Category Archives: Actor/Director Labs

Actor Director Masterclass with Kristine Landon-Smith

Michela Sisti, participant director

In January of this year I observed Kristine’s “Introduction to Acting” workshop as well as participated as a director in her “Actors and Directors” workshop. The four short days I spent in Kristine’s class were rigorous, intense and absolutely packed with learning. I left our Arcola studio on the evening of the fourth day feeling tired and happy and quite transformed. I am very grateful to Kristine and Tamasha for giving me the opportunity to have challenged myself with such a rewarding method of working with actors.

The most important thing a director should nurture in an actor’s performance is that actor’s willingness to play. An actor at play is relaxed, open and, in Kristine’s words, “free to fly”.

Kristine’s approach to directing is both simple and rigorous: how do I get the actors in front of me to be at their absolute best? It requires a huge amount of focus and sensitivity from the director who must be completely tuned in to the actor’s performance in order to detect what is preventing this actor from being in a relaxed and open state of play. Likewise, the director should also be looking for moments in which the actor absolutely shines. If the director can figure out what is allowing this actor to fly freely then it is possible to guide them back to that open state in other moments of their performance.

So, Kristine’s approach ultimately places the actor, rather than a superimposed vision of the director, at the centre of every performance. It also requires the director to engage with each actor very closely and to understand that what may work brilliantly for one actor will not be right for another. Out of this understanding that each actor should be guided along his or her own individual path comes Kristine’s intracultural practice, which I will discuss in detail later on in this blog.

Part 1: Kristine’s Games/Warm-ups

One of the first things Kristine explained to us when we began her workshop was that a game or warm-up used in a rehearsal room cannot be random. It needs to have a purpose; it needs to take the actors on a journey.

Kristine began each day by playing a few rounds of volleyball with the actors in a circle. According to Kristine, the only thing that matters about this game is that it teaches the actors how to play well together. Kristine was actively directing even as she was playing with the actors. She was counting the number of times the ball was volleyed in a clear and energized voice while throwing in words of encouragement in between. She was also the ongoing bullshit police: if the group began to dissolve into unfocused hilarity, threatening to become children playing rather than actors playing, Kristine would firmly rein them back to the task at hand. At the end of this game any awkwardness or guardedness that had been clinging to the actors had melted off. The group was open and ready for more.

The next game was a variation on tag. It should be played at a stage when people are still learning each other’s names. The actors began by walking around the space. The person who is “It” is intent on tagging someone. The only way to prevent yourself from becoming “It” is to say the name of someone else in the space, who then becomes the new “It”. If you are tagged before you call out someone else’s name then you lose a life. If you are tagged after losing three lives you are “out”. When there were four people left in the game Kristine made the space smaller. The rest of us observed from the sidelines. As in all of her games, Kristine was actively directing: encouraging the actors who needed to be encouraged, goading or teasing the actors who she could sense would response better to cheekier feedback, and always keeping track of who was “It” so that could flow energetically without stumbles.

For the third game Kristine asked the actors to break up into two even groups. The members of each group formed a huddle and numbered themselves from one to seven (there were 14 actors in total), taking care not to let the other group know who had chosen which number. Next, Kristine asked the groups to stand in two rows, one group facing the other with space between the rows large enough for actors to move around in. Kristine then stood on a chair situated between these two rows, dangled a glove in the air and called out a number between 1 and 7. If Kristine called out “four!” then the fours from each row would have to enter the space and snatch the glove from Kristine’s hand before the other person did, then quickly run back to their row before they could be tagged by the loser.

In this game Kristine warned the actors against “playing too hard”. If each person called into the space only focused on snatching up the glove and dashing back they would miss a far more important opportunity: the opportunity to play. So, the actors were encouraged to actually stand the in that very charged and risky space and find out how to play with each other. This game also put the actors ‘on stage’ for the first time in front of their peers which meant that the potential for discomfort or anxiety was suddenly increased. The more experience and actor has being ‘on stage’ in the rehearsal room, the better equipped he or she will be to deal with any nerves that might derail a carefully created performance.

