Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. Lispa is…quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. Two weeks in, and I already feel as if months have gone by. Having studied Lecoq with Quinn for a semester, I am perhaps more prepared for this than most people. Yet the hours, the level of intensity, and the warmth and generosity of teachers and students alike, have left me breathless. In many ways, this is a theater school that cares more about me as a person, than about my ability to perform. The teachers show great appreciation for what each student brings to the table and this in turn influences how we treat each other in and out of class. So far, I have not felt judged, and have not felt compelled to compare myself with anybody. I feel respected, and that I belong here.
It is hard to remember that I didn’t even know the other students until two weeks ago. Now, I feel so blessed to be in their company. Class is like a gathering of the United Nations, and for me, this brings back vivid memories of international student orientation and the first few weeks of classes at Swarthmore College. There is the excitement of learning the other new students’ names, where we each came from, and the experiences and journeys that have led us to this school. Then of course, there are the intimate late-night conversations, the shared meals, parties, and the bond of being outsiders transplanted in a strange land. Among us, there are a number of Americans and Brits, and there are representatives each from Puerto Rico, India, Brazil, Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, New Zealand and Australia. We have an aerial trapeze artist from New Zealand, a Bharatanatyam dancer from India, and a Stanislavski-trained method actor from Greece. We are all mostly in our twenties, and hell, it is like one big summer camp.
For the first year at Lispa, the school philosophy is clear: To be an artist one must first learn about life. We are told to forget about theater, and instead concentrate on the tiny currents that run beneath the surface of everyday living. In Movement Analysis, we investigate the undulation of the spine, and how that creates motion in the human body. We look into different levels of dramatic tension, and how that is represented in physicality and voice. We recreate banal gestures from everyday life, and transform them into something extraordinary with the use of repetition and breathe. In Improvisation, we visit different situations, and figure out how we enter them as actors without adding anything unnecessary. How to be both present and observant, to be in the space and not be dramatic. How to enter and tune in to what is already happening, to recognize it and let it grow. The first week especially, it was all about how less is more. Sometimes, I feel as if I am still in Quinn’s class, except what was compacted into a three hour class is now expanded into a week’s worth of classes. We spend fully six hours a week doing situational improvs in Improvisation class, for example. Then we spend another three hours a week doing Movement Analysis, three hours in Movement Foundation (Alexander Technique and Feldankrais), an hour and a half in Acrobatics, an hour in Voice, two hours in space lab (learning about architecture, structure, space), and two hours in Creation rehearsal (Autocours). If I already feel changed after two weeks, then what will happen to me after a term, a year?