Tag Archives: Kristine Landon-Smith

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.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 3

Ria Samartzi, Participant actor

It is the third week of the actor’s course and, as is now customary, we begin with a game of volleyball. One of the observer directors is running the game and Kristine is observing. We are then asked to comment on how playing this game with one director is different from playing it with another. Suddenly it becomes really important to say the right thing, to express what you have observed in the right language, in a manner that will be constructive for your colleagues and promote your joint artistic endeavour. On the first session Kristine talked about the language we use in the rehearsal room and how important it is that it is ‘appropriate’ and helpful. This made a great impression on me at the time as it was a concept I had never come across before and, being analytical by nature, I found both interesting to observe and something to watch out for when I am speaking. Talking about our volleyball experience perfectly illustrated the point for me.

The later part of the session was spent working on scenes. The recurring theme of how to allow yourself or set yourself up as an actor in a scene so you can play well was at the centre of the work. Setting yourself a task, action, improvisation you know you will enjoy playing is a good start. Knowing and adjusting the parameters that make you good and avoiding negative tendencies are also tools to help you stay connected. Another useful observation, both for directors and actors alike, was that when something isn’t working for you or the actor you need to change it. I think it was the readiness and also the confidence with which Kristine provided the actors with tailor-made-on-the-spot exercises and improvisations and also her ability to quickly modify the ones that weren’t rendering any results that allowed some of the scenes to start coming to life and become believable and enjoyable to watch and the actors in them to play well.

Reflecting on the workshop so far I have one main thought/question: can an actor only be as good as the director they are working with or is there a way to also learn how to be good always? Is that maybe what we call acting skill?

Jen Tan – Participant Actor

Since I graduated from drama school 4 years ago, Kristine is the only person to have directly challenged me to be better. There is a rigour and specificity in the way that she works. Yes, play is paramount (playing as an actor NOT a child – not “being playful”) and it is important to have fun but it is important to be specific and authentic in your work. I am trying to use the learning experience inside of this workshop series to find a way to find that specificity and authenticity for myself so that I can move forward in my practice and be as good as I can be in workshops with Kristine on my own. After all, she’s not going to be in the UK much longer. I was really exhilarated to have seemingly done that in last week’s session when I managed to find my way through my monologue on my own. I really tried my best to apply notes I’d been given in the past to a new text, dodging my bad habits and approaching the performance with a spirit of openness and engagement with the actor who was helping me in that moment.

This week we moved on from monologues to looking at duologues together. Ryan and I didn’t perform ours this week, but when we were working we tried to find an improvisation which would help us access the scene in an authentic way. And, wow, it’s hard enough to think of improvisations and then adding that on top of keeping a check on whether the improvisation is working for you both from inside of it. I’d like to explore whether it’s possible to inhabit the improvisation and find a way to tweak it from the inside. I don’t have an answer for that yet. Something else I’m looking to interrogate as part of these sessions is a way of playing with someone who doesn’t want to play with you – coping with the selfish actor.

Someone had asked about playing with the audience so Kristine’s been setting various people a clowning exercise which involves miming to a song you don’t know and selling it like you know it. That’s a terrible description, but what it is is incredibly exposing for the performer and requires a delicate interaction between them and the audience members to encourage a complicity in the game where the failure is the pleasure and the joke. I look forward to trying it myself soon.

Lou-Lou Mason, Participant Actor

This is my third week on the Tamasha Acting Course. Kristine’s honest and inspiring approach is completely different to anything I’ve encountered before. The free and spontaneous nature of the exercises encourages a spontaneous, free response for me, both in character and out. I’ve been mystified, to be honest, at the approach. My previous training has been academic, naturalistic and almost process driven based on text and character analysis and to lay all that to one side and just engage in ‘Play’ and then transfer that to acting has been really liberating. I have been watching and observing or taking part and not really understanding how the approach works, but watching my class-mates, and feeling the responses to the exercises within me, it so obviously does! The improvisation exercises Kristine uses might not appear at first to be relative to monologue or scene work, but through the exercise, the essence of the text comes through, and the result organically manifests itself which the actors can then transfer to the text. It’s very much a learning by doing process.

Kristine’s approach has encouraged me to relax and not to anticipate a character’s response, and instead endeavour to stay in the moment, stay with my scene partner, and react in a much more immediate, honest way. Kristine has encouraged me to explore acting choices which i wouldn’t have considered before. I believe the course is making me a much more instinctive performer, and also by engaging more truthfully, more completely, with my scene partner, hopefully I’m becoming a better scene partner for my fellow actors too.

