Actor/Director Lab November 2011 Day 2

Photo by Anna Nguyen

Emma Faulkner – Director Participant

“The lab so far has been really intense and challenging but in a good way! Kristine’s approach is so vastly refreshing and different to many of the directors I’ve assisted, in focusing primarily on who the actor is rather than the character. From warm-ups to scenes, she uses a vocabulary that is active and is quick to dispense of words that directors commonly use which in reality are closed and unhelpful. Working on scenes with the actors has meant rethinking how I normally direct but I am learning lots and so far can’t recommend the Lab highly enough. By the end of Tuesday I felt excited, inspired and eager to learn more.”

Photo by Anna Nguyen

Charlie Ward – Director Participant

“It can be hard to keep up with Kristine in the rehearsal room. She seems to see everything in minute detail, and has the ability to catalogue everything she sees and hears so she can refer back to specific moments when she responds to the actor. The concentration and attention she demands is exhausting. Where directors are often sat behind a desk, Kristine is often the most active person in the room, and that was particularly noticeable when she was helping Marcos (fromSpain) with a very difficult monologue. She got him to sit down and proceeded to shake him roughly as he performed with another actor. This might sound like physical abuse, but it was the perfect method to free up that actor, and his delivery by the end of the session was quite remarkable.”

Photo by Anna Nguyen

Camila Fiori – Actor Participant

“At the end of day two I feel so cluttered with questions, yet knowing or sensing that I have to trust the questions to be answered, and maybe by allowing that to happen, without looking for the ‘right’ answer, I can create the space for something clear and truthful to emerge. In the same way, Kristine encourages us to resist the urge to anticipate what will or should happen in any given scene or piece of text, or to impose something on it. I know this so completely, and although I know I can often be totally present in the moment and go with my instinct, I can also slip into an almost automatic or subconscious pattern of creating an idea or image of something before it happens. I am finding it is often when moving from improvisation to text that I can switch in this way. Equally I know I can block myself by giving in to cerebral reasoning or questioning, all of which stunts any instinctive response. It is like a series of neuro-patterns that need to be broken or ‘unlearned’. Kristine encourages us not to try and ‘frame’ or ‘author’ a scene; not try to match it to any pre-conceived image or style or fit it to how we think it should be.

I guess the attempt to define or distil into any sort of ‘account’ or ‘step-by-step recipe’ of the process/methodology Kristine uses, parallels this need to know just how something is or will be, which essentially flattens any possibility of simply letting it discover what it is or can be.

Kristine seems to approach each situation or scene with an openness to just sensing the needs of each individual actor and the group as a collective and trusting her instinct and ability to gauge what each step should be. In the same way she encourages us as actors to just trust our own instinct to guide us.

However, in what seems like a paradox, there are some very exact parameters she puts into place, and the language she uses is extremely particular and nuanced. On one hand ‘there are no rules’, yet each decision must be completely specific and detailed.

Thinking back to my statement of interest, I wrote about developing a playground within which to play, and I guess that is what Kristine does so well. How though do we get ourselves to the place where we can ride with the ‘natural rhythms of the text’, ride with the natural rhythm of each moment? What she seems to be saying is that it is in ‘play’ that we find it. She talks about ‘playing well’, and although she very clearly makes the distinction between ‘child’s play’ and ‘playing as an actor’, the route seems to be the same. They are both made possible by engaging with the non-cerebral, sensory instincts that every small child has, which get broken down in different ways as we get older. The ‘play’ is intricately detailed, alert, sparky, but so simple, unforced, and uncomplicated – another marriage of paradoxes.

Much of what Kristine has been sharing with us, we may know on a cerebral level, and trust are true on an instinctive one, yet sometimes block ourselves from following through with. This week is about doing. For me it is about challenging myself on many levels but essentially learning to always trust that I can let myself just ‘be’ to explore my range and the things I have available to me, in order to find the ‘rhythms’ and ‘textures’ that make each moment real and unpredictable.

There is so much more I could say, not least about the great group of people sharing this week together, or all the exercises and games we’ve been exploring. But I really must ‘let this be’ for now, and trust my own natural digestion of everything that is happening on this intense week of TADding!”

Photo by Anna Nguyen

Deven Modha – Actor Participant

“Warm-ups

Monologues

Duologues

Theatre trip

Tuesday morning started with a few group warm-up exercises. Yesterday Kristine stressed the importance of focussed warm-ups which centred around the actor – one of which being ‘The Winking Game.’ The game was thoroughly enjoyable – we all wanted to play – but it also enabled the directors to discern possible ‘blocks’ that individual actors may have and also explore ways in which to remedy those blocks. I began to understand that it is through useful games that actors can start to realise things about themselves as performers. By the end of the carefully selected game, I felt ready and open to work sensitively with my fellow actors. Through Kristine’s instruction, I came to realise here how crucial it is to set up a game ‘properly’ – how sensitive the rehearsal environment is, especially if you want to create high quality work.

