David Cassel offers a dynamic course in accelerated learning and random access memory development that focuses on physical agility and mental acuity.
He is currently a coach of Physical Theatre, Improv and Story at Die Etage Schule fur Darstellende Kunst in Berlin, Germany and has been, in part, supported by The Canada Council for the Arts
Physical Approaches to Performance and Circus
Director and award winning performance specialist David Cassel offers a unique training and performance program designed to introduce both students and teachers to a process that explores physical and mental development towards the creation of original performance works.
The teaching program integrates a variety of theatrical and sport techniques with a diverse array of live performance situations. Workshop students are given opportunities, during extended workshop programs, to advance through a system of skill plateaus and to publicly perform the skills learned upon completion of the extended training program. .
To watch a video of David working with students at Die Etage, Schule für darstellenden Künst, or to have a look at the student resource created for “Die Fabrik”, a student show created under his direction, or to order a copy of the DVD of the show, visit Die Etage Study Resources.
Subjects in the curriculum in include:
Physiology, Preparation and Theory
Systematic Physical Warm Up
Laban Technique (Movement Quality developed by Rudolph Laban)
Corporal Mime Technique (Structural theory developed by Etienne Decroux)
Acrobalance (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Levels)
Plastiques (Cardiovascular/Memory Development system created by Jerzy Grotowski)
Music and Rhythm
LeCoq Mime Technique (Dynamics/Illusions technique developed by Jacques Le Coq)
Object Manipulation and Juggling
Classes are taught in a repetitive manner in a safe and healthy environment where students can train in processes of accelerated learning. New techniques are introduced on a schedule that, while tightly mapped, is governed predominantly by the student’s aptitude and speed.
The objective is to have the students perform all of the choreography and techniques learned in a special group presentation of 5 to 25 minutes. Duration and complexity of final performance is dependant upon the total number of hours pursued during training.
Workshops are available for students of all ages. Content of course of study is modified based on age range and ability .
A 2 hour class designed to introduce students to each of the items included in the curriculum. Provides an overview of topics to be studied in the extended program. Available for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced studies at the primary, secondary and tertiary education level.
Class limit: 16. Total Hours: 2. One instructor
2 days, 8 hours per day. Available for Intermediate and Advanced studies at the primary, secondary and tertiary education level.
Part 1: The Rhythmic Warm Up
The first hour of this class introduces students to a systematic warm up, rhythmic in nature, that prepares the body for the second part of the class that explores low level tumbling, acroblance and musicality in performance. Students will learn a “warm up” choreography, repeat it and begin building an acrobatic skill set. .
Part 2: Plastiques and Movement Improvisation
Building on techniques and exercises presented in Part 1, this class focuses primarily on a technique developed by Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba called “Plastiques”. Students will be introduced to 8 specific categories of movement and be immersed in several exercises that will teach them how to overcome resistance in the learning cycle and how to quickly expand their movement vocabulary.
Part 3: Story, Staging and Performance
During this class, students will have an opportunity to put the theory and techniques presented in the first two classes into practical performance use. Students will be introduced to story structure and how it relates to presenting outdoor performances of everything from soloists to large ensembles.
Class limit: 12. Total Hours: 16. One instructor
1 Week Masterclass
5 days, 4 hours per day. Available for Intermediate and Advanced studies at the primary, secondary and tertiary education level. Low level skills are formed into a 5 minute presentation. .
Class limit: 16. Total Hours: 20. One instructor
2 Week Masterclass
10 days, 4 hours per day. Available for secondary and tertiary education level students only. Medium level Skills are formed into a presentation of 10 to 20 minutes depending upon skill level achieved. .
Class limit: 16 Total Hours: 40. Two instructors required.
A four week program, 5 days a week, 6 hours a day for tertiary education level students only. Advanced level skills are formed into a presentation of 30 to 60 minutes in duration depending upon skill level achieved.
Class limit: 16 Total Hours: 120. Two instructors required.
A program of classes can be developed for integration into an existing program of study depending upon schedule and budget.
Individual classes in personal development can be organized on a student by student basis.
Improvisation and Comedy in English
I have been involved with comedy and improvisation for over 30 years. I have had the opportunity to train students and present shows that showcase the skills that they have learned through my classes. The only performers needed for this project are the ones that I train during the workshop.
This is a series of 12 x 3 hour classes presented over two weeks that provide students with a solid academic foundation in spoken, physical and musical improvisation techniques including story structure, character and “advancing” scenes. The program has the added benefit of helping students of English further develop their language skills.
