Because of Dell’Arte... I know when it’s time to quiet the fear.

by Estela Garcia

Because of Dell’Arte, I know when it’s time to quiet the fear. 

Estela Garcia

Estela Garcia

Because of Dell’Arte, I brought home a new sense of self, a theatre vocabulary and a tenacity to pave the road on my terms.

Because of Dell’Arte, I now live a version of the life I always wanted but didn’t know I could have.

Because of Dell’Arte…I make a living as a freelance actress, teacher, community engagement specialist and general theatre maker in the big city.

The road to today was as windy as highway 299, but it’s been a wonderful adventure! Bear with me as I take you through a collage of thoughts detailing the road since Dell’Arte, 2005.

The night I arrived in Blue Lake-I cried, and cried and cried myself to sleep. What had I gotten myself into! This place was small, cold and rainy. I was a city girl that appreciated nature, but the redwoods were intimidating. I was homesick and so was my Jeep Cherokee-there were many days I cupped water out of my car from the rain that seeped in overnight. Rain, what was that! I was in culture shock, this was nothing like my beloved L.A. I was a chubby Latina girl from the big city with not a lot of professional theatre experience. I couldn’t find myself in other students, in the teachers or in the community. I feared the unknown and felt massively underprepared for training

I had hang ups. I didn’t feel enough. I could barely do morning warm-ups, let alone tumbling.  I had always wanted to be an actor/creator but had allowed my fears and those of my parents dictate my path. In high school I attended a Math and Science Magnet and then went on to receive a BFA was in Chicana/o Studies to avoid a career in the arts. As a 1st generation Latina, I had lots of GUILT. I was poor and educated which clearly meant I was responsible for my community. I had to sacrifice myself and do something less “self-serving”.  I took acting and mask classes, blindly started a college theatre group, I interned at a local theatre and was part of ONE professional production all under the guise of “Extra-Curricular Activities”.

My classmates and I were obsessed with being good students and getting it right. This often got in the way of finding “the thing”, of practicing the school motto “Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy!”  These four words were so simple independently of each other, but I couldn’t figure out how to practice them mind-body-sprit. I struggled my first year, Joan called me a “hit or miss”. During end of semester evaluations, I found out teachers had had a bet that I would be among the first to quit. They could see through me, my work was invisible, timid, fearful. I didn’t quit, I slowly began to blossom, and eventually transferred into the MFA program which is when my work took off. This would be one of the many times I would prove Ronlin wrong - what sweet pleasure it was to prove him wrong, even when he was the one to orchestrate that discovery. Sometimes these lessons need time - a summer, a couple of years, a lifetime.

Two and half years of training and an internship later I found myself back in LA - a city that was my city and not my city all at once. It was in the middle of the recession. My plan to be a substitute teacher by day and artist by night failed, schools were not hiring. I was living at home with my parents in the outskirts of the city, unemployed, with student loan debt, no theatre community, in the best shape I’d been in AND a brand new physical theatre injury. I had arrived! LA! I’m home! I’ve arrived! Crickets. Fear. Depression. “Stop it, Estela! Quiet. Effort. Risk. Momentum. Joy?”

Now, instead of searching for “the thing” I was searching for a tribe. Eventually I got a very flexible and well payed part time job as a nanny that allowed me the time and money to be an artist. I found fellow Dell’Artians in the city, took physical theatre classes and plugged myself in. I plugged myself in as I searched for a new famiglia. I even found famiglia in unexpected places - a big budget commercial shoot - using the work in secret.

The first couple of years back were “hit and miss” for me. I had days I felt grounded and more confident than ever. I was hundreds of miles away but felt supported by my Blue Lake famiglia. The very people I once couldn’t see myself in, walked with me in smog filled L.A. By exploring what I didn’t know, I got to know myself more deeply. I left Dell’Arte with a poetic voice, a style of storytelling, and skills that made me unique and marketable in the city. On hard days I can hear Ronlin tell me “I believe, with you, anything is possible. If you say, you are going to walk across the stage and make fire appear, I believe flames will engulf the stage.” Those words, my hustle and the support of my parents afforded me the ability to live cheaply and eventually trade in the nanny gig for a life of teaching, creating work with underserved communities and acting.

9 years have passed and I can finally see my career come together. I’ve learned to get out of my own way. Every year it gets easier to balance gigs, life, art making, admin and the fear that goes with the business.

“Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy!”


BIO: A Los Angeles born native, Estela Garcia is an actress, movement coach, deviser, community engagement specialist, mask maker/performer, and teacher. She received her MFA from Dell'Arte in ensemble based physical theatre, is a Movement Professor at CalArts, a Community Liaison for CTG, and a member of LTA/LA. Garcia is best known for her portrayal of surrealist painter REMEDIOS VARO in her one-woman play and Older Esperanza in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. Recent film credits include: YOLIS and VALENTINA. Estela has worked with numerous theatre organizations of various sizes, most notably with CTG, SCR and ETC on their community based projects. She loves to cook, dance and make silly faces.

Because of Dell’Arte... Stupid is a good place to start.

by Ariel Lauryn

Picture it: Clown block, a formative time for most Dell’Artians.

Ariel Lauryn

Ariel Lauryn

We were told to find a costume up in the racks. I decided “it would be a good challenge for me” not to do the first thing that came to mind. I was determined (I’m a very determined individual) to push myself. One could say that mine would be a concept piece to prove something.  Brilliant.

My first brilliant idea didn’t hit. I was told to go back up to the racks again. And again. And--you get the idea. Nothing was hitting. Over and over and over again. I was feeling desperate and frustrated and incapable (not a good place to start).  

