Monthly Archives: February 2013

New Writing Masterclass with Alexi Kaye-Campbell

Tuyen Do – participant writer

Last Monday and Tuesday I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a masterclass with Alexi Kaye Campbell. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I was stuck and having read and seen his work, I had a feeling that this class was going to help me out of my current predicament. By lunchtime Monday, I knew I was in the right place. That morning AKC spoke about his process openly and honestly, which then allowed the whole group to do the same. By mid-morning we were in the position to create something that came straight from the heart and it was bliss. Our first writing exercise was what AKC called ‘imperative words’. We were asked to write a monologue where we were saying something to someone that had to be said because this was our last chance to say it. It was a way of discovering our motor, our passion, and the seed of our play that was going to drive us all the way to the end. In the two days we carried on in search of the ‘germ’ of our play and in doing so, I started to see writing in a different way. I was enjoying the creative process and I felt inspired and energized from the experience. I learnt from the others in the group and felt supported by everyone there. It reminded me that sometimes you need to get out, get out of your own head, get out and see and be with people who you admire and know that you’re not alone. It was a great two days and I will carry what I learnt with me into my future work. Alexi was passionate, inspiring and generous and I thank him for his masterclass.

Sally Woodcock – participant writer

Alexi emphasized from the outset that his class was a purely subjective exercise and that there was no right or wrong way to write a play – he was just sharing with us what worked for him. And he really meant this (not all playwright-teachers do, I’ve learnt) which became apparent over the next two days, as we worked our way through his method which involved, in his words, digging around in the ‘soil’ of our own personal histories to find a story we absolutely had to tell: a ‘howl’.

This was a brave and honest approach – more than once, members of the group were taken by surprise with the strength of their own personal discoveries … he was in danger of conducting a class in playwriting-as-therapy! But we all kept our senses of humour and, thanks to Alexi’s humility and honesty, felt safe in the creative environment to explore the personal-through-political territory he guided us through.

The workshop was very well crafted and our ideas were handled with respect and encouragement. I came away with the kernel of a play I think I might just have to write. Which is more than I could have hoped for.

Em Hussain – participant writer

The terms ‘seed of a passionate play’ and ‘tilling the soil’ were used often in this Alexi Kaye Campbell new writing masterclass. But I can’t help thinking that these terms do not really do justice to Alexi’s insight and generosity. We, as writers, during the course of this masterclass, not only discovered these seeds, but were assisted in identifying exactly what that seed was. Tools shoved in our hands, we were pointed to the precise, fertile spot in our gardens that would enable our seeds to grow!

In using Alexi’s incisive exercises: the sharing of something personal (not factual) using the ‘imperative words’ where the stakes were dramatically raised, to five specific details of our characters – factual and internal – I had in my hand three dimensional characters, a dynamic situation and the visceral dialogue that would reveal what exactly my play is getting-at at a particular crucial moment. It usually takes me weeks of scribbling before I get to this stage! I was fired up and ready to roll with a new play. I would like to thank Alexi for his skill and generosity and the camaraderie within the group that provided those (usually illusive) right conditions for my germinating little seedling!

Jacob Hodgkinson – participant writer

Within each of us there is a drip, a slow drip of emotion that can manifest itself in any number of ways: in anger, in reticence, in love – during any circumstance, foreseen, unforeseen, lasting or short lived. Yet these emotions that we feel may come never come to realise their fullest potency without a direction; a focus. Something that we can ‘hang’ it on… And for many, that is a blessing. A Godsend.

However, for a writer, those emotions – those feelings, those ‘quiets’ – are what make us tick. But, further to that, what Alexi Kaye Campbell taught us over the course of his two day Masterclass, was that those feelings which lie deepest within us are probably the ones that we most want to talk about openly, to relay in story version. Naturally, those ‘stories’ are ones which, under normal circumstances, we would never tell for sake of entertainment, unless in a dire need to pass on fertile understanding and knowledge. Which, of course, we can’t circumnavigate as playwrights: we have an incorrigible urge to vent.

So, says Alexi Kaye Campbell, let’s write something that we desperately want to tell someone that we’ll never see again – whether it be wishful, required or something that is an obligation to our inner-self. Let’s throw ourselves in at the deep end. There needs to be something of Pride, Apology, Faith or something that has meaning to us. Something that speaks to us and other people: but it must come from the soil of our soul. And from there we set our sail.

We wrote and the emotions were vivid. It was smelt, seen and succumbed to by all: in our imaginations and within the room. But, as Alexi Kaye Campbell said, what was said or written in that room stays within that room. Like one of those holidays. Though less insalubrious – more redemptive.

And so we went on as a collective group of individuals joining together (as writing is often an extremely solitary existence) under the tutorage of the inordinately giving Alexi Kaye Campbell. What was learnt during that short, yet intense, two days cannot be replicated by anyone! I defy you to find a more charming, erudite and gracious tutor as that of Alexi Kaye Campbell.

Tamasha are by far and a way the most accommodating and far-seeking new writing and acting Theatre Company I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with – I wish them all the greatest success in the future and hope that I get the opportunity to work with them again. The entire experience was an absolute joy: something out of the ordinary.

My lasting thought is: Praise be to Tamasha and Alexi Kaye Campbell – let’s turn those taps a little further and turn the drips into streams!

