Tag Archives: Veiling

Observations on Veiling The Inner Life in Chekhov

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One of the most challenging things to judge in my opinion using the Chekhov technique is how much to cover the sensations and feelings you have discovered through your magical explorations of centres, atmospheres and gestures. How much you ‘veil’ as Chekhov called it, your discoveries, allowing them to play, compete and challenge each other inside you as you play the character. For those not familiar with this work, one often finds sensations and feelings which, if fully expressed on stage, would be completely over-the-top. But how do you judge what is enough or too much? Veiling a strong emotion or drive should be second nature to us, because after all, we are doing it all the time in our everyday lives. But actually, ‘turning it down’ can easily extinguish that nugget of your character quite easily.

As Simon Callow remarks in his preface in the most recent print of Chekhov’s To The Actor, one of Chekhov’s training masterworks , when directors used to say, ‘do less’ it often resulted in actors doing nothing, leaving the audience unmoved. From some of the things I have seen recently, they may well still be saying it!

So much is actually going on in the characters’ lives, movements of energies, desires, and we as an audience need a chance to see them , even when the character is trying to veil them from the world of the play in which they are living.

This ability to judge the veiling well is particularly keen for film and tv, but could also be an issue within the studio space in which our group is hoping to present Antigone, and the small Shakespeare film project we are exploring right now. Of course veiling the work is trying to hide it, but paradoxically feeling it more strongly. One of the experiences I have had is that the sensation/feeling of the gesture or centre you are using often comes in a wave or rhythm, a very physical thing, which is very similar to the kind of rhythm we might observe in our own physical and emotional lives. This rhythm above all is extremely transformative for the character , and feels particularly authentic when the gesture is veiled till only the sensation is left.

I think the idea of conflicting or opposing energies creating a polarity within the character certainly to some extent regulate excesses as the opposing qualities vie for dominance, but developing a judgement for yourself seems for me to be a challenge.

Ultimately maybe it is the director who needs to decide or certainly guide the decision. This can be a problem because if the director does not understand the actor’s process nor the Chekhov Technique they may decide he is just a hammy actor, and despair of helping him veil his work. This is why i feel it is essential for more directors to use [or at least understand]  the Technique.