Yesterday I embarked with colleague Rena Polley (Michael Chekhov Canada) to lead a group of intrepid theatre explorers on asking “What is it to be ‘Free in the Form’? in the first of four workshops; how do we prepare ourselves for spontaneity,if that isn’t an oxymoron in itself? How do we keep ourselves fresh and in the moment when we are performing? And is spontaneity, as Rena was suggesting to us, a muscle that we as performing artists need to keep exercising, that if we don’t use, we forget? That we go back to a blocking intellect and become constipated by ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’?
We played (oh how we played online), our participants from Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, the US and UK. It was my first time back teaching online for a few months and I was reminded of how joyous it could be. Many people feel more secure in their own space and i find there is more time to talk; paradoxically there seems a stronger desire to share experiences. this is because, I believe, that people find it easier to drop the exercise when they have completed it; they are not so overwhelmed by the power of it, so when you ask people to fly back and sit at the monitor and share, they are more able to articulate what just happened to them. Also there is something physiological about it. When you share you are sitting on your seat, and when you work you are usually standing. That is such a great way to learn some aspects of the work.
On the other hand, when exercising in your own space, there is the temptation to lose concentration. You have to stay free but focussed which can be hard when you are in your home, when notifications of emails nudge into your screen or other people make noise outside your room. However if you let it, the time online can be a really special time where you meet, share views and work with people you might never otherwise meet simply because you are geographically separated. Although the classes are usually shorter there is rarely the feeling online that we have to push on and keep things moving relentlessly. There is no doubt that Zoom is here to stay and that despite its drawbacks it has advantages.
I recall the first time I was back in the live room, without a mask on, earlier this year, I was riding high for about three days afterwards. But that feeling of delight and forward energy can stop us ‘flying back’ and never allow what Chekhov calls the ‘intellectual lab assistant’ to assess our amazing instinctive work in order that we can anchor it and earth it. We also get a chance to see ourselves performing back on the class recording, a massive bonus.
We have to try and do both online and in the room to make the training rounded.
For our next few months
First off in Sligo, The Actor Is The Theatre, an in the room day on Chekhov Technique held in Sligo run by Declan Drohan December 10th 10-5
Planning our next term we are looking for participants for six full in-person Saturdays of Chekhov and Ensemble , the first is on January 21st. And they run for every fortnight, the last one being April 1st . Tutors Max Hafler and Declan Drohan and others
and there will also be an online Chekhov and Shakespeare course.