Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts’

Creating from Unconscious Thought

In Author: Jim Hart on September 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

Entrepreneurial Arts Training must have equal parts artistic and entrepreneurial techniques. We must invest deeply in each or one will suffer.

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

I want to discuss a phenomenon, which is one of the keys to artistic freedom and greatness. Though I give examples from theatre, it is a phenomenon that can be experienced in dance, in painting, writing or any other art form.

  • The Japanese call it Mushin.
  • Joseph Campbell refers to our brains being a secondary organ.
  • The Balinese Topeng dancer transcends present consciousness, becoming a conduit for the Gods.
  • Actors refer to this as “going up”.

This all points towards this phenomenon.

This state of mind, what the Japanese call “Mushin”, is where the gems of the creative process occur. What happens in this state is that our conscious mind ceases to attempt to control the creative process and “something else” takes over. We commit to risk. We free-fall, trusting that we will be safe, that there is a net, trusting that the words will come, that our bodies will kick in and that all of the rehearsing we have done, what the French call répétition (repeat) will enable us to let go and release.

We must learn our varied techniques to the degree that they become second nature. We must develop these skills to the point that we do not have to think about the mechanics of our technique. Ex. A master woodcarver does not think about how they are holding the chisel and hammer. They do so naturally, as a result of much practice. It is ingrained within them and no longer needs to be at the conscious level. If one is thinking about their technique, they will not be free and ultimately, their performance or creation will have a stifled quality and not be as dynamic as it can be.

Each of us understands what an impulse is and what it feels like. I like to refer to impulses as being the lighting-quick voice in our heads that says, “Do this. Do this”. In the words of my college theatre professor at SMU, Dale Moffitt, typically, there is a second voice that arises, which he calls, “The watcher at the gates of the mind”. This voice tells us, “Don’t do that. You aren’t doing that right. Everyone is judging you. You aren’t good enough”, etc. It is our job to push this voice down and listen to the constant stream of creative impulses—and here is the trick—to do so without first judging them or being fearful of them.

Often, when creating, we are “mind-full” of external and internal matters, which restricts our ability to create in a fluid, dynamic fashion. To arrive at this state of creating from a place of unconscious thought, we must focus deeply, in an outward fashion and allow ourselves to turn our “minds” off. Using theatre as an example, we cease to be mindful of the audience, of our lines, what action we are sending, the agent or casting director in the audience, etc. Instead, we focus so completely, that all of that fades out of consciousness and we begin to create from “another place”.

Typically, an actor who has “gone up”, only realizes that they have entered this state of consciousness, once they fall out of it. Typically too, one is not entirely aware of the minute choices they made within the moment of this state, as they are no longer observing and controlling, but have released and become a conduit.

It has been my personal experience that when a performer enters this state, the audience cannot help but be sucked in. People, after the show, will often talk about “that moment”, as being amazing. It is during this state, that one expresses “truth”–or so much as can be expressed in the creation of illusion.

The great irony is that if one tries to get to this state of consciousness, they are guaranteed to not get there. Why? Because they are controlling the process. This place is achieved when we free-fall, when we get out of the way of ourselves. We get there by trusting that all of our technique is there, that we are going to be safe, by accepting the inherent risks (which typically translate to mean potential embarrassment). The greatest way to get there is to invest completely in play. We must play as children do.

Surely each of us has engaged in some creation, where we are so engrossed in the process that we lose track of time and find that hours have flown. This is the land of Mushin.

Play is the reason we do what we do, as artists, yes? We can convince ourselves, and others, about all of the higher ideals and purposes we have, being the real reasons we create (social change, to enable others to have catharsis, etc), but the real reason, at its base level, is because it is fun. It gives us bliss. That is why we artists do what we do.

We have fun playing King Lear and tearing at the heavens. We have fun playing Hamlet and experiencing a range of emotion in a few hours that few people experience in a year.

