President Lessac Training & Research Institute
5:00am wake-up. Kids have to be woken up, lunches packed, homework papers have to be signed and pushed into backpacks along with the silent prayer that said kids can find now crumpled paperwork as needed later in their day. Showers and breakfasts all around, cups of tea, dressing for class (is there a faculty meeting, should I throw a jacket in the car for after?). Double-check that private clients haven’t cancelled or adjusted their appointments for the day.
Traffic. At 6:10am I slow to a California roll a couple of miles away and pick up Lessac Practitioner Mao Yanagawa Gray at her apartment. (Not really, I do actually pull over.) She is traveling with me to as many of my classes as possible to not only reinvigorate the work within herself, but also with the hopes of moving towards Certification. We talk about the day’s lesson plans in both my 10A and 10B classes (beginning and advanced voice for the stage). The classes are back to back. 8am-9:20am, then 9:30am-10:50am. She is very helpful and very good.
7am. We arrive at Santa Monica College and get more tea. Must. Have. Tea. We unlock the mat closet and pull out the music box. I insert a CD to help create a welcoming space for the early risers. I write the day’s lesson plan on the board and any assignments due, etc. I hold office hour time from 7:15am-7:45am and mostly use the time to double-check that I’ve graded all things I’m handing back, check emails. Occasionally, someone drifts in after the official time is over, say at 7:50am with a burning question that needs more than the ten minutes I have to clarify. Mao and I head to class.
Twenty minutes of body work followed by the day’s unit at hand. 25 people now in class. Attrition has brought it from 40 to 25, though it took a month. (Door locked at ten minutes in- sorry, no one enters after that.) Goal: actor training is physical training and that includes voice and that includes discipline. Each vocal unit corresponds with physical work. I pair small ball roll introduction with the introduction of ybuzz. Why? It is a small concentrated thing, too. It seems to go together. When we learn Call, we learn expanded sphere, when we learn structure we learn push-up series (the body reinforcing what the mouth and shape do.) They know by now there is a very connected reason behind every physical experience we do so I no longer get, “now, WHY exactly are we doing push-ups in voice?” I ask THEM. “So, what are you observing as you explore this? What does it give you? What awareness comes into your personal sphere?”
Class is over, announcements made, journals/markings returned. A few people linger to ask questions. I have to kick them out, the advanced class is streaming in. They know the system. They are on the floor with body work and sit-ups and calls and humming before the class starts. Most of them. I lock the door again. (Even here, there are those who test me on this.) I. Don’t. Give. In.
Advanced takes the work deeper, 24 people now. We are playfully exploring The Old Resident and Gettysburg and full-length monologues with each vocal unit. I integrate an Embodied Actor Form for them to help with their research of their play and character. This class is about taking the work into their scenework, rehearsals and performances and is Socratic. They are learning how to give each other good positive notes, notes where they give someone something to DO, not something they didn’t do. We actually did an approximation of the Tonal 8/9 last week, in a modified way, that still yielded results because we are always striving to improve, not make something perfect. You cannot come up with newborn creative expression if you are worried about perfection. Can the Tonal 8/9 be a fresh exploration each time, where you find it each time with a readiness and spirit and sense of play and sense of search….the same way we must search with curiosity for our ybuzz daily. Yyyyyes, yyyyes, it can.
Second office hour finishes by 11:30am and then I take Mao home, lunch, see a private client, or go to the Play Production class at Burbank High where I secured a grant to be their year long Artist in Residence. I’ve been teaching them Lessac once a week since September. I coached both shows and their speech pieces and traveled with them to Berkeley for their competitions. Hormones and emotions fly rampant with drama kids, I find myself teaching the healing aspects of the work as frequently as anything else. Toxins, jealousy, poisons, Lessac gives them tools for diffusing and some use. Some do not. I wait. I long for the aha moment that I may not ever see.
3pm: school’s out. I have to pick up kids, shuttle them somewhere or another, shop, make dinner, work out and spend time with the family. Sometimes, on the days I don’t have PlayPro, I am able to write, but not as much as I’d like. Sometimes writing is put on hold because I’m organizing a West Coast Workshop or writing an article, or organizing my TheatrePLAY kids workshops which takes the work into elementary schools for theatre workshops. Or perhaps I just happen to have a more full private client list this month. (I take the work, because you never know when the work will cancel or diminish, so I take the work. France. Remember France with the family last year for Christmas? This was made possible due to taking the work.) Current workshops in the works are one TheatrePLAY class, two more local Weekenders and one week-long in Spain. I prepping to direct The Tempest in June and am currently also coaching Much Ado at SMC. They open the same day. You can do everything, but you can’t do everything at the same time, I keep reminding myself and I keep defying.
