It feels like a big (but extremely pleasant) responsibility.
As I begin with a new Chekhov group this weekend, most of them completely new to the work, hoping to excite and enthuse them about what is the most creative acting technique I have experienced, I am trying to consider the advice I might give them.
Some people find the technique challenging – all techniques are – everything that is worth doing has its periods of challenge. Any challenges there might be, however, are nothing compared to the incredibly rich creativity the technique can unearth in an artist, and Michael Chekhov always worked from the idea that that is what we ARE – artists; to say nothing of what using this method of exploring creativity can develop in the person.
Be ‘in your body’ and ‘in the moment’ as much as you can. If you are, then the work of gesture will be thorough and complete and all the sensations and feelings your body offers up can be open for the character. Some people come to this very very easily, but just because the results can be immediate, the work has only just begun!
When asked to use images, invite them into you. When asked to concentrate on an image don’t treat it like an examination or a memory game. Invite the image into you, Let it engulf you, as if you were in love with it. Always respond to the images truthfully and completely, with your whole being. The only thing you can do wrong is to not respond truthfully and with too much intellectual interference.
‘Ask questions later’! When working on an exercise just do it. don’t think, don’t procrastinate, embrace the exercise with joy, don’t consider exactly what you are going to do before you do it; if you are working with a character don’t intellectualise or over complicate; just commit to the quality, the centre, the atmosphere whatever you are working with. Do it! When an exploration is over you can think and talk about what you did. There will be plenty to talk about, believe me.
Develop and fully explore the feeling of ease, one of Chekhov’s guiding principles. As young or new actors we tend to hurl ourself into stuff and whilst he demands serious commitment we also need to somehow keep a hold of this feeling of ease which is somewhere in the base of anything we might do. The feeling of ease sounds like a contradiction to the will of the character and the intensity of feeling which some of the work brings up but paradoxically it isn’t. As actors (and indeed as people) we are working on so many different levels at once .Remember that working with Chekhov involves us admitting and exploring a multilevel approach to work, artistically at least. Remember when you are acting you are not wholly being the character; part of you is, but other parts of you are picking up on the audience, entering and leaving and speaking on cue.
Which leads us on to higher ego and energy body – don’t be afraid of these things. They are not weird, they are creative realities.
And finally, when you are concentrating , don’t forget to breathe.