On my third day in Kristine’s class I had the opportunity to lead this game as a director and I found it difficult to pull off. I felt I did a good job setting up the game but when the time came for the actors to face off for the glove in the space everything fell incredibly flat. At this point Kristine cut me off and we took some time to cheerfully discuss why what had gone wrong. I realized that that the game began to fail the moment I had dropped out of it. Whereas Kristine had tantalized and provoked and teased and laughed with her actors when she led this game on the first day, I had l limply stood on a chair with a glove dangling from my hand expecting something interesting to happen.

During this moment of realization something Kristine had said earlier, that the director must bring her personality to the room, became especially clear to me. The director must always be in the thick of things, not removed from the action, because how can a director expect a group of actors to be vulnerable and open and present if you are not vulnerable, open and present as well?

Another game that Kristine led was used free up text for the actor. In the first stage of the game actors divided themselves up into pairs and took five turns each trying to slap the other’s hands, while the other attempted to remove them before being caught. Again, Kristine urged the actors not to be swallowed by the aim of winning the game, but instead to remain with each other and figure out together how to remain in an attuned state of play. In the second stage of the game Kristine instructed everyone to add bits of text to their monologues every time they went for a slap. The actors were told to resist imposing meaning onto their text, but rather to fling out the words almost unconsciously – they could be speaking gibberish and it wouldn’t make a difference. Through this game many of the actors realized that they had become used to speaking their text in a very rigid way. It took a few rounds of playing these games to loosen up those habits and open the actor to the text again.

Other games Kristine introduced to her actors had to do with building complicité among a large group. Kristine experimented with variations on sending rapid claps around a circle. The claps were passed one way and then another as the group strove to keep them as even and fast as possible. The claps then became movements with accompanying sounds that were passed around the circle. These movements and sounds could be transformed by the actors but the transformations had to be spontaneous. On a later date Kristine asked her actors to send rapid claps around two concentric circles, on clockwise, the other anti-clockwise. She challenged the actors by asking them to move from outer-circle to inner-circle and time their movement in order to catch the new clap. Kristine also led games that involved improvising and shifting rhythms.

One particular game Kristine used had the purpose of giving the actors a chance to feel stupid in front of each other. Everyone begins by sitting in a circle. Someone runs around the outside of the circle with a sock and secretly drops it behind one of the sitting members of the group and continues running. If the runner makes it all the way around the circle again and tags the person they’ve left the sock behind before that person notices, that person is out. This is another way of using the rehearsal room to air out any kind of anxieties an actor might be carrying with them that could get in the way of arriving at an open performance. It is important for a director to create an environment where actors feel comfortable enough to practice failing in front of each other and in front of you.”

Anna-Maria Nabirye, participant actor

“It was so refreshing being back in the room with Kristine. The open actor and the art of play is so delicate. It needs to be nurtured and revisited. As easy as it is to find the wave and be open in play is as easy as it is to completely forget that the wave exists and to close in on yourself. I had forgotten how easy it was when riding the crest of the wave, how many choices and I had at my disposal when open and having the pleasure to play. What these 2 days taught me was that I am responsible for remembering the ease of riding the wave, I am responsible for keeping open and finding the pleasure to play. If a director helps me on my way then that is a bonus. My career, my artistry my choices.”

Pooja Ghai, participant director

“I am an actor who is moving into directing, and building my practice. Joining Kristine on this workshop was both challenging and overwhelming, this was because after only two days we covered so much ground, and I left the room thinking about so much.

As a practitioner Kristine is fantastic to observe. She runs a room on honesty and has an actor centred approach. I have had the joy to work with her in a professional capacity as an actor. To be in the room and learn from her in the capacity of a director was wonderful.

Kristine is an instinctual practitioner; she works with what the actor gives and guides them to find their sensitivity with each other, and to discover each other through complicit play. I was able to see very quickly what my short-comings were, and understood where I needed to build my confidence and how important it was to find the right language for the actor. It has made me want to get back out onto the floor, to gain more confidence and build my practice. Thank you Kristine, once again an incredible workshop, that takes you to the heart of good practice.”

