The Actor / Director Laboratory, day 2

Monica Nappo (Director participant):

“We started the day playing (using balls and other tools), then each of us as directors started working on actors and their monologue and then Kristine saw each work. She started talking about the improvisations and how to set up a good improvisation that’s gonna help the actor.
Kristine: ”You’ve got to put the actor in a situation where how great the actor is comes out easily.”

“Another issue is the aesthetic of the improvisation: where you’re gonna choose the positions for them, positions that help them and that contribute to the work and in the meantime are also useful for it. Always find a connection with the text, when you set up an improvisation that brings you to the core of the play, of the scene. As a director you’ve got to move quickly, you have to move 5 steps ahead the actor, because you don’t want a situation where while the actor is improvising they start thinking ”what am I doing here? what’s the use of that?” The actor needs to know how to travel and where to go, and the director as well. So it’s good to set an improvisation with good and useful details. Then the actor will add his/her own. So, to set a good improvisation that is gonna be useful, you GOT TO LOOK AT THE ACTOR! At the quality of the actor, at the way he/she talks, moves, talks, if there’s any accent you can use to help the situation. Use those things to improve the scene.

“Then there’s another piece of work on a scene from Shakespeare (Bhawna’s one), and after a while, Kristine interrupts her asking if she’s from Leicester because she’d like to set the work on this accent, to set up an improvisation about that and Kristine asks Nags to get in the improvisation. So here they are, having a conversation about shopping centres in Leicester, and she can’t stand him and what he says, and then when it’s time she moves to the text. And it really works!

Kristine: “As an actor you have to bring yourself into the play and the director must know that, and use it.”

Then we start talking about auditions, how is difficult to bring yourself to an audition..

Kristine: “I always do a little improvisation with the actors with an audience, to make a connection, to make it more alive, so that everyone can participate more, it’s not just (as an actor): “I’ve done my audition!”

How important it is to have a lot of ideas, to change quickly and give many ideas to an actor, but not being like a teacher in a vocal session, it’s good to be imaginative and artistic with an actor, that’s the director’s job: you have to build the set –the support around the actor so that he/she’s gonna be extraordinary giving extraordinary things. And then you have (as a director) to ask yourself: how can I propel this, to move it forward? That’s the question about how to move forward from an improvisation so that you can have the play working. It’s good not to get stuck, as a really good improvisation may work for one day and then it doesn’t work anymore and you need to build a structure to hold the actor’s work.”

Jennifer Tan (Actor participant):

“Day 2 of lab week and I find myself directing. Right. OK. I came to this as an actor participant but today found myself volunteering to direct. It was one of those moments where you’re sort of doing something on impulse, without actually thinking too much about it. But I suppose that’s pretty in keeping with where good theatre comes from.

“So I’ve got a couple of actors, a script which I’ve never seen before and zero directing experience. But actually I think these things end up working to my advantage; I’ve not overanalysed the script, I’m not end gaming it and I only have the tiny arsenal of techniques I’ve picked up over the last day and a bit. So everything can come from the actors, which is completely in keeping with where Kristine comes from and utterly brilliant for an actor. So what if I can’t see what they need? What if I don’t know how to make them brilliant? I decide not to think about it and just do it – I know they are brilliant, I’ve seen them be brilliant. I need to trust the very same instincts which I know, when trusted, produce my own good acting.

“They read the script through once. I look at them. What do they need? This is a whole new part of my brain thinking here. Somehow I manage to think of an improvisation which helps. But it’s helped Julia and not other Jen. How can I bring something more out in Jen? Another improvisation. No. Another. Yes. They are still exhibiting some of their actorly habits. I ask Kristine how to resolve them, expecting her to help me out with a game they can play. ‘Just tell them, Jen’, she says. Now that’s hard. An actor telling another actor they can see their tricks. We’re all so bloody nice to each other all the time. I do hate that incidentally. I skirt around the subject but then after going for the jugular with it, relief all around and we can move on, more brilliantly than before. At the end of the day, I’m pleased with my little sketch. It had its mistakes and rubbings out, but when we ink it in, no one will be able to see those. Not bad for a first attempt, I don’t think.”

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