I have had the considerable honour of directing Food Bank As It Is – 2018, written by the amazingly insightful and gifted writer, Tara Osman who has an ear and a heart for words and language unlike anyone I have ever known, with an extraordinarily skilled and passionate company of actors and feel very proud of what we have made together.
Some generous souls have taken the time to publish feedback about my acting teaching as google reviews. Felt their words were worth sharing here, too…
Encouraged by my own personal Morpheus, Hans De Zwart, good friend and also Director of Bits of Freedom, deleted my LinkedIn account today.
Boy, that felt good.
It was the last repository of artefacts from my 20-year experiment in the corporate world. Met some good people along the way, some of whom were kind enough to publicly record the following feedback on their experience of working with me…
Feeling confronted recently by the struggle to believe that the self-doubt that I have in my professional skills is in itself confirmation of having achieved a degree of skill, and after a long hiatus of being not too interested in my online ‘presence’, I decided to do some admin with reviews of my work that people have kindly published and found their generous affirmation heartwarming and encouraging. Renaming the title to Feedback 1# as I think I will also post feedback that I have received elsewhere, too.
Came across some really very heartwarming comments awaiting my approval on FirstTutors.com
There is no them. Only us.*
So, mid-rant to my friend about Grenfell, my friend told me his dad works for the contractor that installed the cladding, in a senior management capacity.
My friend’s eyes as he told me belayed what this meant for his dad, what it’s like to be on the receiving end of anger and inferred blame for something so terrible, and what that meant to my friend.
It pulled me up short.
In my anger I had lost sight of my belief in the way forward being in more connection, more dialogue, MORE compassion, love and understanding for ALL and with ALL of our brothers and sisters in this wonderful, diverse and imperfectly perfectly beautiful species muddling its way in the cosmos, moment-by-moment, to which we all belong.
Justice and change must happen. And while it is, my proposition is that we are kind to each other in the meantime. There are no winners.
Addendum: after writing this, before sending, myself and members of our FOODBANK: As It Is family found ourselves after our production meeting in Hyde Park singing Jerusalem(!) with a large group of *very* posh folks outside possibly the last real little boozer in Knightsbridge. And sing we did: at the top of our voices, hearts full. Together. After an afternoon of, amongst many other things, expressing our views on the horrific impact of financial inequality and those that would continue to exploit and benefit from that inequality. Bollocks to the old-Etonian overtones and connotations to the choice of song that spontaneously broke out. What was much more important, in my experience of the moment, was that human-to-human, life-to-life contact, connection and expression was made, crossing the divides of class and prejudice. A perhaps unconscious yet profound new understanding reached, the consequential ripples of which, one can only imagine.
*There Is No Them. Only Us. Is the strapline of Foodbank: As It Is. – A play that I am involved in as a member of its collective theatre company.
Sending this to everyone in my address book (circa 3000 people- I’ve got to ‘B’ and fingers hurting already):
I am sending this message to everyone I know. We may be close friends, colleagues or family or just have an acquaintance, perhaps currently, perhaps from the distant past. We may not even remember how we know each other.
What ever our relationship, I implore you to look deeply into yourself when considering your choice when you vote on Thursday and to encourage others you know to do the same.
Please find the time to watch this short video of reasonable testimony from reasonable people and, if you feel it is of merit, share it with the people you know too.
Proud to be a part of this production which is creating an impact. The extent of which none of us could have forseen.
A new play written by food bank worker Tara Osman has opened at the Calder Book Shop Theatre in London.
Food Bank As It Is recounts real life stories about the growing number of people in the UK who are reliant on food banks and explores how benefit sanctions and delays can have a catastrophic effect on individual lives.
“I was moved to start writing this play several months in to my job as a food bank support worker and subsequently manager of a London food bank,” explains Osman.
“I was becoming increasingly aware that many people, including countless children, are going hungry because the welfare benefits system is not fit for purpose.”
“Sanctions, delays in making payments, decisions to stop payments without notification and delays in appeals being heard all mean that people are left for weeks and often months with no income. This can mean no money for…
View original post 74 more words
What a year it has been.
I have dedicated the next couple of weeks to reflection, assimilation and preparation.
The number of visitors to this site have more than doubled every year since I started this site in 2010.
I´d like to say THANK YOU to every single one of you who has taken the time to look-in here from time-to-time and to wish you a very lovely xmas and a wonderful year ahead.
Among the reasons that I have chosen The Tempest as the provocation for the work with young people is that it captures and articulates its universal human truths in a form that crosses cultural boundaries and barriers.