Play, bliss, joy is the way. Controlling, intellectualizing, playing technique, being too mindful is the problem.

Let yourself free-fall. Believe me—there is a net. Once you experience Mushin, if you have not already, you might, as I have, make this state of consciousness, freedom of expression and release the goal and the measure to which you strive in all creative processes.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and  ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010. To reach Hart,  email    jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

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What Type of Artist are You? What is your Function?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 9, 2009 at 5:49 am

Artists can play many roles in our society and have, throughout history, been thought to exist somewhere between high priest and prostitute.

When we look to cultures past, attempting to understand their values, their thinking, often we look at their art for insight.

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

Artists, unequivocally, play an valuable function in society, one that often achieves the test of time and promotes change and cultural identity.

Some artists don’t give a second thought as to what specific role they are playing or what impact their work might be having. Many do not know, specifically, who the audience is that they are trying to reach, to speak to and serve.

Here are some questions I encourage you to ask of yourself:

What role are you playing?

•    Are you serving to aide your audience to experience escapism? Do you help them to forget their troubles and be transported to fantasyland, to the realm of the imagination?

•    Do you serve as an agitator, to cause people to think, to stir up preconceptions?
•    Are you politically oriented, attempting to promote change?
•    Do you serve as educator?
•    Are you a conscience to your society, serving as a mirror, holding up what you see and reflecting it back to your audience?

There is a wide range of options.

In fact, one can play many roles, simultaneously.

In Bali, Indonesia, a culture I have had the privilege to spend a good amount of time in, the Topeng dancer serves as a literal conduit for the gods. The Balinese believe this dancer serves as a channel, through which, spiritual forces enter and exit, blessing the community in the process (this is a theatre of necessity). But these village rituals are not just spiritual ceremonies, but are entertainment as well. Like Shakespeare would craftily do, they speak to many audiences, simultaneously—from the educated higher castes to the peasant lower cast. These dances can, in the course of one evening, go from trance-induced performance of ancient ritual to bawdy genital humor. It serves a spiritual function AND as escapism. These ancient dances, repeated for literally thousands of years, give a sense of cultural identity to youth. It teaches them about who they are as a people and gives them a sense of communal pride and interconnectivity.

If you are not already doing so, I encourage you to be specific about what role or roles you would like to play. You do not have to wear the same hat each and every time you create. You can wear a different hat for each collaboration that you take part in.

Here are some more questions:

How might you like to be remembered, should your work stand the test of time?

What impact on your audience, culture, society, nation, and world would you like to have?

Do you have any interest in your work standing the test of time? Though that is something that we can never personally control, here is a clue in how to increase the likelihood of your work lasting some time: Speak via universal themes. Open your message to humanity. Speak to the human condition. Appeal to that which is universal to the human animal.

Do you have a message?

Do you have a voice?

What role will you play?

Jim Hart  is the founder of The Hart Technique, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more information on these endeavors and Hart, see www.harttechnique.com

Is Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 4, 2009 at 6:30 am

A lot of people define their sense of self, based on what they do for a living. Artists are notorious for this. They think of themselves as, “I am an actor” “I am a dancer” “I am a writer”, etc.

Tricky thing about such a line of thinking is that if you are not working, what are you then?

Most Americans will have 6 careers in their life.

Many Americans have up to 6 careers in their lifetime.

Defining one’s identity via what one does can lead to identity crises over time.

Certainly, most of us ask what it is we want to do, numerous times in our lives. I have heard that many Americans will have up to 6 careers in their lifetime. This further illustrates that we are all in a constant state of change.

Of course, each of us “is” more than just what we do. Still, many artists feel so passionately about the work they create, that they identify themselves strongly with their art. In such cases,  I encourage the individuals to not just identify themselves by the type of medium they practice, but, as Artists–creative artists, at that. One may be a creative artist who acts or paints or does photography or…all of the above.

