The Interactive Performance Jam coordinated by Jeff Wirth and directed by Curt del Principe was a fun acting workshop held at the UCF Center for the Emerging Media across from the Bob Carr. I asked the guard in the lobby where I could find the Jam and he sent me up to the third floor. When I exited the elevator I heard Dean Martin singing in a room down the hall and I headed towards the music.
When I entered the room I noticed it was divided into 4 areas with different tasks for each area. I sat down and immediately started sketching Jeff who was in the tech talk area demonstrating the Union Wrap. The Union Wrap is a way to coil electrical cords which keeps the cords from kinking. If the cord is coiled the way I usually do it by wrapping in around in one direction, it develops a memory and this is what causes the kinks. The Union Wrap reverses the direction every other wrap. When Jeff finished his demonstration he threw the cord allowing it to fully unwind and then had a fellow actor give it a shot.
Other stations included, a character interview where one actor would interview another developing an improvised scene. There was a coaching station where actors would coach each other. Then there was the fundamentals station where actors would build and maintain the basics of an improvised scene. There were card stacks which provided actors with a scenario, character or location as a starting point for a scene.
I watched Jeff and Curt work together in the fundamentals booth. Jeff walked into the scene just as Curt was about to hang himself. The distraught character was angry and acted much like the Rain Man. Later in the ongoing scenario, Jeff tried to convince the man to give him an imaginary knife he was holding. Jeff ended up being stabbed in the chest and yet he continued to try and sooth the angry man. This scene seems to hint at the kind of man Jeff is and why he is inspiring to be around.
Half way through the jam I was asked to talk a little about my work and I was honored to do so. Jeff interviewed me so I didn't just have to start pontificating, and he asked the most probing questions which forced me to truly get at the heart of why I do what I do each day. His first question though innocent enough caused me to look hard at what caused me to start making art to begin with. Memories flashed of me as a child driving with my dad to visit my mother in Sloan Kettering Cancer research hospital in NYC. I was a suburban kid shocked by the grit of the city, a rush of activity on the streets seen out a car window, kids riding on the back bumper of a bus. I wasn't allowed up to the hospital room to visit, instead I drew pictures which were never seen. Enough of my scenario, back to the Jam.
When the Jam had ended, all the actors gathered and sat on the floor in a circle. This was an open discussion on how to make future Jams even better. Some actors tended to want to focus on dramatic scenes while others preferred light comedy. One actor felt this dichotomy resulted in a gradual lack of focus among the group. Dana Mott liked being pushed to be physically connected with her acting partners, which forced her outside her comfort zone. All ideas were encouraged. The Jam will continue to explore new ideas and theories, uncertain how they will work until they are tried out next time around. It is this playful spirit of experimentation that keeps the Jams exciting and vibrant places to learn and grow. Getting close to the unfolding dramas also makes it an exciting place to sketch!