The student’s work is presented at the end of the workshop program in a series of 1 hour shows presented in a game format where teams of 2 or 3 students compete with each other for a big prize. Maximum class size: 20 with two instructors (myself and my assistant) .
On Line Study Companion
An on line reference center developed in conjunction with the real time training can be accessed by visiting: The DCP e-Training Centre
“8 Things” – Towards Accelerated Learning
I have always believed that learning thing in groups of 8 improves random access memory and the ability spontaneously call up physical vocabulary during improvisation. Improvisation is, ultimately, the most effective process by which to create new work and develop as an artist.
My program of study introduces students to the following ideas:
1. The Yin and Yang of It All
Students are introduced to the idea that there are always two ways to come at the creation of an idea and that creativity can evolve from either chaos or order. They are introduced to the concept of the “sign” and “design” mind, left brain and right brain and how to develop each in equal measure so as to maintain balance in all things. It is stressed that the world “problem’ is to be replaced by the word “challenge” and that the search for solutions remains the primary pursuit. There are only ever solutions, there are never any problems.
2. The Process of Plastiques
Based inside Jerzy Grotowski’s process of physical vocabulary, voice and skill development. Students are introduced to a system of progressive repetition that results in accelerated learning, teaching students how to adapt to an ever changing set of circumstances. This unit provides students with a frame work by which they can develop strong stage personalities while increasing their aptitude, physical abilities, confidence and random access memory.
3. Physiology and Performance
Students study muscle, bone and tissue structures so as to better understand the human body in an effort to avoid, or at least manage, injuries and the pain associated with repetitive muscular exercise and impact stress. Nutrition and holistic therapy are central to this pursuit.
4. Creating an Ensemble Organism
Students are introduced to collective forms of onstage interaction and improvisation including music and rhythm. They are instructed in how to provide support for others when training and rehearsing.
5. Individual Pursuit
Students are placed in situations where they are required to deliver on solo inventions and presentations. Character building, discipline and understanding the concept of ‘project milestones’ is central to this pursuit.
6. Compression, Expansion and abstracts
Students are given instruction in how to improve quality of performance by focusing on Macro and Micro perceptions of the work being pursued an the details associated with the compression and expansion of each extreme.
7. Learning to Accept and Embrace Failure
A safe and supportive training environment is created wherein the students are made comfortable with the idea of taking risks and failing. The idea that the creation of innovative performance requires going beyond the obvious choices towards concepts that we may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with is central to this pursuit.
Students are introduced to the idea that nothing practical is achieved without hard work, tenacity, courage and determination. Understanding what provides students with the motivation to commit to the learning process is central to this pursuit.
The Moving Acrobatic Ladder
Back at the beginning of my career in the spring of 1986, I worked with a group of 8 BFA actors, who were in their graduating year at the University of Alberta, to create a physical theatre show called “Phasers”. The show was presented as part of the Phoenix Theatre’s “Hot Summer Nights” series in Edmonton, Canada. This is where my fascination with ll things circus and physical theatre took off.
The primary metaphor for the show was all about climbing on ladders to get to a higher place only to have the ladder move sideways and deliver you to an entirely different destination. It was a love story.
This show saw the creation of my first “new circus” device. I invented a moving acrobatic ladder and told the actors that we would be doing a lot of jumping, rolling and balancing, something that was not really done in theatre, by actors, back then. I also decided to put the audience in the centre of the theatre in swivel seats. I put the sets on the outside and the audience on the inside so as to maximize the performance space. I managed to increase the amount of stage size substantially and was able to have 2 moving ladders on 2 levels running on semi circular pieces of track.
New Circus, as we now know it, didn’t exist back then so manifesting ideas like this took a lot of effort. I often got into trouble for the way I wanted to use theatre spaces. People used to laugh at me and call me crazy.
I owe a huge thank you to Bob Baker, then Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre, John Paul Fischbach, the curator of the series, and Richard Link who provided all original 1980’s styled music on the new synthesizers that were coming out back then.
Extra special thanks go out to Frank Manfredi, Jeffery Hirschfield, Lorretta Bailey, Donna Call, Barbara Gates Wilson, Brian Knox McGugan, Andrew Dolha and Judith Hawking, who trusted me when I told them to balance on a piece of metal and wheels as it hurtled through space. You were all very brave and I will never forget you.