So then I was mad. Insert existential crisis. Of the daily DA variety.

After I had gotten my fury out by running, or screaming at the river, or throwing heavy rocks[1], and after bemoaning my lot, self-assured that, according to all the evidence, I was utterly worthless and didn’t belong and would never get it, I was empty. 

This is a good place. It doesn't seem like it when I am there, but, because I have nothing left to prove, sometimes I can see my immediate surroundings more clearly.  Maybe starkly, but more clearly.

I went back up to the costume racks.

In this empty state, I picked out items that sparked any sort of delight:

1. Oversized Converses.[2]
2. Baggy pants with suspenders.
3. Porkpie hat.[3]
4. Bushy mustache and eyebrows.

I faced the mirror. I started to move, or really, be moved—a prance of sorts, that included the mustache and eyebrows. I laughed—I, Ariel, not the clown, laughed. It was so stupid, so simple; unoriginal—the typical “tramp clown.”  Old hat, if you will.  It was, in fact, that first idea I had abandoned all that time ago (a week ago, but ages in DA time). How lame.  Whatever.  It’s late.  And I have to show up with something.

I showed up the next day wearing this stupid thing that I loved.  The funny thing is, it’s sometimes scary wearing something you love. When you wear something someone else told you to wear, you can hide behind the fact that you are just doing what you were told.  When you wear something that is your idea, but you’ve worn it before and you know it works, you can hide behind that, too. Even when you wear something that is a brand new idea of yours, but you don’t really care about it, you get to say, “Well, I tried something new and that’s brave and original and brilliant.” But when you come out wearing something so simple, seemingly unoriginal, and for whatever reason, you like it, but you cannot justify it…I guess that is vulnerability.

I got up behind the flat, still not knowing what I was going to do. I entered. And it was a hit!  And then it wasn’t.  Because, as soon as people laughed, I tried to do more.  Ronlin Foreman, leading that class, saw this.  He had me start again.  When I simply entered and moved the way the mask led me to move, it was a hit.  When I tried to do something, it was confuddled because I was putting my ideas, my brilliance, in front of the clown.  See, I wanted my ideas to be funny.  My ideas are known, so I can hide behind them.  But I do not know what will come out when I allow The Other to work through me, when I am led rather than doing the leading. I know what my ideas are, but I do not know what will come out when I listen to, and do, what comes to me.  It’s scary, but that is what we want to see. And maybe that is why we want to see it.

Eventually, I got the hang of just going for the ride.  Then I fell, not on purpose, right on my butt.  What a gift! It got a laugh. I looked down, trying not to force the next moment, to let the clown do his thing, but also not just go limp–it’s such an annoyingly fine line.  My mind reeled for what to do next, straining to listen in this loud silent no man’s land of possibility and nothingness.

 Ronlin asked, “What do you say from this place?”

“Ouch.”

As I said it, I thought, “That is so stupid and simple—is that all you could do?” As I was thinking that, people rolled to the floor in guffaws.  For a week after that, people would come up to me, chuckling, and just say “Ouch.” Of course that’s what you’d say after falling on your butt!  Simple as that.  How could I not see that before?

Don’t get me wrong—I am brilliant. Rather, I can be. Rather, I think about things a lot more than might be necessary, in case you couldn’t tell.[4] And I’ve come to love that about myself.  But there’s something pretty wonderful about being Stupid. At a certain point, logic doesn’t make sense anymore. Maybe we don’t always need to see someone be smart.  Maybe we just need to see someone be moved and affected by something outside of oneself, earnestly, without thinking, without proving; to see someone care about something beyond any logic or agenda.  Maybe “stupid” is just caring about something that positively delights you for no reason other than it delights you. And maybe that is enough. At least, it’s a pretty good place to start.  

[1] Thank you, Joe Krienke, for teaching us how to do this without hurting ourselves.
[2] If you didn’t know me before Dell’Arte, I had always wanted Converse shoes, but I never allowed myself to wear them, because they are cheaply made, too expensive for what they are, too trendy, and bad for your feet. If you know me now, you know that is all I wear.
[3] Like Fozzie. Thank you, Alex Blouin, for loaning me yours.
[4] For example, I have re-written this post for hours: Alternate Post Ideas:
Because of Dell’Arte, I delight in paradoxes.
Because of Dell’Arte, I practice the art of Seeing. There is always something more.
Because of Dell’Arte, I see the necessity of The Work.
…I aim to reach the full extent of the gesture.
…I developed a vocabulary for my Voice.
…I ran out of excuses.
…I strive for the impossible, even though I know it is impossible. …I never fear being at a loss for ideas. …I value my own perspective. …I cultivated a joy of moving and a love of my body. …I know the value of dropping everything to have a good cry behind a flat.

Ariel Lauryn (MFA 14) is a Brooklyn based Actor-Creator-Puppeteer. She has performed with The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show  (Acorn Theater), The Talking Band, Columbia Stages, LES Shakespeare, The Ume Group, and Puppet Kitchen Productions. Her DA Thesis, Whether We Like It or Not (created with Lucy Shelby) has been at Flint and Tinder (The Tank), Mad River Festival (DA), the New Orleans Fringe Festival, and CSSSA.  Through and in between, she creates works ranging from slapstick shorts (Dixon Place, Bindlestiff Variety Show) to a web series, Illuminutty, to puppet pieces (Puppet Playlist), and coaches monologues on the side. She builds puppets, to boot!  (Best random job: Virtual Tour Guide of The Jurassic World Exhibit by Imagine Exhibitions.) She runs the IG account of The Physical Comedy Lab: @nycphysicalcomedylab www.ariellauryn.com