Monday, February 1, 2010

I can see your brain moving, "chu chu chu chu"

sabato. saturday.
Slept in!
Kadie and I were both starving when we woke up so we walked to the grocery store and bought fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and bread. Tomatoes: I have never liked them. I like them when they are cut up really teeny tiny, I like ketchup, and I like tomato soup...but I've never fallen for the big ol' fruit. Welcome change of heart. Maybe it was just that all our ingredients were unbelievably fresh; but tomatoes, mozzarella, bread, and oil is officially the best lunch in the world. We felt very Italian. It was raining to and from the store, so the walk on the muddy path to get there wasn't very fun, but it was all worth it when our bellies were full. Delizioso!
Our original plan was to spend a good deal of sabato in Arezzo, but because of the rain we had a slight change of plans. Instead we decided to bum around and do laundry. There isn't a dryer here so planning for laundry is essential because otherwise your clothes will never dry when you need them.
After a day of relaxation, Kadie and I decided to go out for dinner at this place that Scott told us about called "Trattoria Mazzoni". We had heard through the grapevine that this ristorante was home to "life changing pasta" and I am happy to report that the rumor was true! I had gnocchi al ragu and it was fantastic. Not only that, but le vino della casa rosso (the red house wine) was the best wine I've ever had ...and I'm not usually a big red wine person. Tomatoes and red wine. Grazie Mille Italia! I don't remember what our dessert was called, but it was pure heaven. Three HOURS later, Kadie and I left the restaurant. That's another thing about dinner in Italy - it starts at 7:30 and the service is so slow but it doesn't even matter. In America, everything is so fast paced - - people don't take the time to enjoy what they are actually eating. Here, I don't have my cell phone or a watch so I have absolutely no concept of time. It's so refreshing to not be tied down. I feel like Italians enjoy the time they have more - they aren't burdened with thoughts of what will be or not be after dinner. They just eat. Beautiful.
After dinner, Kadie and I went to a bar called Mister Blooms and had some more wine. The bartender, David (pronounced Daveed), saw my credit card and was like, "Ava Balistrieri!?...Italiana!!!" People here are always amazed when they find out my last name. Afterwards we met up with some more people from the Accademia at a bar called Aurora. The best thing about weekends in Italy: I get to put all my Italian to use! I was so proud of myself - I was having full on conversations in Italian. Of couse, I made a million mistakes and I had to ask a lot of questions but it's a start. Observation: pretty sure every other male in Italy is called Luca because my evening went a little something like this: "Ciao Bella! Come ti chiami?" "Mi chiamo Eva, e tu?" "Luca, piacere!" x THREE. There were three Luca's, and all three of them were friends. Here I thought I would find a bunch of Mario's and Luigi's....damn you Mario Kart. Overall, one of my favorite days here. I am starting to feel like I belong. :)

domenica. sunday.
Slept in again! yay weekends.
Kadie and I ate the rest of our tomato, mozzarella, bread combination for lunch. I probably had enough cheese in the last two days to last me the rest of my life ..and that says a lot because I'm from Wisconsin, damnit! :)
I spent a majority of the day reading for class in my bed. Nothing too exciting. It was a beautiful day outside though so around sunset Kadie and I went running. We found a new path - it's a bit longer than the one we were running before. Not only that, but it's through the VINEYARDS. I am convinced that I will never run in a more beautiful setting; Tuscan vineyards with snow capped mountains in the distance. The sunset was gorgeous and the clouds were in this crazy formation where they almost looked like mountains. They all stopped at the same time too so there was a distinct line between the clouds and the sunset. I wish I would have had my camera with me - - it was by far the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in person. Absolute beauty. The highest form capable in nature.
Followed by our run, we went to get pizza. It was an enjoyable meal, minus the fact that they charged us for splitting the pizza. 3.50 Euro EACH for them to just cut the damn pizza in half. 7 Euro. How ridiculous is that? AND they didn't even tell us, so when we got the bill we were confused. Another funny thing about dinners in Italy - I haven't been to a ristorante yet where a man with roses hasn't walked in during the meal and gone to every table trying to get people to buy roses....and I've never seen a single person buy one. Poor guys. But it's crazy! The restaurants don't kick them out or anything - they are allowed to come in and vend during dinner. I guess it's semi-romantic? Doppo cena (after dinner) FINALLY. We went to get Gelato. My first gelato in Italy...and guess what? THEY HAVE NUTELLA GELATO! Can life get any better?!?! The impact on my tastebuds nearly made me fall over....