The play sheds light on and raises questions of relationship eg between parent-child, lover-loved, carer-caree and oppressor-oppressed roles, loss, personal transformation, fear, resolution, what it is to be free/not free and what it is for a person to find themselves – not of their choosing – in a strange land and what this means to identity and the difference between ́living ́ and ́surviving ́. The message of the piece for me so far is:
It is only by passing through our darkest hour that we truly change.
In 1976, as a child, after years of homelessness we were finally moved to Worlds End, Chelsea from the Trenmar Lodge Hostel for homeless families, Willesden. It was winter. Outside our just-built new home, I announced my response to our arrival into the snow for the world to see.
After the snow thawed, the words still remained, etched into the newly laid turf in letters ten feet high: ´LAWRENCE LIVES HERE´.
In time, the Chelsea Theatre on the Worlds End estate became an oasis of support and of possibilities. Its then artistic director, Francis Alexander, placed trust in me, and gave me the support and resources to initiate and deliver creative projects that would have been beyond my reach otherwise.
Since then, I have maintained my relationship with the Worlds End Estate and Chelsea Theatre. I share the vision of the Chelsea Theatre of realising the potential of engagement with artistic expression to create positive influence in the community and to change lives.
To that end, we are collaborating with Michelle Abbey and Kathryn Stephens-Berry at the Chelsea Theatre to deliver the The Tempest : Strange Lands project for young people to work alongside Company C to develop and perform their own pieces in conjunction with our rehearsals and preview performances of The Tempest.
Click here to find out more about the The Tempest : Strange Lands youth project.
Click here to book tickets for the Etcetera Theatre
Link for tickets at the Chelsea Theatre TBA
I took this photograph while exploring Tunisia last year.
These remains are left open and unprotected. No fence, guard or gates to stop anyone with a mind to from helping themselves to a lump of two of it.
I was touched by the echoes of this place, the palpable sense of audiences in the still clearly defined terraces, entrances and exits through the crumbling arches to the stage.
While there, it struck me that one of the first thing our species does when settling is to define a performance space, a theatre. A ‘seeing place’ (from the Greek theatron)- the place we go to see the truth. It’s right up there on our list of priorities along with sanitation and shelter. Another example of this is The Good Chance Theatre in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais. At the time of writing, the camp is a symptom of appalling international abdication of responsibly and absence of compassion during a time of the largest worldwide migration of populations since the second world war.
I saw an interview with one afghan refugee there. When asked what he thought of the theatre in the camp when there were so few resources he replied: ‘I like coming here. It means I can live, not just survive’.
We all need this.
‘A seeing place where we go to see the truth’ is becoming a rarer thing, as are the practitioners who are equipped with the competence to be able to turn up and tell the truth at the service of whatever story is being told.
And as our offering of a diet of increasingly processed and mediated performance, in which nothing actually happens to anyone, least of all the audience becomes accepted as the norm and what passes for ‘good theatre’, I am redoubling my efforts to share work in which we show up and tell the truth.
After we returned there was a massacre of tourists and locals in an appalling terror attack in the same precinct in which we had been staying a week before. And, at the time of writing a year later in the Summer of 2016, the attacks have continued around world, the fear grows, and we continue to endorse sending planes to drop their bombs, many of the victims of which are the innocent, in our literally nonsensical ´war against terror´ in which their can be no victors..
It is wonderful that we(performance practitioners) are rediscovering ‘craft’ these days. However, I see increasing cases of the well-intentioned pursuit of the purity of ‘the craft’ (as sadly directed by some teachers and coaches) completely block otherwise creative people from their full creative expression, including, ironically, of their ‘truth’ as their identity as ‘purist craftsperson’ or somesuch notion becomes just another idea, another act to hide behind, albeit an often almost-convincingly authentic one.
The upshot is that, unless remedied in the rehearsal room or in the company classes, working with such practitioners can be, at best unpleasant and, at worst, impossible.
As writer Charlie Kaufman (including of two of my all time favourite films: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Makcovitch amongst many others) so eloquently puts it:
Charlie Kaufman is describing screenwriters here. However, I take this as a substantial part of the definition of how I approach my work as a director:
‘they find themselves in an environment where they’re encouraged to use their powers to explore the world, their minds and the form itself. Think about the staggering possibilities of the marriage of light, vibration and time.’
This is helping sustain me through the thick-and-thin of my practise as actor, director and teacher. I hope you are able to derive something from it also…
¨You asked me a question, ¨ Bill says, looking at Jon. ¨You asked me, ´How can we get better at processing our emotions?´ You should all turn off your cell phones. Shut down your computers. Click off you iPods and your televisions and everything you listen to that isn´t human.
Modern society has surrounded us with these things and they´re killing us. We´re beginning to forget what it is simply to breathe and eat and laugh and watch and wonder and listen and experience one another. We´re forgetting how to be human beings with actual opinions and genuine feelings and originality. And if we can´t be human, how can we ever hope to be artists?
