What Did You Find Out? ‘Connecting Up’ in the Chekhov Technique.

There is something extremely profound and magical about running specifically online workshops in Chekhov Technique. Despite the distance, the occasionally grainy pictures,  the different rectangular universes you see into; despite the fact I must have run many workshops online in the Michael Chekhov Technique there is still a sense of wonder and a sense of intimacy as you send  your energy towards the monitor down this tunnel across countries and continents.

At present I am leading a workshop called Connecting Up from my online studio in rural Ireland . It has always felt to me that the Voice and its power to radiate its own energy has not been focussed on enough within the Chekhov discipline. When I started my training I was always disturbed watching people find a gesture and then when they spoke on that gesture the words were often strangled or disconnected from the truth and energy of their gesture. I learned the principles of Psychological Gesture particularly from Joanna Merlin who was always keen for you to see if the gesture brought out a sound from your body as you were moving and to speak on that sound. This was such a helpful tip. 

Nonetheless I still found that people’s voices and bodies were often disconnected and furthermore that the Imagination, the other main element of our instrument , can, despite wonderful imaginings, be separated from the body too. One of the great things about Chekhov is that it is a genuinely holistic process.

Ultimately, while you have got to be selective when dealing with your artistic work and choosing Atmosphere, Centre, Gesture etc, your body,voice and imagination are the clay with which you work and they all have to be open to influences not only to the outer and inner worlds, but also to each other. They have got to be Connected Up.

It is, as they say, about ’getting out of your own way’.

I thought about how to introduce this workshop a lot before I started leading this. Would I focus on the ‘connecting up’ aspect or simply explore the three elemental pathways in various classes? I decided to work first with the body primarily and whilst of course words sound and imagination all came in, I decided to accent the body first. We also explored a little work on the energy body. I accented the individuals’ access to their own bodies for their psycho physical work and we worked with a little piece of text. What I found out almost immediately is that it is impossible to disassociate one pathway from the other for long without expressing through the other two (voice and imagination). However, you can accentuate  one of these elements to explore more fully what it means to clear away the blocks in your body work, say.

This week the accent was on Voice; finding the voice, connecting it to the body. In addition to some imaginative exercises we also did a degree of technical exercises. Of course , voice work IS body work which is perhaps a fact we need to focus on. Without breath and a consciousness of the breath you cannot radiate your voice. It is amazing how we all know this instinctively; yet for many people this is a big discovery because of stress (perhaps) and learned tight patterns of breathing. I have an exercise in my book, Teaching Voice (2016) called Blue Voice/Green Voice where you imagine your belly is blue and your breath is blue. You start to make a blue sound. How does that make you feel…what does it say about you (or your character)? How would it be to start there when researching your character? Change the colour to orange how does that feel? Or to pink. Try and say your speech and change your voice colour from blue to orange…

There has been much debate of late in the Chekhov International Studios Collective that I am a part of, about the difference between teaching and research. The more I teach and plan courses the more I feel that teaching is research. The more I teach the more I want to find out. I want to find out and I want my students to find out. It is like opening a fascinating new book that whilst you have some idea of what you might find, you do not fully KNOW. Of course it is important for me to retain a balance; the goal is for the students to find out .

The Shakespeare Connection: with guest tutor Liz Shipman and myself starts online on April 15th. four, one weekly sessions on how we connect with the audience and their role in the play

Inspiration and Impulse: Colleague Declan Drohan is leading an in-the-room class in Sligo for creatives and makers, also April 15th from 10-4

For more information about these courses email chekhovtpi@gmail.com


1 thought on “What Did You Find Out? ‘Connecting Up’ in the Chekhov Technique.

  1. John

    “ teaching is research. The more I teach the more I want to find out. I want to find out and I want my students to find out” – I so love this, Max!


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