Greek Tragedy Masterclass

Nitasha Rajoo, Director Observer

“Do not fear for me. Make straight your own path to destiny.”― Sophocles, Antigone

Whenever I go into an actor’s / director’s workshop, you get the onset of butterflies in your tummy, the anxious palm sweating of ‘Will I be good enough?’ or ‘Was this the right choice?’ My first Tamasha Masterclass was a complete awakening to the creative spirit and I wanted to ride this wave for a bit longer and decided to take this master class.

I should point out – I don’t like Greek Tragedy. I find it stuffy and daunting and overdone…badly. I want to like it..so I thought this could do it for me. I was right.

The class was small and intimate, which I loved. Annie created such a safe environment that put the nervous butterflies at ease. The class was practical…on our feet working with the idea of levels, and bringing physicality to a character. I loved the stick work; I had practiced something similar in a workshop I did with Told by an Idiot. The choral work we did was amazing, and watching as a director observer/ when the actors turned and walked to the audience in unison was very powerful.

Annie helped break the wall with Antigone, bringing it into a modern day spotlight helping us conceptualize the themes and journeys the characters faced. I completely appreciated this and saw this as a great learning tool. When we stumbled and apologized, Annie said: ‘Stop. Rehearsals are for mistakes to be made. There is no need to apologize’. I take that away with me because it is so true..thats why the nervous butterflies are there – because we are so scared to fail in front of our peers. Funny thing though, when you try and flop, is when you learn the most.

Do I love Greek Theatre now? I don’t know if I would go that far but I can now honestly say I have a great appreciation for it, and Annie made that possible.

Anurita Heer, Participant actor

Participating in the Greek masterclass was an enriching experience. I wanted to take part to see how I would respond and create through using Stanislavski based techniques in tackling classical texts. For some actors such techniques and methods are an invaluable tool for them whereas for myself I do not find myself subscribing to set ‘methods’ and so this class was a great learning experience. At some points, there was a great emphasis on ‘working from the outside in’ and using this to merge and engage with fellow actors was very interesting. I also had the chance to teach an Indian dance move to my fellow actors to observe how we can use physical movement to create various rhythms and a sense of cohesion as actors. Many of these exercises reminded me of the cohesion and sense of creation one creates as a group of dancers and so I was able to draw parallels and make connections. As an actor, I also observed that I was able to adapt and play freely with Annie’s teachings as she was very open and as in all Tamasha masterclasses, there was the opportunity to flop, get up and try again.

Cathy Conneff, Participant actor

The course really helped to put me back in touch with the reason why I act – the sheer pleasure of it and the experience of sharing a moment with an audience and another actor. It also helped me in terms of not overthinking (a terrible habit of mine!) and accepting and following an impulse without trying to adapt it to my ends!

Veejay Kaur, Participant Actor

This class was a great intro to different approaches to perform Greek Tragedy. The exercises were playful and empowering which helped to physicalise the language in ways that I wouldn’t have even imagined. A great class for those who want to familiarise with Greek tragedy. I left feeling enthusiastic wanting to explore more Greek texts and to perform them.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 2

Rodrigo Peñalosa – Participant Actor

This is my first experience as an actor in a Tamasha workshop. The approach is really different from my previous experiences in its accuracy and straightforwardness. Here are my reflections that came out of the second workshop.

There is a true simplicity in letting yourself be how you truly are in order to act; avoiding an idea of “acting” or becoming something we are not. Why not base it on something more solid, something we are. I often act the part of the actor acting a part, instead of going directly to the essence of the work, from me to the text, and not through this third party, this idea, this representation.

One of the tools to avoid being stuck in our ideas is to focus on the other. The pleasure of letting everything stand on the audience’s shoulders, stopping focusing on ourselves. And instead of being fed by your stress, fears, expectations, you can build on the other, the audience, the one you are there for.

Another person you are there for is the other actor. This workshop reminded me how great and vital the feeling of caring and being there for the other actor is. And how marvelous it is when the actor in front of you feeds back to you. (Before, during and after the scene)

If I had to concentrate one word on my experience of that night it would be the word –available. Available to the text, to the audience and to the other actors.

Thank you Kristine.

T. Patel – Participant Actor

“I want to ‘flop.'” After our second workshop, I told myself to remember this phrase – a revelation via an exercise: lip syncing to unfamiliar music, often in another language.

