By Anna Orshansky
Several students learned how to stand their ground, literally, on Thursday, March 17 when they were taught some of the basic exercises of Suzuki theatre as a part of the School of Arts and Communications’ Brown Bag Series.
The Suzuki practice, created by Japanese theater director Tadashi Suzuki, stems from Noh and Kabuki theatre of Japan.
Participants learned to incorporate total body movement and use vocal production in such a way that encouraged group work through a set of exercises led by Amanda Boekelheide.
Boekelheide, who has an MFA in acting from Columbia University, is an accomplished actress and teacher who has traveled the world to work with a number of theatrical groups. She joined the College community to provide insight into the practice of Suzuki theatre, which she has practiced and taught for over 10 years through the Siti Company in New York.
Boekelheide explained that Suzuki is “something you almost have to do in order to understand” as a few students and faculty members got on stage and prepared to engage in the intense physical exercises that are associated with the theatrical practice.
These exercises included sitting statues, standing statues, stomping and the Suzuki walk. The sitting and standing statues required those taking part in the exercises to start in a group positioned in a strong crouch.
As Boekelheide created a loud, percussive sound, participants would have to change positions and hold themselves up through their center with the help of their pelvis while either sitting on their “sit bone” or standing in a low, mid or high position.
After completing these two exercises, the participants repeated them, this time reciting the alphabet collectively as they completed the exercises again. Boekelheide asked the audience to project and use vocal energy from their centers to create a brighter tone.
The stomping exercise led right into the Suzuki walk, which integrated continuous stomping with music.
When the music ended, participants dropped to the ground, rose slowly through the center and were instructed to allow energy to continue to travel through them as they rose.
Each of these exercises required participants to remain rooted to the stage with a strong center and a piercing gaze.
Boekelheide completed the workshop by allowing the students to ask questions and telling them a little more about Suzuki theatre.
Jared Salwen, junior music major, saw how students of Suzuki theatre remain grounded and rooted to the stage through their center in such a way that a variety of works can be created from their physical base.
“It forced you to move with purpose all the time,” said Salwen, who is currently working on an opera at the College.
He took from the workshop lessons that will aid him in his performance.
“When I’m (on)stage moving now, I am going to put a purpose behind every movement,” Salwen said.