The Heroic Lusory Attitude

About a year ago, I released my written dissertation to my tutor. This was a large part of my studies at Rose Bruford College on the European Theatre Arts degree, not only because of its marks but because of the interest it brought me to type and write with curiosity. Essentially, I was tasked with exploring attitudes to training through the lenses of play culture and the journeys of heroes in anime. It was a lockdown writing session, so tying anime into it was a must. Now, I am not going to paste the entirety of the essay but instead introduce three lusory attitudes: curiosity, resilient, agonistic.

The Curious Lusory Attitude

Firstly, the curious, which is very much tied with the idea of play. When we think of child’s play, we may think of the sense of wonder in which they perceive the world. They are continually asking “What if? What’s that?” and this seems to be ironed out of us with age. The author of The Grasshopper, Bernard Suits, discusses the tension between work and play extensively, writing that activities linked to capital production (work), cannot be play as “playing a game involves a sacrifice of efficiency” (Suits, 1978, 23). But it is play that allows children to develop their social skills, their problem solving skills and their metacognition. Ido Portal quips this nicely: “It is not like you become old, you stop playing. You grew old because you stopped playing” (Portal in London Reel, 2017). So, play, uncertainty and the curiosity of the child are all intertwined in the lusory attitude.

Actionable How: When devising exercises or going through your day, try to consciously involve more what if statements. The key is that these do not come from a place of anxiety “Oh god, what if I look like an idiot?” but instead come from a place of curiosity “What if I solely listened to the sounds of the city on my walk?”

The Agonistic Lusory Attitude

Does competitiveness have its place in the rehearsal room? Although it can often be met with a bitter taste, it does have the potential to inspire commitment and awareness. If we consider intra-contest as opposed to inter-contest, this may become more approachable. That is, a competition between the winning self and the losing self. Roger Caillois writes that agonistic play “leaves the champion to his own devices to evoke the best possible game of which he is capable, and it obliges him to play the game within the fixed limits… so that in return the victor’s superiority will be beyond dispute” (Caillois, 2001, 15). Agonistic play can be both pleasurable but also fierce and tenacious. For example, I used to enjoy playing rugby. It gave me a rush of endorphins and when a play was in motion, it was like a roller coaster. However, it is played with the utmost sincerity and seriousness. As Portal says “You can have a serious playful approach; you can have a shitty playful approach. But being playful doesn’t mean you don’t do it full-on, serious, until you bleed” (Portal in London Reel, 2017). To have an agonistic lusory attitude is to respond to a competitive game by adhering to the rules and striving for victory or discovery. This results in an active presence where you are fully engaged and alert, whilst also developing physical competence.

Actionable Hows: Places rules in place and stick to them. Remember that the rules are barriers to hold your flame as to not let it run out of control. The attitude is how you perceive these barriers. This could be as simple as reading a certain number of minutes every day or could be having a rule that goes throughout your entire rehearsal process.

The Resilient Lusory Attitude

When you combine this idea of curiosity and the agon (Greek competition), you may be faced with highly stressful stimuli that you are not equipped to manage. This is the border of ability of ourselves. In order to be able to properly manage and positive adapt to stressful stimuli, resilience is key. Resilience is defined as the “positive adaption during or following significant adversity or risk” (Lopez and Snyder, 2009, 118). In order to be resilient, intention is key. What is the fuel for the fire? The key is to find the awareness of the type of stress you are facing. In some cases, this may be distress, which we want to avoid. This is when you are experiencing stress that can cause irreparable damage. This is the likes of directors who are transphobic or homophobic or racist. The stress they cause has no sense of building anything. Eustress on the other hand combines the root of euphoria to stress, which insinuates that the stress, albeit difficult, leads to a positive adaptation and a building of something. By confronting and defeating the doubtful, sceptical and restricted self, the practitioner emerges victorious, liberated and more aware.

Actionable Hows: Identify in words your intention and return to it. Make it easy. For example, my quippy slogan right now is ‘Stillness in the busyness’ and it is so memorable that I can trigger it in my mind whenever I feel a bit lost.

This results in…

The Heroic Lusory Attitude

By combining resilience, curiosity and a sense of competitiveness, the practitioner or yourself are better equipped for process stimuli. A stressful task is met with “What if”, commitment and a lack of quitting, and therefore there is an output of effective training and affective capability. A strong performative presence is created alongside an extraordinary physical capacity. By stepping into the uncharted challenges of their journey with this attitude, whomever adopts it emerges wiser, suppler and more playful, with a wider understanding of the world around them.

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