Wednesday, 23 May 2012

An Acting Lesson With Jack Wetherall

Notes by Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director
  • Jack’s workshop started with centering the actor and connecting to the breath and gut as the core of our being. 
  • We were taken through a number of exercises to release tension, in the body and relax the mind.  One solid tension releasing exercise, an oldie but goody is standing with knees slightly flexed, shoulder-width apart, and dropping the upper body from the waist as you exhale, so that your hands and head are dangling, and releasing all the tension from the neck, shoulders, arms.  When well-relaxed, slowly begin to stand, one vertebrae at a time, as you slowly inhale.  Head is last to be in an upright position.
  • Another exercise to connect breath, movement and mind, was done in a circle by throwing and catching a volleyball—listening, watching, speaking and working with the prop.  Speaking as you exhale from the diaphragm.  This was a good exercise in  concentration, as well as connecting the breath to voice and movement.
  • Lying on our backs on the floor, relaxing the body fully, and centering our breathing in the lower diaphragm, and then adding sound on the exhalation, and then dialogue – this removes stress from the throat, and connects the dialogue to the gut and the core of the actor.
  • On all fours we did some basic yoga stretches, which Jack highly recommends, together with dance and other physical activity to ensure that you do not as an actor limit your performance range due to your physical limitations.  The yoga stretches were extended into free-flowing movement on all fours and then adding sound and dialogue to experiment with the different levels of sound and vocalization that can be achieved through relaxation and movement.  Again remembering to stay connected with the core.
  • Another exercise – not for the faint of heart (literally) – the participants stood in a circle facing inwards.  Each participant was given a word of dialogue which could not be said until the person before passed the ball and their word – the trick was, each person had to hold the sound/note while they ran round the outside of the circle before delivering.  This was a great exercise, as listening, and breathing, anticipating the lung capacity we need to deliver a speech is very important.  I think each of the participants was surprised by how much capacity they had.
  • These exercises were fun, energizing, and really helped the participants to make the mind, body, breath connection, and emphasized the importance of listening and breathing with the rhythm of the text.
  • We explored space on stage – with regards to how to the actor can use and define space to clarify character and emphasize and add interest and creativity to their speech and movement.  As opposed to all monologues being delivered downstage centre, choose different parts of the stage to begin or move to – what is around you – where is the speech taking place and to whom, how can you incorporate all that to enhance your delivery, the audiences understanding and make it come alive.
  • Another thing that was emphasised  was to be ready – always have a couple of monologues prepared and ready even if you are not attending an audition – the actor that is prepared and ready will often be hired – you never know when an opportunity will present itself.
  • The latter part of the workshop was taken to discuss the importance of text analysis – to fully explore and understand the meaning of each word the playwright has chosen, and to understand the intent behind each word.  Again, a full analysis and understanding of the text can drastically change the meaning and the motivation for the delivery for the actor/character.
  • We spent considerable time analyzing a page of text from Romeo & Juliet – how the rhyming couplets, and quatrains that Romeo and Juliet formed in the piece of text analyzed, are a reflection of their lovemaking on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.  The text, when analyzed fully illuminates for the actors greater depths of physical and emotional creativity when developing and performing the characters for these roles.  It is particularly important to analyze text in the time that a play was written, as meanings change over time – this is something that Annette alluded to in her workshop, to ensure that you keep the integrity of the piece by understanding dramaturgically the intent of the play – the director’s role.  This is the actor’s dramaturgical homework.
  • This was a fun workshop that challenged the participants to think, move and thoroughly engage in study of the script when doing their character analysis –when in doubt as to your motivation – return to the script!

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