Sunday, November 24, 2013

"The Flashlight" - Follow-Up

Dear Mime Artists around the World,

I cannot believe that it is already the end of November!  Thanks to each of you for supporting and spreading the word about The GMI Community, our International Summer Institute, and this blog site. 

With your help, our blog reached thousands of views within three months since it opened, and we are now connected with so many mime artists on earth including the ones we have never met.  Our blog articles are now being read in thirty five countries listed below:

United States, Poland, Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Croatia, Serbia, Finland, Lebanon, Australia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Puerto Rico, Denmark, Portugal, China, Hong Kong, Spain, Czech, Belgium, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Iraq, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Paraguay, Iceland, Indonesia, and Egypt.

"The Flashlight" - Follow up

Today I will answer one of the questions from a reader regarding my last article. The question was about how "The Flashlight" for indoor space is done physically in relation to "Eye Focus" and "The Attitude Phrase".

In our New York studio, I recently demonstrated this technique using an actual flashlight.  It was very helpful for the students to understand the process and its timing.  And their immediate improvement I saw was unbelievable. 

"The Flashlight" Process in relation to Eye Focus:

Imagine you are wearing a head lamp which has a narrow focused flashlight attached to it. You enter a dark room with the head lamp on.

Head Lamp

Section 1) 
Shine "The Flashlight" (head lamp) on a diagonal high corner of the indoor space.  You "See" a wall clock hung there with your head and eyes together.  Immediately adjust your eye focus to recognize the clock like you naturally do in life when you try to read a street sign.  This should take almost two seconds.  (Two beats = see, recognize.)  As you “recognize, inflate (coil) your body into an attitude.  Then, move to the next point.  

* You only have about 6 to 10 seconds of stage time to “Paint the Space” that you are in.  Best advice is to make this a musical phrase of beats that are quick thoughts about the place.  This is illustrated in the examples that follow.

Section 2) 
Keep your flashlight pointing there and say to yourself a few quick thoughts in beats such as "Oh? clock... cool!" while making your eyes farsighted and focused upon the clock. Then, you can add a few minimal moves with your eyes, painting “thought dots” in the air, independently from your head.  

* Internally sing short syllable words like above or simple sounds.  Thoughts for "The Flashlight must be square and quick taking only a few seconds at the most for one glance.  Do not take longer time or describe the thing with gestures. 

* It’s true that a simple visualization such as a clock in the performer's mind helps us achieve a better acting moment, during this phase of your play.  But it is not important "what" we are visualizing. What it is important, is that we ARE visualizing something in order to show a “place” around us.

While “painting the space” stay in one place, do not walk around.  Quickly repeat Sections 1 and 2 above on two or three more points at different heights and angles from where you are until you see the space in your own imagination.  Each space will take a different time and rhythm.  Describing a Church will be more lyrical and a busy street in Times Square will be more frenetic.  The opening moments of a play can be the most enjoyable part once you take advantage of these tools.

After you’ve drawn the space, you’re finished with "The Flashlight" phrase and can now add "The Depicting Objects."

Quick "Attitude Phrase" (See, Wish, Doubt, Believe) in "The Flashlight"

Let's find "The Attitude Phrase" in each glance of "The Flashlight" for indoor space.  One glance (at one corner of the space) consists of two sections.  Section 1 is "See", and Section 2 is "Wish", "Doubt", and "Believe".

Section 1) You see a point with the head lamp and eyes together and recognize (visualize) a thing.  This is the moment of "See" in "The Attitude Phrase".  Your eyes get focused on the thing by widening your eyes in a second.

Section 2) You keep your head lamp pointing there, and give a few thoughts ("Wish" and "Doubt") about what you saw with minimal moves and color changes of your eyes separately from your head, then make a quick conclusion ("Believe"). 

You just completed a quick "Attitude Phrase" (See, Wish, Doubt, Believe) about the thing you saw on the corner of the indoor space.  This "Attitude Phrase" is shown so fast that people hardly notice it.  But if that is missing, your audience will easily get lost in your play.

Again, the timing is so important in "The Flashlight".  And those quick seconds you take will definitely help your audience feel at home throughout the scene.