Ed Fromson, participant actor

“Tamasha’s Acting and Directing workshop focuses on the actor or simply ourselves. To try and make us use ourselves in the most sensitive and open way when approaching a text. Kristine focuses on making the directors ask the right imaginative questions that frees the actor from the cliché surrounding text/character/objectives that can sometimes muddle what’s needed. The result is that the actor can achieve his beauty on the stage. A wonderful workshop which I can’t rate highly enough.’’

Ery Nzaramba, participant actor

“I came out of the workshops rejuvenated and my confidence restored. And, mostly, liberated. Because the most important thing I learned was that it isn’t about the character or the background story or the story itself (that is all taken care of by direction, text, costume, design etc), it is about that moment in the scene, between you and your fellow actor(s). Not the characters, but the actual actors. It’s about “playing” with them. Using your lines and your understanding of them, you play with the other actors. Even use your native language/accent as a way in, if necessary – you are more likely to be “yourself” when speaking in your own voice. I found this method particularly useful for period pieces because they’re so far from us and you must use any means necessary to bring it to ‘you’. Bring the ‘character’ to you, don’t go towards the character – or you’ll just be ‘acting’ (it won’t be truthful). And with Kristine you know without ambiguity when you’ve stopped playing and started ‘acting’. She lets you know with no uncertain words. Which is great because you know where you stand but it can be intimidating and fear inducing. That fear is the one thing I wasn’t happy with, though it’s a personal issue: I’m thin-skinned and find it hard to take criticism. But I know it’s necessary to take it well so I do welcome it and just deal with my sensitivity.”

Anne-Marie Piazza, participant actor

“I like coming back to a masterclass with Kristine Landon-Smith because she cuts straight to the heart of what it is to be a really good actor. We worked on a text that was very new to me and by just telling me what my character needed and was motivated by she guided me to produce the kind of work I always wanted to do – honest and truthful theatre. Directors like this are rare, I’ve only known one other. And though she is now based in Sydney even this little refresher was useful to reset my ‘general’ acting into something specific, purposeful and true to me.”

Jen Tan, participant actor

“It is very easy to slip into bad habits and very easy to do an impression of good acting and I think we see a lot of this because we don’t challenge performances which are ok, even if at the heart of things we know that it’s an impression of a truth and it is so much more of a risk to step outside of pretence. Kristine always calls this out and I thank her for it. In the process of working with Kristine over the past 3 years I have found more simplicity and ease to my performance and since the sessions last week I have been reflecting on taking risks and pulling down barriers (or not putting them up at all) in my broader theatre practice.”

Mai Cunningham, participant actor

“I was initially quite nervous about taking this masterclass, but was glad I did. Usually the element of ‘play’ that one hears so much thrown around theatre, in my experience, often comes off as ‘enforced play’: making actors play games together in ways that make them act like they are playing rather than really playing. I have never enjoyed the ‘warm up’ sessions at the start of rehearsals, I find they don’t relax me or warm me up at all, and I prefer to get on with the script work. However, Kristine taught us all the value of play in order to create that connection with your fellow actors. To relax and enjoy the work. To enjoy the process of working with actors and to create a real sense of playfulness, and she did this all with such ease and a clear wealth of experience. She also taught actors the value of being ourselves and being genuine on stage. Something that is so easy to forget, and yet Krstine managed to remind us in two days. It’s a wonderful experience to feel so relaxed on stage while performing and being yourself. Her wealth of experience and knowledge is clear to see, and she shares it with great humour and openness. Her eye for recognising the mistakes and achievements we, as actors, do not realise we are doing is amazing. It was wonderful to work with new directors too and to see their learning processes in comparison with actors. It reminded me that directors are human too! I highly recommend this workshop to anyone. Absolutely invaluable.”