I believe that artists are artists are artists. Every artist creates from the same place
–we simply have different tools to express ourselves. Some of us use our bodies, some film equipment, some computers, etc.

Mastering technique in one form or discipline will enable one to pick up other mediums of artistry. When we hop mediums, we need only learn the new tools or “rules” of the medium.

Another tricky thing about identifying oneself as, say, “an actor”, is that it can cause the artist to mentally rule out other possibilities and potential–like writing or directing, teaching or producing.

Nearly everyone in the field of theatre, began in an acting class. Acting classes are the window into the medium. Many leave acting to pursue directing, design, producing, writing, technical theatre, stage management, etc. Once again, change is represented. One who begins in an acting class and discovers a passion for directing or design is not a “failed actor”. They are creative artists who direct or design.

Most artists today cannot afford to think in such a limited fashion. There are not enough professional opportunities to do so. The markets are over saturated. We need to be teaching our artists to have “a wider directional perspective”. Rather than thinking about what opportunities exist in a narrow sort of thinking, (ex. Do these few things, via these few paths to find work in your medium), we need to teach them to broaden their perspectives and ask the question, “What can I do with my skill sets”? What opportunities exist? Where are there needs to be filled? What gives me joy? What are ALL of my interests? How do I synthesize my many interests, into a single endeavor?

Such a line of thinking and practice will lead to more artists with unique voices. New aesthetics will emerge. Greater innovation will occur and these students and graduates will dramatically increase their potential to make a living via their creativity.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway, and The Hart Technique.  www.harttechnique.com

American Arts Education Needs Change. (Audio Recording)

In Author: Jim Hart on August 31, 2009 at 12:36 am

Jim Hart, founder of The Hart Technique, proposes a new standard for arts education. This podcast was originally recorded July 14, 2009. James Hart (Jim), founder of The Hart Technique

American arts education is largely ALL arts technique and no REAL business technique. Our artists are trained to create works of art, but not to market and profit  from their creations. This standard in the American arts educational offerings leads to wide-spread under and unemployment. It is a system that dis empowers our artists and pushes them to rely on others for nearly all of their creative and professional opportunities. We need change.

Jim Hart

Listen to this AUDIO PODCAST 

Jim Hart is currently founding Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, a full-time study in entrepreneurial arts training. ACPA will open doors in August of 2010 and will have a foundational philosophy in The Hart Technique. For more information, see www.harttechnique.com

Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I built a school in Oslo, Norway called The International Theatre Academy Norway, which begins its 6th year of operation this year. The school is entrepreneurial arts training for Theatre Artists.

One of the unique components of the school, and which I will incorporate into the new curriculum at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), which opens in Austin in August of 2010, is that students build original projects, which they implement in the community, outside of the school environment. We push the students into the market and the develop a professional network, while still in school.Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

I would give students the assignment that they must create a one-person show. The stipulation? They could use NONE of the school’s resources and had to produce the work in a professional or semi-professional space, outside of the school and in the community. They would then have to:

•    Write it
•    Direct it
•    Produce it
•    Act in it
•    Budget
•    Fundraise
•    Allocate funds
•    Generate all resources necessary
•    Negotiate and sign contracts for space, technical needs, etc.
•    Market their show
•    Generate press via radio, papers or TV
•    And finally put butts in seats (who paid to view their show) and profit.

In brief, they had to be largely self-sufficient and had to stand on their own legs, creatively and professionally. They had to be the engines for their own creativity. You can imagine this assignment was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I would tell the students, “The point is not to be as brilliant as Ibsen, though that would be great if you are, though it is improbable that you will be. Genius comes with time. The point of this exercise is to complete it”.

Some excelled in their process. They not only went through it, but generated large audiences, a good deal of press and made a profit.

Others fell squarely on their faces.  They felt the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. In conventional thinking, they “failed”.

But did they?

The failure of these students was equal as a learning experience as those who succeeded. In fact, in some cases, I think those who failed, learned more than those who “succeeded”.  Experience is comprised not only from our success, but our character-building failures.

