Category Archives: CAST

CAST UPDATE: Self-Discovery in a Supportive Environment

CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) IN ACTION

Veteran Player Sandy Clifford

“It gets the creative juices flowing!”  Sandy Clifford says of CAST activity at BOLLI.   “It’s great fun making new friends and begging part of a  creative team.  It’s also challenging and educational kind of self-discovery–in an environment where taking chances is supported.”

It’s a typical CAST adventure.  The group gathers for a “Warm-Up Walk” around the Gathering Space.  They are instructed to focus on the space itself, the intersection between themselves and their environment, and then, the nature of their movement.

The instruction to “Walk like an Egyptian” brings the expected laughter as actors try to move as if they are one or two-dimensional beings. Then, they take on the characters of individuals with unique walks: clown, deep sea diver, tightrope walker, toddler, ballerina.  “How has the environment and years of this activity affected the way you walk–on the sidewalk?  Across a room?”  They move throughout the room, finally coming to a stop to see what might be coming next.

Mimed activity–jumping rope, playing tennis or volleyball–might lead to creating tableaux or “Photo Album” in which one member turns the pages of an imaginary album, narrating a memorable family outing  or celebration.  “Oh, here we all are at Uncle Elbert’s barbecue,” the narrator indicates, for example, as the group quickly compose themselves in a frozen scene.

Next might be an exercise in improvisation.   In “Job Interview,” an employer engages a potential employee in conversation about the position for which he or she is applying.  The catch?  The potential employee doesn’t know what the job is and must rely on the other player to guide her or him to that conclusion with well-constructed clues.   In “Congratulations on Your Retirement!” a group of party-goers try to determine what each other’s 50-year careers entailed.

Phyllis Walt and Steve Goldfinger in “You Did WHAT?!”

An exercise in dialogue might follow.  “The Ten-Line Trip,”  for example, provides players, in pairs, with a generic ten-line dialogue which each pair particularizes by creating a unique environment in which it takes place,  As in…

UP IN THE AIR with Judy Blatt and Eileen Mitchell

On occasion, a rousing rendition of “Chopped Props” ensues.  The players are divided into two groups, and each is given a picnic basket or grocery bag which has been filled with identical prop items.   The groups then have a prescribed bit of time in which to create a scene in which all of the props become essential elements.  As in…

THE BANK HEIST with Bette Winer, Joan Halperin, and Sandy Clifford

and…

MY AGING DENTIST with Steve Goldfinger, Judy Blatt, and Monique Frank

 

Props can be used to inspire solo storytelling as well–as Marty Ross demonstrates.

Marty Ross in Mega-Magnifiers recounts a tale–fiction? Or NOT…?

 

At times,  too, the group deals with scripted material–as we will do starting next month when we begin to prepare CARRYING ON, the world premiere of a collection of short plays for senior players.  The production will be presented at a Lunch & Learn session during the last week of the fall term.

Newcomers are always welcome.  Margie Nesson tried her hand at the acting game this summer, reporting that she enjoyed “yet another new experience for me at BOLLI!”   New BOLLI member Mark Seliber says that, during the first session he attended,  he was intrigued by how just movement itself can set up a scene.  And Jan Burres, who dropped in recently, says, “It was fun! We laughed.  We played.  We even learned how people in theatre can cry, night after night, when necessary. I felt welcomed and delighted in the real sense of camaraderie in the group. And I’ll be back.”

And it just doesn’t get better than THAT, now, does it?

CAST Facilitator Sue Wurster

For over 40 years, Sue taught drama to students  in kindergarten  through college (but mostly in middle and high school).  Working with BOLLI players has been “absolutely the best,” she says.  “Unlike adolescents, this group isn’t worried about looking silly in front of their friends–they just go for it!  And, as a result, their growth as actors is exponential in nature.”  

CAST-ing Our Lines! Another New BOLLI Special Interest Group

Dropping by the BOLLI Gathering Space at 60 Turner Street on a Tuesday afternoon, you might find some unusual activity underway as CAST members work to discover, develop, and refine their performance skills in the dramatic arts.

An outgrowth of BOLLI’s long-standing “Scene-iors” Acting Troupe (an annual springtime course offering in which participants work on and present a staged reading of a play for the BOLLI community-wide audience), CAST provides interested members with opportunities to engage in a variety of creative drama/theatre exercises and basic acting work.

During each CAST session, the group does some warm-up pantomime followed by improvisation, concentration, and observation exercises. The techniques explored are then applied to short scenes from short stories, novels and plays as well as poetry.

Recently, after a rousing session of pantomimed catch and jump rope, the group was split into two sections who were each charged with the task of creating tableaux highlighting “the key moment” in its well-known fairy tale. Of course, at BOLLI, this meant first spending several minutes in highly animated intellectual discussion and debate about which moments in these tales are truly seminal. (In “Red Riding Hood,” for example, is it when the wolf gobbles up Red? Or is it when the Woodsman arrives on the scene? In “Cinderella,” is it when Cindy loses her slipper or when the Prince arrives to try it on the Ugly Stepsisters?) The intensity and commitment to the work were palpable.

Later in that session, various “misunderstood” fairy tale characters appeared on an improvised Dr. Phil-like television talk show to air their woes. Here, Snow White’s Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella’s Stepmother (Sandy Clifford) share their frustrations with their television audience.

MALIGNED MOMS Snow White's Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella's Stepmother (Sandy Clifford)
MALIGNED MOMS Snow White’s Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella’s Stepmother (Sandy Clifford)

During another session, we delved into the importance of “focus” in setting any scene and applied what was learned about the use of the eye to scenes offering particular “focal” challenges. Becki Norman, Monique Frank, and Eileen Mitchell (below) take some planning time to determine how to approach George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl, a story in which young George’s Grandmother downs a dose of quite a nasty concoction which gives her such a jolt of energy that she shoots up to the ceiling where she is suspended for some time.

GEORGE 1
SETTING THEIR SCENE Becki Norman, Monique Frank, and Eileen Mitchell

 

GEORGE
George (Monique) is stunned to see Grandma (Becki) in robust, rising movement.

Another group—consisting of Irwin Garfinkle, Judy Blatt, and Bunny Cohen—took on the challenge provided by The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, a short story by Ray Bradbury in which a man who has just committed a murder becomes completely obsessed with removing his fingerprints from every inch of the man’s home.

FRUIT
OBSESSION TAKES HOLD Irwin Garfinkle, Judy Blatt, Bunny Cohen

FRUIT 2

After the two groups viewed each other’s work, Bunny broke into a huge smile. “This is so much fun!” she said to the rest of the CAST. Then she grinned.  “Remember when we used to just stand there and read?”

The group will continue to meet on Tuesdays throughout August and then, when the new term begins, will switch to a Friday time. Watch the weekly Bulletin for meeting announcements—any interested BOLLI member is welcome to CAST a line at any point!