The Michael Chekhov Technique is a psychophysical technique that utilizes the body and the imagination, and the knowledge that two are inextricably linked. The technique exercises our body as a resource and a means of expression. It trains the imagination to have a bigger and deeper role in our process. And where the two dovetail is really the magic of the work.
SPRING: Chekhov and Character
We will divide our focus this Spring on Character and Scene Work. Chekhov offers the actor so many practical options for creating a transformative character. Chekhov attested that every role is a character role. It begs the question, what does transformation mean to you? How far does your imagination reach, and can you stretch for that image without stepping out of the bounds of truth? In this class, in the character section, we will explore that question while applying Chekhov’s elements of characterization that, if nothing else, give the actor a chance to experience themselves differently.
We will then take that different gaze and step into scene work. It’s one thing, and an important thing, to understand the objective of a scene. It’s another thing to apply that new gaze from your character’s perspective to accomplish that objective in the particular way your character approaches it. Can we be in someone else’s shoes and still engage our will? Can we think bigger and imagine that just because we identify what we want in a scene, it doesn’t mean the character we are working with walks a straight line to get it?
This class is really about transformation and testing out that transformation on material. This is where the rubber meets the road and it should be a ton of fun, a ton of exploration, and hopefully, a ton of growth. As Mark Rylance says, we have to surprise ourselves, and then be surprised that we are surprised.
FALL: Chekhov Technique Foundations
Chekhov wanted us to narrow the gap between impulse and expression, and he also understood that “inherent in every actor is the desire for transformation.” The technique offers a way to train the body and imagination, and listen more deeply to the body and imagination as a resource for transformation.
The focus is on the actual doing and experiencing “on your feet” right away. Through different psychophysical exercises, actors quickly start developing a sensation of inspiration and learn to trust their own artistic individuality. All the while, they are also discovering ways to bypass mental acting blocks and preconditioned ideas of themselves, other people, or acting in general.
The Chekhov Technique is like a really reliable friend. If you find yourself on the receiving end of an un-actable direction, if you find yourself knowing what you want in a scene but not knowing HOW to get it, if you find yourself faced with a character that is very different from you and you don’t know where to begin, Michael Chekhov’s work is an invaluable tool that can address in real time and in real exercises these actors’ dilemmas.
Ultimately, as actors, we are looking for a process to engage in, an activity that enlivens us, and if we find the right one, we are off to the races. Chekhov’s work is such an ignition, and it gives us a playful, creative, safe way to work. In this workshop we will play with some tools and principles from the technique so you can get a sense of the vast resource it has to offer the actor.
Teacher: Bethany Caputo