Jocelyn Watson – participant writer

I came to the Alexi Kaye Campbell Tamasha masterclass with a play that I had almost written but was unclear as to whether it worked. What was really effective from the start was that Alexi encouraged each one of us to go deeper into the scream, into our subconscious, forgiving and telling. Alexi highlighted that any play is personal, about our desire to communicate and that inevitably we invest a lot of ourselves though the main protagonist is not us. Consequently I began to explore for myself how much of my central character was me and the soil that connected me to her and my needs to communicate. It was very illuminating and I was able to look at my play more critically and sensitively rather than intellectually. It was very powerful and I think Alexi was absolutely right in encouraging us to be more personal and to look at the friction of the play in greater detail.

Tom Fletcher – participant writer

In recent months I have learnt the conventional approach to film writing and film structure pretty much inside out, however I enjoy reading plays in my spare time and so many of them don’t follow the same rules at all and I had no idea in certain cases how playwrights went about developing their ideas into something they could begin writing. As I wish to write for theatre as well, I was looking out for a work shop with a writer of some calibre. So I therefore decided to apply.

The first thing that struck me was what a dedicated selection of writers that were on the course, more so than any previous course I had been on. That enthusiasm was more than matched by Alexi’s contagious passion for the theatre, which clarified and solidified the reasons that makes writing for the theatre so important and unique. Following on to the second day, we deconstructed his writing process and tried building a new play of our own in the same way. I came out of it with a great understanding of how playwrights develop the structure of their plays and much readier to write an accomplished work of theatre. I believed I hit on something while trying to analyse Apologia: films go from premise to story structure and fit the characters to suit the story, and playwrights develop the characters once they have decided on a premise, and then fit the structure around who they are. There is obviously much more to say than that but I believe that is a useful and fundamental way to understand the way the two crafts are conventionally approached.

I have found Alexi’s approach to writing to be massively important to my own development although doing it in reverse, so to speak, I believe works better for me. That is to say I take a situation that is totally fictional and find ways in which I, the writer, can empathise with it, as apposed to Alexi’s way of taking something that has effected him and building it outwards into a fictional story. He has taught me the importance of finding those parallels that make my writing personally relevant however.

Anh Chu – participant writer

It’s not easy to summarize the masterclass with Alexi Kaye Campbell at Tamasha, the way it’s difficult to adequately describe any transformative experience in the midst of it. As hard as it is to identify the germ of your play and what it is you’re actually trying to say.

Yes, we went through practical exercises. First we looked at imperative words – what is something one character must say to another? Then we looked at conflict – finding as much of it as possible, both between characters as well as within each character. We created an inner and outer CV for our characters. We discussed form. We worked on an elevator pitch of our play.

Each of us had to dig deep and ask the important questions – what is the seed of the play? Writing from a true and often raw place inside ourselves is terribly difficult – but that is the starting point and that’s why the play has to matter to the writer. With Alexi’s generosity and compassion, I came to realise I need to go to the darkest place within myself that I’d as yet just glossed over and for this I am very grateful. That dark place is where the richness lies.

As writers we must remember that the more specific we can get, the more universal a story becomes, the more the capacity to resonate with an audience. As playwrights, we must confront ourselves and use that information constructively and creatively in our work. Alexi told us to own up to parts of ourselves that are unattractive whilst remembering that although we can put ourselves in to our characters, they ultimately are not us. Playwriting can be a long, grueling and heart-rending process, but that is the norm. It is this outpouring that spills over the stage to make theatre such a visceral and profound experience the audience participates in. Commit to the work and dig. Dig until you hit paydirt. Then dig again.

3 Day Actors’ Course with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ali Zaidi, Participant Actor

Working with Kristine teaches you many things. Essentially you come to understand your place in the process of theatre, you know you are there on-stage to play truthfully with the other actor. Kristine has an excellent ability to guide actors from any background, of any race, towards realising this. With the use of well-crafted improv scenes actors come to bring the freedom and joy of play they experience in the improv to any scene, thus creating (in my opinion) excellent theatre. My greatest joy of that weekend – next to working with Kristine one final time before she leaves for Australia – was to see actors come to realise the ideal Kristine pushes for and to revel in it. It was a pleasure to be in the room.

Bomy Gandhi, Participant Actor

‘Where to start and where to end’, is always the case when you are out seeking knowledge and well, when you write a blog. So much to learn and so much to say.

To begin with, I feel extremely pleased having done this Masterclass with Kristine. Having thought about it for few months, and finding out that this might be last opportunity for long time to come, I had to be there.

Being a beginner in the arena of acting, I wasn’t sure what to expect and what was expected out of me, but the very first day itself was eye opener. The fact that the concept is ‘actor-centered’ made it very easy to forget the worries and have ‘pleasure-to-play’. Constructive feedback, practical exercises which stretch your thought process, focus on actors and utilising their strengths were best part of the 3 day workshop. Kristine’s strive to focus on strengths of an actor and bringing the best performance out of them, makes one feel confident and focused on playing their strengths and make an actor ‘real’ in performance. Kristine’s approach of constantly engaging artists instead of one-way communication, has definite impact on performance, instantly.

Being part of a diverse group in terms of experience, skills, background and approach, it was a workshop filled with lot of learning. The positive change in performance and ease of playing a scene were well evident at each stage of the workshop.

