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From Jp – Holding On to the Transformation

July 23, 2014

I recently had the honor of being an invited guest of Teatro Potlach at their Intercultural Festival Laboratory of Theatre Practices in Fara Sabina, Italy. Each day a guest was given an hour time slot in which they were to tell the gathered international community about the work they do, myself included. It was amazing to see how our brothers and sisters around the globe use theatre as a vehicle for social betterment. Added to this sense of intercultural exchange was a rigorous physical training regimen from 9am till 5pm and a nightly theatrical offering that all attended. This is the kind of perspective-changing professional development that any artist would hope for. But eventually, all good things come to an end and we are left with the question: How does one hold on to such a transformative experience as the one Potlach offered to us?targapotlach

It’s so easy to fall back into a routine, when the place you came from is exactly the same upon returning home. It’s so easy to let the magic just experienced slip away when the day-to-day administration duties of a company become the main focus. Days filled with hands-on learning and in-depth cultural exchange, replaced by budgetary discussions and staffing issues.


It’s been two weeks since returning home, and the energy and refocusing that spending time with the Potlach family offered me hasn’t faded. Shortly after arriving in Fara Sabina, I realized I needed to consider the time I was spending as my own personal Artistic Director’s retreat, one where I was largely removed from my home influences and able to break free of the thinking that may or may not have been holding a prescribed course of action that has been guiding Touchstone. Two years ago, I began leading the Touchstone Ensemble on an investigation of rediscovering its roots in the world of the actor-creator. Since then, we have come a long way, developing an in-house vocabulary amongst the ensemble that I believe has set us up for our next major hurdle, which is more rigorous actor training.

Getting to spend time in the morning sessions of Potlach training could not have come at a more apropos time. We’ve been watching the videos I took during the training and are putting together a regimen loosely based on those videos, our recent Grotowski investigation, and the already-spoken language of our actors. While it’s hard to find the time to move into this work, it’s clear that it’s a necessity. I’ve managed to carve a couple mornings out of the week for an hour here or an hour there to begin pushing the actors past what has now become comfortable. The time spent witnessing the Potlach actors’ stamina, precision, and creativity has become my own personal motivation for making this happen. Whether in their productions of 20,000 Leagues or Fellini, every choice was so beautifully crafted and every movement precisely executed. Teatro Potlach are truly masters of their craft.

This! Is! Touchstone!

This! Is! Touchstone!

So off we go… Starting in September, I’ll gather with Bill and Emma, our yearly apprentices, Ensemble Associate Mary Wright, and Ensemble Affiliate Josh Neth and for a few short hours each week, we will push ourselves past the point of exhaustion to find in ourselves what Grotowski calls the “holy actor”. How do you hold on to the transformation? You institutionalize it, you own it, you fight for it like a Spartan; you sit at the banquet, and you feast on it, even if that means the feeding frenzy has to be done in the early morning hours or between a marketing meeting and an educational program.

Eat hearty Touchstone – eat hearty!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    July 23, 2014 10:57 am

    Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! (the sound of the approaching Spartan Army singing to the rhythm of their run.) Beat the drum! We be small, but we be powerful!

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