Benten is one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. 'May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings attain enlightenment'.
Part One: An interview with Australian Theatre Director/Playwright, Margaret Davis
Janice: Margaret, you recently were in Vietnam working with students of theatre. Can you share some of your experience with us?
Margaret: This was my second visit as Guest Lecturer at the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema working on plays by Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov with third year acting students.
In 2018 we worked on The Seagull and in 2019 Three Sisters. These intensive classes form part of a semester on Western Theatre in which the students also explore texts by Moliere and Shakespeare. The Chekhov texts are difficult for acting students around the world because the style of naturalism requires detailed study of the text for clues about what motivates the characters. The Vietnamese style of acting is much more presentational - big on physicality and powerful gestures - with less emphasis on the tiny moment by moment shifts and inter-personal relationships that playing Chekhov requires. Also, Chekhov’s texts are a great way of introducing students to the system of acting developed by Stanislavski.
Like young acting students in Australia, the Vietnamese students really warmed to the introductory phase of the classes, and were particularly inventive in physical improvisation. However, they struggled when we moved on to rehearsing the scenes from the play. They wanted to rush to performing the big emotional moments, and needed a lot of coaching to actually turn from performing “out front” and building relationships with the other characters. As with any cohort, some got the hang of the style more quickly than others who still wanted to impress us with their emotional facility, rather than moving us as an audience!
Janice: We were recently talking about cultural differences when working with students. What are some of your insights?
Margaret: Essentially in the teaching/rehearsing process I discovered the students were not used to being asked questions to prompt their own discoveries of character and motivation. If I asked direct questions such as “would you really want to shake hands with that character?” Or “why are you being so rude to the poor maid?” I would be met with confused silence. It could be that their text analysis skills were not yet very developed (e.g., Masha takes out her frustration on the poor maid when her lover, Vershinin, has been summoned to return home as his wife has threatened to kill herself.)
Of course I was working through an interpreter, and this can colour one’s understanding sometimes as even with the most exact translations meanings can get confused!
And because I was on the floor teaching throughout my stay, I didn’t get a chance to see other rehearsals or classes in progress. I did however witness three professional performance during my stay this time that helped me understand differences in approach.
And from what I understood from student responses and explanations offered by my interpreter, the students are "taught by example".
Janice: Thanks Margaret for your insights. We will continue this dialogue soon.
Celebrating the life of and honouring the passing of one of Australia's
most authentic & significant Rock'n Roll singers, Del Juliana. Del graced our
t.v. screens with a big voice, big hair and a bold attitude. Sending my
deepest condolences to all who knew & loved Del. May your memory
live on and a sweetness surround you as you journey on. ...om mani padma
The year Jo turned fifty, she sold her house to finance her lifelong dream of exploring the sacred sites of Egypt, the Mayan jungles in Mexico and the Native American reservations in Arizona where she was invited to participate in ancient traditional ceremonies. After reading an article Jo wrote about her adventures, a travel agency in Queensland offered her the job of escorting groups from Australia to explore the world’s most sacred sites – a brand new career destined to last another seventeen years.Janice: Jo, we've known each other for many moons now. From that first random meeting I experienced your nature as all accepting and embracing. Were there particular role models who embodied these qualities?
Jo: My first role models would have been my parents. Back in the 1940s when I was a child, they ran what we call these days, a ‘soup kitchen’ at the South Melbourne Presbyterian mission. Not only did they supply food, Mum made lots of clothes for the homeless children and…