I hope to continue on what I’ve learnt and learn more from Christine in future.

For me as an actor, ‘Tamasha’ is vital.
Thank You.

Cathy Conneff, Participant Actor

To me the whole course wasn’t just about acting and finding your voice on the stage. I found the whole weekend made me question who I am as a person and why I have chosen to go into acting in the first place: this is a good thing.

It became apparent to me, that I have been using acting as a refuge to hide from myself, to forget myself and leap whole-heartedly into living life onstage “as another person”. Not that I ever realised that I was doing this. I have been creating a mask, based on my perception of myself and projecting this back onto myself meaning that I end up as some weird, slightly odd stereotype of me. It was very difficult to let go of this and there were times over the course that I struggled and felt very exposed and uncomfortable and, dare I say it, incompetent.

However, I had a breakthrough on the last day of the course and let, for once, the text do the work and it just felt right.

Ana Baldia, Participant Actor

Kristine approaches the scene from a very logical point of view. First, she focuses on the actor. She has very high expectations from her actors, and works with a blunt honesty which, in return, places the actor in a position of vulnerability and honesty that helps them creating a raw but believable scene. She is quick at getting rid of the egos in the rehearsal room and clear and precise with her directions. She uses a diversity of games in rehearsals which develop in actors a sense of spontaneity, alertness and complicity that permeates the common ground and helps building a common language in the rehearsal space.

Then, she approaches the text with the same degree of commitment and honesty. Her approach is sophisticated and yet simple. She tends to unravel the scene rather than compose it. The actor is expected to fill in the text with their own self- their accents, backgrounds or life experiences. Her proposal is for the actor to play. Her understanding is that the audience wants to see the performer PLAY.

When studying the scene, Kristine asks the actor not to over prepare. She expects the actor to be open instead and respond viscerally to what is happening in the moment, in the scene. To maintain this authenticity, the actors must first connect- with themselves and to one another. In this, Kristine’s method focuses more on reaction and less on action. She prompts the actors with improvisations which allow them to find either and emotional or a physical state which serves the scene. She builds atmospheres.

By exploring the actor’s default (each actor’s blocks or habits) and contradicting it, she releases the actor so they can find freshness and vitality in their work each time.

Jess Woo, Participant Actor

There was a fantastic diversity of culture and experience within our group. Everyone was really open, friendly and committed. It was a supportive environment in which to play. I think I learned as much if not more observing others as I did in my own work. I felt proud of us as a group, and was surprised how quickly we gelled.

Kristine was great. She made the three days fun, and she was supportive and honest – she could immediately recognise the “issues” or blocks of each actor, and knew what to do to help us past these problems. She gave clear advice, and was patient but challenged us constantly to be good and not settle for “passable” when “great” was achievable.

It was revelatory to see the intracultural part of the process in action, and how much difference improvisation around a scene tailored to the individual actor could inject it with life and energy. And it was great to see everyone have “lightbulb” moments as Kristine applied this approach to monologues and scene work.

As an ethnically endowed (!) actor it’s been reassuring that cultural diversity, when acknowledged, can be freeing rather than something to stumble over. Having permission to be authentic allows one to be at ease, open, ready to play.
I now have some great new tools and an awareness of how to apply them: bringing spontaneity, openness and the pleasure to play when working with text. It’s made me more confident as an artist, and in approaching work in a constructive way – and given me a sense what I need to work on. I think I’ll be better to work and play with, too, which is important to me.

Laura Freeman, Participant Actor

Hoorah! I was one of the lucky ones who got a dose of Kristine Landon-Smith before she disappears off to Australia. I took part in her last UK 3 day Actors workshop. And I’m extremely happy I did.

I have been to drama school, studied lots of different methods and forms, I have been acting professionally for 10yrs with different directors, I read the books and I feel like I am constantly learning and getting better (then getting worse, then learning how to get better again)

After all that time, now, in 3 days with a ridiculously simple idea – the pleasure to play – I feel like I have got an almost fail safe method. It has the same joy and excitement of Meisner technique, but a million times simpler. I feel like it shouldn’t work but it does. I still feel disbelieving because surely it can’t be so easy and effortless?

The “playing well together” principle appears to work without any of the things I have always thought were an essential part of my job. But you can’t deny it when you have watched a scene, with your own eyes, completely transformed purely by an actor “enjoying play” and “playing well” with another actor (or with their character). It sounds just silly when you put it on paper, but it was magnetising. People’s faces literally changed and became captivating faces that you couldn’t take your eyes off.

I’ve been thinking about all my favourite actors and the “magic” quality they all share. Stage presence or Star quality or whatever. But now I think it’s probably just – the pleasure to play. Why didn’t someone tell me before! Thanks Kristine.

Charlotte Baker, Participant Actor

It was a pleasure to meet Kristine and get to work with her so intensively over the 3 day course. I was apprehensive going in but soon forgot all about my nerves as the first morning progressed. It was a really supportive environment with a great mix of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures and it was really satisfying to see how well we were playing together on the final day when we ran scenes from a play that Kristine had once directed.

On the first day, I remember Kristine said that her view of acting is very simple, it’s about the ‘pleasure to play’ and over the three days I couldn’t believe what a difference these three little words had made. I realised during the course how much as an actor you can become bogged down with meaning and character decisions and all this does is overshadow the text and it loses its spontaneity.

