SAG Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Berlinale, Césars, American Academy Awards… THAT Season is in full blast.
Throughout this period, we tend to hear critically acclaimed actors thank those who contributed the most to their artistic (and of course commercial) success as they receive a coveted trophy.
As this reminded us we all have our own path and process, we asked a few members what acting technique or acting experience proved to be the greatest tool or biggest breakthrough to date. Here are their answers below.
“I think the one technique that made me confident on stage was Grotowski’s idea of the Poor Theatre. To me, It was really freeing to realise that actors can create worlds through their body and imagination. Then there was a teacher, Jennie Buckmann, who combines Stanislavski’s technique with a wealth of directing experience and an inquisitive nature that is simply contagious. Working with her in London, she made me look at Shakespeare’s work in a different way.”
“I’d say that having always struggled with plays from writers such as Ibsen, where character’s motivations and actions usually convey an enormous amount of internal turmoil that isn’t immediately obvious, even when analysing the script, Graham McLaren’s actioning based directing proved to be one of the most useful and eye opening experiences for me after graduating from the Conservatoire. Definitely gave me a method to systematically analyse and work on a script that allows a lot of detail in performance and makes sure the actor keeps it ‘in the body’. A good example of this type of work was A View from the Bridge directed by Ivo Van Hove last year.”
“Clowning encourages actors to be playful, imaginative, poetic, tragic, moving ridiculous, and is by far the most exciting and liberating training I have ever done. Through clowning, I have discovered how to completely live in the moment. In my work, I now thrive to be braver, bolder, messier, more courageous, vulnerable, honest, ferocious. Through clowning, I have found moments of incredible beauty and truth, and most importantly it has allowed me to find a sense of joy and fun in my work, and to be absolutely ridiculous while ignoring the voice of the critic. The Why Not Institute is a great place to do it if that info is needed anywhere.”
“Different techniques at different points – the Stanislavski Toolbox has helped me; immediate circumstances, intentions, I loved when my teacher at Central, actress and director Federay Holmes said there’s no sarcasm and only truth, or a director who said there are no characters. Asking myself: do you really mean that? And is that the first time you say/think that? (Techniques from The Factory). It all depends on the job and the situation.”
“Relearning Meisner technique with Amy Marcs (NYCDA) got me out of my head and also gave me the focus I needed to overcome my stage fright. Suzuki was amazing for ensemble work, and gave my body the stamina needed to perform (I lost it later and could tell the difference!)
Finally, working on Maudite Machine with Catherine Ghobert back in France connected me to words on a sensory, almost sensual level, so that was another breakthrough.
Usually, anything tactile affects me greatly, be in a technique or in the rehearsal process. I’m pretty analytical and intellectual to begin with, so though I’m a big fan of script analysis and actioning, I do tend to find the magic through more sensory triggers.”
“My breakthrough in my acting is not necessarily due to a specific technique but to the understanding that I am not on stage to please an audience or to show off my acting skills. My job as an actor is to put a believable character to life, to be true to that character and most importantly to enjoy being that character. If you don’t give much relevance to what people may think of you when you are acting and focus on your character’s objectives you will most likely to do one of your best performances!”
“My acting heavily relies on the techniques developed by Sanford Meisner and Ivana Chubbuck, added to by sensory and physical tools.
Though nothing groundbreakingly new to someone gone through classical drama training and having worked with Stanislavsky’s methods before, Ivana Chubbuck’s comprehensive way of giving you 11 tools to prepare a scene has given me a more structured way to approach my preparation. Now I am not using random tools anymore but a well thought through set of tools, giving me the peace of mind I need to ‘let go’.
This is where Meisner’s technique comes into play. Working in London with Scott Williams and The Impulse Company was when I truly understood what kind of actress I wanted to be: the one that does the preparation and then lives the scene moment to moment being in the room and with the partner.”
“My acting breakthrough was working with Bathsheba Garnett for the first time. She’s in her 90s, scary as anything, and runs a course in London called “Simplicity” which is all about being simple and truthful and in the moment. It was the first time I ever cried whilst acting and it caught even myself off guard. I did, however, finally understand what so many acting teachers had been telling me in the past – that it’s not my responsibility to cry, it should happen naturally and it’s actually up to the other person to make me cry. After this instance I realised that it was up to me to be open and available to react however I happen to react in the moment. I think it’s honestly made me a much better actor and I’ll forever cherish that insight.”
“My most useful acting tool so far has been a combination of Meisner exercises to ground me in the moment and keep my focus on the other person, combined with Stanislavsky-like preparations on my own. I usually ask myself a series of questions that I’ve collated over the years to get to know the character, after having read the script many times. After looking into the intellectual and emotional aspects, I try to find the physicality and voice. I find Dee Cannon’s book In-Depth Acting quite useful. But overall, my approach to finding a character is rather pragmatic; different techniques works for different roles and I am always on the lookout for new tools to try out.”