Kiran Sonia Sawar, participant actor

“The actor/director workshop with Kristine was absolutely a worthwhile experience. It’s an excellent way to learn new acting techniques and refresh existing ones post drama school. I also got to work with new young directors and collaborate with actors I hadn’t met before. I look forward to hopefully working with everyone again soon!”

Naveed Khan, participant actor

“I walked out of Kristine’s Actor/Director workshop feeling more confident as an actor. Confident to rely on doing no ‘acting’ at all. We usually learn this at Drama School. Though if it’s been a few years, you learn bad habits again. With Kristine’s experience and intuition, you quickly reach a beautiful realness in scenes. It was fascinating to watch the process and invaluable to participate in. I thoroughly recommend Tamasha’s workshops and look forward to working with Kristine again.”


Introduction to Acting Masterclass with Kristine Landon-Smith

Sanita Simms, participant actor

“I really enjoyed Kristin’s workshop with Tamasha. Since graduating from drama school it has been the first workshop which has allowed me to be open and free…and the key? Playing. As an actress, or I suppose any performer, I‘m always looking to further my craft and hone in on and develop new skills. What I learned with Kristine was that I had certainly forgotten the enjoyment of finding the true moments between myself and another actor. Letting go of stage directions and concentrating on ‘objectives’ have in fact been my obstacle. I had a fantastic time because I felt I discovered a major block and rediscovered why I’ve chosen this often flippant profession in the first place. My only regret is that I hadn’t tapped into Tamasha before and I feel privileged to have experienced Kristine’s way of working although she now lives abroad. Working with future directors and going for castings will be seen in a different light. Thank you for giving me this opportunity!

Kaushik Guha, participant actor

‘It was quite simply an amazing and inspiring experience. Kristine’s way of teaching is second to none! I have never enjoyed the experience of acting so much, as she truly sees each actor’s full potential, and uses ways only she knows how, to extract the best out of each actor. It was awesome to watch her in action and I loved every second of it. I am just sad Kristine has to go back to Australia now, as I feel I could learn so much more from her. Finding such a talented coach is like searching for a needle in a haystack. She has filled me with so much more confidence that I didn’t have before, and I just want to keep that feeling with me wherever I go now. Especially auditions of course… 🙂

Thank you once again, and I look forward to hearing about other learning opportunities with Tamasha throughout the year.”

Jade Greyul, participant actor

“I was familiar with the concept of the ‘actor at play’ before attending Kristine’s workshop, but I had never explored it alongside someone with such an innate capability to work directly with the individual; with me, and myself as an artist. Kristine guided us as professionals – not at all afraid to tell us when we weren’t reaching our potential for truth in each performance. The various group games encouraged an open forum, putting us all at ease to learn, share and most importantly, play! Kristine’s incredibly instinctive and straightforward approach was a refreshing change to hours of discussing character’s back-stories, attempting to discern who ‘they’ are and what ‘their objectives’ might be… for ‘they’ are, quite simply, us. When we stop placing the character outside of ourselves, what occurs is a beautifully organic process of talking from real emotions; a process which Kristine masterfully guided us through with carefully planned improvisations and an encouraged connection with our own cultural contexts. It was equally as insightful to watch Kristine work one-on-one with the other members of the group, each time witnessing the ‘performance’ fall away and the ‘performer’ come to life. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend working with Kristine in any capacity, as I hope to do again myself in future. Thank you Tamasha for another opportunity to creatively free myself, and remain open to the rewards of playmaking.”

Prinesh Mistry, participant actor

“One of the best acting classes I’ve attended and certainly the most playful!

Kristine has taught me that when we give ourselves the freedom to add a part of our self to the fabric of a character, we have the power to give a real, authentic and believable performance. No acting, just us being real in someone else’s skin. So simple. Accents, body language and physical appearance can all be manipulated , but the true essence of the character must be real. This is the important lesson I can take from the course. Kristine is a gem in a world where so many acting teachers manage to successfully overcomplicate the craft. Through her amazing level of perception she offers positive encouragement and simple straight forward advice. I was on such a natural high after the course!”

