“Everything is as it should be”, says our Youtube yoga instructor, “repeat this mantra while you breathe in and breathe out”. Ola jumps in quickly. "I don't agree with that statement!". Me neither. If everything was as it should be, we wouldn't be doing what we are doing, nor talking about what we are talking about. In any case, this is definitely a room full of opinionated people, who share the joy of disagreeing with their Youtube yoga instructor.
This process is being remarkably eclectic. We work on the script and the characters, we exercise, we watch documentaries, we visit museums, we have spontaneous debates about power, audiences, race, gender… We laugh and we cry together, and share passions and contradictions. Nina is doing an amazing job, keeping her energy levels at a constant 100%, no holds barred. Keeping up that level of commitment is a challenge for any actor, but she does it effortlessly. It is inspiring. Ola matches her level, and makes her passion for the project absolutely infectious.
Gate Theatre's Young Associates came in to give us their input on some ideas. After all, this show connects past with future; the ideas of the play are simultaneous, not sequential. The riots in Los Angeles took place in 1992, but the issues that snared them are present now more than ever, over 25 years later. The Associates, with their fresh and current point of view, are very helpful shedding light on how this is a contemporary story, rather than a period piece.
We jump right into the thick of it: race. How do people perceive you because of your race? What would you ask someone of another race? These are the type of questions we rarely get to ask ourselves, and that now we are having to consider very thoughtfully. The Young Associates' replies are very helpful; their perspective is fresh, passionate… they give active responses, that call to action and to understanding. Millenials are often perceived quite negatively. As someone who is definitely not a Millenial, I can't help but seeing them as a really well informed generation, used to listening, understanding, and digesting opinions that are completely different to theirs. They are open to listening, and to finding new answers to old questions. They are in a constant struggle to get their own questions, and their own conclusions, even though they live surrounded by a continuous overdose of information, opinion, and uncatalogued data from the most diverse sources.
Nina points out that people shouldn't be afraid to ask questions when they don't know something. Asking makes you smarter. She's right, and we pledge to her wise words. We ask, we question, we make mistakes on our research, we rectify, and we are always comfortable saying "I don't know". We question everything and, in return, everything teaches us lessons we would have never expected.
Week two is focused on getting to know the play and characters through their movement and speech. We are working on 24 different characters from different social backgrounds, ethnicities, age, genders… Watching Nina mutating, transforming into each of these characters, is the most awe inspiring journey.
A question arises: Can one person really make a difference? Can one person excite chaos around them? Can one person dramatically change the course of events? That's three questions, but they are all one, at the end. History has shown us that one person, at the right -or wrong- time and place, can change the world. I can see how Nina is doing it: she is exciting chaos around herself. She is just Nina, of course, but she is also all that she's inherited. She may not be fully aware of it, but we are all the result of our past experiences, and the experiences of the ones who came before us. Nina, and all the Ninas from the past, slowly manifest through the voices of these 24 characters, each one claiming their voice, their opinion, and pushing forward for their voice to be heard. In their own way, they all questioned everything at some point, and they all did what they did based on the result of that questioning.
If Ola has been strict about something, it's about yoga. All of us -yes: ALL of us!- do yoga everyday. It's a very fitting symmetry: peacefully exercising in order to talk about riots. I feel how all of our brains are working at full capacity, and just when I think my head is going to explode, we all take our yoga mats, look at each other, lay down, and breathe. Then, we share this magic moment, this shared exercise of disagreement, as we listen to our Youtube Yoga instructor telling us how things are as they should be. Oh, how wrong she is, and how we thrive in our disagreement.