Movement Design

Our workshops with Kali Quinn.

September 6.  September 13.  September 17.  September 20. 

September 6

Suspension. Release. Breath. Connection.

First workshop with Kali and the Vanya cast.
1. Sam & Rory — Hold on Waffles, We’re talking about something.

2. Madeline & Faye — Validate me.

3. Thomas & Cynthia — Escape from the estate.

4. Mike & Ashley — Predator and Prey. (eventually became Mike & Nick in a “Hold on Waffles” moment)

5. Phil & Kali — Needing contact.

6. Phil & Thomas — Scooby & Shaggy  (“Don’t leave me alone with him.”)

7. Reddy & Aurelia — Hide and seek.

8. Nick & Jamie — For once in my life.  (push-pull)

9. Jamie — Little bark.

10. Nick & Jamie & Thomas — Collision. (Vanya walking in on Astrov & Yelena with the roses.)

11. Negative space. (example: when Jamie slipped through a possible trap and escaped)

NOTE: How can we blend or layer two titles together?


Memorable quotes from Kali

  • “Exaggerate your breath more. It will teach your body what to do.”
  • “Balance out the space with your circle and your relationship to other bodies in the space.”
  • “Can ‘touch out’ your doubles or another person in the circle to take over for you.”
  • “We want theater that changes the way people breathe.”
  • “In an ‘Oh Shit’ moment, anything can happen. Anything is possible. We have these in our lives.”
  • “Even if it isn’t said aloud, add ‘Whatever that means to you.’ to the end of any of my directions. There is no right and wrong – it’s all about your interpretation. That will move us all forward.”
  • “Anyone can call ‘suspend’ at any moment.”
  • “Notice moments of tension. When we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
  • “Add a layer of Waffles.”
  • “Adding a title can come in sparks, quick glimpses, or it can blend in completely. You choose.”
  • “How can you be in the same energy of ‘clusterfuck’ when you are far away from other people in that CF moment?”
  • “Knowing we can put ideas outside of ourselves and use them.”
  • “Dolphins in your pelvis.” (From the work of LUME, Brasil.)
  • “Start where you are. Play what is exactly happening vs. trying to force yourself into a    doing you’re not ready for/understanding.” — Example: You are frustrated with the     exercise. Play frustrated in order to be present and teach you what wants to come next.”
  • “I could watch her, and I could see the whole play.” — Example: Judi Dench’s performance in The Royal Family (play by George S. Kaufmann & Edna Ferber).
  • “The vulnerability of joy AND sorrow existing together is ‘the clown’ that we will embrace.”

Passed on from the work of Daniel Stein:

  • “We want to make theater that changes the way people breathe.”
  • “We want to see ‘the how’ of a play.”
  • “What is true in the physical world, is usually also true in the metaphysical world.”
  • “Physical theater not about physical gestures that match the text but working perpendicular to the text.”

Other exercises:

In your left hand hold something that excites you about this play/process. In your right hand hold something that scares the crap out of you. Move the feelings of those dynamics through your body. Top, down, back and forth.

Passing around the “Go!”

  • Can give a “No.” in return (changes the direction). “You” (accusation or offer) across the circle.
  • “Anybody” (toss into the center) and then someone can go claim it with “Got it.” Once claimed take a pride walk around the circle and others in the circle respond to that claim/pride.

If more than 1 person goes and get it? They have a polite off. Keep the polite-off (trying w/sound no words) until there’s a complete change in dynamic. Keep working all the different levels of space during the polite-off. Don’t forget to take the walk of claim after you get it.

  • “Trio” — whoever is pointed to starts to work with sound and draws in the two people on either side into a sound wave (no language but sound). The person who calls “trio” can conduct the trio.
  • “Really?” — (arms out and large volume in body) can hold up the “Go” or the “You” until you feel compelled to pass it along.
  • “Yo.” — Extend the gesture beyond the person beside to the next person. Both the person skipped and the person next to him/her has to leap for it. Only the next person can claim it.