Jishnu Soni, participant actor

“Having a masterclass with Kristine is like rediscovering yourself as an Actor. She really knows how to bring out the best in you. The most important thing you learnt in the masterclass is that you are not acting a character you are performing yourself on stage. If you leave aside all the expectations of how a character should behave or say or any other stereotypes and perform as yourself, you will give out the best in you. Her theory of playing and improvisation and then performing the text as yourself is the important thing you learn as an actor. The other most important thing I learnt is using your own cultural heritage in the performance rather than following the standard norm. Use your own cultural background to your advantage; it helps you to create the person you are. Once you have master your own self, everything else falls into place by itself like accent, dialects, text, body, personality etc.”

Sangeeta Reding, participant actor

“I have done other courses but this approach was very different & useful for me as a working actress. It created an amazing closeness in a short space of time. I had to leave early on the first day to attend a casting- I got the job- what more can I say?”

Sneya Rajani, participant actor

“Inspirational, is the only word I could use to describe the workshop. Kristine is more magician less director. She has this amazing ability to hone in on your inner actor or rather shall I say the she hones in on finding ones self in the purest form. Where you have no inhibitions or pretense of what your role should be, just working on pure human connection and gut instinct to perform. Or in Kristine’s words the ‘PLAY’ theory. This theory can then be used in our future roles but has definitely inspired me to work harder and has made me see acting in a new light.

Thank you Kristine for giving me hope for acting and the tools to succeed.”

Teena Antia, participant actor

“As actors we live in a world of possible rejection. And that possibility can some times loom so large that we forget to do the one thing that we are meant to do…play. This workshop really focused on the important stuff – openness, professional vulnerability and honesty. These words sound lofty but Kristine Landon-Smith made it surprisingly easy to attain. She tuned into every one of us with such precision, it was almost like she could sense a false impulse before we even made it. She made us remember that we were good at our craft, so when she said “why is this so awful” it didn’t bruise our egos. She made us stronger and more vulnerable as actors and she reminded us to enjoy it all. I left the workshop feeling more secure in my acting than I have in months. She was one of those people you don’t ever forget.

Anurita Heer, participant actor

“It was great to take part in the masterclass with Kristine as her way of teaching and directing actors has been so important for my learning process as an actor. Kristine’s method is simple: she simply places the actor at the centre of any work. In doing so, the actor becomes completely free to play in improvisation or with a text and the result is a great performance. I have been through, as well as observed, this step by step process numerous times, watching actors transform in carefully crafted improvisations and then move on to perfectly directed text work. By taking the actor’s cultural context into consideration, Kristine always provides an environment for actors where they can create something magical for an audience.

Pema Clark, participant director

“I came to Kristine’s masterclass in order to further my own practice and research as a scholar-artist. In making links in my own mind around the place for actor-centred approaches within my own experimental interests, I was very enriched by Kristine’s work as it puts the actor/performer at the heart of any rehearsal and performance. As she reminded us, an actor can never be anyone other than themselves so, as performance makers, we might as well draw from their strengths and skills as creative and inspired resources. I would definitely attend another workshop with Kristine and highly recommend her as a teacher and director.”

Aysha Nawaz, participant actor

“I was quite nervous before I went along to the masterclass and so prior to going I tried to do a bit of homework and came across the concepts of ‘playing truthfully’ and the ‘intracultural approach’ that Kristine employs in her work. I got a vague idea but nothing can really prepare you for the actual experience…from the first moment, I knew this wasn’t going to be like any other class I’d attended.

I didn’t know any of the other participants before the class but by the time the morning was over, an intimacy and closeness had developed within the group and this allowed us all to connect and play freely with one another. Kristine encouraged us to remove the layers of what our perceptions of ‘acting’ may have previously been and by doing so uncover and reveal the true artist beneath.