Kristine’s approach was great, she absolutely told you the truth and gave clear advice about what you were doing wrong or rather what was preventing you from connecting with the text and at the same time she was really encouraging and told you when the work was excellent. Through improvisation tailored to each individual, Kristine brought out the best in each and every one of us, encouraging us to play well both individually in our monologues and later in scenes together. This was great to observe during the course of the weekend. The wonderful open actor that is present in the improvisation is no different to the actor with the text. In this way you allow the text to unfold, discovering it spontaneously in the moment, enjoying the pleasure to play.

It was such a fantastic weekend, challenging, fun and I’ve learnt a lot that I can now carry forward in my acting – I only wish I had got to work with Kristine sooner!

Anurita Heer, Participant Actor

All of the Tamasha courses and workshops that I have been a part of have always been a great learning experience and this last course with Kristine was no exception. Kristine’s straightforward approach of placing the actor at the centre of any work and starting from there enabled actors to explore their creativity with freedom. Each improvisation and scene were carefully set in order for actors to realise their potential, their strong points as well as how to distinguish and work on any weaknesses they may have. As well as actively participating on the intensive course, it was also a great learning opportunity to simply observe fellow actors and watch how Kristine worked with them. By the end of the course, I believe I had a genuine understanding what it means to play with pleasure as an actor and how this simple phrase should be realised and incorporated with utmost sophistication.

Desmond Healy, Participant Actor

What a breath of fresh air! Working with Kristine has been such an incredible experience for me. I heard that this was an opportunity I could not miss, I’ll admit I did not know much about Kristine or Tamasha before the course, but a friend who works very close with Tamasha guided me in the right direction and I went into the course completely open-minded with a need of gaining self-confidence in my art, and this was certainly the case. The course was full of energy, enthusiasm and knowledge in acting and working on developing yourself and bringing your own self to the stage and having a ‘pleasure to play’. an invaluble lesson.

I have worked with people who just tell you what they want and that’s all they want you to deliver and love the sound of their own voice too much, not Kristine. From the word go I felt completely comfortable and input was encouraged, Kristine was very eager to hear our input into the games and exercises, and out of nowhere I discovered I had a voice of my own and was given the platform to voice my opinion and now I have skills I didn’t realise I had. There were times when I found what Kristine had to say a little hard to digest but when she practised what she preached she got results from both me and the other actors and that just raised the bar to a whole new level that just made my jaw hit the floor! I loved working with such an incredibly creative and intelligent but above all FRIENDLY and nurturing director.

Working with such like-minded people was delicious! We gelled so quickly in such a short space of time, I couldn’t get enough of it! We learned equally as much from watching each other as we did from Kristine. Sometimes when Kristine gives you feedback that maybe u have trouble getting your head around, sometimes it takes seeing someone else in the same situation for you to have that ‘Oh! I see now!’moment. Also it was incredible to work with actors of different ethnic groups, and improvising scenes with more than one language and feeding off the other actors without knowing what they were saying back to you!…and still making it work! Awesome!

Kristine was incredibly hands-on she has amazing energy and just gets so into every aspect, every word of the text, every gesture. I learned as much observing her teach and direct as actually being directed by her. Kristine made sure every person in the room was as involved in every scene that was covered.

It was a course that left me elated and made me walk taller, such a simple idea of how to approach acting brought forward incredible results and attitude to the profession. A massive Thank You to Kristine for allowing me to be a part of her final masterclass…WOW!

Llila Vis, Participant Actor

This was my first time working with Kristine and it was fantastic. She gave me a completely different outlook on the process of improvisation which I know will help me in my work going forward. She is encouraging and supportive and yet able to pinpoint where and how you are going off course. This insight is so critical and being made aware of it is so important for the actor as then you can go about sorting it out. Here, again Kristine was able to direct you in a way so that you do manage to find it. I am glad I had the chance to work with her before she left and really very much hope that i will be able to do so again. Wishing her much luck!

Ruby Rall, Participant Actor

After having done the Actor Director course in November 2011, when I first experienced Kristine’s intracultural practice, I was eager to continue supplementing my learning and get onto an Actor course with Kristine as well. It’s tough competition applying for a place, and I’m grateful I finally got a place on the very last UK course actor course with her. As I still had a very strong positive experience impression left upon me from the Actor Director course, I was keen to make the most of the rare place given to me on these next three invaluable days on the actor course.

It’s great when we get called upon by Kristine to work on a scene or support another actor, as we are experiencing her practice first hand. Yet, there is so much learning to be equally gained if not more in being an observer too. This is because by watching another actor go through their transition of pre and post KLS intracultural practice process, I can clearly see their ‘aha’ moments of realisation(s), and I also find another actors lessons learnt very valuable and applicable to me also.