Crazy dance.

  • Until someone begins a suspend. Then respond to that suspension until another person starts the crazy dance again.
  • One person goes to the floor, everyone goes to the floor.
  • One person goes to the wall, we all go to the wall.
  • One person makes breath audible, everyone makes breath audible.

Eyes on all parts of your body. An animal sense. You notice every sense. Any changes. Feel where the group might want to go next. Leading into other connected movements, sounds that connect the group and move it from one dynamic to another. Add in other vocabulary from Go exercise, Crazy Dance, and Moments.

Finger Puppet Theater

Mike & Madeline (Astrov and Marina) from opening of the play. Nick and Jessica providing text.

  • Serious puppeteering.IMG_1709
  • Use all parts of the fingers to walk, notice how many waysIMG_1710 you can turn, fold. Even if it’s only fingers moving, how is the rest of the body invested in that movement.
  • It can be ridiculous. When the text drops in, then they are strings that animate your fingers.
  • Look only at your fingers.
  • 2nd time through — can start to bring in the hands. Anything can happen. No right or wrong.
  • Those speaking text, think of yourselves as puppeteers giving puppets direction.
  • 3rd time through — only hands. Moving away from fingers into full form of hand.
  • The shape of your hand never dies. It’s always doing something.
  • 4th time through — up into your elbow. Can bring hand off the floor but know we’re looking just at the frame of the finger/hand/arm. The reason to go up in space is that those body parts are searching for the character’s ideas, in space.

Building up moving away from the puppet to speaking/moving as character. Helping guide an actor to the thought process of the character. Pulling that from the physical because “what’s happening in the physical world is happening in the metaphysical world.”

Second pairing — the Sonyas and Yelenas (puppeteers Ashley & Cynthia, finger puppets Jamie & Faye)

  • As we add text from Vanya, play w/consonants and vowels and see how those influence your body.
  • Try punctuating the line with the action after you say it. Vs connecting line & action together.
  • Fill the space between the words with sound and movement.
  • Find and ride the roller coasters.
  • Character teams in the exercises, your specific partner can stop/suspend what you are doing by tapping you on the shoulder. Another way to explore the “suspend” moment.

What did we learn?

  • There was a moment when we had two opposite impulses — one towards the floor and one towards movement — could we have maintained those different movements. Homogeneous of heterogeneous parts. (Crying AND laughing; Up AND down; to resist AND to go with it.)
  • Disjointed moments when others were doing things I wasn’t ready to do. How to resolve the fact that I wasn’t ready but I didn’t have any choice but to go. (1 against all.)
  • Connection to Vanya: How much people want different things from different people. And how people don’t want to give it.
  • Thomas’s Ball & chain metaphor.
  • Not wanting to be alone. Diving into a movement or sound inspired by the movement/choices of another.
  • Really knowing within the ensemble that you’re going with things but there are things in your character point of view that resists, contradicts, or something else entirely. Allows you to make bold choices for and against.
  • Consciousness where the partner in a character team was at times in the chaos of action. An anchor.

Post-lullaby exercise moment realizations/notations:

  • Seeing the ‘other-halves’ work together was like a doubling of the energy of those characters.
  • When Thomas demanded quiet, a moment of great anxiety. Dividing folks into half who wanted to resist him and those who wanted quiet, peace (Sonyas especially).
  • Seeing the two Yelenas walk away together invoked a kind of child-like defiance that seemed very apt for that character.

“You surprise(d) me.” — Another title/phrase to use/ask as we move through these exercises.

How do people survive not doing stuff like this? I need my dose of humanity. — Faye.

September 13


EXERCISE: “Want to Say”

Everyone in the room has something you want and you also have something to give. This turns into the want to say something to a parter and builds until each partner has to speak. Then continues but without words.


