HotHouse Intensive: Reflection

Temple University Musical Theater BFA student José Raúl Mangual took part in a HotHouse Intensive this winter.  He documented the experience through daily reflections and photos to share as blog posts as we prepare for the Summer Intensive.

Application in Performance

I first allowed myself to “sit back” and observe whether I would notice any of the training from the HotHouse intensive arise in performance. I had already built an accessibility to the extremes of my vocal register over the course of the rehearsal process. But, post-intensive, I could not help further nuancing vocal placement by specifying its accompanying physical resonance in my body. Whether the changes made would resonate (comprehensively, not physically) with audience members was uncertain to me, but I am certain it more deeply colored my interactions with Mercutio’s world.

I felt more interior stirrings: stirrings to throttle Romeo, to massage him, to swipe at Benvolio, to smooth my clothing and therefore regain my appearance of composure, and on to increasingly higher degrees of specificity from the inside out. Instead of theorizing actions and obstacles and deliberation of tactics on a sheet of paper or in front of a computerscreen, I was came upon the answers to questions I’d sought before from simply interacting with my fellow actors and the world around me through my ever-malleable text, on my feet and in my body and voice, clothed in the newfound flexibility discovered in the HotHouse intensive.

I found that, in Mercutio’s pursuits and given his circumstances, my body frequented certain resonances. Frequenting these resonances resulted in more consistent colors of response to obstacles, which refined the types of responses accessible to me in Mercutio’s body, mind, and voice! Even if I made no “decisions” about who Mercutio “was”, a character would be created for me through my living in this new acting appendages – which had always been there, but had new levels of familiarity and thorough exercise.

Insistence: Live

After almost two years of struggling everyday with the same vice, I happily share that I have insisted beyond the point of everyday struggle to something less frequent than the majority of a week, with the frequency still decreasing. I believe the efficiency of my fight had something to do with the physical outlet of my insistence – even more specifically, its role in a community. I had physical evidence of the effect of fighting an urge and surrendering to something greater than myself. In the large scale-model, my community is simply this world and the role I intend to play in it. I carry the concept of insistence with me everyday and am continually excited by its multifaceted application.

Click here to read about José Raúl Mangual

Read the first HotHouse Intensive blog

HotHouse Intensive: A New Breath

Temple University Musical Theater BFA student José Raúl Mangual took part in a HotHouse Intensive this winter.  He documented the experience through daily reflections and photos that will be shared as blog posts as we prepare for the Summer Intensive.

HotHouse Intensive Day 6 (3/7/18)

I felt like today’s class was the first that I saw, without seeking, the parallels between exercises. (AKA: I feel familiar enough to explore the method in solitude now, as wished on Day 1 of Week 1!)

We saw how a new breath is a new idea through an exercise in which a two-person scene (from Passage, the Wilma’s recent world premiere) was read by two actors surrounded by a multitude of chairs, the seats facing inward. The nature of the exercise revealed just how employable punctuation and phrasing can be in the pursuit of an objective or, more generally, in the exchange of ideas with another actor. Often overlooked, the text of a theatrical work can be seen as a diverse, often character-specific terrain which informs what steps, leaps, halts, retractions, etc. we can make towards or away from what we want. If the punctuation/phrasing of the “terrain” is potholes, canyons, slopes, ice, etc., we learned in this exercise that breath often precedes, and arguably should always precede, an action: a skip across the pothole, a leap across the canyon, etc.

I have heard this concept of breath being a new idea before. It was noted in the beginning process of learning to speak Shakespeare, for example. The breath is a revving-up to drive the energy through to the end of the line, where it must, in addition to every word along the way, land with deliberate intention. I’ve seen the undeniable value of apportioning breath this way in my work on Romeo and Juliet as well as in Acting 3, (Temple’s Shakespeare-centric acting class) but the validity of this conceptual understanding of breath was proven to me in new fullness today. It was as if the breath is inhaling the information given to me and allowing it to chemically react with the inside of my body, progressing to exhale a new chemical, which is then inhaled by my partner, and thus a cycle is born.

HotHouse Intensive Day 7 (3/8/18)

Today’s class left me feeling confident in yesterday’s discovery. This work is full of information and freedom I have yet to find elsewhere. I am a thorough (the good side of slow [right?]) worker as it is, so having time in this expanse of exercises to breathe and introspect is enough to keep me entertained for a good, long while. I found that, if I relax and allow my body to breathe into the triangle, it will. I also found that my stress or withdrawal from the group and into myself can result in gripping the muscles in my lower back slightly, but enough that I cut off the opportunity for my breath to extend to my lower back and the perineum.

