Thursday, March 8, 2012

To harangue, or not to harangue, that is the question...

In the house this evening, as our special guest artist, was the outstanding Film, Television and Stage veteran Roberto De Felice.  His energy, positive nature and highly developed craft were a treat for the project participants throughout warm-ups and into the main event of the night.  A gifted actor and a great guy – the bar was raised really high this night and everyone responded beautifully. 

The scene work by the project was the first encounter between Riff and Tony in West Side Story.  Tony has moved on from the gang and Riff is determined to change that.  The scene starts, before any dialogue kicks in, with the all-important stage direction: Riff is haranguing him.  Riff’s objective in the scene.  Since we had talked about objectives in past sessions - everyone was all over it immediately!

Harangue.  A lengthy aggressive speech. 

This huge word, activated as haranguing, was a new word for most everyone, and flexing it for all it was worth, became the key to the success of the work accomplished by the members of the project.  A phrase wall was created to expand upon the definition.  Project members came up with similar phrases like:

Pressing him.
Aggravating him.
Baking him until well done.
Up in his grill.
In his face.
Annoying him.
Challenging him.
Taunting him.
Teasing him.
Trying him like a judge and jury.
Bending him.
Breaking him down.
Agitating him.
Mixing him up.
Confusing him.
Messing with his mind.
Bitch slapping him.
Pounding on him.
Embarrassing him.
Pummeling his brain.

Very full and rich.  Every phrase on the wall became a palette of “actable” words to apply to what Riff’s objective was in the scene.  Actable words, the members of the project learned, are the words that fortify an actor with the right vocal, physical and emotional choices for accomplishing their objective in the scene.  Swapping out different phrases to inform the actors changed the way the scene played each time they did it.  Until they found what they felt worked best in order to ignite the conflict between Riff and Tony.

With this information, the actors attempting the scene were constantly searching for the right way for Riff to: “talk him into it” and for Tony to “deflect every attempt”.  The entire session quickly morphed into stories about peer pressure, gang initiation and a sense of embracing the code, and how strong that is to young people looking to belong somewhere in the world.  Stories about how difficult it is to make the right choice when someone is haranguing you, and trying to make you feel guilty about not sticking with the gang.

Riff:         Womb to Tomb.

Tony:         Sperm to Worm.

-       Tommy Demenkoff, PossibleArts

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Five Notes

It doesn't get any better than this...  yet, I know it will.  But this was really great!

After a robust movement exercise where the participants created characters and relationships in response to the music of the Prologue from West Side Story, I lifted a five note phrase out of musical score, to become the centerpiece of our final sharing at the end of the evening.
We sang this phrase over and over again as a group.  The 5th note in particular of the melodic phrase above, the group decided, set the stage for an unexpected event, a surprise happening, a mystery full of crazy suspense, and yes, tragic endings.  The note, they claimed, was whack!  It tore a deep hole that nobody saw coming.  It was totally ill.  The entire phrase and its shocking 5th note, were then hummed out loud by the entire group as an ending line, a coda if you will, to each and every story about real life events the group individually went on to share.  Stories about their personal experiences with regards to their memories of conflicts between themselves and the police.  As difficult as some of the stories were to share out in the open, the ability to then process each event was made possible by the brilliant 5 note phrase from Mr. Bernstein.  The music transported everyone, instantly, crystalizing the enormous impact made by a simple decision, attitude, gesture, expression, tone, appearance, etc., in each story told.  Just like the 5 notes above.  The first 4 notes then became a way back through each story, to look at the origin of the circumstances and debate over a replay of how things went down.  Brilliant evening.
Tommy Demenkoff
Artistic Director

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reflections on another solid session.

West Side Story Project Session pens a The Jet Song: REDUX

if you are down for something
(When you're a Jet,)
you've got to rep it to the fullest
(you're a Jet all the way.)
from the bottom to the top
(From your first cigarette,)
from your birth to your box
(to you last dying day...)

Leonard Bernstein's Music Informs Characters in Valuable Role Play

From Inside The West Side Story Project:  Those instantly recognizable melodic phrases that inform a great many of the moments for characters in West Side Story have proved to be a most valuable point of reference for all participants.  In sessions for the West Side Story Project, Police Officers and Young Adults, are learning about this through a movement  based exercise, building characters from their own daily life, who mirror the characters from West Side Story.  Using the opening prologue as a traditional warmup in the background, this team building exercise has been allowing everyone to observe and discuss: gestures, body language, intentions, misunderstandings, attitudes, fear, hatred, cool and uncool...  This gem of the project, employing improvisation, choreography, and authentic movement, fully engages participants in the importance of music as a key element within West Side Story, and how to use these vibrant splashes of rhythm and melody to arrive at the heart of a character when making choices and decisions from moment to moment.  Tom Demenkoff - PossibleArts

Monday, December 19, 2011

New York City - The First Workshop: 12/6/2001

West Side Story Project Actors Complete Historic Debut of New Workshop in NYC

During  my first session doing the West Side Story Project I was really nervous, however I was really honored to be a part of this project. I love to sing and act and working on this project just makes it even more fun and challenging. While working with Tom and my other peers from Impact, I noticed that I had many talents and that everyone had something to give. By doing some challenging yet simple exercises, I have discovered some more confidence in myself. By letting go, I broke down may wall which I had up so long. I believe that acting is a release of ones inner strength. In my peers I noticed the same potential. I was able to laugh and understand what really goes into acting. By doing this project I have opened and explored a realm of possibilities that I haven’t discovered before.