussed breath and movement work we do, the more the students open up to being intimate, immediate and spontaneous. The students have this inside them all the time--what they need is a way to bypass the everyday process that closes them up, makes them self-conscious and think too much.

So our acting training starts with this idea: Focus on your breath and whatever physical activity you are doing. As you focus on the breath and the activity, stillness emerges in your mind. No thought, negative or positive. As you focus on breath and activity, your heart opens and your body fills with emotion like a vase filling with water. Your breath is alive. Your body resonates like a violin with emotional breath. And yet there is stillness in your mind. Stillness is not nothing. It is an opening.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Based on this foundation, the MadJoy system concentrates on six essential principals:

1. Freeing the nonjudgmental creative mind with physical work.

2. Ensemble mind, shared creativity.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

3. Nonlinear creation of material.

4. Safe, wildly creative space.

5. Adult artists (not social workers) as facilitators and mentors in creative work. Art first.

6. Creation of multidisciplinary "new" work (non-autobiographical) in structure, language, form and direction. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Get on the Floor and Boogie: How Do You Create Virtuoso Human Beings? A Director Explains His Approach
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.