For most of us, our fear of failure and judgment is what most impedes our action.

We must accept that we cannot always win and that failure is inevitable.

If we don’t try with all of our effort, wits and energy, we will never know what our potential might be. If we allow ourselves to fail before we complete our effort—to fail at, “I am not as brilliant as Ibsen” or “I am going to look stupid” or “I can’t do this…because I have never done it before”, then we are destined for a different kind of failure. This kind of failure is a failure of spirit. It is a failure of imagination. It is a failure of not heeding the call to adventure. In this type of failure, the world will never know what potential we posses, for we have not allowed ourselves to discover and express it. This type of failure is worst kind of all, as it is a failure towards our selves, rather than a failure of accomplishment.

Failure towards our selves can eat at our confidence, spirit, and sense of self. It is a weakening failure.

Failure of accomplishment—of having tried our hardest and of coming up short, can serve as a foundation for learning. This type of failure is a positive failure and is a stepping-stone, upon which to stand, as we build our next endeavor.

The hero’s journey is not one of following paths; it is one of making paths. Sometimes the hero stumbles. If they give up on their adventure at hardship and go home, the direction from which they came, they are no heroes, in fact. To quote from myth and Joseph Campbell, “Where you stumble, there your treasure is”.

We must learn from our failures. We must use our failures and we must expect failure, to some degree.

The exercise I gave my students, of being more self-sufficient, of being the engines of their own creativity, had a far-reaching effect for most. The effect was the realization, the illumination of, “I did that. I can do that”. This is a hugely empowering realization, for when they realize that they can, they do.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA).  Jim Hart (James) can be contacted at jim@harttechnique.com  or http://www.harttechnique.com

Empty your Cup

In Author: Jim Hart, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on August 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

Empty your Cup.

This is one of my favorite zen stories. The story goes that Nan-in, a
zen master, was being interviewed by a philosophy professor.

Upon their meeting the professor began to tell the zen master all that
he know about zen. He talked and talked and talked. After some time,
Nan-in said, “Let’s have some tea”.

They sat for a traditional tea ceremony. The professor kept on about
all that he knew. Nan-in began pouring tea into the prof´s cup. It
became more and more full. The tea began cascading over the side of
the teacup and the Professor said, “Stop. Enough. It is full. It
cannot take anymore”.

Nan-in then said something like, “You are like this cup. You are
overfull. No more can fit. Empty your cup”.

This is the mind-frame we need to allow ourselves to cultivate.
Regardless of what we think we know, we must empty our cup. We need to
cast out our pre-conceptions and listen to information, as though it
were the first time we ever heard it. In listening with this open
mindedness, information we have known for years can resonate in new
ways and we can take on a new, deeper understanding of the material
being offered, as if it were the first time we heard it.

When I was a boy, I was extremely active in martial arts. It was my
passion for about a decade. I had five different instructors I
regularly trained with. I would hear, more or less, the same
information from each of my teachers and would marvel, at times, when
I would suddenly have a mental breakthrough, as to understanding what
each had been saying. I thought I understood, prior to this moment.
But in some cases, it was only after I had heard the information from
the fifth instructor, that I actually understood it with some level of
depth.

Emptying our cup allows for new breakthrough discovery and deeper
awareness and understanding.

We should each know that we do not really know much of anything, in
relation to what is possible to know. If we are truly open to knowing
more, and actively seek to know more, then we have the potential to be
in a state of constant self-learning. We then become our own teachers.
This state of mind is an optimal place to be as an artist (and human),
as we are then in a constant (and often rapid) state of growth.

An emptied cup perspective is one that allows for possibility. When we
think we know something, sometimes we close our minds off. We dismiss
this information as, “Yea, yea. Got it. What’s next”? That is a form
of closed-mind-ed-ness. Keep your mind open.

Empty your cup.