The exercise sounded intimidating. “How can I appear confident?” was my first thought, feeling as Kristine says many actors do, that I must always ‘succeed’. But this impulse – of stress, fear, and self-focus – prevents actors from being themselves, from being present. And as the exercise revealed, self-focus creates distance between actors and audience.

As fellow actors each began the musical exercise, one could see their conflict between wanting to ‘succeed’, yet feeling vulnerable. As Kristine coached each actor to concentrate on connecting with the audience, they changed. Their awkwardness – focusing on themselves – transformed outwards, into a connection with others. When they did, they became genuine, and engaging to watch.

Kristine encouraged us to embrace this vulnerability, rather than try to ‘perform’; and to not be afraid of ‘flopping’. Sharing memories of training with Philippe Gaulier, and ‘flopping’ repeatedly, Kristine conveyed the sense of leaving oneself open to ‘flopping’. It gives one freedom to ‘play’, to discover ways to ‘be’ with the audience, and to react with and off them.

Suddenly, I wanted to ‘flop’. At least for those moments, I released my need to ‘succeed.’ It’s stressful to feel one has to perform and excel. It’s much more freeing to leave oneself open to ‘flopping’, and bring that sense of openness with us into a room.

I tried to bring that dynamic into my monologue and improvised scenes. Normally, performing a new monologue, I’d let nervous fear make me over-perform. This time, trying to be present with other actors, I left myself open to sense dynamics that might take me forward. That same openness transformed an improvised scene with actors facing one direction, with no eye contact, and few words. I realised that scenes between actors often have much more eye contact than people maintain in reality; so they feel artificial. Indeed, many real people barely make eye contact, yet still powerfully communicate. Removing eye contact lets us better ‘sit into’ the scene – rather than trying to ‘perform’ reactions – and connect with the effects our words and body language offered each other. Kristine confirmed that watching these human dynamics makes actors more engaging.

And I confirmed that ‘flopping’ is nothing to be afraid of. And for the future, a way in.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 1

Paul Raymond – Participant Actor

The strong narrative of the workshop meant having clear basic principles to apply to our monologues, and how to play the text – play being key. Kristine trumps playing well, playing as the actor rather than the character. Openly enjoying being within the skin of a role, not becoming a different character may lead to purer, more honest performances.

The games promote quick-thinking and natural reactions, trusting your instincts, they show us a framework of rules, and within them is room to play. If you pretend to play, you lose. Actually commit to playing properly, and your audience is captivated, you have fun, and you make your partner/team have fun.

We then used extensive improvisation to help open us up and feel natural with our monologues. We channelled concepts of ‘playing well’ with text and your scene partner in particular in this part of the workshop. This produced some incredible performances of monologues and improvised scenes.

Japjit Kaur – Participant Actor

This is my third time in masterclass with Kristine. Having only attended the first session so far, I am reminded how very easy it is to fall into traps of bad habits, old patterns and things that can very quickly block you up if you are not careful when you are “away”. However, once you do step back into Kristine’s space, layer by layer starts to fall off and you feel free to play again! My question to Kristine just at the beginning of session 1 was: How can I still be amazing when you are not there? I look forward to finding the answer and applying it to my practice in the future.

(We started off with playing some games and by the third exercise, my stomach felt different. I knew I was a bit nervous but hadn’t realized how much till then. And it wasn’t just me, it seemed everyone had relaxed a lot and come together – sharing a common playground. Later whilst working on a contemporary monologue Kris got me to try out an accent I have never attempted before. I didn’t think I could do it (or at least not without feeling a little silly) though I was willing to try. To my surprise I felt really good after the imitation exercise Kris had set up for me. It was scary to start with but very liberating in the end. It was funny and I really enjoyed it!)

This keeps on happening for some reason. I unknowingly keep putting boundaries on what I think I can and can’t do and when I work with Kris, I am surprised by how much I can do. Last time she made me brilliant at performing Woody Allen and now she is bringing an American out of me!

Jamel Rodriguez – Participant Actor

Kristine led us through a series of games and improvs that gradually led to scene work. In the games, we were encouraged to be fully present and to fully play using tactics. By bringing one’s cultural context wholeheartedly to the scenes, from watching classmates and experiencing it as guided by Kristine, it felt like effortless work. I felt as if I was out of my own way and just working in response to the moment, my impulses and other actors in the scene. As this was only day one, I look forward to what the other four classes have to offer!