When attempting to deliver our prepared monologues we were each taken on an individual journey of self discovery, a journey that taught me personally how the use of my mother tongue (Urdu) can be an extremely useful tool within improvisation, rehearsal techniques and as an actor full stop. I had never before attempted to use any aspect of my cultural heritage within the performance space. I instantly sensed the transformation within my delivery through Kristine’s careful guidance and intracultural technique; and although initially I felt quite vulnerable and exposed, the overwhelming feeling of being free from ‘convention’ was hugely liberating. I connected with my text in a way that I hadn’t done previously, it seemed to take on a whole new meaning for me – the ease and simplicity were all underpinned by an internal surge in energy and confidence.

I certainly look forward to working again with Kristine and Tamasha. Please don’t just take my word for it, I highly recommend this inspiring class to all artists regardless of age, gender background etc, I promise you won’t regret it!”

Rochelle Rose, participant actor

“I was excited to take part in the workshop because Kristine came highly recommended to me. However I must admit that I died inside when I found out we were going to be playing lots of games. But through Kristine’s encouragement and facilitation and her ability to hone in on the individual needs of an actor, I made much needed breakthroughs and enjoyed myself. I now have things to be mindful of whilst acting without being crippled by the things I have to work on. I also found it really helpful to watch Kristine direct the other amazing actors in my group. Watching helped me understand her process better and apply the advice she gave them to myself and my own acting. A very inspiring way to start the year! Thank you!”


Masterclasses with Iqbal Khan

Iqbal Khan

Shakespeare

“He’s incredibly knowledgeable about Shakespeare and acting generally and is very generous in his teaching and directing striking a fine balance between allowing the actor to indulge themselves yet at the same time guiding them without feeling hectored or taught i.e. he encourages the actor to discover answers for themselves. I most enjoyed working on my prepared monologue and listening to others perform their monologues. I enjoyed this because it was a revelation seeing that most of us were too concerned with our own performance rather than making sure the audience gets the message of what we’re saying. The feedback I got from Iqbal means I can practice the monologue by myself and not be worried about becoming fake by developing a preconceived intellectual idea of playing the part because Iqbal’s advice is to keep changing the performance without becoming attached to any one style of playing. Hopefully the end result of all this is that when I do finally perform to an audience that I no longer care about my performance as I’ve got the idea of getting it right out of my system.”

“Lovely – he’s someone who really knows and loves his Shakespeare from a performance perspective. He innately understands how to make the text come alive in performance. He’s also extremely approachable and patient and works very intuitively with the actor as an individual. It was refreshing to have so many guys in the room! So often I go to workshops and they are swamped with young middle class women so always a delight to work with a properly diverse group of actors.”

“I wanted to work on text and to play. The class was fantastic and I was left with lots to think about and work on. Iqbal got us playing, warmed up and ready to go. We worked on our monologues and then on Macbeth. It was very good indeed. I loved the fact that it was not all white, middle class actors! It was like being in a proper London setting. I am just really grateful that Tamasha hold workshops like this and that its affordable and enables one to meet such good creatives in the industry.”

Chekhov

It has encouraged me to look at Chekhov in a new way and inspired me to investigate other Chekhov plays I wouldn’t have thought of doing before. There is nowhere with as inclusive and interesting a participating workshop group as Tamasha attracts.”

“I absolutely adored working for the day with Iqbal. He has a very generous nature and a clear instructive manner. The way in which Iqbal uncovers the text and brings it to life is absolute magic. This was the first all day workshop I have been to. It made me crave work and auditions!”

“Iqbal was very relaxed and laid back, not at all intimidating which is sometimes the case when meeting directors! He was very open to answering personal questions and was happy to share his experiences. I really enjoyed breaking down the text and learning to read between the lines, which sometimes is a lot simpler than we think. We have the tendency to over-complicate characters, of course there is always subtext, but a monologue from the character can be so truthful that all it requires from the actor is to be open and vulnerable towards the audience. I’m definitely better equipped to read through scenes and break them down. I would pay more attention to ‘pauses’ and ‘beats’ in scripts – it all has a meaning. It’s so important to look at stage directions too; it gives the actor clues as to how their character is feeling at that moment in time, which is something not all directors will point out to their actors.”