Jim Hart is the President of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts
(ACPA), a new conservatory, opening in Austin, TX in the autumn of
2010. For more information on Jim Hart, The Hart Technique or Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), see:   www.harttechnique.com

Austin, TX: New Arts Entrepreneurial Finishing School- Opening 2010

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing, Money, Networking, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on July 23, 2009 at 12:55 am

When it comes to insisting that all artists becoming more entrepreneurial, James Hart and I are kindred spirits. I cannot agree more with James statement that “We need to teach our students how to have vision. Imagine the cultural implications.”

I met Jim last weekend at Columbia College’s Creative Entrepreneurship Conference. James Hart is living my dream! He and his family just returned to the United States this past year, after founding, building and finally selling a professional finishing school focused on entrepreneurship training for theater students in Norway called TITAN Teaterskole.

The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), is truly one of a kind and its creation was, for Jim, a true labor of love. The school is now in its fifth year of operation and in the very capable hands of Brendan McCall, who left his teaching position in the acting program at the Yale School of Drama masters program to head, run and own TITAN.

Now, with that incredible experience under his belt, Jim plans on opening, in the fall of 2010, in Austin Texas The Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, just like the one he built in Norway. It will be founded in Jim’s educational programming and philosophy which he calls The Hart Technique.

What is the Hart Technique?
The Hart Technique is a two-pronged approach to theatrical training. It is equal part Artistic technique and Entrepreneurship. Artists studying the Hart Technique have a foundation of artistic thinking. They know how to think, as artists. They are sensitive to the impulses that move them and have vast imaginations. They also have a practical viewpoint which stems from market realities. This later viewpoint, which is unique in American theatre training, enables graduates to aide their communities, to be necessary as artists, to fill gaps in community cultural offerings. They are fiercely determined and committed to overcoming career obstacles and know how to both lead and follow. Because of this entrepreneurship skill set, graduates are more able to make a living via their creativity. IMAGINE THAT!!!

The best way to learn about The Hart Technique is to experience it and practice it yourself. Workshops are offered in a wide range of venues–in theatre companies, colleges, universities and privately.

What makes the Hart Technique different from other theatre training?
The majority of theatre training programs in America are offering all arts technique and no business skills. This typical path is usually comprised of a version of the Stanislavski technique and its normal support classes. However, we, as educators, know that this path leads to widespread unemployment. Each reader should ask themselves, if we know that this technique leads to under and unemployment, why is American theatre training still following this standard path? I believe the reason lies in the fact that schools must be marketable. They have found a system that generates student numbers, but not students with a number of jobs.

How is the Hart Technique of service to society?
One of the facets of The Hart Techniques is that students are guided to discover their “voice” or unique perspective or way of expression. Graduates have this unique expression, coupled with entrepreneurial skills. As entrepreneurs, they know how to study their markets and communities and find gaps. They can then fill these gaps, eventually creating niches.

Graduates who know how to create opportunities for themselves, inevitably create opportunities for others. As these entrepreneur artists create original enterprises for profit, they inevitably create jobs.

What skills do graduates of The Hart Technique have?
Graduates have entrepreneurial skills. They have a knowledge of creating and adhering to a budget, how to create a mission statement, how to lead themselves and others, how to market themselves (and generate press as they do), and a wide range of other business related skills. Artistically, they know how to have vision and build that vision into a concrete reality. They are masters of brainstorming and can follow their creative impulses without fear or judgement. They understand text analysis and how to effectively play a role. Not only can they play a role, but they can direct others in the playing of roles. Often times, our graduates direct others in roles they have personally written. In brief, our graduates have the skills to compete for existing work, but have the ability to create their own.

What jobs can a graduate expect to have?
Graduates of The Hart Technique have created artistic companies (theatre and production), have sponsored gallery showings, done standup, acted in and directed films and professional theatre. Many do go on to compete for commercial opportunities of a standard nature. Still more go on to create their own opportunities, profiting as they do.

