Ensemble Training: Exist as a Larger Theatrical Organism

Ensemble Training: Exist as a Larger Theatrical Organism

One of the key ingredients of my teaching is the necessity for actors to constantly fine-tune their instrument at all stages of their career.
An essential skill to develop is the ability to function creatively as part of a larger ensemble, a notion that has been extremely relevant in the tradition of European theatre, but has so far gained relatively little traction in the US.

This course is designed to make you acutely aware of your multiple acting partners through training exercises that engage your physical, mental, and emotional presence on stage on several levels. You might find yourself overtly looking for a partner for a particular stage action, while secretly trying to find another, exchanging lines with yet another actor, and simultaneously keeping track of a prop circulating among members of the ensemble. Eventually, you will be able to collectively perform a “marathon” that weaves together several actions and texts in ways that would have been impossible through traditional rehearsal methods.

The course also guides you through exercises that provide an embodied experience of what energy on stage means, how it can be created, sustained, channeled in particular directions, exchanged with partners, increased or softened depending on your creative intentions. Eventually, you realize how much more intense and mesmerizing an ensemble can be compared to what performers can do when they work only as self-contained units.

These tools can then be applied to devising scenes from prose works or staging dramatic texts in less obvious configurations. You will find that all take on new life, beyond the explicit elements provided by the author, by tapping into energetic currents and flows produced by the ensemble.

Alschitz, Jurij. Training forever! Berlin: European Association for Theatre Culture, 2013.
Wilde, Oscar. The Portrait of Dorian Gray (any edition).
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (any edition)

The Art of Dialogue: Training and Scene Study

The Art of Dialogue: Training and Scene Study

What does it mean for an actor or a character to be in dialogue with another? Is dialogue simply a sequence of questions and answers or can it be so much more?

In this course you will learn to differentiate and engage with different types of dialogue such as a conversation, a dispute, a duel, or a game between willing or unwilling participants, external or inner dialogues, with words or without words, linear or spherical dialogues.

You will learn to analyze conflict, tension, and disagreement – which are often at the root of ancient and contemporary plays in the Western tradition – but also to see how dialogue is a way to talk “about” something, to discover the Other and exchange psychic, emotional, or practical material, to develop a common theme despite differences of opinion and points of view.

However, this is not a course on the history of dialogue, but rather a series of practical exercises meant for performers to connect at a visceral, energetic, and intellectual level with their interlocutors, depending on the circumstances, all the time fully receptive to the feedback loop activated between dialogic partners and the audience. You will learn to at the same time rely on a definite structure of agreements with your interlocutors and improvise freely as you respond to immediate stimuli in the now of the stage.

Everyone will start by working on Plato’s Ion. Then, depending on the length of the course, each performer will choose one or two dialogues from either classical or contemporary plays.

Textbooks (plays chosen depend on your focus on either heightened language or contemporary plays):
Alschitz, Jurij. The Art of Dialogue. Berlin: Ars Incognita, 2010.
Plato. Ion. In Ion, Hippias Minor, Laches & Protagoras. Trans. Alan E. Allen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. Any recent edition post 2000.
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Any recent edition post 2000.
A dialogue from any of the Pulitzer Prize winners or runners up for Drama from 2000 onwards

The Vertical of the Role: A Method for the Actor’s Self-Preparation

The Vertical of the Role: A Method for the Actor’s Self-Preparation

In this course you learn a method of approaching your role in advance of the work with the director, which allows you to arrive at rehearsals prepared to live on stage as a fully rounded character who can stand tall in any circumstance – hence the idea of the “vertical.”
You learn to deconstruct the role and look at it again with fresh eyes.
You connect it with other literary, dramatic, and visual materials that create an intertextual network to feed your imagination.
You attach it to an inexhaustible source of energy that does not depend on yourself alone.

In the end, you will have gathered and distilled a set of resources that, once sequenced into a repeatable “journey,” will constitute a profound relationship between yourself and the character (and also build a strong piece for potential auditions).

Alschitz, Jurij. The Vertical of the Role. Berlin: Ars Incognita, 2003.
Alschitz, Jurij. 40 Questions of One Role. Berlin: Ars Incognita, 2005.
Chekhov, Anton. The Major Plays. Trans. Jean Claude van Itallie. New York: Applause, 1995 (or other edition of the plays)
Chekhov, Anton. The Early Plays. Trans. Carol Rocamora. Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus, 1999 (or other edition of the plays).