¨This is the battle that art must fight in the twenty-first century, and you, as actors, are important soldiers in the battle. We must defend our humanity in a society that values us less and less.
¨Now, go home and read a book of poetry. Memorise some of your favourite lines and quote them to anyone who will listen.
Live. Take in. Give back. Live some more. This is the job of the actor.
I´ll see you next time.¨
~ William Esper, The Actor´s Art and Craft
It just struck me what this graph means.
In 2015, 895 individuals took the time to be interested- viewing 2,495 times content relating to what myself, my wonderful associates and my students are doing.
I am very grateful to every single one of them and to all those who have visited here since. And that includes you.
Thank you xx
I was born in Cape Town, South Africa and was immersed in theatre as a young child. I had my first, paid job as an actor in 1979 with The Lindsay Kemp Mime Troupe in which my mother, Annie Balfour, was a member.
While at Holland Park Comprehensive School and then at Battersea Arts Centre, I was mentored by Tony Fegan (currently artistic director at Tallaght Community Arts, Ireland). I trained at Drama Centre, London (group 23) from 1983-84 under Christopher Fettes and Yat Malmgren and worked as an actor until 1990. I then explored other fields including, set design and construction, pioneering 3D digital modelling for theatre and television, designing and delivering training and running my own business while raising a young family.
I resumed work as an actor in 2010 after re-training in Meisner Technique with Simon Furness. With this new understanding, I seek ´to help the human heart have knowledge of itself´ by being honest and enabling moments that actually ´happen´ in the given, imaginary circumstances of the piece. ´
Driven by my desire to serve my acting community, I have established an acting school in St Leonards on Sea and am now offering regular classes in London. My teaching is based on the principles established by Sanford Meisner, as taught to me by Tom Radcliffe and Simon Furness. Teaching is a source of continual growth for me and of limitless inspiration as others discover this approach and put it into practise in their own work.
My work both in the theatre and other spheres has led me to create Company C, a family of actors, creatives and technicians coming together to work on productions, and in directing. In my directing practise, I work with heart and passion, collaborating supportively to collectively ´find´ the piece and, together, get to depth with it.
It is beyond my wildest dreams to find myself, today, working on the Tempest with such an extraordinarily capable group of people who work with total commitment and faith.
I feel deep gratitude that it is through Tom Radcliffe and his pupil, Simon Furness, that I learned many of the principles I live and work-by today.
Three years at drama school did nothing to improve the situation in fact I believe it made me worse. I was pushed directly and indirectly towards the creation of an acting persona, which masked the awful mess I felt myself to be. This divided me even further from the innocent creative child who was the true force of my creative impulses. I was expected to create a thing called a character on top of this shaky pile of pretence. No wonder that acting became increasingly stressful and dishonest. There was the odd occasion when miraculously the awful self-consciousness would collapse and the acting would effortlessly emerge but these moments were few and far between.
…As Sandy said, “You can’t create a character on top off a character…There is no such thing as a character.” By this he means we cannot become Hamlet or Ophelia but we can do what they do thereby creating the illusion of character in the mind of the audience.
~ Tom Radcliffe
Visiting my teacher.
After a six hour ride from my south coast home to Pembroke, Wales I have boarded the ferry to Rosslare, Ireland, and now sit in the kitczh comfort of its café lounge.
I didn’t have the time or foresight to buy a gift to take.
The most honest thing I can think of now to do as an offering of gratitude to my first acting teacher and mentor, Tony Fegan, as I cross the Irish sea, on my way to visit him, to see him for the first time in thirty years, is to amend what now feels like the thoughtless omission in my bio, as written in the various places that demand it, of my debt of gratitude to him in enabling me to do what I do and to live as I live today.
Although I will, often verbally recount my experience of this extraordinary man who beckoned and then lovingly cajoled this then shy fourteen year old ‘musician’, waiting outside the drama room for his mate, who’s very last thought was to participate (despite – or maybe because of -an upbringing in the theatre and as an early child actor) to step into the workshop he was holding for the current school play, which would eventually be called Regarding The Label: Displaced Person, my experience of him is so much part of me that I haven’t before thought to write of it. To me it is as obvious as breathing.
Tony is no ordinary man and the play was no ordinary production. It sewed into my DNA what a true ensemble collaborative and freeing devising process could be like. It had structure, rigour and form whilst also being creative, nurturing, honest, loving and safe.
And so we worked under his loving care and made a show.
After years of what felt like the torture of isolation as a freak, I had found belonging with kindred spirits and someone who mentored me with such care and faith, who saw more in my potential than I ever possibly could have. So gently that I didn’t even know that’s what he was doing at the time.