We always started work by playing games. Not just child’s play type playing games – no not acceptable. Kristine made it very clear and specific why playing games had to serve a useful purpose to the actor, otherwise they were just a waste of time and no more than a physical warm up, and supportive to the work the actors were about to do. In all of Kristine’s games, she was very clear and simple in instruction, and this reflected in her direction too later on. She was successful in getting the actors ready to have and enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’. Actors were open and ready to play and connecting with others, by being open to whatever might be happening during game play. There was no opportunity of blocking myself my being stuck in my own head space and focusing on myself; otherwise I wasn’t playing with everyone around me. So it was liberating to be spontaneous just like young children are impulsive and thus TRUE in whatever results we were creating/experiencing. Hence the outcome was an authentic experience for the game participants, and pleasurable experience to be watched by the game audience. This was the standard set that all actors had to maintain and transfer into their acting by being equally ready and open to simply enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’ during acting. Easily said, but when came to acting we learnt how we blocked ourselves and reverted back to whatever our ‘default’ mode was in our old acting comfort zone and quickly forgot how to stay in play mode with our fellow actors. Yet, Kristine’s radar is so sharp at picking up on this, so she set useful and helpful improvisations that served the scenes and quickly brought the actor back into play mode and just be themselves. This was a useful lesson and observation in realising that in the outside world how much damage has been done to actors in getting all kinds of unhelpful information, feedback and programming etc that it just stifles the actors. Amazingly, Kristine was strong in staying actor focused and breaking through all the psychological clutter surrounding the actor in order to get the actor to trust that it is simple yet sophisticated enough for them to be their true authentic natural self. No need to over prepare, no need to over rehearse because it was more compellingly important for the impulse and spontaneity to unfold. As an actor it felt so enjoyable to DISCOVER the scene organically, rather predecide, predefine, presume, prepare …avoid overly ‘pre’ anything when the moment hasn’t happened yet. There is only the present moment, there is only now, now now, and each now moment is a moment of discovery unfolding for the both the actor and the audience. Oh what a joy to finally having permission of being just me, myself, simply Ruby Rall being enough… my natural true self simple and yet still sophisticated….in the present, enjoying the pleasure to play. That was the same for every single actor in the room, and as our shrouding onion layers peeled away it was refreshing to change from being an actor that just ‘exists,’ to now being an actor that is living and breathing in the present, and playing with pleasure, and a joy to be watched by audiences. A win: win scenario for both the actor and the audience.

I was amazed at when actors were speaking in different languages to each other in a scene that everyone remained connected and open to each other and still somehow understood each other. A perfect example of how much we communicate to each other so much more that words alone. I could see how the intracultural practice got actors to get to a comfortable place and ready to open up and express themselves more authentically. After all, my cultural background/heritage is a part of what makes up me Ruby Rall, so it is not affordable to be ignored or dismissed. I don’t want a director or audience to see something that is other than me, and as an actress it doesn’t make sense to play something that is not me – it just doesn’t work. Kristine’s practice created transformations in the actors, during which they change from trying to get away with their pretence to discovering their truth, so much so, that actors’ face, voice and physicality changed and observers picked up on this metamorphosis gave great feedback on how much they enjoyed and believed the actors performances. Now I have a greater sense of how in my job of actor, I am actually an artist who is truthfully, present in the moment, and enjoying the pleasure to play, and experiencing the discovery of each unfolding present now moment… and it is my unfolding experience that I am showing the audience…and that is what the audience is paying to watch and enjoy.

As the UK TDAs lose Kristine to become Australia’s gain, I feel grateful that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing two courses with her, which I wish I did sooner and for longer. Thanks to Tamasha for creating the TDA network where we can keep Kristine’s practice alive as she has given us actors and directors a common language that we understand and it works. Being a Leeds, West Yorkshire based actress it is well worth the time cost travel etc for me to participate in the course and therefore I would strongly recommend this experience to others. Although I know I am one of the fortunate last course actor participants at present, no doubt I’ll be back in the applications queue if ever there is a future chance to top up on a dose of Kristine’s intracultural practice.

February Directors’ Course at Actors Centre with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ash Bhalla – Participant Director

I think performance is the most essential element of any film and I’ve studied a number of approaches to “working with actors” that amounted to transposing a preconceived reality onto the actor. For the past two days I have seen performances go from scratch to compelling scenes in minutes by enabling actors to do what they love: create an organic reality.

In a field loaded with various techniques, jargon and methods it is a relief to finally concentrate on a human being and trust that person to show you the truth of the scene, rather than making a decision about what the script requires and then asking the actor to “recreate” that truth.

With the actor-centered approach the actors play the scene, the scene doesn’t tell them what to play.

Guillaume Laroche – Participant Director

It all started with a desire to push myself where I’d never been before in a professional way – Directing. I’d shot a few videos and trailers and was a keen writer with a couple of projects in the pipeline but I had no way to know – Am I capable of this? Do I have the right approach? Can I communicate with actors the way I like to be spoken to when I’m acting.

Yes, I come from an actor’s background and I feel this week helped me tremendously and confirmed what I suspected: in my view, being an actor really helps to understand the process of working with actors. Sounds obvious but I needed confirmation. So, on the first day, after a delightful warm-up, we were thrown in the deep end and I found that switching from actor to director demanded a sort of mindset I wasn’t accustomed to…after five days, the switch was clearly established thanks to the hands on practice and work we did with Kris but also thanks to the wonderful set of actors she invited to the workshop to be “played” with.

The most important point that came out of the week for me was TRUST! Trust yourself, trust your process but mainly and without fail, trust your actors. Nurtured and guided well, actors prove to be magnificent, and with clear communication, the trust gained allows you, the director and them, the actors, to speak and act freely thus bringing life where there was only a text before. It’s pure magic! A well thought out warm-up is key to that and everyday this week, directors took charge of the warm-up in turn to deliver the best introduction to the day, i.e actors and directors alike joined in a very positive and ready to work attitude.

