connecting breath to the emotion. what does that mean?
i realized after this run that i was finding ways to breathe with Kumiko and as a result, i was starting to find myself in the aquarium.
after that, it wasn’t as easy. mostly because the rest of my scenes are not just with the puppet, but also a whole puppet team.
Fergus is the lead puppeteer, guiding Toru’s head, his thinking. His eyes are what guide his vision and the rest of the body moves to encounter it. and i couldn’t tell how he was breathing. in my newfound world of letting go, i was trying to release into Fergus, release into Kumiko, release into Toru (and the other characters, and the world itself). and to connect the emotion to the breath, i was trying to release into the breath. but i couldn’t find it. it was because i couldn’t find Fergus’ breath. i was trying to listen for it, to see it, to feel it. and i either came up with nothing or i felt confused about how it connected to the emotion.
so then i would breathe audibly, extending my own breath, and loudly, so that maybe someone would hear. i was forcing it a little because i could feel us getting off track with each other and was using it to keep us together physically. but it also felt forced. and i wanted to let go of all of this. i needed to. because i could feel my grasp tightening, pulling against the flow—it felt in many instances, that it was not my time to lead.
and i realized that even though Fergus is leading the movement, in a sense, that it is actually a constant negotiation between the three of us—Fergus on the head, Toshi on the hips, and myself on the feet. the challenge of this work on a Bunraku-style puppet, is that the micro-adjustments are so small and so specific and yet, they have such a great effect on the whole movement of the puppet and the image that it can create. we are all responsible for listening to each other and breathing and moving together. i thought about the physical work that i did with my stage combat guru, Ian Marshall about 8 years ago when we were working on commedia dell’arte. we did an exercise where we, as actors, were exploring initiating movement with our bodies from our different centers. as humans, are constantly motivating through our different physical and emotional centers, although most people do tend to depend on a primary one that we habitually live off of and out of. as a puppet, the head does tend to lead, but it is not Fergus’ responsibility to guide us in every moment. it is a fine balancing act and we are all responsible for leading—through non-leadership.
when i am puppeteering alone with Kumiko, is it my turn to lead? i am solely responsible for her thoughts, emotions, and movements. Fergus and Mina go with me when they come into the picture—and when i am focused on my breathing, i can tell it is even clearer for everyone to know how to move together.
and so in the bed scene, am i breathing with Fergus even though we are on two separate puppets? no, i have my own work to do and my own journey to go on as Kumiko, and him as Toru. but to be aware of where he is—that is important. if i was leaving my husband, i would be sure to know where he was and what he was doing when i left.
recently, i have been working on my breathing in my own life—to make decisions, to determine what is best for my health, for my body, and to access my true thoughts and emotions. so how can i apply that to the puppet?
when i find ways to access my breath, people respond differently. there’s tangible proof that people take notice. a small example:
one day last semester, we were in computer programming class on break. i decided to quietly lay on the floor near the wall and breathe. my collaborator, Radek, proceeded to continue working on a nearby computer. i was doing little breath experiments and i decided to see what would happen if i held my breath for ten seconds and before releasing it. after approximately three seconds, Radek abruptly turned from his computer and asked if i was okay. he thought something was wrong because i stopped breathing. in a matter of seconds, he could sense a change in breath. this is one instance when i realized how one’s breath can affect others, as well as the energy of a space.
so can i move Kumiko with my breath instead of my hands or the thoughts in my head? i will try to hold her only when she needs it, letting her weight guide my movements. i am not the only one in that relationship with the puppet either. it must be a constant conversation with the puppet, just as it is when i am on a team with Fergus and Toshi. it is also a conversation with Ai, who plays the real life Kumiko, her words and presence onstage are just as important and influential as anything that the puppet is doing.
and once i get there (or perhaps simultaneously), i need to figure out how i feel. i need to put myself in there and breathe and let myself feel…
once i can do that, then i can let it flow through her. instead of moving her, i can let her move me…