When auditioning for the role of Elegba, I was excited and intrigued at the possibility of being able to share what I have learned about my process with fellow artists. On the morning of our first workshop I was terrified. “What can I teach them? What life transforming acting techniques do I have in my possession to give away?” The simple ones.
The Rainbow Arts Organization in Nyanga was the first stop on our “workshop tour” the many smiling faces, palpable excitement and mutual nervousness immediately put me at ease. Director Timothy Bond recently shared with me that he believes that “nervousness is energy without focus” and I completely agree. All I could do was tune into my heart and answer their questions as honestly and genuinely as I could. The workshop began with an introduction lead by Rodrick. Each participant would say his or her name along with a physical gesture that they felt represented them in that particular moment. After everyone had gone, a brave soul was called upon to repeat everyone’s name as well as all the gestures. This was an exercise in memorization, concentration, as well as utilizing the physical instrument.
The following activity was the “Rhythm Circle” led by myself. All were to stand in a circle and I would play the role of conductor. As I pointed to a person, they began to “Beat Box” a repetitive rhythm that was easy to sustain. Eventually everyone was playing an instrument in a collective song. The key to this game was to listen closely for all parts must fit together and not drown out the other. As conductor I would “press mute” and it was up to the group to silently keep the song going until they were “un-muted”. This was lots of fun and everyone was “jazzed” by the end. An exploration in rhythm and concentration. Next we had the participants walk around at various speeds. At random moments they were instructed to move as though their natural center (in the abdomen), had moved to a new location e.g. the forehead, elbow, ear, pinky, etc. Character and physicality were the focuses of this exercise.
Joshua then led the actors to break up into teams and assign a group leader. A theme was chosen [Love] and the leader was then to direct his/her peers through three tableaux that told a story with a beginning, middle and an end. An exercise in the fundamentals of drama. It was great to see what the groups had created independently.
The workshop was then opened for any questions the students might have. We spoke of the business, ourselves and of course the play. I was struck by the perceptiveness of their comments on the show and humbled by their love of art as well as their need for self expression. The saying “each one teach one, each one reach one comes to mind”. I left exhilarated and anticipating our future workshops in the townships. I can only hope that in the two short hours we spent with the youth, seeds were planted that will sprout and flourish as each participant nurtures their individual modes of creative expression.