Flashback: This Beautiful Contagion
This is an excerpt from post Algernon wrote on his personal blog in 2006, nearly ten years ago, when the first phase of Theatre Dojo was about to launch. The teaching partners referred to here were Jen Swain, now Jen Bloom (who went on to found Santa Monica Rep); and Chris Nelson, a theatrical designer, screenwriter, and tai chi instructor.
...as early as October, a new kind of acting studio wants to make its debut in Hollywood, drawing on various disciplines to create a unique approach to the actor's work. There are three of us who have been professionals in the theatre and are also practicing teachers of yoga, meditation, and tai chi. Mr. Nelson (still re-entering our dream world after a week home), Ms. Swain and I convened at a house in Topanga Canyon last night for a "curricular meeting." That is to say, we had a play date. We did a yogic warmup, sat Zen together, and practiced Chris's form of tai chi. The more we do this together, the more parallels we find among the approaches and how they relate to the actor's work: the use and misuse of the body, including the use and misuse of the intellect; the use of self as if it were a wall dividing us from our world and other beings; the use and misuse of muscular control; the karma or behavioral conditioning or other thinking that writes itself into our body language and controls our perceptions of self and environment. All of this to consider and then: telling a story, embodying a character, and communicating deeply with scene partners and spectators. We want to teach acting as a martial art and an awakening practice; and I think we see theatre as a vehicle for making awakening, and creativity, contagious. Nice little twist on Artaud's plague, that. He believed that if you ripped off the painted eyelids of "civilization" and "reality" you would reveal the true ugliness of humankind. Some of us think the ugliness is just another illusion, one more idea that can be used or not. Our true nature makes use of all these masks. Our creativity is making everything. Everything. But for what? What shall we do with this beautiful contagion? Where does the riverbed lead? That riverbed is our discipline. Our vow is to follow it. With work done and the hour getting late, we ate delicious burritos and guacamole, and then made our way outside to the hot tub. Now this, THIS is the way to have a business meeting: sitting in the hot tub under the night sky with the lightest hint of rain sprinkling us from above.