I also learned to talk less (which is a big deal for me) and let the actors find their way. Once again it all comes down to trust, trusting them to understand your vision almost instinctively and rise to the task with more assurance and deliver their best work.

Many of the actors left each day saying kind words or giving me a hug and this, to me, was the best feeling, proof that I did a good job with them more than anything else, learning to let them BE and PLAY, giving them my undivided attention. I loved the work, I loved the process Kris guided us through, I loved the participants and the actors and most of all, I loved what I was doing!

I left on Friday night feeling whole, in the moment, I felt like a director!

Tim Cowbury – Participant Director

Wednesday felt like a little turning point in the week for me. I’d been learning a lot and scribbling notes furiously all the way, but feeling very much like a hapless beginner, trying to second guess the master (and mostly not succeeding). I’d been thrown into the directing hot-seat on Monday and not managed to get anywhere with the poor actor who was trying to do a monologue from King Lear and had me interfering (directing). Having not prepared and not being familiar with the actor’s text, I think I panicked, felt I had to say something, anything, (and ohmigod there’s not much time!) and chucked a mostly random set of instructions (obstructions?) at her. We hadn’t reached any kind of end point when we had to show the monologue to the group. Myself and the actor sat tense and still in chairs on stage while she delivered the lines ‘at’ me and I tried to smile encouragingly at her. It wasn’t exactly an electrifying event. Afterwards it took Kristine ten minutes to completely free the text, the actor up, instigating an improvisation in Punjabi with another actor (rather than a frozen-with-fear me) the target of the actor’s words. The situation allowed the actors to play and also to be versions of themselves: they acted instinctively and when the text was brought back in, it was imbued with this sense of fun, play but also – most crucially – honesty. The difference between seeing an ‘actor’ as you watch, doing ‘acting’ to just seeing a real person, speaking, being.

This was of course an important lesson for someone trying to get a grasp of a director’s role. In the moment I felt like some sort of ridiculously simple magic had been done, and I was spending the week working out how to do the tricks, so I could learn to do what Kristine did with the Punjabi impro. But I also had lots of questions over whether this approach was transferable to different kinds of scenes. Or to live performance that doesn’t really contain ‘scenes’. The theatre that I make tends to mess around with or completely ignore psychological realism. I wanted to see how the use of improvisation and focus on creating something ‘believable’ would translate onto a very different style or mode of theatre. So on Wednesday I had my second go at directing, and chose to work with a scene from Caryl Churchill’s completely brilliant but completely and utterly absurd Far Away.

The actors I worked with were baffled when we first read the scene (it’s hard to get your head around even if you read the whole play!). They thought it was weird and had no idea what their ‘characters’ were on about. Interestingly, I think the actors were also quite baffled about these things even when we finished working, and baffled but pleasantly surprised after we’d shown the scene to the group. We managed to work with what was essentially a lack of or gap in understanding: we didn’t discuss or explore directly the meaning of this strange text, we didn’t talk about the characters (I banned the word) or really the fictional situation they were in, the world of the play. Instead we played some simple impro games based on a mixture of my ideas and the actor’s comments (‘it’s like they’ve both been smoking something but they’ve definitely smoked the same thing’ led to an impro of stoned people using repetitive language). We went back to the text once or twice, which felt risky, but on reflection was well-judged, giving the actors a sense of how the games we played might relate to the scene, without focusing on the scene really at all. If we had focused on the scene, tried to unpick it too much, I think we’d have ended up trying to make decisions about it. The strength of the work we did was that we didn’t make decisions about the text.

Because the work we did was really light, not consciously analytic  not geared towards the actors having a clear sense of the fictional people they were stepping inside the skin of, it felt like the scene might be a shambles. How could people who haven’t made sense, created internal motivations for, what they’re saying, convey any meaning or reality to the audience? It seemed like I’d be making matters worse when I imposed a new experiment on the actors for the running of the scene in front of the group, asking them to sit at a table, facing front, looking out at the audience as much as possible, and do it as if they were newsreaders about to go on air. But given the scant amount of time we’d had to work, the scene played very well, was believable: not actors acting, but people speaking, being. There was space for the audience to impose their own meaning; if the actors had made lots of choices and tried to ‘play’ the scene a certain way, with intentions and meanings to certain lines, this space wouldn’t have been there. Most interestingly for me, I’d deliberately chosen a text that was very different from anything else we’d seen that week, and I think from the sort of texts, styles, Kristine works with. I was testing her process in relation to mine, expecting to find that much of it didn’t translate. But in this case, with me thinking critically, more sensitive to what was in front of me, rather than grasping at straws as I had on Monday, a process geared towards one style of work (and actor/actor training?) worked surprisingly well in a quite different context.

Kati Francis – Participant Director

So amazing to see a master at work! Kristine is a tour de force as she skilfully, efficiently and energetically crafts her art…I felt for a lot of the week as if I was stumbling through a dark but beautiful forest that Kristine knew all the secret pathways to! She would constantly, generously point them out to me…I was able to tell at least when I was off track, but learning how to navigate through the undergrowth was often bewildering and a little frustrating- particularly when guided by someone who does it so effortlessly!