7pm: If I’m coaching a show, or have a PTA meeting, I’ve left the home-made dinner, the crock pot is my best friend, on the stove for the hubby to dole out and headed out in traffic. Again.
Home late. Bed. Rinse. Repeat on another day. My college load is currently two days a week, the other mornings are busy with private clients or the above multiple plates that I keep spinning. I try, try, try to save full morning a week for myself. I’m not very good at keeping it.
Or, on free nights, we’ve cuddled and watched Survivor or Amazing Race or read or gone to the theatre or walked the dog and played Charades. My daughter tells me I should never, ever show you how I did “It’s a Wonderful Life” one night during Charades.
What do I want? I dream of a studio that all of the LA Lessac friends can share, like a coop. I want it in an arts area, near my house. I want to teach small group sessions for people looking to continue the work or for working actors, teachers, directors, etc….it is a goal, I do not think it impractical, but there is time and money to consider and college lies ahead for one kid, so there’s that.
How glorious is it that every second of this day I love what I’m doing? Just an average day in the life of me.
Crystal is mom to Maeve, 17, and Jarek, 13 and wife to the extremely supportive Jim.
Day Two of my classes usually yields a journal prompt such as, “After today’s introduction to the body pain relievers, examine your lived experiences, can you bear witness to any times you’ve perceived the use of body pain relievers? Please share in your journal. Experiment with them!” When a student responds as Ms. Camano did below in her Day Two Journal Entry, even before body energies are fully defined, I know I am seeing some authentic exploring and awareness with a student. Many thanks to Beginning Voice student Sol Camano for sharing this important moment of her connection!
“Shake releases tension in the body.” I love this because I have experienced and seen this occur before my eyes through dance and music. Over the summer I was working in Greece at different refugee camps, where stress and anxiety are high among the people and there’s not much tolerance for artistic movements due to lack of supplies and the police force. The group I was working with on the island of Khios decided that at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer, we should have a great celebration with food, music, and dance. We got together drums, shakers, guitars, and fun costumes for the volunteers and refugees for the special night. When the day came we packed the vans and headed to one of the bigger camps on the island, Vial, with many volunteers eager to say how this would play out since it was the first time music was being brought into the camp. Upon arrival, many of the refugees were curious to see what all the hustle was about and helped us carry the supplies down to an open field. Almost at once they picked up drums and shakers and began playing music with the most beautiful rhythm and sound I have ever heard; their bodies and voices in perfect synch to the music. Crowds began to gather with children, women, and men making a big inclusive circle around the performers. Some children would make their way to the middle and show of their own dance moves; moving quickly with agile steps and lots of fancy hand movements. Everyone was smiling and laughing, hearts full and bright, thankful for a couple hours of relief. I was amazed at how strong the good energy was and how all groups were dancing with one another; Afghans, Syrians, Nigerians, Iraqi’s and so on. There was no hostility or division or segregation; simply love and cheer all around.
When you mentioned the affect “shake” has on our bodies I instantly recalled this night because it seemed that just for those two hours, all those families, who are living in absolute torment, had some time to release and relax. One of the women that joined the drum circle was an amazing musician, making up beats on the drum that would fit perfectly with the songs that were being played, and I told her so. She smiled with glistening eyes and put my hand on her belly; her baby was kicking softly. I’ll never forget that moment; it has stayed with me forever.
I am a firm believer in the magic of music and dance and how they can heal the human being, even if it’s just for the time being. Even if you’re not particularly good or talented in either, just letting your body move and shake off whatever may be bringing you down, is very therapeutic. I have had many anger dance offs in the privacy of my room after a stressful day and lots of personal concerts in the vicinity of my enclosed car where my throat was sore by the end.
Ms Camano: Thank you for sharing with such moving detail about this significant experience in your life. I can’t wait for you to discover more about the Lessac work. Before you know it those “personal concerts in the car” won’t end in a sore throat. Forward! Crystal
One Week Lessac Voice & Body Workshop
June 5 - June 10, 2017
Columbus State University - Columbus, GA, United Sates
Specifically designed for those interested in experiencing stronger, more resonant vocal quality with ease, in conjunction with creating more physical flexibility, strength and expressive body movement. This training is beneficial for actors, singers, directors, lawyers, ministers, presenters, business men and women—in short, anyone interested in vocal/body life!
University of Mary Washington - Fredericksburg, VA, United States
June 18 - June 23, 2017
University of Mary Washington - Fredericksburg, VA, United States
Lessac Summer Intensive Workshop 2017
July 2 - July 29, 2017
DePauw University - Greencastle, IN, United Sates