Contemporary Texts

Made me realise that ethnicity/gender should not stop you from developing your imagination by playing parts that are against your type.”

“Iqbal’s empathy with the plight of actors, his depth of understanding with contemporary text and the feeling that he set up in the room which was one of lightheartedness and yet complete commitment to our learning.”

“I absolutely loved working with Iqbal. He gives his knowledge and direction graciously whilst highlighting our occasionally misguided decision making. He reminded me especially that the only thing that matters is truth.”

“The atmosphere that Iqbal created was very relaxed and I felt very confident to try things out in a safe environment. The direction was very clear and helpful and the advice I was given will certainly inform my acting in the future.”


Intracultural Actor Masterclass with NIDA via Video Link!

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Read below some of the comments below on our exciting experiment to see if we could lead an Intra-cultural Actor Masterclass with Kristine, students and observers from NIDA and the UK, all in a very high-tech space via Video Link:

“As an artist and researcher in intracultural artistic practice I find Kristine Landon-Smith’s method of work inspiring and seminal within the theatre field.”

“I wanted to revisit things covered in the actors’ workshops I took with Kris in 2012. Observing the session, as opposed to participating in it, allowed me to write down the warm up exercises and the process. Seeing the actors work made it easier to detect patterns of intracultural acting and what processes were similar to all the actors when approaching their texts with Kris’ guidance. Watching Kristine’s way with actors as she incorporates cultural and linguistic backgrounds in the work process in today’s multicultural environment is something I feel strongly about and I learn a lot from it (as an actor but also as a director). I was there as an observer and the time went by very quickly, the experience was very rich and watching only allows you to be more analytical without the pressure to “perform”. Observing only was a highlight for me as I was free to take notes and not worry about “lines” or “performing” in any other way. Using modern technology to work on a piece despite time and space constraints was very interesting and I felt very inspired upon leaving the masterclass, Kristine is a great teacher live or on screen. Always a pleasure to be involved with Tamasha, I have a great respect for the work the company does and the opportunities it provides. It is a rare thing in the industry in this day and age.”

“It was incredible watching the actors in London engaging in an intense scene with the actors in Australia!!! Via webcam. Unbelievable. Theatre is often such a specific experience that only the actors and audience in that room feel. But the actors in Australia and London were able to create this tension and relationship virtually. It’s difficult to put into words but it felt almost magical when the scenes between the actors were alive and true. I had been to a workshop with Kristine before, as an actor, and loved it. I was, of course, too absorbed in the experience to fully acknowledge the techniques she was using on the actors and how they responded and were affected by her suggestions. As a just starting theatre-maker myself, I want to see as many different methods so I can use them in my future work. I also found Kristine’s method exceptional – so really wanted to be able to use it in my own work.”

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Devised Theatre Masterclass with Lee Simpson

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“I loved doing Lee Simpson’s Devising Masterclass. The man is a genius and gentle with it! Initially, as we all stood around having tea, coffee, conversation, drinking in the light, the large room, I thought, is this it? Are we ever going to start? We only have a day!

When we did start, Lee told us about his philosophy of work and here it is:

‘Whenever it starts is the right time.’

‘Whoever comes are the right people.’

‘Wherever it happens is the right place.’

‘Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.’

‘When its over its over.’

BOOM! Just like that. He also said people were free to use ‘the law of two feet’ and walk out whenever they wanted, if they wanted etc. We all stuck to him like leeches or burrs or both.

Quite apart from the actual exercises we did (and they were fascinating) I’ve come away so much calmer that my creativity is blossoming in amazing ways.

