So the first (annual?) iO European Intensive is (sadly) now over. Obviously, its been a blast overall.

Throughout the week we focussed primarily on different openings for long form pieces; ranging from individual and shared monologues, to stage pictures, to invocations and even combinations of these – and explored how these might translate into full pieces like the Armando and Harold. A lot to rattle through in a week, but it wasn’t an unsettling pace, and there was plenty of time to observe and reflect as well as play.

Between the Maydays long form course and working with C3467X, I’d encountered most of the forms before at one time or another. However after a week working with one of ‘Charna’s Angels’ (not their words), I naturally felt much closer to the source of these ideas. Having a chance to explore the underlying principles with an experienced teacher gave me greater confidence in things I had up to now only vaguely intuited.

Here are the big themes that emerged for me:

Physicality – One of my main weaknesses to date has been a natural tendency to avoid physical choices and moves – I end up in ‘elevens’ or as a talking head a lot. A great thing about this week was doing lots of group work involving physicality and seeing how dramatically it can effect the choices we make in scenes. Truly something you can only really understand by doing.

Connection – Getting connected with your team early on is vital and can be achieved in any number of ways. It’s also something that comes with no small measure of social discomfort – its rarely how we’re taught to operate in our daily lives, it looks intrinsically ‘hippy’ and is easily scoffed at from outside. For this reason alone, its worth doing anything it takes to break down these comfort barriers – if only to permit genuine connection both on-stage and at a conceptual level.

POV (esp. shared POV) – One of my favourite things to watch and be part of this week were invocations and shared ‘POVs’ from within a stage picture. It was surprisingly wonderful to watch the process of many individuals’ ideas gradually converging on a single point of view, or a single point of view being developed through many different minds. Also, in scenic terms, having a strong POV early on allows you to build and maintain more authentic and instantly relatable characters – which in turn enable bolder, more confident choices.

Thesis – This isn’t an idea that I’d developed much prior to this week, but it makes a lot of sense to me now. It is the idea that any of the more ‘performance artsy’ openings (i.e. not monologues) drive toward a thesis – a statement about life or the world that the following scenes will either prove or disprove. Whilst I’ve done plenty of these more ‘organic’ openings, the idea that seemed to be missing was that of a thesis – a central idea that emerges, shifts and settles throughout the group game.

So that, in summary, is what I got from this week.

I’m especially happy that I landed Tara DeFrancisco as a teacher. Her approach struck a really good balance for a mixed experience group. She explicitly encouraged the group to bond early – a trust which really helped us get the most out of what we did. Her comments and notes were incisive and well articulated, and she knew just when and how to gently nudge people out of their comfort zones. She’s also a big-hearted, wicked smart and funny woman – which always helps.

It’s been ace. More of it, please.

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