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COMMENTS ONPROCESS Prague 1991: 'Tsychosomatics" From Body to Soul and Back Again Cynthia Goatley Psyche: breath, to breathe, to blow, (later) to cool: hence life . . . the source of all vital activities, rational or irrational, the soul or spirit, in distinction from its material vehicle. Soma: the body in contrast to the mind or soul. (Oxford English Dictionary) "Only connect..." (E. M. Forster, Howard's End) Transporting us to Moscow, Leningrad, and Prague, ATHE's 1991 "Theatre in Education, People to People" Program provided two weeks of intensive travel, activities , and time to build strong ties with colleagues abroad as well as within the group. From the first day at the Palace of Culture in Prague to the last at the State Theatrical Library in Leningrad, the trip enhanced passionate discussions with theatre workers and teachers in all three cities, but the "Psychosomatics" class at the DAMU1 Theatre School in Prague continues to resonate in my thinking about our theatre and liberal arts education here in the United States. Given a choice in Prague of classes to observe, and drawn by the ambiguity of the word "psychosomatics," six of us decided to forego the Theatre Club Reznicka classes and instead, filed into a long room lined with windows. We sat on the floor or on rolled-up mats. Positioning myself quite near to our translator, Wendola, I was determined to transcribe as much of the class as possible.2 The teacher, Daniela Fischerova,3 explains that we are observing a combined class for future directors and dramaturgs. Continuing, she describes "Psychosomatics" as "the quietest sphere of psychological and physical training. How the body and the soul function together. It is not about acting or even education about movement. " In his address to our Theatre in Education delegation the previous morning, Dr. Milan Klima, Dean of the Theatre Faculty for DAMU, characterized the academy's pedagogical philosophy in the following manner, "You cannot teach others; you can only learn. The student cannot only be the object of learning and study, but must become the subject, too." Possessing an uncanny ability to work on a variety of levels at once, Fischerova's 123 124 Cynthia Goatley guidance in the Psychosomatics class reinforced this central shift of student from object to subject. Her compeUing and inspirational work, aimed at the engagement of the total person rather than a fractured image, challenges "traditional" pedagogy and implies a direction for the future. Theatre pedagogy in the United States rarely presents students with a hoUstic methodology similar to this one. Partitioning particular "bits" of knowledge into specific classes and reinforcing an ideological mind/body spUt through the division of arts vs. academics, seldom do we address the student's whole being. We segment our curriculum in order to work on one discipline at a time: design, acting, directing, theory, or history. Though coUaboration is our watchword and the essence of the theatrical process, our very academic structure precludes what is a natural and necessary crossfertilization , and the soul of our discipline. In contrast, Fischerova addresses these Czechoslovakian students on many levels. They are objects for artistic study through improvisation, as well as subjects of a personal and metaphysical struggle enacted within these exercises. Analysis and enactment carry equal weight; one is not privileged over the other. In this essay, I present a transcription of Daniela Fischerova's [DF] class as weU as considerations for our future. My comments and clarifications are bracketed. Tuesday, March 26,1991: Prague [The students lie down and stretch out.] DF: Close your eyes. [Think about] what kind of feelings you have. Think about your eyes and eyeUds. Feel the touch of your eyeUds on your eyes. Think about your feelings. [Using a gentle speaking rhythm, DF repeats parts of the body, urging students to think about them. She continues her "chant." It is slowing down.] DF: Nowrelax. Wakeupandtrytomovethefingersofyourrighthand. [Your] right leg. Now stretch your body. Now exercise visual concentration . [The students are sitting.] DF: Take a daffodü. [The students pick up a live daffodil that has been provided by DF.] DF: There are several grades of concentration. [For] grade one, concentrate on the flower and imagine there are a thousand details in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3346
Print ISSN
1054-8378
Pages
pp. 123-128
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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