Week 40 | Artist 40: Created to Create 2016 | Rebecca Rich, Teacher/Actress/Singer, Empathy Angel
Becca has worked as a professional actress for 20+ years, and as a theatre educator and director for ten years. She currently resides in Philadelphia, where she teaches university level acting/theatre courses, gives private Michael Chekhov technique workshops, serves as a Barrymore Awards Judge for Theatre Philadelphia, and as Vice President of the Board for EgoPo Classic Theatre Company. Additionally, she works for MICHA-The Michael Chekhov Association as their Production Manager for Memberships and International Workshops. As a performer, she’s had the honor of working with stage and screen legends, to include: Stephen Colbert, Amy Sedaris, Bob Balaban, Kristen Chenoweth, and many amazing artists. Credits include: a national tour of Guys & Dolls, originating roles in Off-Broadway musical productions, such as the cult hit Zombie Prom (original cast recording), Yiddle w/ a Fiddle, A Naughty Knight, and working at a number of the biggest regional stages in the US (Kansas City Starlight, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Barter Theatre, etc.). Rebecca has held Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, Voice and Speech and Musical Theatre positions at Rowan University and West Chester University. She currently serves as an adjunct professor for Temple, Rider and Rowan Universities, teaching a wide array of theatre subjects. Rebecca believes students of theatre require a multiplicity of training techniques, tools and styles, broad knowledge of the humanities, acute awareness of their bodies, voices and behaviors from which to shape their craft. As a teacher, she blends compassion, empathy, creativity, and a strong sense of practicality to create a safe and productive learner-centered environment.
Where were you born?
Potsdam, NY, a small college town at the northern foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, about 30 miles south of the Canadian border.
Where do you live/work?
Live: Philadelphia, PA
Work: PA/NJ Universities and for MICHA globally; Adjunct Shuffle at Rider, Rowan and Temple Universities; for MICHA as Production Manager for Memberships and International Workshops, working on site during workshops and also online/from home throughout the year.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
Curiosity, communication, passion, joy, excitement, surprise, applause, attention, a sense of accomplishment.
The best thing about being an artist is...
Experiencing transformation, being surprised.
The biggest obstacle in working with self is?
Letting go, giving up control, and allowing myself to be surprised!
What advice you would give self at the very beginning of your training and professional career?
Let go. Allow space for your vulnerability and anxiety – let it serve you instead of hide you. Live in your body more confidently; you are enough. Work/practice every day – develop a daily creative practice early on that gives you grounding and inspiration.
How did the "discovery" of Chekhov Technique transform your practice?
The Chekhov technique GAVE me a practice! I’m already in my head all the time, thinking about a role or character, dissecting its psychology based on the traditional script and character analysis tools of Stanislavski. Chekhov provides me a way to physicalize and approach a character through imagination and movement rather than (or in addition to) a purely intellectual analysis. I give this experience to my students now, as well. Like many, as a younger woman I was plagued by an extreme self-consciousness of my body, a shame and embarrassment about how I looked and, most specifically, how my body appeared to others when it moved. For years, I locked my body, tried to conceal my physical being and my emotional self-shame. These actions can be paralyzing for anyone, especially a performer/actor. A number of years before I found Chekhov, I went to therapy, got healthy (in mind and body), and developed a confident relationship with my body’s movement and stillness in and through space. Yet, as a performer, because I hid during my early years in undergrad training, I missed the connections and did not dare practice anything physical; although I was provided with many opportunities to develop an awareness and healthy use of my body during my undergrad, I faked my way through it, bypassing as much as possible a connection from my body to my voice because I was afraid of the pain I knew I would reveal. It was a lot of weight to carry around – more emotional weight than physical. Before Chekhov, I would push my voice and personality beyond their natural limit, and I was prone to vocal fatigue and injury. Since discovering and working with the M.C. technique, my awareness and ability to work from a grounded and physically engaged and center is solid.
Are there any strategies/rituals you created to help self in times when working feels difficult - when you feel stuck?
My strategies and rituals involve working with the tenets and tools of the M.C. technique! It took me a few years of deep study post graduate school for the technique to become intrinsic in my process. In the last few years, I don’t think I’ve felt “stuck.” Sure, every role (or class I teach) has its challenges, but the technique is so vast in its offerings – qualities of movement, centers, imaginary body/centers, archetypal gestures, psychological gestures, expansion/contraction, four brothers, three sisters, atmospheres…sooooo many more – that my only concern is deciding which offering I want to focus on first for working on a role or working with my students. I often find myself starting with the Four Brothers or Expansion/Contraction – likely because they were among the first technique lessons taught to me by master teacher Lenard Petit during my first MICHA training workshop in 2012.
Talk about a piece of work, you experienced recently that moved you and how it found its place in your work.
I recently read the play You For Me For You by Mia Chung. It moved me – I found it haunting and hopeful, mysterious and thought-provoking – and the elements – OH! I began envisioning the scenes as different qualities of movement; I could smell taste and feel the atmosphere as I read; I could sense where each character’s center was held… This is new for me, in that, previously, I wasn’t actively thinking about the technique outside of working with it directly as an actor on character, or as a teacher in the classroom. Now, the technique is living in me and I apply it to other areas of my world. I know that does not answer the exact question asked. And I think that’s okay.
Describe a productive day at work...
Inspiring my students; feeling their reflection that they’ve felt inspired. Being surprised by them and surprising myself. Learning as much as I’m teaching.
What is important for you to teach your students?
To learn to let go, to find ease, and to allow themselves to be surprised! To develop and learn to practice their craft. To stay curious, to live in the questions, to allow themselves to feel joy and have fun in their art.
How do you reward self for a job well done?
Frozen yogurt (chocolate and peanut-butter, and others) with Oreo cookies and dried coconut toppings. Get a massage. Take myself to a show. Buy something I want but don’t necessarily need. Give a gift to someone else. Take time off.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2016
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.