Collaboration is hard. This is something I have learned before, but MXAT is reminding me of it daily. I addition to whatever else we have to do on a given night–be it reading a play, doing Russian homework, doing laundry, or massaging muscles we didn’t know we had but which are now aching from the lethal combination of stage movement and ballet–we also have to take time to plan out a group etude. An etude essentially consists of a silent scene in which some event occurs that causes some change in everyone involved. It sounds simple enough, but when you consider that the silence has to be natural for the situation, and everyone must have a specific character, and the event has to have a real effect on all nine people involved, it starts to get a little challenging. Oh, yeah, and those same nine people all have to agree about what the scene will be.
This is probably why the first thing we learned in acting class was how to sit in unison as an ensemble. We then learned how to rise from our chairs in unison, and then how to rearrange those chairs in unison. All without talking or having anyone take the lead. It might sound a little silly, or like it has nothing to do with acting, but there’s something incredibly valuable in being able to accomplish a task (however simple) together, without leaders and followers, as a true ensemble. We’ve been building on the sitting thing ever since, and today we were able to arrange our chairs into letters to spell out a word, without discussing what the word was going to be. We’re growing as an ensemble, and it’s showing in the way our evening group meetings have improved every single day.
The whole idea of being an ensemble goes way beyond acting class, too. Being an ensemble means that we’re here for each other one hundred percent. It means there’s always someone offering a hug when you need one. It means there’s someone to talk you down when you’re upset because your individual etude didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. It means that when you can’t get to sleep one night, you’ll probably find friends to sit up in the kitchen with you and talk until 4:30 in the morning, having the greatest conversation about life in the theatre, and disregarding the fact that you have eight hours of class the next day.
I met my ensemble exactly nine days ago, and I feel like we’ve known each other for years. I feel incredibly lucky that not only am I getting to study in this amazing place, but I’m also getting to do it with these amazing people. Moving a chair across the room is nothing spectacular, but doing it in perfect unison with seventeen other people… that’s actually pretty beautiful.