And, Tony took Regarding The Label: to The Cockpit, then to The National. He seemed to take it all in his stride, brightly and happily. And, as we trusted him completely, we did too.
And then to Edinburgh.
These days it’s not too uncommon for a school to take its show to the fringe (although in strangled, risk-assessed form). But, at the time, it was an act of sheer exuberant audacity. Even now, I find it hard to take it all in- all of its significance. It was hardcore and wonderful and liberating. It was a little minivan we had to rock backwards-and forwards in unison in to get up the hills of the A1 on our way up north from West London, full to the brim with cast,crew set, props, costumes and instruments. It was the archetypical fringe company digs: a shared flat, every inch of floor occupied in a sea of sleeping bags at night. It was, of course, flyering the royal mile. And it was a flatbed lorry that had us playing and singing-out from it in the festival parade. And it was a TV appearance that had us being interviewed and playing and performing on air (taking a company of schoolkids to the fringe to perform was rare enough to be newsworthy in itself – notwithstanding that our show was also bloody good). And it was creating sketches and music in an afternoon to perform in scratch at a smoke-filled, boozy and packed Assembly Rooms. And my mentor seemed to take it all in his stride, brightly and happily. And we trusted him completely, so we did too.
And so it went. And I lived for the shows which became the only reason for going to school. And when the head of sixth form, troubled human being I now understand him to be, showed me the door out of my education for being “arrogant”, “disliked by [my] teachers” and “selfish”, and I spun down life’s toilet into a hell of feeling once again lost, isolated, unworthy and a freak, Tony kept faith in me when I had none, even after I had been marched-out of education- way beyond his job description. And, as firmly and gently as ever, so that I really didn’t know what he was doing, he got in touch and said “why don’t we meet for a chat over a drink at [name now forgotten – cocktail bar, I think] on Westbourne Grove”.
Linda Oakley, who taught english, his dearest friend, and who was a key person and enabler in the Holland Park School drama tribe was to be there, too. Another wonderful human being with a huge heart. I felt like such a monstrosity of a human being. Totally unworthy of their company. Despite wanting to bail, I went. And we chatted and it felt good, and I could feel myself begin to heal, to remember who I was. So much love.
And, at one point in the conversation Tony said “you must apply for drama school. Apply to Drama Centre. That’s the right one for you. I think you’ll really like it there”. I applied to ‘Prospero’s Isle’, as it described itself in its prospectus at the time, and to nowhere else. And got in. Following Drama Centre (I chose to leave after the first year- probably because I was arrogant but the nervous breakdown didn’t help either) Tony continued to nurture, support and mentor me, now in his role of Artistic Director at Batteresea Arts centre, giving me opportunities to be cast in productions and guiding me firmly, gently and with faith.
And today I consider my life a success. I am able to do what I love, to do what I feel is worthwhile and has meaning. And I would not be here now, doing what I do, but for Tony Fegan. My teacher.
The ferry is pulling-in to Rosslare harbour now and I need to go below decks to unstrap my motorbike to be ready to disembark and to continue my journey.
To meet my teacher.
And, I suppose, this is now part of my gift to him also.
Insightful review of Never Ending Night
Imagine walking into a beautiful bathroom, disrobing and letting the silk pool at your feet. Strutting over to the grand bath tub, your hand sways the litter of floating rose petals and your nose sniffs the candle’s scent of black raspberry and vanilla (from Chickidee in case you’re wondering). Letting the steam vaporise all senses, you lie back and think of
England Theatre Land…until your email pings and you get head dunked into the bubbles of immersive theatre!
I’ve experienced the canapés of immersive theatre (thanks to Liliom and The Trojan Women), but never devoured a full course. For some, performing can be a little heavy on the stomach. I prefer to shy away from the spotlight as my humiliating stage fright days still haunt me. However, the invitation to see Never Ending Night at The Vaults landed and I had the unusual hunger for the immersive theatre experience.
View original post 673 more words
One of the often-quoted descriptions of the outcomes of training in Meisner technique is to be able to ‘live truthfully in imaginary circumstances’.
Whilst this is and should be quite simple, Sanford Meisner used to say that it takes twenty years to become an actor.
In my experience, this can be a rewarding but challenging path.
As well as our own, internal challenges, we can encounter the gravitational pull, particularly from seasoned practitioners or stock companies, toward fitting ourself into a general status-quo of what it is to ‘act’, as well as what it is to be an ‘actor’.
This was my experience of my early engagement with the business of acting and, as a young man with not yet real faith in what I was doing (despite having been raised in the theatre), I was prone to doubt the value of my uniqueness, the truth of who I was, what I was doing and why I was doing it and, instead, I tried ever so effortfully to pretend to be and do something else – to fulfil other people’s idea of an ‘actor’. In so doing, it was inevitable that the work would not have depth and that I would find it hollow, without meaning, and find it a relief to retreat from for the twenty years in which I did exactly that.