 “Come. Stop. Stay. Sit.” – PHIL & ASHLEY

  • power dynamic btw Professor & Yelena;
  • shapes in the body that show status and power – Phil’s pouncing posture, both low and directly connected to everything that Ashley was doing
  • the opening of Act 2 when she’s telling the Professor to stop complaining but he won’t
  • Yelena’s “playing dead” tactic—is she really disinterested or just pretending/scared about trying?

“Playing Dead” – Centered in Yelena’s tactics but all characters do this to some extent. (for example, when Sonya tells Yelena to go feed sick or take care of the poor)


Add language:

  • “Alright alright alright.”
  • “You gotta You gotta You gotta.”
  • “14 years. “


  • What continuity of relationships between the Sonyas, Vanyas, Astrovs, builds and what continuity builds across relationships Sonya/Vanya, Vanya/Astrov, Sonya/Astrov?
  • Tension building between one pair shifts when a new person enters the duo. Crossing lines has consequences.
  • When 2 kids are playing together, enjoying each other until one changes and decides not to play anymore and the whole tone changes. Pull out the “Oh shit” time and space to extend the tension.
  • Slap-hand fighting. A Sonya tactic. How does or does it not work with other characters beyond Vanya?
  • Sam’s Death Rattle.

“Sweet to bitter.”

  • Remembering that there are always these extremes in each relationship and that crossing the line might be different for each person.

OTHER TITLES (not yet explored)

  •  “Think about it logically.” – NICK & MADELINE
  • “The Vortex” – THOMAS & AURELIA
  • “the Proposal” – REDDY & MIKE
  •  “No, you’re great. No you’re great.” – FAYE & SAM
  •  “Fangirling” – CYNTHIA & JAYA
  •  “Rotten Strawberries” – RORY & JAMIE



  • Blank Canvas vs “neutral” – start from space of absolute possibility
  • Where do you hold  “oh shit” moments in your body?
  • Notice how the shapes you take on affect the metaphysical.


One observes the other’s body shape and then reverses


  • Faye — contrast between benevolence or authoritarian in each gesture w/face neutral but body changes
  • Aurelia – that’s not just an affect on the person observing but the person doing the embodying as well.
  • Nick – when the point command was given everyone pointed at their partner
  • Jamie – not quite as flexible in the relations – always antagonistic
  • Jaya – status changes were incremental as the person shifts through the different movements; raising in intensity (if we really want what we want we’re going to go full-body)
  • Phil—I’m doing this so I’m making this happen vs. I want this to happen so I’m doing this.
  • Rory – So much happens in the eyes even when the face is neutral; contrast btw cold aloofness that could change to genuinely helpful comes through the eyes
  • Thomas – more intensity when not thinking about face; doing the action and then the words – punctuating the line with action vs. waiting – cascade of things that can “speak”
  • Madeline – stillness of punctuated gesture holds tension, holds menace


  • “not speaking then moving – it’s all speaking”
    • The “roller coaster” or “onomatopoeia” movement as a way to reconnect you to all three parts of that “speaking”.
  • Intercorporeal – changes w/in body (vs. interspatial changes in space with the body)
  • Eyes of the body and how they move in space (similar to Stanislavski’s “circles of attention”)
  • Kinesthetic sphere – think of the volume of the body as 360—a “sculpture of story”. In this sphere let’s talk in terms of volume (high or low).
  • Once you start to be articulate you realize how you can be so much more articulate.  It’s never-ending.
  • The neck is the “thermometer of vulnerability” – a whole rage of articulation possible – whole musicality available with head and neck.
  •  “Google your own set of experiences for examples of this” (or “Use your imagination” for us old folks say Jules & Jeff)

EXERCISE: FINGER-ARM-BODY-PAINTING (An exercise from Daniel Stein)

Create painting with your finger (eyes of the head), forearm (eyes of the chest), to whole arm (eyes of the pelvis) 


