HOW DAVIS FREEMAN TRIES TO CHALLENGE HIS STUDENTS IN A GENTLE WAY
By Sabina Holzer
approaches and formats used in this text are translations of the methods,
texts, and comments used during Davis Freeman's coaching project "Non-acting
acting for performers".
If you can just get your mind together.
Then come on across to me.[i]
listen, I am the leader of the "Holding Thoughts & Fears"
revolutionary group. I would like to communicate that I am now in possession of
your personal private diary. Yes, I am. I
already had a quick look inside and the content seems terribly precious to me. If
you would like to have back your private diary, I will have to meet you in a
secret and abandoned place. The place we will meet at is called "The Gates
of Heaven", which is situated on Pembroke Hill, Casanova Heights.
must bring a sealed white plastic bag with 3 Million Dollars inside and a kiss.[ii]
people were sitting and watching. Davis Freeman had arranged something in between
an invitation and a set-up. Something were one could be sure to undergo an
unexpected challenge, a sort of proposal, possibilities to react or interact,
which also could be refused to be considered as such without any statement
Sud was kind of a heavy guy. Heavy not in the sense that he would be
specifically violent or aggressive. He sat in silence, listening. Some people
called him patient, but it was rather the opposite. It was his way of
collecting, a silent derive to get the prey. He was trying to understand what
was going on. Trying to understand the secret codes and rules which seemed
either natural or easy to handle for others. He, in this case was dead serious
in the way he handled things he cared about. He loved what he was doing, but he
wasn't here for fun. He had a commitment: he wanted to change the world. He
knew love, death and sex are the things to change the world. So he wanted to
talk about that. He made little notes.
But there was another
necessity to decode silent agreements. He was a spy. And being a spy he knew
about the power of words.
are names. Words give meaning to events and situations. Words make you travel
through time and place! Words transmit the experiences of the soul. Words are
gifts to exchange. Words touch the fleeting moment. Words create significance.
Words mark a body, a movement. Words transform a body, a movement. Words change
reality. Words don't come easy.
was part of the mission "langage poétique". To be honest it was at
times pretty tedious how insisting he could be, how much he was hooked up with
this thing of poetry. While the whole thing was nothing more than a venture to
create a space and a speech without "Telos", that is to say without
hierarchy, causality, fixed sense or item. Sense and
ratio were supposed to be part or even just
background for the breath, rhythm and bodily presence in performance.
it was not so clear how to create this space, this speech in the first place.
He had been looking for it since years. At one point he even had stopped
speaking at all, because he did not know how to handle it. The biggest question
always was and still is: How language would not dominate the physical
appearance, how language would not overpower the nonverbal communication, the
language of the body. The breath, the smiles, the eyes, the expressions on the
face, the gestures, the subtle shifts of weight. So the question was in a way
how to SHARE TIME. To share time to make things possible. Especially if, for
instance, a group is big and varies in experience in dealing with words.
Concept of experience
"Everything I do is performance. There is no
research, everything is performance. I want to share this mind with you."[iii]
remembered these words clearly. He remembered this wide field which opened up
through that. The implications of such an approach were to be discovered during
one week. Learning by doing was applied to figure out how much listening is
necessary if five people speak and act at the same time. To figure out if it is
about solo work or group work (of course it is most powerful if there is an
awareness for both). If it is about the melody of the voice or about the words
spoken. How much and in which way movement can be applied in relation to spoken
text. If to relate to oneself or to the material of the other people. And last
but not least what authenticity could mean in relation with a playful cheating.
concept of experience generally refers to know-how or procedural knowledge,
rather than propositional knowledge. Learning by experience, discovering, is gained
through involvement in or exposure to a certain thing or event and comprises
knowledge of or skill in observation of some thing or event. Mostly people
smile or giggle if they are overexposed or embarrassed.
playful exposure is charming if it reveals the person behind the act of
representation. It is even more charming if it is a smiling person. So then,
let's keep it light.
We'll hold hands and watch the sun rise
From the bottom of the sea
But first, are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced?[i]
were told to fill their pockets with stories. To take things as suggestions to
make up a story. We are surrounded by stories: the story of the first kiss, the
story how you got here, the story why you like this song. There can be three
different stories why you like this song. The stories can differ just by
changing the voice. A dream can be a story. Every story can be told in spoken
words or through movement. One can highlight the movement through language. One
can talk and then move in relation to what s/he was talking about or to
interrupt the text with movement. To make the different layers of text and a
person speaking tangible, one better separates movement and language.
the process of fictionalization the line of reality and fiction sometimes
becomes very thin. Words, events, assignments are chosen because of an
incomprehensible connection, because the material talks to you in a certain
way. There is an old wise saying: "Use your memory as a resource, not as
route to nostalgia or therapy, not necessarily to tell your story, but to
reveal the extent to which your body contains multiple narratives. Critical
evaluation is transformed into the need to respond creatively. The work exists
in the moment, perhaps not yet even assimilated or understood by the artists
who made it. Think formally, then thematically."[iv]
texts and different lists were passing by. ("Make a lists of things, situations, feelings you
like or dislike. Give reasons and associations. Don't stay too long directly
with one sensation, build around it."[v]) Then, after an improvisation with emotional
shifts to encourage different movement qualities, to which voice and text was
added, they were asked to write down the words, to have a text which they could
start to work with.
little bit later he found a note:
How did it start? A tower crumbles, like this person
lying here and falling apart not even remembering who she was or me. This is
the way how it is with mothers, once you have one you never get rid of them. No
matter if they are dead or alive. They are always with you. Sometimes they turn
into weird green monsters.