When I retrained in Meisner technique under Simon Furness, I learned that there is nothing to fear when we remain mindful and honest of the truth of ourselves, and of our shared, common connection and humanity and we train with good teachers to develop our actor’s faith.
In the end, that is it for me: to keep training, to do the work as it applies in the job and to be of service passing-on anything I can of what I have learned to others. To trust that is all we need to do, all we can do, knowing that the rest needn’t be our concern.
With a wonderful group of actors in St Leonards on Sea in East Sussex, England I have since December 2014 been teaching the foundations of Meisner-based acting technique that will, as they continue, eventually become their own unique approach to be able to truly ‘live truthfully in imaginary circumstances’. And they are also learning considerable amount about themselves in the process and about that which is universal in us all.
It is deeply satisfying work that requires me to approach each person, each group, each class and each course as unique, without expectations or presumptions about who they are, how they will be and how it will go. And, if ever my faith in my craft wanes, if I find myself becoming sloppy and generalised in my approach, I never fail to be re-inspired and encouraged by my students and their unique, exciting journeys as they discover their true voices, going deeper into their unique expression in the world.
“At the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre, Sanford Meisner said, ‘When you go into the professional world, at a stock theatre somewhere, backstage, you will meet an older actor, someone who has been around awhile. He will tell you tales and anecdotes, about life in the theatre. He will speak to you about your performance and the performances of others, and he will generalize to you, based on his experience and his intuitions, about the laws of the stage. Ignore this man!’”
– David Mamet
Moonlight and Sweet Confusion. Delicious.This is already such a special project, you can feel it in your bones just watching the promotional vid:
This having been released today, my experience of it gave me goosebumps, literally.
It is a well-crafted promo trailer and also captures the spirit of the piece and of the values of the production team and company.
I was particularly touched by the care given to acknowledge the whole company including cast, even extending to naming the company in the end credits.
Such generosity of heart belies the confidence of Director Linnie Reedman and Musical Director Joe Evans in what they do.
I feel huge gratitude to be an actor in this production of the Midsummer Night’s Dream that is already weaving its magic.
Proud to have received five star reviews for my teaching on First Tutors:
I have been meditating on my personal response to the piece, for the purposes of finding a quote for the programme.
What the piece means to me today is as follows:
¨For a large part of my early childhood in the 1970’s I lived with my actor mother, Annie Balfour and stepfather, Dublin-born actor Derrick O’Connor in Shepherds Bush, West London, at the heart of a then thriving community of actors, theatre makers and filmakers passionate about their identity as people of Ireland settling in Britain. At the same time, the IRA bombs exploded in and around the areas I frequented. Fear became an ever-present norm.
I could never have imagined then that I would one day find myself discovering and empathising with the humanity, sufferings and struggle of the people responsible for those bombs. And yet, on reading The McGowan Trilogy and through the research that has followed, this is what I have experienced.
A people brutalised and made desperate by the intolerable oppression they had endured, since far beyond the uprising of 1916, sincerely believing theirs was a just and necessary life-and-death struggle for freedom. Discovering, as we all invariably and inevitably do, that in a war of violence there can be no victors. That following a path of violence can only lead to the corruption of our humanity.¨
UPDATE: due to last minute changes to the production scheduling, I will no longer be appearing in The McGowan Trilogy at the Kino-Teatr
I first started chanting (the core practise of Nichiren Buddhism) in 1986 (aged 22), as a desperate attempt to relieve the sense of deep seemingly unchangeable unhappiness that I felt in my life at that time. My practise was then to chant for 10 minutes in the morning and for 10 minutes evening, sometimes to a blank wall and sometimes to a candle.
I was attracted by the positive, authentic and freely expressive nature of the other people practising, the invitation to ‘chant for whatever my heart’s true desire’ without judgement, that it was Japanese and the form of the practise as well as its accessories (bell, altar, beads etc) seemed very cool. Added to that, it was very, very fashionable with many groovy, famous and ‘successful’ people surrounding me in my local Buddhist group in Chelsea, London.
I have continued, deepened and broadened my practise consistently since that time 29 years ago which has developed a long way from the days of just relief from unhappiness with cool people and ‘accessories’ and now includes study and encouraging and supporting others as well as morning and evening chanting.
Because my Buddhist practise is so ingrained and integrated into my life, it is quite hard to distinguish specific examples of specific Buddhist principles that are most helpful. I find that, as time passes, more of what I do and how I live is based on all the principles that I have studied and practise. However, below are three of the Buddhist principles that I find useful in understanding life and in taking actions that are in the direction towards the happiness of myself and others:
Literally ‘the oneness of self and environment’.
