An excerpt from a lyrical essay by a past para-theatrical workshop participant:
It wasn't the words, words were meaningless. It was all in the eyes, round, clear, deep pools. It was a coaxing out of my humanity, a breaking apart of the robot of me.
The small and plain room, empty except for cushions on the floor. It was dark. She led me to a cushion, with her hand, she suggested I sit, in silence, opposite me, she began to breathe. Matching my breath to hers in meditation, she raised a V with her fingers, directing my gaze to hers. I stared straight into them and we continued to breathe, breath was the only thing. I fell in and out of narrow focus on her eyes; noticing the impossibility of staring into both at once. I got lost in the shifting focus from one eye to the next. She looked so sad to me, I felt as if her gaze was filled with pity for me. I felt bad, I felt sorry for her having to stare into my pain. I began to feel a panic. I took a deep breath refocused my attention to her physical eye. I tried to stop thinking, just be a breath wave, I could hold it for only a glimpse then I would lose attention and fall back into thoughts, most of them a body fear, a silent sadness forming a stone between my shoulder blades. So it was breath; clear, focus, sadness, self awareness, self consciousness, fear, panic, deep breath, breathe, clear, focus, again and again, the same circular bumbling dance of mind. The limitations of contact between two people, between two minds, insurmountable; through this lens my heart was breaking. My shyness came to mind, my inability to open, just be human creature, without pretense. The urge to talk wasn't there, in fact, words were against the rules. The rules, who told me the rules? I read up on the workshop before I went, I knew the name of Jerzy Grotowski, I knew something, I thought I knew something.
There were others in the room, they were engaged in the same meditation. I felt their presence; as well, I felt the presence of the clock, and my creeping relentless panic. The knowledge of the clock, and by extension, the time, it was hanging on my shoulders. I was dizzy when the first one stood up.
Through some signal, a breath sound started, she was making a noise at the end of each breath. Then a forceful pushing of breath, three for each exhale, pushing out the lung in three hard bursts, reaching farther into the room for air on each inhale. The humming inhalation that began to my left, maybe, by others, the humming a trigger for the uncurling of legs, the taking of feet, we did it each in our time, seemingly guided, but without any signal that there was a charge directing us, directing, it was me alone standing and feeling the prickling light of blood rushing down. And then there was a circle. We were a circle, looking and breathing into the blank shape between us. We stepped to the right, then the left, taking steps forward and back, the side and the center, we moved together in our spot, each in his own spot, breathing.
I kept moving, fighting for the right steps, and wondering whether this had been a mistake. And there was a man suddenly in the center, adding notes to the breathing adding a song to the steps, a song like a prayer to the wind or a god with most unusual ears. He stalked the circle with wild eyes, open and howling. He was reaching out around the circle, reaching and grabbing with his eyes, searching for someone to join him. His song was fierce and strong, it bellowed and boasted, it asserted itself; it was a thing in the air, a form in the room. He took the hands of a woman, her eyes seemed very far away, she shook her head forcefully holding her eyes on him, passing the cup, but he refused to let her flee, she entered the circle and met his howl with a soft high note that played out like line from a kite, tight and urgently moving upward, out. She was there alone, and we all kept moving and breathing into her circle as the note climbed on its current.
There was a thunder over her note, a joining in, she turned toward it, she embraced it, that high reaching became harmony, became lightening in another sky, she came near to him, her lips almost against his, only the vibration of song between them. Hand to hand, fingers entwined, they moved out of the circle and into the center. His voice was a deep baritone but fleet and agile it waved and spun long notes. Each sound caressed his face; his stare was a thousand polished river pebbles.
A perfect work, a confluence, the love of pure light, simple gain and simple surrender; it doesn't take into account audience just raw completion; a solitary madness. It sings about itself. He washed over me; his gold coral tree and I pulled into it, waved and fluttered around it I broke over his baritone with a quavering banshee moan. I was an old woman, my voice palsied and crying, I was my grandmother with nothing left to do but wait for god, but I wasn't waiting. It was not my lungs, a trembling washed over my hands, my legs, a twisted, twisted, twisted willow shimmering within, and my voice was fire and wet smoke, all the waters of the earth. I opened my eyes, I was in the center and I was scared, I reached out for help, I reached around the circle at the eye repeated, curly hair and young face, drawn and pale woman with cheep yarn hair, bull with face stubble vainglorious and sympathetic. I looked away and cried again, vomiting sound.
A porcelain and blond voice next to the flames, was reaching into the circle into old worried woman me. I smiled into her, taken by the throat of her hands and turning sweetly, spinning gently, greeting grace with my own humble offering. She was lifted, each foot on steady grounded point, dipping her whirl of gosling feather intoning, drifting on a bubble beach. She was dancing. Palms spread upward drawing in the air of gold and copper breasts which beat together their thumping exhalations using us as spandrels she built a tower to heaven.
I was breathing, pulling lustfully at the rope of air, stomach against spine with each exhalation, the stone in my shoulders becoming a current, I was a melted gun, dumb and blind and my legs carried me around, carried the circle as it rattled and shook, expanding to entropy and we were not getting old, we were dancing on each other, reaching out with our eyes lighting candles of touch. My wrist passed over forearm, breast and back, the back of my hand over cheeks, salt hair tangled in my fingertips. I spun and slid among and around, meeting eyes, staring into the hollow of collarbones, soaking in sweet and rhythm. But there was no music, just breathing. Hell is chattering, the shedding of words like blood. The murder of meaning. The drum beat wore a beard, she touched her shoulder to my chest, the drumbeat stroked my open throat, she grabbed me underarm and tossed into the air, I hung and spun, she smiled, the drum beat spoke, she swore, she sang, the drumbeat charged around the room, she offered both hands to me, we spun around the fulcrum of the heart.
James Chris Fields 2009