Thank you Lee Simpson!”
Shobu Kapoor – participant

“I was so surprised at how much I learnt from a fun, insightful and practical day. It really stretched me gently and safely in steps. I’ve never covered such work or exercises before. I came away excited with new discoveries of how to develop a project I am writing at present.”
Veejay Kaur – participant

“Lee’s Devised Masterclass has been a really fun insight into his own devising process with Improbable. From practical exercises and games to kickstart the devising process to ideas on how to structure rehearsals, this has been a really useful and inspiring day and another great workshop courtesy of Tamasha. Would definitely recommend.”
Emma Faulkner – participant

“Lee showed us how to value every idea, to not get bogged down in the big picture. His approach was lighthearted but full of information. He introduced philosophy and different ways of working towards making theatre that I had not come across before. I really learnt a lot.”
Sarita Eames – participant

“Fun, relaxed, very informative workshop. A relief to be reminded of the inimitable and liberating Improbable approach to creating. Group was a lovely size, space was very pleasant, Lee put everyone at ease and provided us with an excellent range of tools in a single day. Particularly enjoyed the impro exercises, storyboarding/story structure and ‘realist/critic’ exercises. Inevitably only a limited time to explore each idea, however it was clear at the outset that aim was to provide an overview and a number of tools to take away. Very much recommend it- thank you.
Gisele Edwards – participant

“The workshop consisted of a healthy mixture of practical exercises and more philosophical questions, illuminating methods to devise more personal and therefore unique work.”                                                                                                                                      Josh Azouz – participant

“I really enjoyed the masterclass with Lee Simpson. Very interesting exercises that I want to try with my company. Devising can be hard at times but it is just about learning the skills to make it happen. Thanks Tamasha for organising it and thank you Lee for your delivering. It was cool, calm, collected.”
Carmen Fernandez – participant

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Masterclass in Clown with Mark Bell & Digital Workshop with Hellicar & Lewis 2013

Clown Masterclass:

“Thanks for the unique experience of finding our own personal idiot! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment from start to finish with Mark Bell; the biggest clown of us all. The combination of sharing ideas, noses – and in our case ginger curly wigs – made for a day of play unlike anywhere else and I won’t hesitate to book another workshop with Tamasha again very soon!”
Natalie Green, Participant

“I arrived at the workshop having done a bit of comedy, but never having tried clowning before. At first, I was nervous at doing something completely new. But I needn’t have worried because we were nearly all in the same boat and everyone at the workshop had a great time trying to find our ‘inner clown’. It was good fun to try out something new in a supportive atmosphere. Mark, who ran the course, gave us really good feedback which helped us develop our performances and encouraged us to move forwards. Of course, we could only scratch the surface in one day but I left having found a new character within myself and with an appetite to discover more.”
Tim Froggatt, Participant

Digital Workshop:

“It was fantastic taking part in a workshop which brought theatre-makers and digital artists into collaboration. We focused on the idea, rather than the tech which freed us as artists and creative people to get to the heart of the idea and make the technology serve the art, rather than the tech dictating the art. In a time when digital is integrated in everything we do, and everywhere we go; workshops like these are vital to empower theatre-artists to make new and exciting work.”
Jonathan May, Participant

“I’m very keen on nurturing new ideas and ways to approach and broaden creativity and I use technology as a support for this as many of us do in this day and age and so I enrolled on Tamasha’s Digital Masterclass with Hellicar and Lewis.
What did I expect? I’m not quite sure but I was certain it would involve a serious dose of jargon and geeky material that I was somehow keen to face.
Was I wrong! The masterclass involved ideas and project development with the sole help of …scissors, pens and paper! Yes, just these and a couple of great enthusiasts who guided us through a creative process that got all our minds going for three hours. It was a great and very ‘narrowed down to the essential’ way to bring ideas to life without the limitations of fund, location finding, creative team gathering and technological issues that typically arise when a fresh idea comes to mind. Instead, we worked on developing concepts and ideas like children would, with no limitations, thus finding genuinely good ideas! The method help narrowing down to the essentials a concept or a new project. Once this is created, the time for research and implementation would come BUT the idea would be created limitation-free which I felt was the enlightening part of the masterclass. No digital headache here, just plain and simple fun! If you were looking for a technical masterclass, this is not for you. But if you want new ways to improve your creative streak, go ahead!”
Guillaume Laroche, Participant

 


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.


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