Communication Beyond Language

posted by Tobie Lee Windham III, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2010

Ciao, to all of the A.C.T. family and friends. It’s your boy, Tobie Windham, and I wanted to take a moment to let you all know how my summer in Italy went. Myself and my fellow third-year classmate, Omozè Idehenre (a.k.a. slick and sly) had the chance to experience a three-week “Demystifying Chekhov” workshop in San Miniato, Italy at the Primo del Teatro European School for the Art of the Actor.

Let me tell you that those three weeks changed my life. This was my first time in Europe, and it was amazingly beautiful. The people were wonderful and the food was even better. (Did you know pepperoni pizza does not exist in Italy? I didn’t.) And I had the chance to eat wild boar, which was sooo good . . . but all I could think about was Pumbaa from The Lion King. Funny, right?

San Miniato, which is between Florence and Pisa, is this jewel of a village that sleeps during the day and comes alive with tons of people around 6 p.m. There was a festival almost every night and the celebration method ranged from small groups of people coming together to sing a few songs to some of these people performing full-out plays with life-size puppets. I was able to see people truly enjoy one another in ways I have never seen in the States. I saw that their appreciation is found not in what a person has, but in who a person is.

The Chekhov workshop was cool, too. Our instructor, Jo Blatchley, is a British director who worked with Peter Brooks in a famous production of Cherry Orchard some years ago. Within the workshop we focused on getting back to the basics. The first five days were spent reading—no, better yet—dissecting two of Chekhov’s best-known plays: Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya. After that, we got to work on scenes. All 16 of us students had to work with someone from another program, and everyone had to speak in their native language. This is where it got interesting. Omozè and I were the only two Americans. The rest of our group were from Italy, Hungary, and Spain. Some spoke a little English and some didn’t at all. With that being said, the scenes went really well—despite the fact that I knew no Italian and no Hungarian. I eventually got to a point where I knew exactly what my scene partners were saying. It was communication beyond language. With Jo we learned how important it is to clearly read Chekhov.

This trip has changed my soul. I left Italy a new person. I feel much more valuable as a person and as an artist. I felt that my voice was one that was needed, welcomed, and accepted. Italy showed me once again how to appreciate myself, something that I had forgotten how to do. I encourage us all to once again find the value in who we are. And, whatever it is we do in life, to really ask yourself: Do I need this? You know I have to say it . . . I looked damn good over there in Italy. Ciao, Bella.

Love you all, my A.C.T. family.

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