Following the warm-ups, we went on to work on our individual monologues. I did mine yesterday and my experience with Kristine was so incredibly refreshing. It was the first time in a while where I felt a director was watching me for me as opposed to trying to mould me into a prefigured idea of what they wanted the ‘character’ to be. It was this openness and honesty about what I could bring to the rehearsal room which made me feel valued as part of the ensemble of actors. Rather than being inhibited in improvisation scenarios, I felt liberated and at ease to trust my instincts; finding a level of ‘play’ which was satisfyingly unpredictable – something which I have always tried to work on achieving. I realised from this point that Kristine’s approach is very unique.

After lunch we turned our attention to a series of duologues, examining our relationships to fellow actors on stage and the rhythms of text. I found that this proved to be challenging for both actors and directors on the course. Kristine brought us all back to the actor. What is the actor doing? Why are they doing that? Why does/doesn’t this model fit? Her finely tuned improvisation techniques ensured that all actors felt comfortable making that somewhat scary leap from a relaxed improvisation to the ‘dreaded text’ – scenes became detailed. Watchable.

It was brilliant to be able to go to see a show that very evening and apply Kristine’s practice to a piece of live theatre. Are the actors comfortable/being sensitive to one another? If so, why / why not? Do we believe them? It was fantastic to be able to come out of the theatre and actually be able to articulate clearly my response to the piece. One of the many things that I’ve been able to take away from the lab so far is the importance of clarity. I feel that I have been given a specific language with which to express myself in a bid to continually fine tune the craft of live theatre-making.

I have learnt so very much from these first two days and would highly recommend the Actor-Director Lab to anyone who wants to create theatre of the highest quality. It is through this programme that I saw Tamasha’s commitment to nurturing young artists and inspiring/instilling in them the enthusiasm to produce beautiful, moving and truthful work.”

Anna Nguyen

Emma Sampson – ‘Buddy’ Director (Director Participant on April 2011 Lab)

“It was fantastic to be back on Tamasha’s Actor/Director lab this week as a ‘buddy’ director. For me it was a fantastic opportunity to revisit the things I had learnt on the course and to support the learning of the other participants.

This was an incredibly talented group of people and I was really impressed with how quickly they embraced the approach and were willing to try it out.

On Tuesday day I got roped into ‘acting’ because we were short one actor. I got to work with Kat (Actor participant) and Antonio (Director Participant). I have to say this was an incredible learning curve for me, seeing things from the perspective of the actor. I was nervous, frightened and I didn’t know what the director was asking me to do. If he talked around the point he was trying to make, which a lot of directors do, I got more nervous, thinking ‘what’s the problem, what’s the issue, why won’t he say what he wants me to do? What am I doing wrong?’ Of course it was best when he spoke directly (something Antonio got the hang of very quickly and it was wonderful to see his natural instinct for working with actors) and said ‘you’re too whiney. Don’t speak in that whiney voice; just speak in your normal voice.’ BOOM…

On Wednesday we had a fantastic clowning workshop with guest practitioner Mick Barnfather. This was really new territory for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I really like Mick’s interpretation of comedy ‘stupid people doing stupid things’. What was also interesting was to discover how much of yourself you have to bring to clowning, you can’t ‘play’ funny, the funniest moments were when people were themselves, reacting to the circumstances. It was great to play ‘Who Killed King John’ and ‘Red Light Green Light / Grandmother’s Footsteps’ with Mick. I’ve played these games a lot over the years but this was the first time I could really see their value. They were a great step into the comedy work we did, everyone were ‘themselves’ in these games and they were also very funny, taking enjoyment from the situation. I was amazed at how much I learnt about comedy from watching the group play these games.

On Wednesday afternoon we were joined by Lawrence Evans, a movement director who works a lot with Kristine. Lawrenceworked with the group to create a scene from Child of the Divide where the Hindus flee newly createdPakistan. This is a fantastic exercise, particularly for a director like me who fears choreography of any kind. I really likeLawrence and Kristine’s approach, they build and layer the actors’ movements in the scene, assessing what is good and keeping it and what is not and getting rid of it. It is subtle, intense work. It seems obvious when you’ve seen them do it but I think my approach in the past has been to just try and throw everything on to the stage and try and muddle it out. I won’t be afraid to approach this kind of scene in the future and I also won’t be afraid of the fact that it takes time to do, it must not be rushed.”

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