Here is a video link to Gregg's "Phantom 309", my favorite play. Watch this play and see how quickly he puts in "The Flashlight" when he enters the cafe.  He sees the corners and things sitting there, so we, the viewers, create the space through our own memory and imagination.  It is not important "what" he saw, but it is important "that" he saw.

Please feel free to send any comments and questions you have about mime techniques, our articles, etc. Gregg is currently creating a video series "Goldmime Online" to support our global community.

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Thank you!

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"The Flashlight" The First Few Seconds On Stage


In a mime performance, it is critical to give the essential visual information on "Where the character is" at the very beginning of a scene as quickly as possible, whether it is an indoor space, outdoor space, or even “no-place” in an abstract environment.

There are different ways to establish your "Visible Environment" and we often combine various techniques in accordance with the characteristics of the play. Today, I will explain only the very first step I call "The Flashlight", an effective way to visually create the foundation of the space before you add "The Depicting Objects" which was explained two weeks ago.

B-1) "The Flashlight": Introductory Space Reflection

This technique is used when you first introduce your new environment to help the audience instantly visualize the most fundamental information as below:
"Is this indoor or outdoor?"
"What is the general size and shape of this indoor space?"

1) Narrow Focused Flashlight for Indoor Space: 

Shine a "Flashlight" on three points
As soon as you enter an indoor space, you give a quick glance with eye focus at three different points. It is often effective if you choose one diagonal corner, which is a farthest point from you, and two other points in different angles and heights. At each focus point, stop your head for two beats and let your eyes register a thought.  This will feel like your eyes are painting dots, which eventually paint a picture of your space.

Quick thoughts on dots
Always remember to reflect quick thoughts on each point you see. But you don't want to make it a great deal by "describing" the unknown things for it is only about a rough idea of the space. Simply visualize the things sitting at those corners. Colorful thoughts naturally come out from your visualizing eyes.
And after those three stops on dots, you can give a phrase of after thoughts about that space.

This "Flashlight" process helps the audience understand the general size and shape of the three dimensional indoor space and the relationship between you and the space through your thoughts.

If you enter a church, 

1. You can look at a diagonal far corner visualizing a stature or painting there, 

2. Then, look at a little closer object at a lower height visualizing someone kneeling there, 

3. Then look up the high ceiling with stained glass taking a little longer time, in order to give the initial idea of "a spacious room with a high ceiling". 

4. Then you can give an “after-thought” phrase, 

5. Then start to add "The Depicting Objects", i.e., actually touching "Visible Objects".

2) Broad Focused Flashlight for Outdoor:

Brush over horizon line with Broad focused "Flashlight"
When you go outdoors in your scene, or your scene starts outdoors, you can smoothly brush a “faraway” look with your eyes over your horizon line above your audience with your head to create an outdoor image around you. Never stop your eyes on any object.  (For distance, imagine you are at the beach, you trace the ocean left to right, and you do a similar diagonal arc, like tracing a rainbow to create the sky.)

No specific thoughts on horizon line
No specific thoughts need to be involved in this horizontal stroke. It is done just to quickly establish the basic information as "Outdoor" in the audience's mind. And after this "Introductory Space Reflection", you can start "The Depicting Objects" such as reflecting a bird flying by, finding a bench, a dog barking at you, etc. 

3) No Bulb Flashlight for No-Place.  (The Placeless Plot): 

In the writing structure called "The Placeless Plot", the scene is not in a specific scenery, i.e., you do not introduce your environment on purpose. It is still your responsibility to provide that information and keep your environment coherent in that texture of "no-place".

The Flashlight with no bulb
At the very beginning of the "No-Place" scene, you can give a kind of spacy and abstract moving gaze around you,  never focusing your eyes on any point in your view, scenery. Imagine that you are blind and looking around to feel the air. When the illusion (of the play) appears, you can only focus at the illusion. But never focus at other objects around you, for such a simple look can trigger images of an environment in the audience's mind.

Gregg Goldston in "Digits"
showing No-Place

The Flashlight - its process and effects:

The process of "The Flashlight" - Introductory Space Reflection takes place in a split second like a magician's trick not being noticed by most viewers, but the effect is enormous. It enables the next process of "The Depicting Objects" to work smoothly. 