This principle is very useful in understanding that we all are 100% responsible for the quality of our experience of life
“At the most fundamental level of life itself, there is no separation between ourselves and the environment. According to Buddhism, everything around us, including work and family relationships, is the reflection of our inner lives. Everything is perceived through the self and alters according to the individual’s inner state of life. Thus, if we change ourselves, our circumstances will inevitably change also.”
That there is ‘no separation between ourselves and the environment’ means that I must have within me everything I need to be happy- to reveal my ‘true self’, the expression of my limitlessly positive and creative aspect (termed in Buddhism as ‘Buddhahood’), without requiring anything or anyone that is outside myself to bestow it upon me. The daily practise is the fundamental means by which I effect the transformation of the tendencies and habits (that some refer to as ‘karma’) which obstruct and distort my natural, innate state of Buddhahood.
In work as a teacher of acting, for example, this means that I take full responsibility for my experience as a teacher – rather than ‘blame’ students and, at the same time, give my students full responsibility for their experience. I also have the faith that all my students have the capacity to reveal and express their greatest selves and work with them to transform the obstacles that can get in the way of this.
Literally ‘three thousand realms in a single moment of life’.
This principle teaches us that anything is possible, that, based on the ‘causes’ I am making right now (either positive or negative) anything and everything can change from this moment forward, that I am the author of my own future, not a victim of the past.
Buddhist practice enables us to draw on inexhaustible inner reserves of courage, hope and resilience to surmount challenges and expand our lives and to help others do the same. “Buddhahood” describes this dynamic, compassionate life condition, and a Buddha is someone who has firmly established this condition as their predominant reality.¨
In both work and in all other areas of my life, I find the understanding and practise of this principle liberating. Rather than hold on to the past or believe that I have no power to influence the future, it encourages me to be fully present in the present moment and, if I want to change something, to understand that the seed for that change is in the present moment that change is dependent on what I do right now, and that the results will exist from this moment, whether not they are manifested or I perceive them yet, rather than at some distant point in the future. It is also a source of limitless optimism – no matter how dark the situation or overwhelming the challenge may seem, it can always be transformed, right now, from this moment forward. Without doubt.
Literally ‘lotus flower’.
The lotus flower produces its seed and blossom at the same time. This symbolises the universal law of cause and effect whereby the ‘effects’ of any ‘causes’ I make exists, however latently, in the same moment that I make a cause through my action.
The lotus also requires a muddy pond in which to grow. This represents the ‘muddy pond’ of my daily life challenges that serve as the fuel for my transformation and growth so that, rather than resent difficulties, I welcome them.
Specifically, the fact that the lotus flower already contains seeds when it opens symbolizes the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect, the idea that causes we make are engraved in the deepest, most essential realms of life, and on this plane we immediately experience the effects of our thoughts, words and deeds. In terms of Buddhist practice this means that “Anyone who practices this Law will obtain both the cause and effect of Buddhahood simultaneously.” The fact that the lotus flower sends forth pure white blossoms from roots sunk deep in muddy water expresses the idea that our highest nature is brought forth through committed engagement with the often difficult or disagreeable realities of life and society.¨
So, ‘fine words, but how do I actually ¨do¨ any of that?’ I hear you say. Well, you can try it right now. Ask yourself ‘is what I am doing right now, in this moment, making the cause that will lead myself and others toward becoming happy or toward becoming unhappy?’.
Not sure of the answer? This is where an effective meditation practise, appropriate to the time we live in, will help you. You can try this right now, too (or as soon as circumstances allow): eyes open, facing a wall or wherever has least distraction for you, focussing on a fixed point, repeat ¨Nam Myoho Renge Kyo¨ out loud see http://bit.ly/NMRKpronouncing for help with pronunciation). Be aware of having an erect posture, breathing fully, deeply and naturally as you repeat the phrase. Be aware of allowing the throat to relax and release so that you are not ‘holding on’, forcing or constricting the sound. Simply allowing the true sound of your voice to resonate from you. Sit in which ever way is most comfortable for you – kneeling, crosslegged or in a chair. Do this for at least 10 minutes in the morning and for 10 minutes in the evening. for 30 days. Chant from the basis of your true, honest heart’s desire, moment to moment. And prepare to be amazed at the results!
Often as part of my working process, particularly when devising, we will start with chanting meditation. On the Sea-Sky retreats that I co-facilitate with Debbie Reeds, we also start each day with optional chanting meditation practise. You do not need to ‘be a buddhist’ to participate in the meditation- the benefit of the practise is the same.