Viewpoints Masterclass with Annie Ruth – 27th & 28th November 2012

Pema Clark – Participant

Anyone interested in performance should run, not walk, and learn Viewpoints. It is rarely taught in the UK and offers an invaluable tool for anyone interested in developing themselves as an actor, director or drama teacher, or even just as a human being. Annie Ruth’s workshop with Tamasha was amazing and I came away feeling re-inspired and reminded why I love performance. Annie also incorporates Maori practice and values from her home country seamlessly and invigorates performers with the stuff of life that can be easily forgotten in these changing times.

Photo 3 Edit

John Walton – Participant

What did I find useful about Viewpoints? Principally I thought it was a great way to work on the actor as a receptor, as someone who responds to what is happening in the room – as opposed to egotistically manufacturing content. It was incredibly releasing to feel my focus during the two days being constantly outwards – the pressure was off being ‘creative’, and I felt a real sense of being totally present. I also felt much more strongly part of an ensemble than I ever have before – including when engaged in exercises that actively focus on actors’ ‘complicite’. At the same time, I felt I was building on so much else – my relationship to the space, to other actors, to speed, duration, repetition… indeed each one of the viewpoints (both physical and vocal) was incredibly informative, nurturing and fun to play with.

Viewpoints is something that I will build into my own practise; principally as an actor-training exercise for bringing together an ensemble, get them out of their heads and to build a shared vocabulary that is not focused on purely psychological terms. Whether or not I would bring it more completely into my scene work (eg the seven-point choreography system) I am not yet sure – I think I need more time to experiment with it. Without doubt, though, I see some strong benefits to exploring scenes in this kind of physical way, whether or not those explorations made it into the final performances.

Photo 2 Edit

Marie-Cécile Dumont – Participant

As a performer and theatre maker I am always on the look out for new techniques and tools to enrich my creative vocabulary. The Viewpoints offer a theatrical language and structure that constitute an excellent starting point for creation. It’s only been a week since I took part in Annie Ruth’s masterclass and already I am using them in a devised project! They allow performers to quickly find themselves as an ensemble and to get an immediate sense of play, space and focussed awareness. By relying actively on the body and the space around it, the Viewpoints free the actors from all psychological approach and lead them to focus on the ensemble and what is at stake. This workshop truly opened a dimension of acting that I had not considered before – a challenging and demanding yet playful and liberating approach. And one finds out that with the Viewpoints, the more rules, the more complicité! The pressure and anxiety of a so-called ‘good performance’ are taken off the shoulders of the actors who can rely on their bodies and the relationships they draw in the space to create a story. They have to truly put their body on the line and permanently engage with each other but what a pleasure for the audience when the alchemy provoked by the technique hits the space.

Ourania Samartzi – Participant

Reflections on Viewpoints:

The first thing that comes to mind is the structure, the form, the idea of moving, speaking, performing, living in time and space. Working on structured improvisations, the performers learn how to react to what is happening in the room around them. No one is allowed to impose their ideas or opinions on the others and genuine collaborative creation can take place. Sometimes something truly beautiful and exciting will emerge and others the material will be slightly less elegant, but either way something has been created from hardly anything and as in all creative endeavours, there can be no mistakes.

Coming from a devising background, I find nothing more terrifying than arriving into an empty space without an idea, or with an idea but with no idea of how to bring it to its feet, how to make it move and tell the story, how to begin. The emptiness can sometimes be deafening. Working with the Viewpoints I discovered that using the different structures of the method can instantly rid me of this problem. The physical and vocal Viewpoints provide an excellent tool for setting off and, as we say in my country, ‘To begin is the half of the whole’. What you do after that is really up to you, so many wonderful possibilities lie ahead.

Viewpoints is a method that truly liberates the actor and allows the director to compose moving images as if they were conducting a symphony-maybe a jazz symphony. Here it is not important to ‘act well’ but to be alive, aware and with an outward focus. The performer is required to think and do many things, to play games and not get caught, to perform choreography and not miss a beat, to be complicit with the others around him but also with the audience. The ensemble’s journey on the stage is precisely mapped out but, instead of becoming prescriptive, this absolute adherence to the form allows the performers to really play freely, the text to come out clearly without any emotional colouring, and the meaning to be read by the spectator through the context of the images constantly created on the stage.
This kind of work might not suit everyone. After all, there are as many acting and directing techniques as there are actors and directors but Viewpoints is definitely one to try as it is not very widely practised in the UK and, being quite different, it could make you see other ways of working in a different light. Having spent the greater part of two years assimilating all the things my teachers taught me and how to translate them all into my own practise, the work with Annie has inspired and enriched my reflections and hopefully will somehow morph into my future work.

%d bloggers like this: