Physical chaos affects or creates the internal chaos we experience mentally or emotionally. Using Stanislavsky’s Active Analysis, Three Circles of Circumstances, we can start to identify what physical chaos we might be in. The Large Circle of Circumstances are the unchangeable things affecting the character; be it history, environment or past. The Middle Circle of Circumstances is time; the domain of the playwright. The Smallest Circle of Circumstances is the present moment; the domain of the actor. If you want more details about Stanislavsky's Active Analysis my graduate Professor Hugh O'Gorman has a beautiful scholarly article called "The Architecture of Action" that explains the technique in detail. For now, here is what I believe our current circle of circumstances are: the Pandemic, politics and home life.
The Large Circle affecting us all now is the Pandemic. We cannot control the pandemic, it is fully affecting and working on us. We are waiting for the pandemic to end and we don’t know how long it’s going to last, but it has fully affected the year of 2020. One of the biggest things about the Pandemic is how it’s affecting the way we live life, we have to wear a mask now, we can’t shop or go out like we used to, everything has changed and that is working on us, currently affecting our internal state of being. It feels unmanageable because it is the physical chaos around us. Let’s put politics in the middle circle, because it’s not as big as the pandemic, although politics create pressure and affect time because we are in an election year.
U.S. Politics are a Middle Circle of Circumstances working on those of us that live in the United States. We are in an election year, so the pressure of time and what will happen with the position of president is absolutely critical and chaotic. Sometimes I think it feels out of my control. Politics, whether I engage with our current political system or not, affects me. Whatever side of politics, it affects my life and may even affect my friendships. The time of an election year is physical chaos and we are constantly having to navigate a way through it.
The Small Circle of Circumstances is our actual day to day life in the present moment. If you’re an actor, contracts have been put on hold until the pandemic is over. You're figuring out how to read plays on zoom, or upload content on social platforms just to stay creative. Or maybe you're a teacher learning how to physically teach the arts in a way we have never had to do. If you’re a parent, perhaps you're figuring out how to homeschool your child and simultaneously working from home, if you still have a job. This is physical chaos in our current moment circumstances. How do you manage it? How do you control it? We can’t! We have to accept this is our current state of circumstances and so guiding our way through it is what we're having to deal with.
As an actor I have found ways to manage my internal state of being when there is chaos around me. I have a strong faith now, so spending time with God, or my heart (I’ll explain what I mean by this later in emotional chaos) are the biggest things I have to do in the small circle in order to manage my life throughout the day, while the other two circles are affecting my current state of being. Exercising, specifically riding my bike outside has helped me get present and breathe. When we were quarantined I bought a trampoline and whenever I felt physically frustrated from teaching on zoom all day, I sang loudly and jumped on my trampoline to get my blood pumping again. Exercise of some sort always makes me feel better. You know this, you’ve read this, that why getting your physical body moving or outside is so imperative.
If I’m grateful for anything about what the Pandemic has done, it is seeing more people walk or be outside. Especially families. I feel like people are so sick of being quarantined, or have watched everything they can on media platforms that we are desperate to be outside. When we were told to stay at home, the liberty of being able to leave felt taken away or at least restricted. I believe it drove us all to play outside again like we did in the 90's. I don’t think we’ve ever been more grateful of our time with family, friends, restaurants being open or having a bike or trail to walk on. Figuring out how I can get physically outside and get my body moving has helped me deal with the unchangeable circumstances of the Pandemic, or my frustrations about politics.
So, in the middle of our present physical chaos what can we do? Simply, acknowledge it. Pandemic, politics, or home life, whatever feels like pressure at this time, we cannot change them, we can only accept them. Ah, there is the peace of mind again. I’ve accepted I cannot control the pandemic, everyone's political views, or the fact that I don’t have a job, or I’m living at my dads again in my mid-thirties, or that it’s difficult to live or work because of all the circle of circumstances I am currently in.
Once I’ve accepted this truth, I can have peace and clarity. I might even scream to physically let out my frustrations. I usually sing at the top of my lungs when I’m alone so I can let out any frustrations I have about my physical environment. I use Michael Chekhov's psychological gestures or Catherine Fitzmaurice's Voicework to get the emotional frustrations out of the body. This feeds more into the emotional chaos I’ll write about later. However, in order to manage my internal state in the middle of physical chaos, the first thing I have to do is accept that I have no control over anything. Then allowing myself to feel whatever I have to feel. Because if I suppress or ignore how these things are affecting me, I will legit go nuts. Even if I ignore what I am in, for example, if I am in a state of stress and literally just surviving, acknowledging what I am in actually feels impossible at the moment; I bet parents especially feel this way. Then I need to make an appointment with myself later to address it, whether it's when I'm alone taking a shower or using the restroom. It is called "rest"room for a reason. Sometimes I hear God most when I'm on the toilet. It is where I have to stop everything to let my body do what it needs to do (lol sorry if this is TMI), but truly, if you have no time to yourself, you still have those small moments in the restroom where you can connect with yourself and breathe. Ignoring what's true for me regardless of what's going on around me will only make me depressed. The physical chaos affects my mental and emotional state of being. I’ve learned as an actor that ignoring this affects me greatly in my life. They say in improvisation, accept everything, deny nothing. I think that’s some good advice. Thanks, whoever said that. #anactorsguidetochaos #physicalchaos #activeanalysis #circlesofcircumstance #pandemic #politics #now #acceptance #peace