THE UNCARVED BLOCK
THE UNCARVED BLOCK
The Uncarved Block is a group of artists intent on exploring the range of possibilities for improvisation as performance. I personally come from primarily a theater background, though in recent years have become involved in music as well. I have been amazed by the way musicians are able to gather together and play music with little discussion. Whereas with theater, it’s just different. Of course, there’s that sketch variety of improv that has lots of games and things that people do, and that’s wonderful but not what interests me. I was curious about an improv practice that sits more in the realm of abstraction than situation. And so Uncarved Block was born in 2012. And of course there are schools to draw from, such as Viewpoints and such, and that is wonderful. I am not interested in reinventing the wheel, no, but I am also interested in other objects besides wheels.
Many of the artists of Uncarved Block come from the land of Music more than Theater, and that’s great. But I will tell you now that these are folks not interested in being schooled or learning someone’s technique, and so we find our way through, and discover what works best for us. We make up exercises where we focus on a particular thing, and that attunes our attention to it.
Another thing that we practice—and this comes from David Finkelstein, who has his own deep practice that I have learned a great deal from (and he has led several workshops with Uncarved Block)—is giving ourselves a set of directions before the improv begins.
More and more, I have come to believe that the key is to learn what instructions to give oneself to yield the juiciest results and the greatest concentration.
The Uncarved Block’s powers were used throughout the year mostly in rehearsals. And that is something real and applicable. And I do believe that the best rehearsals are treated as improvisations, which involves exploring within a given set of circumstances, rather than endless repetition.
However, we shared a final 2014 ‘performance’ at SHARE at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn, collaborating with the mixed media artists who were there—who were both audience and participants as we were to them that evening. They echoed some of our vocals, provided sonic landscapes for us to move through, and other times, simply witnessed our efforts.
Working thusly with this group of (primarily) musicians felt right and just and brought it all home, altogether.