Once, while watching a basketball game, Richard Schechner, a Tisch professor and artistic director of East Coast Artists, had an idea. If players could go from total calm on the bench, to completely in the game once on the court, then why couldn't performers? Schechner devised RasaBoxes as a way to help performers channel emotions.
RasaBoxes training teaches people to embrace the eight basic emotional-energetic states (or rasas): love, laughter, fury, compassion, disgust, horror, heroic mood, and wonder. The intensive classes with use breath, body and voice, exercises. They will teach how to incorporate these practices into creative work.
Cultist: What is RasaBoxes?
Fernando Calzadilla: It's an exercise that was devised by Richard Schechner. It's a training
exercise. But it has been used for actors, and people working with
therapy for performance and visual artists. It works with eight basic
emotions which are taken from the Navya Shastra, a manual of how to do
classical theater in India, which is 2000 years old.
We go from box to box. Schechner combined the idea of the Navya Shastra
and the idea from Antonin Artaud, who said that the actors should be an
athlete of emotions.
It's to get the actor to know the breeches, to know how to get to the
emotion quickly and safely, and also how to return back from the emotion
quickly and safely without being hurt by the emotion, because you work
from the outside to the inside.
RasaBoxes work from finding sadness in the body as an abstract idea.
Where do I feel the sad? Is it in my elbows, knees, eyes? Whether you
feel it or not is irrelevant, it's about how you show it.
What did you find appealing about RasaBoxes?
I think that they're a very useful language for actors and directors
about how to approach a scene. I think it's very safe. It doesn't hurt
you emotional. You can work with a very high intensity emotion and it
doesn't hurt you. You don't get emotionally involved. And also, it's a
very therapeutic exercise.
You find out where you blocks are. Usually
your blocks are in your body, not your mind. With RasaBoxes, you learn
how to trust your instinct, with your body. Your body tells you what to
do. It's about learning where you're holding tension and why.
Emotions are culturally
learned. We learn how to express our emotions; it's how we communicate.
The idea of the RasaBoxes is to learn those emotions and how to extend
them. It's how far can I stretch that communication. Can I convey to you
that I'm angry, without failing into the stereotypes of anger?
They give you the space and structure to experiment and to find out, in
yourself, how you do that. So I found that it's a very useful tool for
actors and directors, so now we have a language to communicate with.
So how do classes run?
We literally draw boxes on the floor with masking tape. Once you cross
the line, you are in that rasa. And it's just by crossing the line that
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you access that emotion. Of course this is a gradual learning process.
Classes take place at the PlayGround Theatre (9806 NE Second Avenue, Miami Shores) on tonight through Saturday, July 30, 7 to 10 p.m. Registration costs $90. Visit theplaygroundtheatre.com.