It’s week two of grad school and between classes, assignments, and navigating Boston (a new city to me), my head is spinning. Within the creative chaos comes surprise moments of pause: standing on the BU bridge as the sun sets, closing my eyes at my desk while listening to someone singing an aria down the hall, drinking coffee in the morning at the kitchen table.
Most recently a moment of pause came when I sat down to read Paul Woodruff’s Antigone between production meetings. I had about an hour and a half (just enough to get it done if I read briskly). I tried to read on pace, taking in the essential characters, important lines but the rhythm of the play (big blocks of text and poetic orations) consumed me and slowed me down.
I was struck by how different the experience of reading this play was in comparison to reading most contemporary pieces. There is something else at work here.
It felt almost tectonic.
The feeling transported me to a trip I took this summer. I spent two weeks in Japan and was lucky enough to see a Noh Play at the Yamamoto Noh Theater in Osaka. The play was epic with maidens and demons and witches who could jump from one mountaintop to the other. And yet, the play was so still (and so long). The majority of the performers did not move from their places on stage. Movements were repetitive and slow and each character told long and winding stories of where they had come from.
At first, I was worried I would be bored. After all, I didn’t speak the language and everything was paced so differently from what I am used to seeing in a play.
I wasn’t bored.
I slowed down. I think I listened more carefully. I noticed little things, the way the actor’s feet interacted with the floor, the delicate way they moved their hands, the variations in sounds.
At the end, I realized I had been very still for very long, so long that both of my legs were asleep. After hobbling towards the exit and shaking my legs out in the street, I felt so energized and so present.
Rarely in my life am I able to engage with art that slows me down, gets me to pause, take a breath and reflect on the experience while I am engaged in it. Plays in the US often move so fast [I’m guilty of making these plays]. We seem so focused on entertainment we are not creating enough pause. We don’t seem to have time for it.
Slowing down is something I am interested playing with and utilizing in my work.
It seems important to me now as we speed up in the world, we slow our plays down. It might be one of the only spaces left where we can actually make this happen anymore.