FEEDBACK of a Workshop

PHILADELPHIA - July 2012

...20 professional actors

...10 days organized by the Wilma theater

 

TExtTHEIR Testimonies

"Jean Rene demands nothing less than that you crack open all your defenses and habits and split yourself in two so that the group can reach in and find the primordial swamp within. At the same time he asks you to remain present and bear witness to the truth that they reveal."


It was an amazing, frustrating, challenging, intoxicating time. I am so grateful to The Wilma, Blanka, JR, Walter... everyone who made it possible. It was a life-changing process and I look forward to seeing how it continues to affect me and my work in the coming year.


Grace Gonglewski

 

It's hard for me to put it into words, largely because this workshop made me see and feel the inadequacy of words.  (((That's particularly disconcerting for someone who loves language so much.)))  But the workshop was a huge reminder of the great potential that lies in each of us if we mine our stories.  It was so many things -- intrusive, infuriating and inspiring come to mind.  Most of all it was enlightenment; an amazing opportunity to invest in my craft by investigating my own experiences, dreams and desires through my primitive social voice.  JR is truly a great visionary, truth-teller and truth-seeker.

Forrest McClendon


As for Jean-Rene's work, I have never experienced anything like it.  I have been a bit wary of training in the States, mostly because it tends to be bastardised Stanislavsky training, which is often very heady. JR's work engages the whole body, the voice, and the emotional mechanism.  He manages through the voice and body to take his students in (their habits, their strengths and limitations) and through this intense listening and his exercises he helps the actor face him or herself; he helps the actor see him or herself fully. I believe the heart of JR's work is the expansion of the self and the group through an earnest engagement with itself. Yes, my voice feels stronger. Yes, I feel more available, more emotional. Yes, I feel like I know how to listen more fully. And yes, I have identified areas of limitation, areas in which I want to grow. However, I think JR's work goes beyond the conventional ideas of training.  He is expanding us as people, and therefore expanding us as artists. 

John Jarboe


The insight one encounters when participating in a Jean-Rene toussaint workshop,  is the kind of work every actor must experience and confront before they can ever hope to become an artist.

Janis Dardaris


This summer was my third time practicing with Jean Renee, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to delve again, more deeply, into the work. Engaging with his exercises and with the group continues to amaze, inspire and challenge me. There seems always to be a deeper level of myself to meet, another layer to surrender, a greater presence to step into.

It was so gratifying to find that my familiarity with the work allowed me to really get out of my head this time and move more fully into just exploring and experiencing, and I was delighted to discover that some ideas which previously felt perplexing or unsettling, had quietly taken root in my instrument. Whereas in the last workshop the concepts of Taking Support/Being Taken vs. Giving/Receiving had really struck a chord for me, this workshop I found the ideas of "Having No Expectations" and “Challenging Certitude” to be particularly engaging and personally relevant. They resonated strongly for me throughout the two weeks. When practicing familiar exercises, I worked hard to meet them without the expectation of previous experiences, and subsequently gained a deeper understanding of many of them - how to apply them, what they reveal about my instrument or who I am in the world. 

And because we had two weeks for this workshop, there were lots of new exercises that either built and expanded on the previous work, or introduced new territory altogether. The continued explorations of the primacy of listening and our unconscious patterns felt extremely valuable, and the new work with language and dialogue, really fun and exciting.

Maia DeSanti


This work, without a doubt, creates actors with a deeper sense of truth, thereby raising the level of theatrical art.  Through exploring the nature of voice I have tapped into a degree of honesty which should be a standard in theatre but very often isn't.  I have found this specific type of exploration to be indispensable not only as an artist, but as a human being.

Kevin Meehan


I was skeptical at first never having been one for intense group warm-ups but as the weeks progressed I found myself being affected more and more.  I fought the inclination for the work to turn into therapy.  Once I let that fear of self-reflection go, I was able to truly experience the benefits the exercises gave me.  I was breathing better, more confident in my choices, open to feelings held at bay for so long.  I'm very much looking forward to continuing my study with Jean-Rene and learning more about my instrument and what I am very much capable of.

Also, I keep having dreams where the work surfaces in whatever scenario might be happening.  It's kind of bizarre.

Keith Conallen


There is so much to say, think about, and process with respect to the experience that giving a quick, ham handed response seemed out of step with the workshop’s depth, impact, and ultimate purpose.

What moves me most in this moment was that a process, which is so necessary and essential to our development as theater artists, felt like a luxury. And Jean-Rene’s work completely destroys the mask of such thinking. We spend so much time as theater artists chasing money, grants, reviews, jobs, etc… it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that the theater is a LIVING art, charged to make connections between living people and communities. As a working director, writer, and performer over the past 20 years I was struck during the workshop by the realization that I had spent very little time just digging, honing, and exploring my voice. This is a deadly reality for the theater because the exploration of the artists’ voice IS the work. It is how the vibrancy of our collective and individual voice is mined and disseminated to the people. In a very real way the work we did with Jean-Rene is the truest, most powerful form of audience development because it extends our voices to the world in a way that births new work and subsequently calls new audiences to the theater.