Oggi. Today.
Are you ready for this?
I had SIX hours of Commedia dell'Arte with an expert, Michele Bottini. I learned more today than I have learned in a long time. I don't even know where to begin. We introduced ourselves - I said "Eva" and he said, ahhh so you are the Italian one!!? to which I replied, "yes" and then he said "do you speak it?" to which I replied, "Sto Imparando" I am learning Italian...but no. Damn. I need to get better at this language. (Side note: Even though I took four years of French in high school, I barely remember any and it's because I didn't practice it enough. That's not happening with this. I am keeping up with Italian. I have to. Not to mention, I like it more than French.) After introductions, we started out by standing netural. (Thank you Jef Awada!) There really is no such thing as "neutral" but the closest you can get is standing with your feet parallel directly under your hips, hands by your side, straight back, and head looking straight ahead. We then talked about what it means "to jump" and proceeded to jump as lightly as we could, staying neutral. After this we talked a lot about how when you do an action, it shouldn't be your brain "thinking about the action" it's about your body doing the action. For example, if you are going to fall on your hands in front of you, your pelvis is the thing leading you to the ground. You can't anticipate the fall. Anticipation kills impulse. After this we talked about volume (how much room your body takes up in space), rhythm (not to be confused with time....time is the box you put rhythm in) and tone (how much muscle you use to do something). We practiced using the space: seeing something and moving towards it with varying degrees of volume, rhythm, and tone. Looking, then going; not curving, but moving directly. He said to us that we should be able to tell him afterwards what degree we were at (10 being the highest, 1 being the lowest). So here I am.....finding something, moving towards it, trying to think about what "degree" I'm at, but at the same time trying to just be impulsive...but having a hard time being impulsive when all I can think about is "am I doing this right? Shit...what "degree" am I at? I've never had "training" like this. As I've said before, it's so technical! How do you blend technicality with impulse without killing the spontanaity of the impulse? So we grouped at the end of this exercise and he asked us to tell him how we felt about it and I started to cry, like an emotional idiot. I remember my first semester freshman year at U of Illinois I used to cry in acting class all the time and my teacher, Robert Ramirez said, "You're the cryer of the class. There's always one." - - - well, Robert, if you are reading this....apparently nothing has changed. So I got all emotional and explained to him my frustrations - This stuff is HARD. It's stripping everything away and putting me in my head. I've heard this before, but he has the best analogy of it, "Technicality is the trampoline of acting. You have to have that base in order to be free." Then he gave a huge speech about how "Emotion is the consequence of action, it cannot be the engine" which reminded me of a whole 'nother huge speech that Alec Wild gave during "Tempest" rehearsals. After talking about it for quite some time he finally said, "Eva. Good (for crying). I know exactly where you are at...I can see your brain moving "chu chu chu chu chu" just let go. I can see tension in your jaw! Let go!" PHEW. So. Freaking. Good. He is brilliant to the max. Following this we did an exercise where people stood neutrally around the room and even though they were standing still, just looking out at us, depending on where they were on the stage they had different statuses. You could tell who was the protagonist the entire time just by their position in space.
We had lunch, and then afterwards we had our second three hours. Mask Time! YAY
We got brief introductions today to Zanni, Arlecchino, Colombina, and Pantalone.
I had a misconception that Commedia mask work was freeing for the body but it's INCREDIBLY specific. You stand like these guys and move like these guys for a while, and you feel it instantly. It's some of the most thrilling work I've done. Michele is great too, because if your back is too arched he will come right up to you and straighten it. If your knees are locked, he will come and hit the back of your leg. He's so detailed, and because there are only nine of us, he has the ability to be everywhere at once which is a blessing.
After we worked with the characters for a bit, we did an exercise in neutral mask. It's hard to explain on here. Basically, though, even though we were all in these masks and our movements looked netural, as an audience watching, we were able to imagine a story coming to life. After watching a group do the exercise with their masks on, we watched them do the same movements with the mask off. Michele asked us what the difference was and we all agreed that with the mask on, the audience has the ability to dream. "It is the audience's job to dream; it is their job to feel something. It is not your job."
After watching four other actors do the exercise, I got the opportunity to do it. Basically all we were doing was walking in triangles and meeting up with other actors at the point of the triangles. We were all in neutral mask, just walking, and a story unfolded from our differing rhythms and our connection to the other masks. Sigh. In. Love.
Anyway. Sorry for all you non-theatre people reading this. This is probably a bunch of googly gopp to you, but it is heaven. So challenging. So rewarding. When I thought classes couldn't get any better....sheesh.
If there is one thing I am going to be for the next three months, it is a sponge.


  1. Hey bugs,

    Glad the experience is already exceeding your expectations. VERY glad that you are being challenged. I think you needed that. Just work your butt off--the more you give, the more you'll bring home.

    Love you...

  2. I love you. Absolute beauty. You're in a good place.