A Real Witch In The Rehearsal Room: On Setting Intention and Deep Breathing
It’s 6:00 PM and actors are arriving from terrible traffic, plodding through snow banks and the stress of their day jobs. I am asking them to come in after the sun has already set in Minnesota. I am asking them do more work, learn lines, work their bodies, and connect with other humans in the three hours that stretch over what would normally be dinner time for a lot of us. As people trickle in, we start laughing and chatting. If someone seems particularly on edge someone else pulls them aside to check in. It’s often me but after a couple of weeks together, it’s often not. Once we start working actual pieces from the play, there are expected setbacks but nothing catastrophic. People are having fun & enjoying this.
It isn’t always like this. Magick & theatre are both dependent on a solid cast of collaborators and sometimes all of your best intentions fly out the window if other people don’t get along or if you’ve overlooked a problematic element of the show or even a cast member due to your own privilege. The best laid plans slip away sometimes because of weather, illness, or a slew of other uncontrollable factors. Sometimes you as a project leader will cling too tightly to your vision even if it doesn’t best serve the show because that’s what you were taught to do by bad directors before you.
Not all, but so many of these things can be mitigated by bringing your spirituality into your creative space. My spirituality is eclectic though largely Pagan. In my cast are a Christian, a Satanist, another Pagan, and some people who haven’t disclosed their spiritual beliefs. That means you’re not exactly going to set ups specific spells, rituals or prayers before each rehearsal because you want the whole team to feel apart of it. These are some of the things that help me set a healing space before rehearsals:
Like in Magick, Intention matters a whole hecking lot in art. I always have:
An artistic intention for the show
A healing or spiritual intention for the show
An artistic intention for rehearsal that day
A healing or spiritual intention for that day
In addition to having my own intentions, during warm-ups for rehearsal I always have everyone close their eyes for a second and set their own intention for our time at rehearsal that night. I also close each rehearsal with a question for everyone to ponder that, ideally, will help them set their intention for the next day.
While everyone is setting their intentions, I ask those who are physically able to take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing is crucial to resetting your body, clearing your mind, and generally BEING IN THE MOMENT. At the start of a rehearsal process it allows people space to feel and clear out anything that would get in the way of a good rehearsal.
Being in the moment. I don’t ask my actors to leave their anxiety, trauma or stress at the door the way a lot of directors do. (Though I do ask artists with white privilege, cisgender privilege, able-bodied privilege, etc to think how their emotional reactions might hurt people with less privilege.) I DO ask that artists bring that stress into the scene and use it if they don’t want to/can’t check it at the door. I ask that they work with those emotions and that energy, and I work to make sure we’re all living in that moment. This means that sometimes that outside stress of traffic jams and snow plows DOES melt away. Sometimes it means that a scene is fueled by an actor’s rage at white supremacy or patriarchy. The play comes out beautifully either way.
My experience as a witch has taught me that control of my breathe (when possible), setting intentions and doing the work to manifest my spellwork ultimately get me where I want/need to go. Those same principles apply wonderfully to theatre or any artistic practice—especially when you’re working in a group. I used to work incredibly hard to seperate my art life from my witch life. One day I realized that was cutting myself short in both worlds and since allowing the two to blend, my work has never been the same.
Blessed be y’all!