photo : Jerry Fitzgerald. photographer Sean T O’Meallaigh
When I first started working with the Chekhov Technique, it felt incredibly familiar to me. I had been using the body to find the emotions and voice of the character, and helping others to do so, for years and years. But when I discovered there was a technique which embraced fully the idea of connecting Voice, Feelings, Body and Imagination, a holistic approach to acting, it felt like I had ‘come home’. The word ‘technique’ implies rules and regulations and whilst there are some, there is an incredible flexibility within it, which opens up its use to a whole range of work. I have used the work in devising, scripted plays, applied drama and voice work. It is open to use in everything. It expands our sense of who we can be and what we can create.
Chekhov asks the question, ‘How often have we been to see plays and leave unmoved or unchanged, and yet we do not know why?’ In my case it has happened far more times than I can care to mention. When I look back, the play may have had good actors, lots of money thrown at it, good production values etc, but there is something within it which is essentially hollow. There is little or no real exchange between performers and there is not this concept of a shared experience.
I started wondering if the dissatisfaction with so many performances I saw, was me, expecting too much? But whenever I remember the massive amount of work, feeling and sacrifice that goes into making a piece of work, I remember that everything I want from this experience of watching a performance is valid. I am looking for this ‘intangible’ that Chekhov speaks of, and if it is not there I am disappointed. When I said ‘exchange’ earlier I meant the real exchange of energy between performers not just a kind of ego driven fake ‘listening’ which passes too often as acting. As an experiment, take a moment with someone you know well and look into their eyes. Hold that exchange for longer than feels comfortable and you will understand what I mean. You will feel the energy flow between you quite naturally. You might want to look away or get giggly, but you most definitely feel it. This passing of energy can have many forms and feelings, but it is happening all the time.
Michael Chekhov technique really explores the intangible invisible ingredient in depth through exploring atmosphere for instance, and puts it at the front of creation, rather than as something which might just happen if we intellectually understand our roles and can play the scenes ‘realistically’. This is what makes it very effective for devising. It encourages us to listen to our inner creative voice. Nay-sayers might suggest this approach sounds self-indulgent because we are listening to the creative spirit rather than leading with the intellect, but this is not so. It is free, but it has a discipline within it. The main part of this discipline is to honour your creative spirit and train your voice body and whole being to follow it rather than put things in the way. It gives us a new way to look at creativity and how to engage with it.
I was very inspired the other day by two things. I met a young woman artist in the street who had trained in Chekhov technique who reminded me about how important it is to share this way of working. I do not know if she realised it, but it reminded me how important it was for me to run Chekhov Training and Performance Ireland here in Galway, and create somehow a hub for this work. Then I saw this video on my FB newsfeed where one of the people who has taught me so much about the work, Fern Sloan, from America was speaking. Check this link for an inspirational few minutes.
Our first workshop of Spring is CHEKHOV AND DEVISING (APRIL 8-10) here in Galway City. Check here on the CHEKHOV TRAINING AND PERFORMANCE IRELAND page for more info or email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0863307325.
The second CHEKHOV FOR DIRECTING ( AND INEVITABLY, ACTING) is being held May 13-15. The third , IMAGINATION AND THE BODY is being held 17-19th June.
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and the particular page on this WordPress blog.