  • Faye– just finger/eyes in head not really committed, as more body involved passion seemed ignited/connected
  • Phil – eyes of the pelvis, then it became one body vs. trunk & legs
  • Rory – confidence level rising as the gesture got bigger, more involved with more of the body – “almost worthy of your actions”
  • Jaya – scope of the painting increased as the body more involved
  • Aurelia – head, forearm to full arm – more dimensions 1D to 2D to 3D
  • Nick – watching person across, with smaller gestures both of us paying more attn. to the picture more body paying more attn. to person behind the painting/gesture


  1. Eyes of the head = mind (STANISLAVSKI)= head =super ego = practical = think
  2. Eyes of the Chest= feeling (STANISLAVSKI)= heart = ego = emotional = want
  3. Eyes of the pelvis =will (STANISLAVSKI) = gut = animal/id = primal = need


  • When all three eyes face each other directly our KISS OR KILL instincts take over.
  • We find ways to avoid connecting all of our “eyes” directly with another person because once that’s done, the feeling is too intense; it seems to require a very specific, reaction in response.
  • If we disagree with someone, it can be cause one person is coming from their head vs. the other person speaking/acting/thinking from their heart
  •  “this is why we can have major arguments while driving/riding in the car – none of our eyes are facing each other”
  • Adding circles of attention to the eyes of head/heart/gut – has to do with volume of the body and what part of space you are taking in.
  • The eyes of the chest have much more breath – that then influences changes of voice and emotion. Let these things play in concert with one another. Teaching each other how to move forward.
  • Tension helps illuminate vulnerability.  Without the person who connects you – you might fall.


 EXERCISE: Toward or Away, Body Language, Public/Private Rotation

Step toward or away from your partner based on your impulse. Notice status, narrative. Add body language options. Then rotate – take in how you react (private but with full body). Then share that turn away with someone (audience; then another character with which you share a relationship on stage; then expand that to take in the entire room of people). Add others. Full play. How do you find an ending?

TITLE: “IT’S COMPLICATED” (building off the “It’s early” motto from Tuesday’s production mtg.)

EXERCISE: Clapping (Lean in/out) Game


  • Phil – “Watching people not know[ing] is really cool.”
  • Nick – I felt “beholden to the audience” resentful of them too.
  • Kali –Easier to figure out what you want to do interspatialy vs. intercorporealy
  • Madeline — Thinking about the play – watching people come so close to good choices (Vanya so many years ago, Astrov w/Sonya) but not choosing them. – how frustrating that can be but also funny.
  • Nick—Even when I knew I needed to so something else, I couldn’t let go of what I’d chosen to do.
  • Rory–Action is always better than inaction.
  • Aurelia – “being wrong is easier to correct; then to be half-way right.”

NEW TITLE — “Keep doing what you’re doing but now in the spirit of the clapping game”

Changing the Clapping Game to add Vanya character dynamics – 1 vanya (Sam) + 1 other person on stage (Phil/The Professor). Sam does not know what he’s needing to do. Phil (on-stage) wants him to do one thing and the audience wants him to do another. Sam has to make both happen before his standing ovation. Phil can devise his own system of yes/no for Sam to decipher. The audience uses lean-in/lean-out.


  • Phil made our (the audience’s) objective more clear by resisting it.

Now looking at a Sonya monologue (middle of Act 2) with Faye & Cynthia “in the spirit of the clapping game”


  • Allows audience response to help make/refine acting choices.
  • Allows for further actor vulnerability in relationship to the audiences wants/needs.

Be gentle with me. — Nick

September 17

Images from the “Snap pass” exercise that migrated into the “ball pass” exercise where the ball and group catching grew bigger and bigger. Followed by word maps, connecting the 20th/21st century play scenes we read with the world of Vanya.



September 20



A new ensemble member will facilitate this process each rehearsal.