We also played with an exercise drawing from Cicely Berry’s methods, which was a glamorous wealth of experience and experimentation. Each member of the group acted like “ghosts”. We were voices inside the monologist’s mind, to me presenting an opportunity for each actor role, both monologist and ghosts, to be approaching the line being spoken from the received intention of the prior spoken line’s/words’/word’s intention. In the role of “ghost”, as I see it after today’s experimentation, every individual actor can “agree” or “disagree” with the perceived intention of the current line’s delivery.

To me, to “agree” is to:

  • Emphasize the monologist’s delivery of the approved word or phrase by bolstering* facets of it (such as an electric voiced s [z], the rhythm of a delivery, the received feeling of the word, others)
  • Say nothing (subtext being something of: this sounds good; keep going)

And to “disagree” is to:

  • Deliver the disagreed delivery in a way you see as preferable

HotHouse Intensive Day 8 (3/9/18)

Today’s exercises all left me feeling like we were a family of uninhibited children!

We returned to the exercise of resonating into our hands. This time, I was able to engage in such pure experimentation that I forgot I’d ever had trouble in my introduction to the exercise. The shifting of my shapes originated from my torso, initiated by the triangle from which our breath originates in the corporal sequence. Warping the positioning of my torso, specifically my diaphragm, opened me up to different sounds and, in tandem, different stirrings of emotion. In one position, I began to laugh as deeply as I used to in middle school, my eyes welling and my smile unbreakable. In another, I felt awareness spring up from my feet, as if I’d opened the door to the fight-or-flight response. I happened upon an especially fun asymmetry with my upper back hunched and my voice gurgling in a which created the image in my mind of myself as a sort of humanoid sea monster.

(José Raúl Mangual)

One exercise in particular felt totally free: we took turns being held by the rest of our ensemble, carried around in everyone else’s hands with our eyes closed, able to experience a unique form of play in which we were completely dependent upon the ensemble to control our corporal experience. There was a personally hilarious moment for myself when, floating above the floor (a given in this exercise) and spinning in a fetal-esque position, I could not shake the image in my mind’s eye of myself as a spinning cheesecurl, complete with flecks of flavoring dust. Some would call my experience nonsensical, but it only served to free my mind to experience a form of unbridled imagination I could not possibly hope to experience on my own two feet.

Read the first HotHouse Intensive blog

HotHouse Intensive: Meeting Myself

Temple University Musical Theater BFA student José Raúl Mangual took part in a HotHouse Intensive this winter. He documented the experience through daily reflections and photos that will be shared as blog posts as we prepare for the Summer Intensive.

HotHouse Intensive Day 5 (3/6/18)


Today’s corporal sequence felt like a (welcome) scale model of a “real”-world battle: a constant, inner battle between corporal and mental/goal-oriented desire.

Our breaths as an ensemble seem to strive to follow a consistent tempo regardless of the nature of the movement being executed. In a pedestrian scenario, some movements warrant quicker breath than others post-execution: generally, a person would agree that squatting until your butt touches the floor exerts more energy than moving your head 90° to the right. After the more exhausting segments in the sequence, of which I consistently have three, I find my breath to be shallower and faster than the tempo of the collective ensemble.

Today, I found myself enforcing Justin’s teaching that we must surrender to the ensemble in those moments…for all of a few breaths. I know how to alleviate the shallow breaths as they come: we make sure our eyes stay open in soft focus, we insist upon the collective tempo, inhale and exhale from the triangle, project our breath to the rest of the ensemble, collect energy from the earth, and more; but it seems my twenty years’ muscle memory prevents my brain from taking over my body and allowing the changes to come through.

(José Raúl Mangual)

I did implement the tactics to remain with the ensemble, and they did seem to be successful! Still, the unfamiliarity felt scary enough to somehow make quitting more attractive. In a way, it felt like one of those all-too-familiar moments of panic where the comfortable, familiar option is chosen over the foreign but measured one. The quote, “If you’re afraid to dive, then dive afraid.” (-Lisa Nichols) comes to mind.

In retrospect, I believe this is the “meeting oneself” which has previously been discussed by Justin. I am stunned by what I perceive as its parallel nature to what I do when I “meet myself” in my day-to-day life! In both instances, I know the result I wish to change; I know what it can do for me: the value of the desired result, and I know the nominal (titular) steps I need to take. However, when it comes down to total implementation, I consistently fall short: I have been engaged in an inner battle with my relationship to food. Some, myself included, would categorize my behaviors as symptomatic of dysmorphic or eating disorders, though I have never received an official diagnosis. I have wanted to make “the change” for over a year and a half, as my fight to repair my relationship to food has consumed much of my attention and energy

I know the steps I need (want) to take, the changes I want to make, to fluctuating levels of specificity:

  • Cut the junk food
  • Eat more greens
  • Exercise often (dance, run, gym)

And yet, when I’m at the fork in the road, I consistently choose the path I know to be dark and winding.