Our next retreat in June 2015 is Finding Your True Voice – It is a great opportunity to get even deeper into the work of truthful self-expression, working consciously and also impulsively to transform the things that get in the way. Click here to find out more.
Lawrence practises Nichiren as a member of SGI-UK with co-responsibility for supporting the St Leonards On Sea district, England. The views expressed above are his own and do not represent any organisation or group.
For more information about buddhism and to find out about local meetings visit: http://www.sgi-uk.org/
For as long as I can remember, I have had a distaste of the ‘pretend’, although in my pre-Meisner-technique-trained work as an actor I thought this to be a flaw, rather than the asset I now realise it to be.
One of my core acts of service as an actor and as a teacher of actors is to be vigilant for pretence and nonsense, my own as much as others’. There is enough cynicism in the world already.
Peter Falk: “when you’re young, you’re looking for people to look up to, but you run into alot of people who make you the other way – not excited – cynical. There’s too much pretend, too much nonsense. [Meisner] was important to me, to my enthusiasm”
I transcribed this from the excellent video documentary of Sanford Meisner, which focusses on his work as a teacher of actors and his approach to training:
I had someone come to one of my introduction workshops recently who had kept very quiet all the way through. Waiting until everyone had left, he approached me nervously to say that he had enjoyed what he had experienced. He apologised for his ‘shyness’ and said that he would like to enrol to train with me but that, because he felt shy and insecure, perhaps this might not be appropriate.
I reassured him that, far from his shyness and insecurity being a problem, these traits are an asset to our work.
I hear this alot – either people who expect everyone who is a performer to display continous gregarious extroversion and those who feel inadquacy or shame because they feel they fall short of those expectations.
Often the performers whose work I most appreciate identify with the term ‘introvert’, in that their tendancy is to go inward to find their energy, to dig deep, to connect with themselves truthfully, frankly and fully in order then to be able to go outward, to express, to connect to others.
An interesting thing happens when people are able to let go of the expectation that they have to be continually ‘out there’, when they give-in to the truth of their shyness, vulnerability, insecurity, it is like a weight is lifted, like the handbrake is finally taken off and they become free to fully express themselves. You see it in the work and then you see them, no longer so able to tolerate being less true of themselves than they know they can be, take this into their life also.
‘if you’re not sure of yourself, you’re a much better singer…
Insecurity and vulnerability are a real asset,
there are loads of people who can sing but there’s nothing in there.”
– Barbra Dickson, Midweek Radio 4 24/12/2014
I wish the stage were as narrow as the wire of tightrope dancer, so that no incompetent would dare step upon it.
I first came across this quote, reportedly one of Sanford Meisner’s favourites, via Simon Furness whilst training with him, some four years ago. It burned itself into me and has come to mean many different things to me at different times. Today, its meaning is something like: the dedication to this path, to the best of my ability, to wherever that leads and to those who might share it with me for a while.
Funnily enough, I have trained in tightwire in the past and even given a little performance or two on it and am reminded of another of Simon’s many pieces of wise guidance shared: ‘a miss is as good as a mile’. I think that, finally, only we can know for ourselves if we are placing each step on the path truthfully and with our fullest possible commitment. And, as some of the reflections on this subject describe, there is no ‘sort of’ staying on ‘the wire’.
To keep facing the truth of life, through the fear. I feel that is something of my task. And this lifetime is not long enough to repay the debt of gratitude I owe the good teachers, friends, family, colleagues, and my tribe with out whose help I would not have had a hope in hell of staying on the straight & narrow.
You’ve been working flat-out all week, perhaps not even living with your family, with a weekend of ‘Dad time’ ahead. Racking your brain for ideas your kids won’t think are ‘boring’, without a vast budget or putting their health in jeopardy. Scanning venues and events that might even be entertaining or educational with the overriding desire of getting your kid’s approval as a ‘cool Dad’.
Even the most creative Dad can be tempted by ‘safe’ options. As a father of three, now grown up, kids, I know this too well. I felt like a failure as a Dad, depressed, just after my separation, when the only seemingly available option to spend time with my youngest was to sit on a bench in Westfield shopping centre with no money for the shops or the movies. But I am also really proud of the times I would embark on adventures with her and her siblings with their home-made drawing boards to sit and draw in the Tate, camping and hiking with my young son by the sea, rockpooling and fishing for crabs, and photography expeditions to unexplored parts of the city. No entry tickets required. I’d like to pass on some of what I’ve learnt and invite you with your young person(s) to an event I think you’ll enjoy in London on Sunday 16th Nov.
It’s about experiences not things. Your kids might talk about the latest stuff they want, but the lasting, treasured memories that will nurture and encourage them through the dark, difficult days they will inevitably encounter one day, are the experiences they’ve shared with you. We’ve all had the experience of saving up for the latest gadget only to find it disappointing. Even the latest i-thing is no substitute for an adventure together.