  • Think facilitator vs. leader.
  • This is our ritual.
  • Not about an agenda.
  • The facilitator has to have finger on the pulse on what’s happening. Really listen to what’s happening to shape that action.
  • Warm-up intention: “to arrive” “to tap into body” “to connect to the text”

Let’s call it the “Pathway to Play”


  • Balance out the space.
  • Stretch
    • free, efficient, relaxed
    • Add voice
    • Walk Around Space
      • Add game of some sort
        • Options: friend/enemy, want to say, eye contact
        • Circle
          • Announcements
          • Scene work questions (JEFF)
          • Hands
            • Put something into your left hand that you KNOW about that scene.
            • Put something into your right hand that you DON’T know about the scene, scares you.
            • How does what you know move through your body? Knees, hips, elbows, head, shoulders (lightness).
            • How does what you don’t know move your body? Head, arms, chest, pelvis, knees, feet. (heaviness).
            • Toss ‘em up.
            • Go Pass Game (Go, No, You, etc. – without words possibly)GamesMovementVanya
              • Add a new rule having to do with the new scene
                • Today’s example: “Validate me” has become a new “rule” in the
                • Another addition: “This part of the play is about” has also become a new “rule” in the circle came. You can point to another person and hat person has to finish that sentence and keeps talking until that person picks someone else to either make answer that question or restarts the “Go” passing again.
              • Another addition: “This part of the play is about” has also become a part of the circle game. The one who receives the command, moves around the circle begging for something. He/she has to continue until the begging is met. “Please” is the word that might come in to play. Include toward and away when feeling drawn or repelled. When the person gives him what he asks show it to the rest of the group.
              • Hilary to add it to the board
  • Countdown (54321 shake-out)
  • Crazy Dance
    • Stop/Start/Fall/Wall
    • Into FREE PLAY
      • Into the world of the scene

Today’s example: Action 25 (in Act 4) – Vanya has taken the morphine, Astrov knows and pursues him to return it, Vanya only returns it after Astrov asks Sonya for help with the situation

Jeff’s facilitated additions:

  • Adding three pieces of text from the scene for ensemble to use
  • Going into scene
    • Slow motion sit
    • Pairs to support their partners within the scene
    • Everyone on the outside to participate watching/listening

OBSERVATIONS from free play of the scene:

  • Intense.
  • Support.
  • Staying in tune at all times.
  • Everything that everyone says has an effect on characters off-stage.
  • Pushing yourself to the edge of indecision.  Always on the verge of something horrible. Being on the precipice. It’s a kind of presence that is about not knowing where things are going to go.
  • Going in thinking that Vanya wasn’t really threatening to kill himself but now … not so sure it’s just a gesture or aggrandizement.
  • Astrov knowing about Sonya’s feelings for him.
  • More opportunities to do direct address. Giving the audience an identity that we acknowledge and act with.
  • What effect would Vanya’s death (suicide by gun or morphine) have on Astrov? Still unanswered question.
  • Committing to giving up. Committing to a restart of life.
  • Scene is a spiritual death. Not a question of “would he kill himself” but “will he every allow himself to live”?
  • Being in the “clapping game” spirit – getting drawn into the possibility that the script might change. Vanya might kill himself. But then seeing the decision not to raised the stakes and investment in what might have happened.

Additional Movement/Character Creation Vocabulary

Min-Max of a gesture

  • Each actor to play with their gesture from levels 1-10
  • The gesture going from specific to abstract (ie. opening the window)
  • Interspacial – Movement within the body standing in one place
  • Intercorporeal – Movement through space. What kind of path do they make?

Each Ensemble Member charted their basic body attitude shape for each act based on the following vocabulary:


  • Pitch (High-Low)
    • Tension in the body
  • Rhythm (Fast-Slow)
    • Various speeds/tempos to move at
  • Volume (Large-Small/Internal-External)
    • How much space you take up or how much confidence you have
  • Spine
    • How are these body attitudes connected in your spine and how is your spine different in all of these positions?


They then used these as suspension bridge moments that they linked together with roller coaster sound/movement pathways in between. This will be used as a starting place and reminder for scene work.


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