Is The Hart Technique applicable ONLY for theatre artists?
Absolutely not. The Hart Technique is applicable towards any medium of artistry AND enables artists to hop from one medium to another.

What if I am not interested in starting my own business or being a leader?
None of us knows what five years down the road brings us, much less tomorrow. One constant in life is change. Why limit oneself? Leadership skill enables one to lead oneself in the most effective manner possible (in addition to others). The Hart Technique helps artists develop discipline–the sort of discipline of a marathon runner. That is a skill set that will serve one throughout their life.

Why are more schools NOT offering similar training?
Most theatre training programs in America copy what the big, successful graduate training programs are doing (There is some exception to this, of course). Knowing that this typical system (all arts and no business) leads towards widespread unemployment, one must ask, “is it ethical to continue teaching this typical curriculum”?

In time, more schools will begin to offer such entrepreneurial training in their curriculums, as it is a system that generates employment. American theatre training NEEDS to go in this direction. This sort of training stimulates new voices with perspective. These individuals have the tehcnique to build their ideas and the business technique to make a living.

Some schools believe changing their curriculums to be too risky, if they are generating enough student interest now. However, to those institutions and individuals, I say, “Post your graduate career success record. Make public how successful your curriculums are (or are not).

Curriculums such as The Hart Technique serve students and institutions alike. Graduates have a higher likelihood of working and schools can boast of all of the graduates who work almost immediately out of their programs.

Interested in enrolling in the new school? Questions about the program, tuition, referring a student?
Contact Jim at:jim@harttechnique.com
Phone: 512.410.9335
Fax: 512.380.0155

About Jim Hart
Jim Hart is an award-winning actor, director and producer. His work has been seen in America, Russia, Norway and Taiwan.

As a director, he has directed numerous Tony Award-winning and Hollywood actors, including Marian Seldes, Roger Rees, Dylan Baker, Kerry Butler, and others. He has directed classics of Shakespeare, Chekhov, Marivaux, Gogol, Miller and more, including a large number of world-premiere productions. He is currently directing “The Story of a Mother”, an animated tale, and “On Death and Dying”, a documentary on our culture’s many perspectives on death and dying. He serves as Producer and Artistic Director of Sleeping Hero Productions.

Hart is the founder and former Dean of TITAN Teaterskole (The International Theatre Academy Norway) in Oslo, Norway and former artistic director of TITAN Teatergruppe, a professional theatre company—both of which are located in Oslo, Norway.

As an actor, Hart has performed in a number of venues including Williamstown Theatre Festival, Yale Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Dallas Theatre Center, Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, (where he received the Judy Award for his performance of Puck), Theatre Alliance in D.C., and Internationally in St. Petersburg, Russia and Taichung, Taiwan.

Hart is a Fox Fellow, having received a grant to study ritualistic mask dancing in Bali and India. He spent nearly a year in Asia, studying ritualistic theatre in Nepal, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and is one of the founders of The World-wide Art Collective, the largest theatre festival in the history of Taiwan.

He served as founder and Artistic Director of the New York-based theatre company Etudes Workshops (2001 to 2003). Etudes explored multi-cultural theatre forms of the Fantastic (focusing on rhythm, physical aesthetics, and masks and puppets). This venue, drawing teachers from a multitude of disciplines and mediums within New York, exposed artists to varied artistic aesthetics and provided ground for new collaborations to occur.

Hart’s teaching credits include The International Theatre Academy Norway, Yale School of Drama (Graduate school), New York University, Yale University (undergraduate program), the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Tufts University, Univ. of Alaska at Anchorage, Fu Ren Univ. in Taipei, Taiwan, Harlem School of the Arts, Capital Hill Arts Workshop in D.C, Classical Theatre of Harlem, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Utah State University, Rowan University, Peridance in NYC, Kirkenaer Ballettskole (Oslo), and others.