The more of an adventure you make the experience, the more they’ll remember . Engage as many of the senses as possible (sight, sound, smell, touch). Try different locations, methods of transport, times of day. This will mean you being fully in the moment with your kids so you can all be immersed in the activity and talk about the experience. For example, we would take the train to Parliament Hill and fly kites, being blown about with the dramatic backdrop of the city. We would venture-out to new places they had never been, the dark of the nightime would sometimes heigthen the excitement and sense of adventure- Guy Faulk’s fireworks across the city viewed from the 23rd floor of Dad’s workplace at Waterloo and the time we came upon the play park at the Southbank, the under-construction Millenium wheel, swinging high into the night sky surrounded by trees festooned with blue fairy lights, as magical as any ticketed interactive immersive experience (for me, as well as them).
Curiosity is good. As your child asks ‘why’ for the umteenth time, you might find yourself developing standard answers ‘because I say so’, ‘things just are that way’ or ‘just google it!’. I would encourage you to go in the opposite direction and, stimulate their questioning. Plan adventures (perhaps to museums) around the answers, take the opportunity to expand your knowledge and help them to develop their questioning skills. In life, a curious mind will help them to solve problems, speed up their learning and ensure they are never bored. When my son was six, I shared my fascination with the Babbage Difference Engine (early form of mechanical calculator) at the Science museum and he was transfixed. He has recently returned from Uni with a first for his Maths Masters. Our young are like sponges and will eagerly soak-up anything and everything they are exposed to, assimilating their own understandings that will equip them for their life ahead and this time is opportunity we don’t want to miss.
Build the anticipation. When planning an adventure for our children, the build-up is the key. We want to build their excitement and enthusiasm. This can turn something ordinary into the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps organise some preparation activities during the week. Make it a puzzle to solve. For example if you are going to see a film you could start by looking at reviews, research the origins of its story, find out interesting things about the cast or crew and about what is special about how it was created. Find what’s exciting in the experience for yourself and then you’ll be able to convey this to your children.
Many of us shy away from this approach, thinking the actual event might then be a let down and then we’ll have let our children down with broken promises, but I’ve found this is rarely the case, as long as I’ve continued my own wonder and excitement, whatever happens! And when things do go wrong, kids are often amused by mistakes and wonkiness, they can really add to the adventure. It’s us adults who sometimes go into frustration and guilt that make it a ‘bad’ experience
With an opportunity for you to be a Dad-of-adventure in mind, I’m creating a show for young people and their grown-ups that brings to life the aviator character from Antoine Saint-Experéy’s The Little Prince. In the build up to the show, we will be releasing bulletins and updates of the amazing and mysterious discovery of ‘a veteran aviator’ about whom nothing is known, except that he is a pilot with a passion for flight. Your young person(s) will be able to follow his journey back to civilisation through a series of bulletins and announcements in the lead-up to him announcing his talk to share his passion on How Planes Fly, at The London Theatre on the 16th November. For audiences of any age.
Book your FREE ticket at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-planes-fly-tickets-13399539383
After the show you will be able to make a donation, if you wish.
And join in the build-up to the event so your young people can be on the story from the beginning, follow @WhoIsTheAviator
Of course, I would love to hear your comments below…
Dad and Actor and assistant to the mystery aviator
The good news is you’re free, The bad news is you’re free!
‘Apartheid’ still exists in new forms. Proud to be performing in Black Mass by Edward Bond with TwoSheds Theatre known for ‘cool and dangerous’ work.
FREE show for young people and their grownups: HOW PLANES FLY
Tickets now available for booking: http://ow.ly/C5Kx1
What do you think of this version of the postcard flyer for How Planes Fly? http://ow.ly/i/72mhd
Honoured to have just received confirmation that I have been cast as The Inspector in @twoshedstheatre’s production of Edward Bond’s Black Mass
My late dad, whose body I will be preparing tomorrow for burial on Friday, was a passionate radical campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, the place of our birth. The opportunity to perform in this powerful piece written against the backdrop of the Sharpeville massacre comes at an extraordinary time. There are no coincindences.
@TheLondonTheatrenewcross as part of The Lewisham Fringe Festival http://ow.ly/BQ0Af
Make You Feel That Way by Tor/Sufjan Stevens from @LRCN0CNNR’s ‘The 1.2’ compilation. Great upbeat-music-to-listen-to-whilst-working track.
To be nobody but myself, in a world which is doing its best night and day to make me everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. – E. E. Cummings
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. It always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ (Corinthians 13).
I am humbled in gratitude to those by whom I am, truly, loved.