Continued room must be made for theater’s to do this kind of work because it is a core part of how the theater will keep the art form alive. Without the development of The Voice, in the physical and the aesthetic sense, the theater becomes a zombie; a dead thing walking, and a puppet for corporate interests. Working with Jean-Rene and all of the other artists in the room was nothing short of a blessing, but it is my sincere hope that it would rather become “the way of things” in the Philadelphia theater community. Such work, I am certain, would spawn an explosion of new voices and known voices with exciting fresh new outlooks.

The Jean René workshop asked, answered, and asked again so many questions that finding the words to describe the power of it at the moment seems futile. So for now I will simply say it was extraordinary and pray that will suffice, for now.   

Ozzie Jones


I found the experience of working with Jean-René to be meaningful on several levels. Professionally, I have much to explore based on the workshop. How can this work manifest itself in my day-to-day work as an actor? How can I incorporate it into my directing? But in many ways this workshop was more about me personally. I was deeply moved by the experience, far more than I ever would have expected. I would look forward to each day of the workshop with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. So many questions, so many ideas to ponder. I was forced to face my fears, quite literally, and I am still resonating with much of what I experienced.

More than anything, I am left with questions: beautiful, terrifying, provoking questions.

Seth Reichgott


This was an important and powerful experience for me and I feel I have only touched the surface of understanding my voice, my emotions and the movement that exists within my own body. The work with Jean-Rene still reverberates with me daily.

Jean-Rene's work lead me through a vigorous and exciting investigation of body and awareness. He encouraged me to look deeply within, listen carefully and share myself generously. The work inspires curiosity and requires an immediacy and presence of mind.

There is something so essential, basic, whole and primal about Jean-Rene's work. His investigation of voice and breath goes far beyond sound production and explores our life force. Everyday with Jean Renee brought an exciting opportunity to explore and confront the deep, low, dirty, growly places that I have politely kept hidden away and to meet and celebrate the she-dragon inside me.

During the two week workshop my middle-aged body was pain-free and responsive, liberated by all that oxygen I guess. I felt great and physically invigorated.
Jean-Rene created a space that was safe for me to stand undisguised and naked. He made a way for me to tap physical strength I didn't know I had. He encouraged me to unleash my power, confront fears and listen lovingly to the tiny fragile tender flutters that live within.

The work with Jean Rene was thrilling celebratory, and brimming with vitality. It is nourishment for artists. Thank you for making this workshop possible. It was a real gift.

Melanye Finister


Working with Jean-Rene is rebirth. Not only in the way that we are reawakened to new things, but it is almost as if we are born again out of the womb of life into a pure and spacious universe of ceaseless possibility. He guides the ensemble like a careful and deadly angel demanding from us our lives. That we must live them in the danger of the stage. 

Jean-Rene possesses a reel of the simplest phrases. He touches people with 3 word combinations. His work is therapy. His work is for building ensembles. I felt safe to be as daring and as human as possible. He also touched my life in profound ways. After his workshop the world came alive. And I realized only weeks later that it wasn't the world that had come alive, it was me who was vibrating so much into the world. It was that I was listening to the world in a new way and this woke me up, made me excited, angered me. Made me a full human being. A dangerous animal. An actor.

I love the ensemble building capability. We all become so personally naked in front of each other. And in this nakedness we are able to fully embrace ourselves and our company.

I really can't say enough about Jean-Rene's work. It was the most profound experience of my life. It was also quite simple. That is the dichotomy of it. 

Matteo Scammell


I've had trouble finding the words that would possibly approach a description of this experience for me. … On the first day, he made me tired.  On the second, he made me sore.  The third day, I was frightened, and by the fourth, I was in pain; Such pain that I could not sit or stand or walk or be still without hurting all over.  

My whole body had awakened to a sensitivity I had not known before.  Or perhaps I had forgotten.  Heartache, jealousy, anger, betrayal, grief, power, violence, passion, others I cannot name... they crept into my consciousness, until all of the hurt I had quietly stored in secret pockets of my being emerged, searing my bones, writhing in the tissue that held them together.  I was terrified to let these things be seen.  To even acknowledge their existence.  I wanted to do well, to be worthy, to disappear.  Then, on the fifth day, he made me visible.  He pressed on my back, and without warning, all of the quiet emerged.  For a moment, I thought I could die.  The sound was so loud.  It hurtled out of me with a force I could not control.  When it was over, I had been opened.  I felt lighter, and my body no longer ached.  The pain was gone, and I was finally ready to begin.

Liz Filios

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