Saturday, February 7, 2015

Adaptational Adjustment

I recently went to a concert at the CSO (Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası) hall in Ankara, to watch the Presidential Symphony Orchestra play a program of music for strings and woodwind under the baton of Prof. Rengin Gökmen.  As with all their concerts, the standard of playing was consistently high, helping to stimulate the imagination and keeping the audience spellbound.

The first piece they played, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, is a well-known piece – composed in 1936, it has been used on a variety of occasions.  A comprehensive list can be accessed at Wikipedia

I first heard the piece way back in 1990, when the theater director David Leveaux used it as incidental music for his production of As You Like It, that played at the Büyük Tiyatro (Grand Theater) in Ankara; and was the first Shakespearean performance I had since I moved to the Republic of Turkey a year earlier.

Listening to the piece once more evoked several memories: the privilege of being invited into rehearsals for As You Like It, and watching the way Leveaux dealt with the Turkish cast with the help of his translator Lâle Hanım (I forget her surname); talking to designer Vicky Mortimer about her set, a giant green circle representing the Forest of Arden; and above all the way in which the actors were quite happy to have the presence of a foreigner within their midst.  As that time I knew little, if no Turkish; my friend Audrey Uzmen – a designer with the State Theatre who had once worked with London’s Old Vic Company in the 1950s – was generous enough to introduce me, and obtain the cast’s permission for me to watch rehearsals.

That experience taught me a lot: although I had always been interested in theater, I had never realized just how complicated the rehearsal process actually was.  I also understood then how communication actually depends on something beyond words; even if a director and their actors do not understand the same language, they can work together quite happily.  To be honest, Leveaux wasn’t very good at this; he spent too much time using his translator as his mouthpiece and not enough time interacting with his cast.  At the time, however, I did not realize this; it was only when I became more experienced that I understood the significance of nonverbal communication.

Perhaps most importantly I understood how any communicative act, whether in the theater, the classroom or elsewhere, depends on empathy – empathy between director and cast, cast and audience, audience member to audience member and so on.  I realized this only after rehearsals had finished, when I tried to work out why the actors had been so accommodating in allowing me in.  Both they and I must have had some kind of empathy for one another. 

Whenever I work in class, or deliver lectures, or converse with anyone, I try to forge a similar empathy.  Sometimes the task can be difficult, but experience shows that listening rather than talking is a good way to start.  The experience of listening to Barber being performed in the CSO made me realize this once more; it was not only a nostalgic moment, but it had a direct bearing on the way in which I interact with others, whether personally or professionally.

If a concert can stimulate such thoughts, then it must have achieved its purpose.

I reviewed As You Like It at the following address

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