Today’s moments of shallow breath leave me with odd hope. If I have an improved understanding of the components of a “failure,” I theorize “success” is that much easier to bring about. I intend to use this theory in my daily battle with this vice and other vices which have lain dormant but quiet bubbling.

(José Raúl Mangual)

I had a similar experience in a ballet class last school year. When balancing at the barre, I would take so long finnicking with the minute placement of my foot, the activation of my muscles but the relaxation in my bones, and my center of gravity, and the ease of my fingers and the wing of my foot and the turnout in both legs and more, that I would not permit myself to take my hand off the barre and simply work on balancing when the time came. Once class, my ballet professor pointed this out to me. At risk of seeming hyperbolic, I say I heard truth twofold in her note.

I realized my muscular inefficiency was being practiced in my life, in my decision-making. In general, my attention had become hyperfixative on minutia, little imperfections I rightfully wanted to fix but capitalized to the point of their eclipsing the simultaneous truth that I was not at all far from the goals they were blocking.

At that time, I wanted to clean my room. My clothes were scattered throughout the room. I had books, papers, and writing utensils in places I’d never settled to read, write, or draw. When I would muster the energy to commit to cleaning my room, I would find thirty minutes had passed with me still organizing the same top surface of my dresser drawers I began those thirty minutes focusing on, unable to graduate to the next section of my room until everything reflected the ideal configuration in my mind’s eye. Yet, in the grand scheme of my room, the mess was comprised of no more than some clothing, books, papers, and writing utensils.

Read the first HotHouse Intensive blog

HotHouse Intensive: Resonating with the Ensemble

Temple University Musical Theater BFA student José Raúl Mangual took part in a HotHouse Intensive this winter.  He documented the experience through daily reflections and photos to share as blog posts as we prepare for the Summer Intensive.

HotHouse Intensive Day 3 (3/1/18)

Today’s personally most captivating exercise was one in which four pairs: eight people, four and four on opposite sides, faced each other with evenly distributed space between each other. Based on my experience, (the exercises are wonderful in that there are multiple lessons to be learned, which makes post-discussion an especially fruitful experience) I would call this exercise one of projecting resonance.

Facing my partner, who also sat cross-legged across the room short-ways (I estimate eight to ten feet between us), my instructions were to vibrate his chest by resonating from my chest. Same with mouth to mouth and then head to head. I noted:

  • It was easier to resonate from a body part when I sent jolts of energy from it, similar to the pulse/punch of yesterday’s exercise.
  • The power of my deciding to resonate his body was enough. Beyond the doubt and the unfamiliarity of the exercise, I believe we are still animal enough to break our conditioned pedestrian-ism.
  • As time went on, the color scheme with in which I saw my partner began to change to one of dichromatic spectrums of blues and oranges. The texture I saw him in changed as well, similar to depictions of “tripping” in visual art.

HotHouse Intensive Day 4 (3/2/18)

Today, the end of Week One, we ended with the entire corporal sequence, beginning to end, with Justin only cuing via…well, I realize now that I don’t know the name for the cue-sound Justin makes. It seems to be initiated by a pulse of his diaphragm.

(José Raúl Mangual)

There were three total moments where I became so out of breath that I begin to consider whether I might pass out! It is worth noting, though, I never felt unsafe. No one held my mouth closed or reprimanded me. After fighting with everything I could, short of losing consciousness, I took a catch-breath or returned to my natural breathing pattern in those moments, rejoining the ensemble at my earliest possible breath. Justin said this might happen and that it was O.K.

I think it is important to note that, in moments I began to lose my breath with the group, closing my eyes only furthered my distance and weakened my relaxation. In today’s practice, I learned that investing my focus in the people around me – the soft focus/focus blur I’d discussed – gave me less to initiate, which seemed to use up less oxygen, which allowed me to breathe longer, which allowed me to longer stay with the ensemble’s communal breath, which allotted me more time to explore the breath in my body. Paradoxically, connecting with the ensemble allowed me to connect with myself.

Read the first HotHouse Intensive blog

HotHouse Intensive: Finding Voice

Temple University Musical Theater BFA student José Raúl Mangual took part in a HotHouse Intensive this winter.  He documented the experience through daily reflections and photos that will be shared as blog posts as we prepare for the Summer Intensive.

HotHouse Intensive Day 2 (2/28/18)

After today’s lunch break, Justin and Blanka talked to us about the training’s potential and design to release sounds which can be described as “primitive.”  They also spoke of the possibility for the training to unlock memories, both from our own lives and the lives of others. A sense of doubt came over me in regard to the idea of these discoveries.

