The Austin Chronicle

Winedale Lessons

July 28, 1995, Arts

As I live through my first summer as a Winedale alumna, I find I appreciate my two summers in the program more each day. Not often are you taken to a beautiful place, fed, sheltered, and told to play. But Dr. Ayres' parting comment to last year's class, "Part of this experience is being able to walk away from it," rings true. The challenge for me now is to implement what I learned: to recreate the discipline and focus that I attained in the calm Texas countryside amidst the stimulations of the regular world.

Now, if I'm not up by 7am, no one may know or care. But two summers of jolting awake at sunrise has ingrained that in me. I start the day with a workout which sends me on an all-day high that's worth the effort, whether anyone else knows or not. I even get the urge to rise at 5:30am, as we did at Winedale, in times of crisis.

When a Winedale play needs work, the phrase "I can do it in my sleep" becomes serious. Not only do students actually babble lines in their sleep (my first year, I once screamed "Claudius!" while I was sleeping), they also get up at 5:30am and perform a Shakespeare play. Within minutes. There is no preparation, no self-indulgent yammering, and no breakfast - until scenes are well underway. Players relentlessly work scene after scene, word by word. Some jog briskly to get the blood pumping; others stroll in the wet grasses, muttering lines to themselves. As one group emerges from the barn, another heads inside. This is no rehearsal; it is, as always, a performance. The players know that if they don't give 110% every time, they'll never surpass themselves. And that is the goal.

Winedale gives you practice in the art of handling freedom. No one said to me, "This is what you must do to get where you want to go." I had to blunder around and figure it out on my own - including what to do when I tore my ligaments. (Should I get a brace? Go home? Get a replacement?) I learned to take responsibility for finding out what I needed to know. Dr. Ayres provides an environment for growth; students must take advantage of it. They must push themselves to develop every day, on and off stage, to add facets to their characters, so no two performances are alike; to give and take criticism, to handle conflict, to communicate well. Living with 16 strangers in an intensely personal environment teaches plenty about the necessity of teamwork, trust, and fellowship. Your consideration and enthusiasm better not be a social veneer: you won't fool anyone at 5:30am, when no one has donned their cloaks of pretension yet, or at 2am when such cloaks have fallen away.

As for the man behind it, it's a blessing to have a figure like Dr. Ayres in your life, one who abhors mediocrity and is dedicated to getting the best out of you, even if you grow to loathe him in the process. Most grow to love him instead. - Kanchan Limaye

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