This level of creative freedom can be scary at times, but it is through this active participation in the process that most effective develops our abilities. Through this we learn what it means to be a generous artist, building upon our strengths and weaknesses in a judgment-free atmosphere.
Dream Dances was our first exciting production built with a new ensemble. The rehearsal process was several months long and took us all on a journey through the dreamscape of our minds. The final product was a performance piece that embodied the real dreams of the performers while creating a surreal space where the world of dreams could become real, for a moment. The concept of rehearsing something for many weeks and months at a time is an idea that goes back to Constantin Stanislavky and the Moscow Art Theatre. Time is taken to be with the work, to live it and breathe it. This requires patience both with yourself and with your work, an additional value I have learned from this group. In a world of technology and chaotic stimuli, where Broadway productions may only rehearse for a few short weeks before opening, it is valuable to know that whatever the speed at which I must work, if I become impatient with myself, I simply cannot perform at my best.
For the actual training itself, Butoh is the group’s foundational system of learning, and a form of physical theatre that grew out of a post-WWII Japan. My first encounter with this form was at the Ume Group audition. There is much about this art form that is difficult to describe to someone who may not know anything about it. It’s something that your body comes to understand emotionally. It pushes you up to and beyond your physical limits and sharpens your body. There is a particular discipline to this technique that I find applicable to our industry in general, the operative word being: discipline. For me, every aspect of this business is a balancing act of craft & discipline. We need both things to achieve the levels of success we want, and being a part of this group has helped me grow in both areas. A person can get a role over a more-talented actor, simply because they were more disciplined, they hustled more. This is a place where people truly do support each other in their work.
The Ume Group provides something else special for me too. When life feels overwhelming, it’s a place where I have an opportunity to meditate and quiet my mind. I think many of us need time out of our week to be able to do that. Many of us juggle time between multiple projects, multiple day jobs and complicated personal lives and taking time to calm our minds, whenever and however we can, is integral to our mental health. In this context, I know The Ume Group is doing something very unique. It is a place where we all learn from each other and teach each other. It is a support system to help protect our souls from those overwhelming, sometimes poisonous aspects of our lives, and, like a flower, help our artist selves blossom. We come from many backgrounds and realms of teaching: Butoh, Viewpoints, Clowning, Acrobatics, Kung-Fu, Tai-chi, Dance. It is a culmination of many teachings in one. A performance artist must train and nourish their bodies to become the most beautiful, most expressive, and most powerful instrument they can be. This is a home for those artists.
About the Author
Byron was born and raised in Houston, TX. He graduated with a BA from North Texas University and an MFA from The Actors Studio Drama School. He is thrilled to be continuing ongoing creative work with The Ume Group. Credits include Joly in Les Miserables, Paris/Sampson in Romeo & Juliet and his dream self in the devised production Dream Dances at The Ume Group. He occupies his spare time with writing, photography and a really good movie. Love to Mom.