My objective for the week was to put aside all of my own practice as a director and to try on Kristine’s shoes for a while…this was very exposing as I purposefully refused to fall back on my own techniques…although this did not help my actors have faith in me, it really helped me to unearth her methodology. As a devised physical theatre practitioner, working outside of psychological realism I was a little at sea…usually working from a stylistic premise or a concept. The placing of the actors before text- working with what they brought to the space- was not a novelty for me- but working with that idea in Kristine’s way was! I stumbled, I flailed, I laughed, I had a crisis of confidence- I glimpsed success a few times and then I began to see how I could take this back into my own world…

After some reflection I can say that it was great to be so immersed in someone else’s process for a while and try out their style of work…it helped me to understand the psychology of the performer- what makes them tick- the need to constantly feed them- to keep them safe and secure in your directorial embrace whilst inspiring them to make their own creative leaps. A lot comes down to trust- trusting your own vision/ instinct/ voice/ idea…but also trusting the performers- what they can bring- what they have to offer: give them too much- tell them what you want and they will feel redundant and bored, give them too little- and they will exhaust themselves trying multiple options- unsure of what is working, feeling despondent about their performance and unmotivated to create material/ believe in what they are doing… offer them a seed- highlight the truth within the situation that they are playing- draw out their strengths so that they can feel confident enough to grow what they are doing from pastel hues to vibrant colours, reflect back the essence of the scene that they have found through relaxed, honest and engaged play- a generous offering of themselves, and you will produce compelling theatre.

Daniel Gentely- Participant Director

I came to The Actors Centre with an open mind and not knowing too much about what the week had in store.
After the first day it was clear that the directors involved were all from varied backgrounds and different theatre/film practices.

The first thing that stood out for me was how to create a group energy in the rehearsal space. I am an actor and have been in many rehearsals and simply forgot about how to warm a room up (or a good director can use the warm up to drive the week). This is something that when done well can create a energy and atmosphere that feeds through a company and creates a positive attitude and feel for your rehearsal.

Freeing the actor, relaxing the actor and giving them time to breath. This gives the company freedom to bring their wonderful ideas and interpretation to the rehearsal process. It is one of the first things that I latched on to and clearly made me realise what a good director can do ( as opposed to a director that imposes their vision form the off, this restricts and suffocates). The director gives the actor space and time to create and share their interpretation of the text. This organic process is a natural and positive practice that must be applied to the rehearsal process which creates the shared experience.

Working with a empty space or a restricted space. Towards the end of the week it became apparent that the actor can be restricted by the space you give them to work in. I found this section of the week really interesting. Creating an artistic environment for the actors to ‘play in’ is key to making the scene work. It was really easy for me to stick a table and chair centre stage and say ‘there you go, that is your room’. When questioned about this I simply punched myself in the head and realised how I cramped and suffocated the playing space. Such simple and basic know-hows are key to giving the actors a space that you WANT to ‘play in’, it enhances creativity.

All in all, the week was tough and exposing but also a real reminder that the simple things are sometimes hard to remember but once they are logged and stored you can access them and use for everyone’s benefit.

As a director you must be clear and make it evident from day one that you have a confident and clear working practice/ vision that will create a artistic atmosphere which encourages creativity.

I hope that makes sense and does not make me look a little mad. I think the key thing for me is Don’t clutter and keep it simple!

Anshu Srivastava – Participant Director

In May last year I began to imagine a new kind of work for myself that would be very artistic, generative, collaborative and pleasurable. The idea of becoming a director in the theatre immediately sprang from these first musings and last week I had the wonderful opportunity to take a major step forwards when I participated in the Tamasha week-long directors workshop.

Having attended several of Kristine’s actor masterclasses last year, as an observer, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of her approach and practice, but this time I would be working directly with the actors myself and here I had no idea what to expect… this was going to be all new.

During the first half of the week I was all caught up with ideas. I think due to my complete unfamiliarity with this kind of work, I was feeling pretty exposed and so I was kind of clutching at tactics, trying this or that idea that I had seen other people use to good effect, rather than explore my own capacity to play well; rather than trust my own voice. Some of these ‘moves’ worked better than others, as they were not entirely devoid of instinct, but they were a bit thin and couldn’t really sustain and nourish the actors enough.

The anxiety that surrounded these first days meant that I was sometimes zoning out and kind of freezing and flopping. The great thing was that I could feed these observations back into the group discussions and take encouragement from Kristine’s feedback and guidance. The feelings were never really catastrophic, I was enjoying myself too much, but they were inhibiting me from being good.

With these few flops under my belt, I began to relax and communicate more naturally and fluidly. I started zoning in and was able to listen and see more of what the actors were giving me and communicate back with more precision and simplicity.

The last two days went well, I really enjoyed the process of working one on one with the actors and together we produced some very nice work. Daily, I was blown away by the quality and commitment of the actors and my fellow directors. It was a real pleasure to learn and create through our respective and collective experiences. Kristine is an incredible teacher and constant source of inspiration and I thank her for her generous and straightforward guidance.

I’m now really looking forward to the next steps.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 5

Alia Alzougbi, Participant Actor

Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed fellow actors giving themselves over with pleasure to Kristine’s processes, as she pushed, challenged and questioned them, and I have watched them improve drastically as a result. I understand this pleasure — I too experienced it every time Kris was working with me on a monologue or a scene. There is indeed a pleasure of growing and improving by the minute with one of the many Kristine-esque exercises. She lures the actor into a collaboration, the purpose of which is to make the actor the best that they can be – and therein lies the pleasure for the actor. She is brutally honest, but she holds the space with such tenacity I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. I felt safe and open, and I witnessed others and myself improve by the minute under her critical guidance.

