Saturday, October 20, 2012
Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1974
During fall 1974 and winter 1975 my journal was full of questions.
[On Creative Imagination, I end the entry with this question:]
What am I missing? Where is my blind spot?
Imagination works through the senses. They must be trained to respond.
See the lake -- actually see the color, the form, the movement: See a gull flying over the lake, muscles perceive the movement, the dip, the soaring, Hear the waves, the beat, the tempo, feel the spray.
Enlarge the responses, the lake becomes the North Sea, the water darkens, the roar is loud, the gulls cry out, the spray slaps your face, the clouds are dark, they rush -- Hamlet watches the 7th wave come in, break "To be or not to be"
[Along the left hand margin she wrote "Reality" to bracket this first part -- DD.]
Imagination becomes creative only if the realistic sensory response to a stimulus is vivid enough to enlarge of its own accord from lake to ocean to Hamlet on a parapet --
"To be" will only be words unless touched off by images rooted in reality
"My dear Judge, how mortally bored I have been" -- What must the actress see, hear, perceive -- what must the actress do -- turn a rehearsal table into a Victorian table with marble top, a miniature in a gold filigree frame, a lamp with a decorated globe shade --
Turn a rehearsal prop into Gaev's bookcase through sense response -- begin with your own reality.
[About a student in beginning acting]
And what do you do with a student who sits caved in, thinking like crazy, uncomfortable with his physical self, unable to let himself create because he is self-conscious even when I get the entire class involved in an exercise? He'll try and then he gives up, collapses. I'm at a real loss.
What is his chief interest? What does he know well? To some degree, in what is he an authority? Whatever it is, get him to show the class how -- If he is a camera buff -- Let him illustrate -- Then go to -- If Hamlet had a camera -- what -- how -- Work from the known -- from confidence to --
[A description of work on the Antigone/Creon scene in Anouilh's Antigone and my attempts to get students to create the characters as forces more than as realistic human beings. When I met resistance from the students, I flailed.]
As ever, any light you can shed will be assimilated.
Begin with real people, eliminate gradually all small actions, all small intonations. Try it in French, the language of precision. Listen to French drama.
About Antigone's Nurse
She is stripped of everything except the qualities that make her not see, not realize.
Get to the basic motivating force for each one and let that force dominate
Haemon -- a deep love for Antigone -- he would choose death for it. Youth, eliminate all romanticizing about youth and love. Play only the motivating force.
Ismene -- Youth loving life (normal) more than death.
Soldiers -- just that, no more -- no individualities, they await orders, receive them, obey -- play poker while waiting --
I begin to question for myself. What is the difference between realism vs. Greek tragedy? Greek tragedy vs. Anouilh?
[Next to my "realism"] Death of a Salesman. Keep Arthur Miller in mind for realism.
[Next to my "Greek tragedy"] tragic realization "Lo, he is fallen"
[Next to my "Anouilh"] Aimed at the head.
[Next to my "Greek tragedy"] Aimed at understanding through -- ?
[Observations about Greek tragedy, ending with this:]
But isn't that essentially what the French drama does too? There is a difference -- I can sense it, but I cannot articulate it and therefore I'm not certain how to teach it. Will you help clarify?
It's in the aim -- the French insist on that intellectual grasp.
From my summer journal
Try being Anouilh -- with a keen mind, with a deep concern for his country, for humanity, looking from a high tower at his Paris, his France, knowing, realizing that with his talents he had the responsibility to strike a blow against Nazism. Play the Antigone he is creating as he looks at Paris.
I send her copies of the notes I post on the bulletin board.
The notes are to the point. Can you expand each point, illustrate, question? Always test your own imagination until you can trust yourself fully to develop any statement. Feel that you know Hedda and all her associates better than you know your own friends. And trust your own mind to explore, discover.
Talk about characters in drama as real people. As you talk about Eilert Lovborg become Eilert for a few moments.
[...A discussion of students and friends...DD]
I'm glad you have moved to Evanston. Should save time--