When I say I became doubtful of this potential, I refer to what I understand to be doubt from the ego: I immediately felt doubtful of “my ability” to “do” the training “well enough” to procure such a result. This was not to me a doubt of the process, but a doubt of the self. Regardless, I assured myself (insisted) I could at least experiment with the exercises, in full dedication to abiding by the processes outlined for us.

(José Raúl Mangual)

After the above discussion, Blanka had us resonate (via phonation) into our cupped hands. Upon a few moments of experimenting with her demonstration of the exercise, Blanka directed us to experiment with asymmetry, noting the security of an symmetrical stance with evenly distributed weight. I believe my asymmetries were too external, too forced. There came a moment where I did settle into my body and allow the asymmetries and weight imbalances to arise instead of be produced, but I focused too much on being “correct” as opposed to doing what I would and permitting that to be enough for discovery to occur- more on this later.

The first exercise in this intensive to fully astound me was a focus on resonance: Everyone gets a partner. The vocalizer stands in front of the other partner, and the partner places their hands on various spots throughout the body: head, neck, torso, face, etc. The goal is to send vibrations to the hand of the partner, wherever it is placed. I felt inaccessibility to only one spot, and that was my stomach area, around and below the belly button. My partner’s hand had gone through chest, head, upper back, and areas in between with minimal difficulty in adapting to vibrate her hand.

When it came to that area below my belly button, the best I could do was create as low-frequency a note I could on an “ah” vowel. At the lowest, I was vibrating around an inch or two below my sternum. The method that worked for me to vibrate that area of the torso was to pulse out sound in short, forced pulses in a way that felt like I had a child punching the walls of my stomach from the inside. With this, I could feel my vibration lowering in my body. I kept the punches, feeling progress, until the sound began to almost split in two – maybe it was quickly vibrating in between two, low pitches. Insisting upon lowering my vibration further so that I could complete the objective of resonating into my partner’s hand, I felt stirring at several points in my body, over the course of a short several seconds.

It felt as though I had some fluttering originate in my spine behind my belly button. That fluttering quickly traveled up my spine to my head, and then back down to the area behind the belly button and even lower, so that I was now teetering on vibrating my partner’s hand. My pitch lowered, as if to mirror the now extreme depth of vibration in my body. I could feel the tingling activation between my eyes which arises when I am close to crying. I realized I was going to cry. In retrospect, I wonder if that sensation of something traveling up my spine was my mind beginning to interject in the release of emotion, at which point I decided to permit myself to release, hence the feeling of traveling down and even lower. I believe I had to allow myself to open up (insist) in order to vibrate my partner’s hand, previously unaware I was locked or guarded in such a way. After I became able to vibrate my partner’s hand, tears began to form in my eyes. I was now able to maintain the vibration into her hand physically, but my voice developed a new freedom. With every punch into her hand, my voice rose in pitch while still somehow faithful to such a low physical vibration. The tears started to fall, and I went from crying to sobbing to what I would imagine is the equivalent of keening. My mind jumped to two particular images, each pertaining to the same aspect of trauma/extreme sadness in my life, but I cannot say for sure whether this was in tandem with the emotional release, or whether this was my mind trying to tie an experience to the physical sensations I was experiencing in order to justify them.

Justin Jain, HotHouse Company member and Intensive Co-Instructor (José Raúl Mangual)

I didn’t know until both weeks of the intensive had passed, but this was a moment in which I met myself and insisted upon further discovery. It proves that these discoveries are innate within us. Much like the deconstructive process of the work in the HotHouse, these exercises all can be seen as a way of stripping the layers: years of resistance and socially forged armor to free the unique animal in each of us. If any human commits to the exercises shared in this HotHouse intensive, there will be moments of discovery of the self.

The reason I have been dappling “insistence” throughout certain moments is because it was a concept introduced to us by Justin and revisited by both Justin and Blanka, and it is present often throughout the process of education (therefore, the process of life, no?). This concept is multifaceted in its meaning and application to so high a degree that it alone can be justified as an entire ideology. Opportunities for insistence are present in nearly every moment of growth, as well as their inverse: moments of resistance- insistence upon safety. To insist is to fight for, but the concept of insistence seems to be most fruitful when applied to moments of inner resistance. If you begin to resist, choose to insist.

A beauty of insistence in relation to the corporal sequence is its physical practice of a physical/mental/spiritual concept. If we insist upon surrendering to the ensemble during a moment of laborious, even scary lack of breath, we can practice reproducing that physical battle in our minds in a moment of resistance of a vice whose “victory” over us we believe would be detrimental, regressive.

Read the first HotHouse Intensive blog