Nathan Crossan-Smith, Participant Director Observer

We came into the Rag Factory this week a little mournful, I think, that this would be our lest session together- the last of our Wednesday night sanctuaries. For, really, this is how our workshops feel- a retreat from our text-centric British theatre, a place to recharge, to reassess, to question, to improve our craft as artists, to flop- and flop again and better- to learn and, of course, to play. And so we entered the room, shuffled around, set our things down a little ruefully, and then got over (or around) ourselves and got ready to play.

As a director-observer I’ve watched as Kristine has nudged, encouraged, provoked, teased, pushed, pulled, cajoled and jerked our participants into getting out of their own way, or leaving aside reverence to the text, or opening themselves to their playing partners and finding the pleasure in playing here, now, with these artists. Tonight was no different: our participants returned to duologues explored in week four, as well as some monologues from our earlier sessions, with the spirit of approaching freshly, of recreating (rather than repeating); Kris tried to find the right rhythms, the right musicality, and the right structures, that would work tonight- in this small, worn, make-shift room full of light and artists ready to play- in order to provide the actors with the conditions within which they could play at their best, most sensitively to their fellow artists. “It’s important to get off on the right foot”, Kris has repeated in recent weeks; so the entrances (as well as the playing space) are set up carefully.

Some of our scene work tonight is slow, ‘we can’t push them to a conclusion”, we leave scenes where we have managed to get in this time scale, and we move swiftly to the next: we’re working hard, Kris, the actors in the scene, the observers; we’re seeking the best in ourselves and each other (yes, our real selves and the real interplay between each of us!). Sometimes it’s ‘elbows down’, or ‘let’s work in your French accent- your face is open when you speak in French’, for some ‘hair-up’, for others ‘hair down’, whichever helps to make the actor open up, be themselves, whichever helps them to enjoy playing. Some exercises work first time, others we discard for new approaches, Kris points out that the director seeking out the right exercises is an important activity in itself; the work is artistic, exploratory- not learned rote or as a set method.

The whole session we seem to be paying attention to making sure we are coming to play, making sure we are getting out of the depths of our own heads and really listening to our partners. There is a slight fierceness to our work tonight because it’s our last week, we want to get it right- but of course, we really just need to come ready to play. And once the bags and coats were picked up and wrapped around us again and we left the small make-shift room filled with night to face the night’s chill we chatted, smiled, laughed, having played hard and played well.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 4

Anurita Heer, Participant Actor

The last few weeks have been very informative. This week was a great learning experience as I spent a lot of time simply observing other actors as they worked. A recurring theme this week was ‘why do we make certain decisions for a scene’ and how we can avoid making bad choices which ultimately restrict us as actors. One thing I have learnt over the last few weeks is subtlety. This is very important when creating artistic work as even slightly missing a beat or not timing your actions correctly can greatly affect the rest of the scene. Yet this requires the actor to be open and fully immerse themselves in the pleasure to play. In doing so, the actor intuitively starts to make the the right decisions and is able to play with fellow actors to bring a text or improvisation to life.

Sunnie Sidhu, Participant Actor

This is the second acting course I have been on with Tamasha, I obviously can’t get enough! I believe that they provide a safe place for you to make brave/strong choices and not be scared to fail, which is a different attitude to the one I experienced at Drama School. This ethos frees you up as an actor, makes you feel more open and maybe it provides a bit of reverse psychology, but I think I have done my best performances as a result. Kristine cares about the individual actor and refuses to give up on them when she knows they are capable of being amazing. Her infectious determination to get the best out of you and solve any niggling problems renews your confidence and passion as an actor. I wish there were more directors out there like her…there would definitely be a lot better actors as a result! I hope I can maintain what I have learnt from Tamasha and Kristine throughout my acting career. If I can I know I will always give an honest, engaging and interesting performance.

Ryan Blackburn, Participant Actor

The Tamasha masterclass has been a fantastic opportunity for me to ‘play’ as an actor. I’m now learning to play more and leave myself open! The warm up games make you aware of filling the space whilst leaving yourself open to receive from others. It’s interesting to observe my peers playing the games, as it allows you to see the actors seeking to play and open to receive. When working on our chosen piece I made character choices that stopped the scene progressing and having truth, I had already decided upon the relationship the two characters would have with each other rather than being in the moment and finding the truth, by taking the time to drop the text so the text doesn’t control me allowed me to be free and play with the scene, and Kristine’s approach when working with the actors really encourages this. She will set up the scene and encourage you to create the conditions, if the scene is going well you will use that as a reference point to go back to when it’s not. Kristine has a very honest and direct way of working, and what i have found to be interesting throughout this process is concentrating on getting rid of the ‘character’ stuff as it’s not the way to situate yourself in the play and focusing on the actor responding not the character. The classes have been a great opportunity for me to working in such a warm and encouraging environment, and as an only English speaking actor, it’s exciting to observe my peers perform in their own accents and languages, giving their chosen text depth and honesty. I feel more confident now in approaching the text and having fun with play in the scene rather than making unhelpful choices.

%d bloggers like this: