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Alexandra Zelman-Doring
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Nothing moves, but everything changes. “Hold the ball in your hand. Now, without changing your grip, allow it to be there. Did you move your muscles? Don’t. Without moving. Hold it. Now allow it to be there.” Polina Klimovitskaya teaches the actor profound and simple change. “Simple changes and one is no longer bound.” One becomes free as an animal, open as a child. For the actor the simplest thing will always be the hardest. We grow so impeded, so rational, so ensnared, that the most natural thing seems unattainable. It takes true, hard work to regress, especially where memory can be of little help. To move spontaneously again, to learn to be…To truly inhabit a character, to know a character in our bones, we must train a part of ourselves exceeding what our intelligence readily allows. And to be fascinating on stage, to steal the show, wake the audience, unify the spectacle, it requires nothing less than the reawakening of our most reticent instincts. Klimovitskaya is a method unto herself, in other words, a master; she teaches a clear vision, encompassing a wealth of past teachings and showing us what the future will require of us if we mean to stay awake and create an authentic, living theatre for our time. Polina has been doing it for years- a veteran of the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia, Klimovitskaya holds an MFA in Directing from State Theater University, Moscow, and a Ph. D. from Yale University. She started her work as an actress and director in Russia, studying with disciples of K. Stanislavsky and E. Vachtangov, and directing with the last assistant of the great stage innovator, V. Meyerhold. In the US she has performed at Yale Repertory Theater, and played Mama in the Academy Award winning film Molly’s Pilgrim. Polina has directed numerous productions in Europe and in America, and is the founding director of the Terra Incognita Theater. She knows that she should write a book, or a book should be written on her. People have been trying. It is difficult to capture her teachings. My first summer study in her class stayed with me for many years; I remembered each moment of every one of her classes- I recalled tossing a ball, eating an apple, walking, sitting- each action seemed one of the most dynamic I had performed in my life. When I told Polina that I wanted to try to “write her” we were as skeptical as we were exited, for what she teaches “ is living, it is harmonious, which is to say, alive, creative, never static,” and that goes for her process, also. When I found out she would be teaching her “animal workshop” this summer at Michael Howard Studios, I told her I wanted to try. For years teaching the “animal” workshop, she has observed its continued effect on actors of every age, coming to her from every variation of background and training. The work is transformative through and through. It is innovative,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Theodor Reik left Vienna in the post-war years and moved to Berlin. He built up his practice there, and one day received a request from Vienna for an appointment with a wealthy American. The man described his symptoms, (he had a severe obsessional neurosis, and found himself constantly engaging complex safety measures in order to defend himself against imaginary dangers.) He made Reik an offer he couldn’t refuse: If Reik would come back to Vienna to treat him for just one hour a day, he would pay all his living expenses, plus a salary exceeding his earnings in Berlin. In November 1932, Reik returned to Vienna. “I felt like a son coming home to his mother. All during the journey I had been happily anticipating the prospect of the life ahead of me. I would be free from financial considerations and would be able to devote most of my time to scientific research. I would be able to see my family and friends as often as I wished. This wonderful opportunity would permit me to see Freud and to attend the weekly meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association whose secretary I had been in past years. Altogether it seemed like a fairy tale come true.” No longer spending ten hours a day treating patients, Reik worked on two books, saw family and friends, visited Freud, and attended meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association. He lived in the Hotel Bristol (where his American patient also lived.) The Hotel Bristol is like the Waldorf-Astoria. Mornings, going down to breakfast humming a Strauss waltz, he discovered that “of course there was no one in the dining room to serve me—it was not yet seven. As I passed the night clerk at his desk, he looked up at me with a startled expression as if I were some ghostly apparition in the middle of the night. It dawned on me that guests in such a place as this would scarcely be expected to appear for breakfast much before eleven o’clock.” He started eating breakfast and lunch at a coffee house in a side street, and got annoyed with himself for being embarrassed about slinking past the night clerk. Hating having to shave and wear a dinner jacket every day, hating the head-waiter and his three helpers who served him dinner, he ended up eating all three meals out. His patient didn’t always show up. Reik still go paid, and urged himself to be patient enough to adapt to his new and improved life: “Did I not work hard every day? Had I not written one book and done preliminary work on another? Did I not study all the new literature in psychology and psychiatry? Evidently I considered these activities pleasure rather than work.” A sense of shame filled him to the brim-- although he was earing more than ever before, he did not feel that he was earning his living. “This too easy life without duties and obligations was uncomfortable. I even began to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Thank you for your comments DL. I don't think Delmore is KNOWN to poets in their 20's and 30's. I asked a bunch of poet friends if they had heard of him- none of them had. I didn't know about him myself until I went to a reading at Labyrinth Theater. David Bar-Katz is writing a play about him. Now that I found him, I can't stop reading!