Because most objects can possibly exist both indoor or outdoor, and we should always avoid confusing audience. Also, we all like to bring furniture in after knowing the size of the room and painting the walls of the room, don't we? That is the order we like to recognize in our imaginary world as well.

If you miss the process of "The Flashlight", the audience will be forced to keep guessing the answers between indoor, outdoor or where while you are far ahead of them showing the objects and events in the story. They sure feel like being left in a dark room without a flashlight, worrying about bumping head or stubbing toe in a nightmare...

But once you learn how to guide your audience to enter the space with you, you will soon hear your audience "get" where you are, and find yourself enjoying a stronger connection between you and your audience. 

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Depicting Object - The Key to Creating a Visible Environment

Today, I will write about how to draw the scenery, "Visible Environments" on stage.  The entire subject of “Making the Invisible Environment become Visible” is too large to cover in one article, and before I realized it, I caught myself writing an 8-page article.  Consequently, I decided to make today’s post concentrate on one of the most essential concepts we use to make an environment become visible on stage.  

This concept, developed by Goldston in the early 1980’s and is called: “The Depicting Object."  It is the method of quickly showing the “object” that best “describes” the environment you are showing your audience and today, I will elaborate on this topic.

B) Visible Environments:  

B-2) The Depicting Object:

In order for a visible environment to be painted clearly in the audience's mind, showing a unique object that most typically appear in such an environment (place) is necessary.  We call this technique “The Depicting Object.”

“The Depicting Object" follows the proper "Introductory Space Reflection (B-1)" which is to show the general space size and indoor / outdoor information.  (Abbreviated here)

Example 1 - Golf Course:

After "Introductory Space Reflection" as outdoor, you can hold and swing a golf club, and put a golf ball and hold the golf club again.  The earlier in your play you add a Depicting Object, the sooner the audience will identify the environment, they will quickly “paint in” the rest of the scenery within your place.

Example 2 - Bathroom:

After you give three quick glances (Introductory Space Reflection to show the Indoor space size), you can show a toothbrush, razor, and shower.  Note that the fewer objects you use the better.  The beauty of the Depicting Object is “Economy”, not to create a guessing game of objects.  

Example 3 - Bedroom: 

After you give three quick glances (Introductory Space Reflection to show the Indoor space size), you probably need to first show a bed, then a night table, and a night lamp.  Those are better objects and better order to show than, let's say, a book, and a bookshelf, and a bed.  Even though those objects may exist in some bedrooms, if you choose an unessential object, it can lead the audience in the wrong direction and confuse your viewers.

The important thing to remember is that, in a mime show, your audience’s mind is working quickly to find the answers to: "what?" plus "what?" plus "what?" to create "where?" and then "who?"  Once they understand this information they can move onto WHY?  At this point, they can look for the plot in your story.  Remember, a human brain will not relax until it solves its’ problem.  At the beginning of a mime play, the brain is only thinking:  Where!  Afterwards, it can think about Who and Why.  Those answers are arrived at one hint at a time in the audience's mind in the exact order you present it to them.   If the Objects you show are in the wrong order,  it can actually erase the images you've already painted in their mind.

Example: "Oh, a book, ... and a bookshelf?  ... it must be a library!  Oh wait, ... a bed?  A bed in a library?  I must be wrong.  Let's see what this program says..."  See how quickly it is to lose your audience!  Never assume that because You know what it is, that They do.

We need to choose objects that quickly and directly create images and ideas of "Where the character is now".  Also the order of objects to establish an environment needs a special care in consideration.  If a golf ball appears before a golf club, most people are forced to guess between so many possibilities while you are holding that mysterious little ball.  A golf club is a much easier object to identify a golf course than a golf ball, so the golf club should appear first for a faster relief.

And we must care for our audience and approach our public as if they have never seen a mime play before, nor an expert in the field of objects or environments you are creating on stage. Uncertainty in mime is painful for the audience.

That is a difficult part if writing / choreographing mime plays.  We always have to start with a blank canvas and draw our play visually and objectively, and give one information at a time, in a correct order. It reminds me of the difficulty I found when I needed to erase my adult knowledge and explain things to a little child.  Assumption of being understood is the most common mistakes in this art form.  "How would they know that?" should be the most frequently asked question we the choreographers ask ourselves while we write a mime play.

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.