Class Narrative #5

Maddie Williams, D Block

Over the past few weeks in theatre, we've been learning about different theatre practitioners, and how they believed theatre should be performed. I chose to write about the different workshops that affected me the most, and whether or not I found the techniques to be helpful in my own theatre studies.


John's practitioner, Jerzy Grotowski, believed that their shouldn't be a fourth wall during theatre performances. He worked a lot with physicality and clowning, which I found really interesting, although perhaps not my favourite type of performance. Grotowski encouraged audience interaction during his performances, and would pull people out of the audience to come on stage. I thought this was really cool, and would be fun to incorporate into different types of plays, like a Shakespearian comedy or a Greek drama.

Sara Graff studied Tadashi Suzuki, who focused on the restoration of human body in theatre. His ideas involved both western and Japanese ideas, in creating the actor as a person more than a character. The practice reminded me a lot of yoga in the fact that you had to focus and gain awareness of your body's strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. Stomping, walks, and one's center of gravity were all really important in Suzuki's method, and while I probably wouldn't choose to prepare for a play this way, I found it interesting.

Dan Kamb's practitioner was F.M. Alexander. His thing was he wanted to help actors recognize their bad habits and overcome them. He studied animal and the way they moved and stood, and tried to help people correct their posture and the way they moved in order to maximize their potential in a seven step technique. I didn't like Dan Kamb's person's method, but I can see the value in correcting your posture and such in everyday life.

Stella Adler was Livvy's person, and focused very much on method acting. Adler focused on four important things- imagination, being epic, acting is doing, and training the body. I really enjoyed the activities that Livvy had, where we were given a line, and then had to become a character around the line. I don't like the idea of method acting because if I was playing a really emotionally burdened character, I wouldn't feel comfortable getting to attached to the character. However, I had a lot of fun during the workshop. Other important things to remember: feeling is a byproduct of doing, don't rely on emotional memory, more specifics, the better the character

Allegra studied Antonin Arthaud, who spearheaded the theatre of cruelty. He believed that Western theatre was not "real" theatre, and real theatre should show the audience's anxieties and inner demons, and shock people into emotion participation. He wanted to be cruel to the audience so that "emotional bones can break so they can grow more strongly." Abstract costumes, repetition, and random words are all part of theatre of cruelty. I like the idea of theatre of cruelty in theory, but I don't know if I could emotionally handle going to a play that used such harsh techniques. However, I find the theory really interesting and would like to learn more about it.

Ivanna Chubbuck was Stef's person, and she focused very much on method acting and emotional memory. Chubbuck uses traumas as a stimulus, and has actors empathize with their characters using their own past. Her method is similar to Stanislavski's in that is uses main objectives and scene objectives, and script analysis. I will never ever use any of her techniques because it is way too heavy and raw for me, but if it works for some actors, power to them. I just can't do raw emotional memory so I really hate this theory.

Rose studied Vsevold Meyerhold, who focused on the visual side of acting, and broke down actions into large, visual parts. Meyerhld developed a system called biomechanics, which was a system of training that helped with widening emotions. I really liked practicing and watching the slap, because I found it interesting to see how such a simple action could be broken down into so many parts. I would love to go to a performance of Meyerhold's work- I think it would be really interesting to see how biomechanics could be applied to a full-length performance.

I studied Bertold Brecht, who was leader of the Epic theatre movement. He didn't want audience members to relate and empathize with the characters on stage at all, but instead wanted them to think about the play, and the ideals behind it (think, not feel). Epic theatre was the direct opposite of many people's theorists' ideas, which I thought was interesting. I really liked the v-effekt that Brecht used in order to make audiences disconnect with the characters. I thought I did a really good job at highlighting this in my presentation (scaring the crap out everyone by screaming at the top of my lungs). I thought I also did a good job at showing how different aspects of Epic theatre can be applied to traditional theatre practices.

I think that I was a good risk-taker this week in theatre. All the method acting activities really forced me way out of my comfort zone, and even though I was really scared, I was able to do most of the activities, which made me really proud that I am strong enough to do such difficult things (for me).