With architects Robert Schultz and Vrinda Khanna’s designs realized, Terry Knickerbocker was halfway to realizing his goal of creating an energetically accommodating space that supported his acting students’ creativity, wellbeing and emotional life. The next step was to turn The Studio over to Andie to fine-tune.
“Energy is fluid,” said Andie. Qi is neither inherently bad or good, and appropriate Qi flow often depends on how each individual interacts with a space and how the space is used. “Nine times out of ten, the right space will always leave room for tweaking, shifting corners of energy. When you work with the space, what you’re looking for are the areas that you want to reduce the flow of Qi that doesn’t feel supportive. Then you go to the areas that are really working great, and you enhance them.” To tweak the flow of Qi, Andie used several tools, or life force adjustment items.
Elements from the natural world appear throughout the studio. Natural elements are particularly important adjustment items because of their connection to water. Plants and water features are of particular importance. “Water oversees creativity, it oversees finances, it oversees communication,” said Andie. These elements, strategically placed around the studio, foster healthy Qi and energetically reinvigorate the students. “In movement, water is incredibly healing and soothing because the body is made up of seventy to seventy-five percent water. We instinctually gravitate towards water because it’s one of our main aspects of being human.” By connecting to these water elements in the space, students also connect to their own bodies.
Andie hung crystals throughout the space where Qi tended to collect. “Crystals act as acupuncture needles for the space. Where they’re placed is extremely specific, so they work with the energy flow,” said Andie. Terry and Andie paid close attention to the hallways and common areas outside of classrooms. In Meisner training, an actor’s preparation before entering a space is crucial. “In that hallway, there was a lot of angst, a lot of fear, energetically,” said Andie. “So we set up different feng shui adjustment items like the crystals to absorb some of that energetic outgassing that normally would accumulate in a creative space, so that other people don’t wind up picking up other people’s angst.”
With the crystals and other tools, the Qi flows into the classroom to create a supportive, safe environment for artistic exploration.
Red appears throughout the studio. “The architects already had red in the design. They had designed the barn doors to be red,” said Terry. “Andie just amplified that.” Red turns out to be very powerful in feng shui. According to Andie, “There are four to five different systems of color we use. You’ll use a different set of colors for a different focus. Red in feng shui acts as an activator.” Recently, Andie suggested putting red fabric over sound panels hanging on a wall in the common area. Andie knew she wanted to address this multi-function space: “The whole area is very important, but the ceilings are high. Qi, energy, rises just like smoke. Because of the whole nature of the acting profession, there’s a lot of energy going on in the head. So Qi goes right up into those high ceilings. The red panels help to circulate the Qi and move it back down.”
Red can also amplify the effect of other adjustment items, and it can be used sparingly to still-great effect. All of the crystals hang on nine-inch long red strings. (The number nine is important in feng shui – in the I Ching, nine is a strong number.) According to Andie, “The string being red acts like the fuse on a firecracker. If you had a firecracker and it didn’t have a fuse, it would be really ineffective. It’s important to know how to activate the crystal, not just hang the crystal. Red draws Qi to the crystal, because Qi is drawn to red very quickly.”
When you first enter Terry Knickerbocker Studio, you are greeted by a wall of masks. These masks, mostly from India, Nepal, and Bali, were Terry’s idea at first. “I had a collection of masks from my travels,” said Terry. Mask work holds a special place in his heart. He worked alongside the mask teacher Per Brahe for many years at NYU and also had the opportunity as a young actor to take a workshop with the legendary mask teacher Pierre LeFevre. With the mask wall, Terry said, “I wanted to use my own interest in and experience with mask as a powerful symbol of acting, story, character, and transformation. We are literally embedding those qualities and values in the design of the Studio.”
When Andie began visiting the studio, she liked the masks so much she proposed extending the masks throughout the hallways in the classroom areas. Accomplishing this meant finding many more masks. After many hours on eBay, Terry discovered Novica, a website curated by National Geographic which works with local artisans around the world, primarily in West Africa, Central America, and Bali. These new masks, alongside masks given as gifts to Terry by former students, began to fill the walls and hallways of the Studio. Though they have no specific grounding in feng shui, the masks are a strong reminder of the Studio’s mission and identity, Terry said.
“I love how they make a such a powerful statement – not just their look, but as a symbolic reminder and invitation to embrace the work we do in class every day.”
So far, we’ve explored the space and learned about some feng shui techniques. But do they make a difference? Next week, we’ll interview current students and staff members to get their insights into what it feels like to work and create art in this beautiful space.