Tag Archives: michael chekhov technique online

The Most Important Thing

As I wind down my recent bank of online classes I reflect on what I have learned, most of which has been discussed in previous blog posts. It has been challenging and testing but extraordinarily rewarding ; finding ways to accent differently, aspects of the Chekhov Technique; to still be creative and exploratory. Now my groups will stop until September when a new batch will begin. This gives me a little chance to reflect. 

What am I doing? This question has been asked in our wonderful international group of Chekhov teachers which meets weekly as we consider more and more about what this shutdown means and our response , not just to the pandemic but to other issues in the world. The assembly of this group has been one of the more exciting things that has happened in the pandemic to me as we discuss everything pertaining to our work, comparing approaches, philosophy and more practical issues. It is a strong support and a fountain of wisdom.

I wrote something to the group …

We are hampered in our art because we cannot perform or teach in an actual space. So we are teaching (many of us online) like all artists in times of plague anyway we can. That is kind of revolutionary in itself. And it seems to me that if our purpose is to make the intangible tangible we can do that online almost as well as in the room. In some ways better than in the room because the participants are committing in their own space. In some ways it is more ‘out there’ but in a smaller more personal way…….This is not wasted activity but it is not going to topple Trump or Johnson or Bolsonaro. This seems to be one of the dilemmas. How do we affect change? Can we? What I am saying I think is that we can affect change but it is perhaps smaller and personal than we would like.

I thought back to when I was living through the AIDS pandemic. I am not trying to compare the pandemics here; but the challenge of facing into changing behaviour or dying was there. However, it is not the purpose of the story. In 1984 I was sitting in a sunny London park and someone I had worked with in a tv show cycled up to me. I had not liked him much and I didn’t want to talk but I could see that something had changed for him. He looked sour and stressed… he told me through a tight scornful mouth he had AIDS. Death strode through the bright sun, through the people lounging and playing in the park, towards us. He told me he had decided to stage a one man show because he did not know how long he would be alive. There was no cure for AIDS ( as there isn’t now). I listened inwardly with a fist of fear in my stomach as he spoke. I floundered awkwardly. I asked him why he wanted to put his energies into a show that would be poorly attended (as many one person shows are)? He said with great determination, “ because I believe the most important thing is to ‘do it’. That’s it. It doesn’t matter where you do it or how many people see it but that you do it.”

I have remembered that meeting since that moment. I do not remember how our conversation ended, nor whether he got to do his show. I did hear he had died.

So in answer to the question, ‘what am i doing?’ I answer, ‘I am doing it, because that is the most important thing’.

A final extract from my note to the group:

I think we are all in our ways trying to improve the perception and response of people; to get them to develop, transform, enrich and explore their spirit, in the way J – described towards the end. And this is not nothing. It is worthy of the ‘fire’ of which we were speaking. It is championing the spirit.

Chekhov Online

IMG_6132AS I get more used to teaching Chekhov technique online, I have started to feel something of the buzz I feel ‘in the room’. I could be fooling myself but I am beginning to see a transmission of something between myself and my students which I feel in real time. Part of that is a sense of trust which is building not just between them and me, but between me and the technology, which though it is limited, has its spin offs. Radiating and receiving cannot quite happen the way it does in actual life, but it can happen.

Chekhov Technique is so much a technique of Energy, Imagination and Body, When I started teaching online I wondered how I would have to scale everything down, but the more I am practising, the less I feel it is necessary or desirable. With Chekhov you have to start big but authentic, before you internalise, ‘veil’ it, at the same time as keeping whatever your gesture or image is giving you, strong. Bringing your discoveries to the monitor is a great way to actually assist the understanding of this internalising within the body. I find the sight of people exercising their bodies in their own rooms using their imaginations to create a sense they are in a much bigger space than they are, still something quite magical to behold.

What is essential for me is to acknowledge where everyone is and that their room is their studio and a place where they can create. Rather than deny where they are it is important to acknowledge it and then encourage them to transform it. This can be very hard when they are home depending on what is beyond the door of their room; neighbours, parents, partner, flatmate. When participants enter an actual  workshop they are each in a different space both emotionally and psychologically and it is easy to forget that as the teacher/facilitator. Online, there is no escaping it.  In an actual workshop they have entered a dedicated space and left their homes, to some extent , behind.What has brought them together is the love of the work. The very act of coming to an actual workshop creates a strong bond between the participants and I always feel a special bond with someone I actually trained with. Online much of that is gone, so a little time needs to be spent in that bonding process if possible. On the other hand, the diversity of the participants can be extraordinary online and can only occasionally occur in an actual workshop. In the new House Arrest Group on Chekhov and devising,  creating imaginative responses to the idea of quarantine, imprisonment, whatever you want to call it, there are people from The Netherlands, Uruguay, US, Canada, Ireland and France. This is one reason I will continue to teach some classes online when the pandemic is over.

Thanks to attending other online classes and discussing with colleagues I am learning the positivity of giving people the space to work alone with camera off.

Groups are small. I cannot work with more than 8-10 people if i want to give constructive feedback, though I might get more easy about it when I possibly have to do it later in the year at the university! The group sessions right now are only an hour  (they always overrun a bit) and from the next group we will be making 90 minute sessions. This gives time for people to meet and exchange pleasantries approaching the way they might in a workshop. I am still playing with ways to end. To make the link with the whole group meaningful to each and every one of them.

Individual coaching online is a beautiful activity in many ways. It is personal and you can give the participants your full focus. It is true you cannot always fully sense the person of course which can sometimes be frustrating. I as the teacher have to work harder to make that intangible connection which feels effortless when you are both in-the-room but I feel I am having some success with it.

I am running a three module one to one project on the introduction to Chekhov for Beginners on which there are always some spaces.  I think it is quite a good way to learn principles because it puts the focus on the individual meeting and practicing the technique and going off to practise during the week. For more info contact chekhovtpi@gmail.com

  • Currently Running : advanced Groups (those with some Chekhov experience) Focussing and Discovery Group: 5 weeks/ 1 session per week. Imagination/concentration/General Atmosphere
  • Currently running : House Arrest.Devising/ The Feeling of the Whole/Atmosphere/Polarity. 5 weeks/ 1 session per week.
  • Beginners One to one : First Principles/ Character work 1/ Character Work 2 (four weeks each one session per week)

To Come :

  • ‘To Whom Shall I Complain?’ MEASURE FOR MEASURE .Chekhov and Shakespeare. 8 weeks/ 1 session per week.
  • HOUSE ARREST (GROUP 2)
  • Focussing and Discovery Group 3