In keeping with my overall approach to performance, I turn to the body first in order to develop acting skills. Like many theatre artists before me, I believe that it’s vital for actors to know how their bodies move, what physical habits they have, and how to exist in space in as close to a neutral state as possible. In short, I want them to know how to be onstage without hiding behind anything. From that place, we can go on to explore character, text, and story, but without a grounded and present foundation, those other elements will have no weight.
When I say neutral state, I mean a state of stillness, quiet, and readiness, which is an optimal place from which to receive and respond to impulses. The object of cultivating neutrality is not to be neutral in performance, but to open ourselves to greater awareness and presence so that we can respond authentically (not habitually) to stimuli. Once you start investigating what your habits are and how to let them go, you are able to make more clear, more informed, and more specific choices on stage.
In order to cultivate and practice a neutral and ready state (which is also tied to overall groundedness and stage presence) I employ:
- Release techniques, including self-release via guided visualizations, partner work using touch and joint manipulation, and personal movement exploration.
- Space activation activities, such as balancing the space in a group, practicing non-habitual movement patterns, and physically exploring the landscape.
- Movement challenges, such as “no retrograde” movement improvisations (i.e. always moving in a new direction, never back to where you were), mirroring, and zero storytelling (entering a space and exiting without communicating a story, character, or meaning).
In this work, I draw a great deal from Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints and the exercises that she and her collaborators have developed and recorded. I also draw from my Contact Improv background, and own experience as an actor and director.
I believe that acting is simply a way of being. I don’t consider acting to be pretending or a slipping into a totally different skin. Rather, I think of it as locating, discovering, and developing a version of yourself that is a specific character, but is not separate from or other than you.
Being present on stage is, to me, the most difficult aspect of acting. Remaining in a place (literally and metaphysically) in which you are vulnerable is extraordinarily hard. The fundamental skills I seek to build address this difficulty, and, I hope, provide tools that will help students remain present even in the face of discomfort and uncertainty.
For more information on my teaching, or to inquire about an acting class or workshop, please use the Contact Me link here or on the right sidebar.