It is the monster who knows how it goes. It comes out when somebody dies. It is
a green slime running out of every hole. It is replacing the breath.
time it was him who was embarrassed. This embarrassment was rather connected to
a stutter and stammer than to an eloquent speech about things. Obviously there
were things to talk about and things not to talk about. What if one wants to
talk about something, but does not know how? It is better to talk about
anything and keep it light, because time is short and the group is big.
on a performance meant lining up in front or in the middle of the space, mostly
behind a microphone and addressing the voice and speech directly frontal to the
people watching. The dynamic of this setting is not to be underestimated. On
the one hand it supports a direct communication with the audience and gives the
viewer the possibility to watch details. On the other hand it is more difficult
for the performers to listen to the space and what is happening movementwise.
and articles are brought in in order to start working with a text which is not
written by oneself.
Germany a famous gynaecologist is being sued by more than 50 of his former
patients. He has successfully been treating couples with infertility issues and
saved a lot of relationships. It's now been found that he has been inserting
his own sperm under the name of his patients' partners into the women's uterus
to cause pregnancy. Nobody knows what to do with the kids." (In allusion
to Milan Kundera: Abschiedswalzer)[vi]
wrong with skinny Katie?
Holmes has been acting strangely lately, keeping her head down and not talking
much. She is looking pale and tired – which is a real stretch as she can't
really blame it on being a hard working mother or meeting with decorators for
her 15 mill. $ home – if you know what I mean …?
To put it quite frankly: Katie's working too hard to lose weight to match with
her role model Victoria Beckham. But everybody knows that Katie is bigger boned
than Victoria. So, no matter how hard she works she will never make it.
"It's all about the personal definition of beauty and she and Tom just see it
differently" says a source. "Katie is concerned with her look in public whereas
Tom has made it very clear that he finds her gorgeous in private." (allusion to
an article in the "Enquirer")[vi]
smoked another cigarette, sitting in the hot afternoon sun and thought: A text
which is "first hand experience" can seem especially valuable and
maybe even privileged, but it often remains too close to be interpreted or
delivered. A way could be to "just deliver" a text in order to create
a distance. A second-hand text can offer richer resources, it is an instrument
to play upon and gives possibility to express multiple points of views.
mechanisms were not mentioned, pointed out or discussed in the group. Personal
choices were respected – at least in his case – which is good, but questioning
can also help to bring things further. Feedback
and reflections were given in one to one talks. These talks had different
length and depth, because time was RUNNING. This
feedback turned into dialogue. And in continuation this way of dialoguing was
also used to get comfortable with existing, written text, to get to know more
about the text and the person saying those words.
"Everything is performance". Slight adjustments and suspensions of personalities
appear, little shifts of appearance, not characters. But specific people who
talk "natural" about "certain things". Through
the assignment of writing an "open dialog" which in a second step
should be connected with movement, the aspect of situation comes in. Situations
created through actions, movements and text. Language presupposes community.
Community is a shared situation, a shared time, a sharing of words and actions.
found another note, soaked with water and therefore not completely readable:
"performance … I want to make a baby …
integrative aesthetic of the lively … centre of performative procedure …
not just artistic forms …. face to face dialogue … my father died of
cancer, my grandfather died of cancer, my cousin was hit by a tree …
systematic immanent moments of the heterogeneous … make a video … movement
research … Michael Kirby … Bill Gates … draw, paint, play hide and seek
… dance … a treasure hunt …"
So, are you experienced?
He was a spy and suffered temporary insomnia, which caused intermittent
blindness. So in a way he was used to run against obstacles at times. – If you
don't run against them, you sometimes don't notice that they are there.
What he noticed though was, that people in the group curiously unfolded
during this week, building a mutual understanding. The settings and frames
which were offered led everybody to create images with words and movements.
Everyone engaged in their own way. The framed settings were common places to
figure out behaviour for a certain way of performance. Achievement and failure
was to be witnessed and experienced. Davis Freeman did his best to challenge
the people in a gentle way. He would jump in to keep the energy going, he was
careful not to manipulate and frank in his feedback expressing his taste.
Mario Sud gathered his papers together. He put his vial of poison on his
nightstand and went to bed. He was exhausted and sank into a dream. He felt as
if he had been taken on a journey, or rather a trip. A trip through different
formats to frame aspects of reality. They were frames of liberty: the liberty
for love, the liberty for instinctual roamings, the liberty for friendship, the
liberty for death, the liberty for hatred, the liberty for fantasy.
At the end of the night, when the morning was about to break, the cats
"The world is not ending. The work and
the language of the living're about to begin:
in the wee hours
where the first pale violet grey and pink rays hit objects at random, when the
eyes/I's see only with pleasure.[vii]
[i] Jimi Hendrix: Are you experienced?, 1967.
[ii] Text provided by
Alessandro Sabatini (participant) during the workshop.
[iii] Quote Davis Freeman
July 29, 2008.
Steve J. / Goulish, Matthew (editors): Small acts of repair, Routlegde Oxon, Oxon 2007,
[v] Feedback Davis
[vi] Text used by
Katharina Meves (participant) during the workshop.
[vii] Acker, Kathy: Don Quixote, Grove Press New York 1986, p. 198.
(August 14, 2008)