“O Delmore how I miss you. You inspired me to write. You were the greatest man I ever met. You could capture the deepest emotions in the simplest language. Your titles were more than good enough to raise the muse of fire on my neck. You were a genius. Doomed.” Lou Reed met Delmore Schwartz in the 60’s at the University of Syracuse, where Schwartz taught literature. “I’d given him a short story. He gave me a B. I was so hurt and ashamed. Why haunt talentless me? I was the walker for THE HONEY BEAR THAT WALKS WITH ME. To literary cocktails. He hated them. And I was put in charge. Some drinks later—his shirt undone—one tail from right hanging—tie askew—fly unzipped. Oh Delmore. You were so beautiful...” The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me BY DELMORE SCHWARTZ “the withness of the body” A manifold honey to smear his face, Clumsy and lumbering here and there, The central ton of every place, The hungry beating brutish one In love with candy, anger, and sleep, Crazy factotum, dishevelling all, Climbs the building, kicks the football, Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city. Breathing at my side, that heavy animal, That heavy bear who sleeps with me, Howls in his sleep for a world of sugar, A sweetness intimate as the water’s clasp, Howls in his sleep because the tight-rope Trembles and shows the darkness beneath. —The strutting show-off is terrified, Dressed in his dress-suit, bulging his pants, Trembles to think that his quivering meat Must finally wince to nothing at all. That inescapable animal walks with me, Has followed me since the black womb held, Moves where I move, distorting my gesture, A caricature, a swollen shadow, A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive, Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness, The secret life of belly and bone, Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown, Stretches to embrace the very dear With whom I would walk without him near, Touches her grossly, although a word Would bare my heart and make me clear, Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed Dragging me with him in his mouthing care, Amid the hundred million of his kind, The scrimmage of appetite everywhere. “Reading Yeats and the bell had rung but the poem was not over you hadn’t finished reading—liquid rivulets sprang from your nose but still you would not stop reading. I was transfixed. I cried—the love of the word—THE HONEY BEAR.” Schwartz was in mental institutions. He never had money. He was the poetry editor of the Partisan Review. He was widely anthologized. His first book, “In dreams Begin Responisbilities” was published in 1938, when he was 24 years old. “I wanted to write. One line as good as yours. My mountain. My inspiration/You wrote the greatest short story every written/IN DREAMS” T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Robert Lowell and Vladimir Nabokov praised him. At 52, he died alone, in a hotel room. His body wasn’t found until two... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Warm thanks to David and Stacey for inviting me to BLOG this week! I plan to write about a variety of issues, magazines, people, poems, musicians...but I thought to start on a personal note I didn’t want to finish my degree at Oxford. It was nearly halfway through the year, and my mother and uncle travelled to Berlin for the Berlinale. I met them there. Sitting in a dim restaurant in Mitte, I didn’t touch my sauerkraut until I finished explaining exactly how impossible it would be for me to finish my studies at Oxford. Consumed by rehearsals, I was spending all my time in the theater, writing, acting, and producing. I wanted to raise money to go to the Edinburgh Fringe that summer. As if that weren’t enough, I had developed a physical allergy to academic writing. Each time I mounted the stairs to the Rad Cam, I turned around again like someone performing a ritual dance. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like a puppet hanging on divine strings; even if I wanted to finish my studies, I was being guided in another direction. The only valuable part of my engagement with the institution was my long talks, walks, lunches on Fridays with poet and professor Jon Stallworthy. This was the kind of thing I could learn from. Reading poems with Jon. The rest was dross. I knew I sounded ungrateful. I knew I sounded childish and stupid. But I also knew that we only get one chance at living, and that this year would make or break me. An indestructible fire was burning behind my eyes. I couldn’t let it be put out. Not now. “Pass the class,” my uncle hissed, coldly, like a clerk. Maybe they hadn’t been able to concentrate on what I was saying. Maybe the food was too good. I turned to my mother, she surely understood me. “Pass the class!” She smiled that omnipotent smile that makes her my mother. That smile that means: I’m paying, you’re obeying. I felt as though I’d been taken into a small detention room at an airport; no one spoke my language, no one cared about what happened to me. “Eat your kraut,” my uncle suggested, kindly, moving onto desert. I couldn’t eat. Going back to Oxford to continue enrolled as a masters student would be like- like having many abortions at once! All my plays would die inside me! I- “Pass the class!” They said in unison. I must have given a little shout. People turned from other tables. “Just pass the class. Then you can do whatever you want.” That weekend, stressed and depressed, I decided to go to London and try to relax at a tango festival. I had a paper to finish, and a new script to complete for a play we had already started rehearsing. I planned to spend all day writing and all night dancing. Forget all my troubles. I had a suitcase with me, packed with pajamas,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Oct 28, 2013