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The content presented here is for informational or educational purposes only. These are just the authors' personal opinions and knowledge. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are based on the authors' lives and experiences and may be changed to protect personal information. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Johnathan Colourfield's Academic Papers - 1. The Actor in Performance - First Year

This was an assignment to write a creative logbook of our time exploring various theatre practitioners. For this paper i received an A+ and my paper is used as the example paper for future years on the course.

Note: This was not an academic essay - so the use of I was fully permitted by the tutor.

The Actor In Performance Creative Logbook

Section One: Strasberg's Introduction to The Paradox of Acting

We began with Strasberg’s introduction to Diderot’s Book: The Paradox of Acting. Diderot (1957, p.xiv), said an actor must ‘force his soul to his own conceit’. This means an actor must balance feeling and judgement (his own conceit). Does an actor have to feel to communicate emotion was the main question we were asked to answer. However, this is the unanswerable paradox. My opinion is that an audience must believe in the characters in order to ‘feel’.

To develop believable characters we were introduced to ‘The Feeling of Ease’ technique which according to Gordon (1991, p.xvii), offers ‘an outward, positive image for the actor’ and focused on an ‘understanding of how the actor thinks and responds’. In order to completely understand, we had to focus on memories that brought contentment. My memory was the first time I listened to The River Flows In You (extraghost, 2007) because it is personal to me and this personalisation of understanding is key in relation to understanding ‘The Feeling of Ease’.

In our improvisation (Appendix A), My character (Character A) was panicked and Character B was the opposite. I said my line ‘Something is coming towards us’ in a high pitched, jittery voice with inflexion on every word apart from ‘is’. After applying ‘The Feeling of Ease’, I found my character was irritable because of how calm I was. This was evident in the same line, with emphasis on ‘towards’, replicating my characters feeling of irritability. This was a paradox to me as an actor and disagreed with my opinion on acting. This technique has transformed me as an actor because I have introduced memory and imagination when I create and ‘be a character’. Through this and my previous work with practitioners (Strasberg and Stanislavski), I have established my own unique style of acting, with a focus on memory, imagination and creative development. In practice, I am fascinated with how ‘The Feeling of Ease’ can calm and concentrate an actor before performance.

Section Two: Chekhov's To the Actor and Gordon’s Introduction to on The Technique of Acting

We then tackled Chekhov’s To the Actor. After reading, I found the exercise on radiation particularly fascinating (2002, P.11-13). According to Chekhov (2002, p.11), an actor in order to radiate must use ‘natural movements’ and ‘in advance send the rays from… [their] body into the space around… [them], in the direction of the movement… made, and after the movement is made’. Also, an actor should according to Chekhov (2002, P.12), ‘strive to go out and beyond the boundary of… [the] body.’ Radiation can show a characters ‘soul’ because it shows actors interacting with each other in line with the movements.

One thing I found interesting in ‘Introduction to on The Technique of Acting’ was the anecdote of Chekhov being asked to according to Gordon (1991, p.xiii) ‘enact a true life dramatic situation as an exercise in Affective Memory’. Chekhov took this and created a scene where he was at his father’s funeral. Stanislavski was overjoyed at his application of Affective Memory; However, Chekhov later admitted that his father was still alive. Chekhov had developed a technique where according to Gordon (1991, p.xiii) his ‘performance was based not on recapturing the experience but on a feverish anticipation of the event’. Stanislavski then banned Chekhov from his classes. This fascinates me because it shows how actors can develop their own way of approaching acting, for example Stanislavski focused upon the emotional Affective Memory whereas Chekhov focused upon his Psychological Gesture (Chekhov, 2002, p.63-76).

Section Three: Practical Portfolio Task One - Alice In Wonderland – The Psychological Gesture

Once we had tackled these ‘four kinds of movements’ (Chekhov, P.13), we began to look at the expression of emotion through movement, which is known as ‘The Psychological Gesture (From here on referred to as PG). The PG according to Chekhov (2002, p.68) is preparing an ‘entire part in its essence’.

The PG can be used to create characters as I showed within our first practical portfolio assessment. We selected the Disney film text Alice In Wonderland (de Rooy, 2011) because it linked to the brash nature of The PG. Our chosen section I have included in Appendix B. My character the Mad Hatter had an inclination towards ‘floating’ and during experimentation it created a lot of jerked and uncontrolled movements. From this I created my character’s PG.

For my character’s PG, I rose my arms up, did a full bow to the floor then stayed there for 3 seconds. I then crossed my legs turned around and bowed again. Once I knew this, I knew my characters internal truth. He was a character driven mad by the maniacal queen and the only way he could express this was through wild eccentricity. I finalised my character by adding the most important proper of all, The Hat. It allowed me to polish my PG, by adding in the hat to the bows and with the final bow, my hat falling off my head at the end of my PG. I feel that this PG was an effective demonstration of character, however it was not a good example of a PG because Chekhov (2002, p.71) said the PG should be as ‘simple as possible’ and my PG was not at all simple, so therefore my PG wasn’t a PG, more a grand movement which was an error in my understanding of the PG. I hope to have strengthened and corrected my understanding after further study of Chekhov’s text in detail. I allowed my PG to fade away after establishing it in rehearsal; which was what we were instructed to do by the lecturer in line with Chekhov’s style.

The first practical issue we had was the excess of characters which we easily rectified by rewriting the script and redistributing the lines; turning the character of The Door Mouse into a toy mouse between two cups and The Cheshire Cat into a cat doll. This was all to fit into the mad nature of the world our characters inhabited.

We had an issue with the length of the piece, it was far too short. As a group, we pooled together and played around with the mad world. This led to us playing with the Cheshire Cat doll much more within rehearsal and also listening to The Door Mouse and then clowning in reaction to what is ‘heard’, even though nothing is said. We felt that this particular idea fit with the style of the scene.

After the practice performance, the childish play was appreciated and also the use of The Door Mouse was incredibly effective in terms of its comic promise. I was told I needed to emphasise my madness. Our practice performance was not done in costume but once we gathered the costume, I found that playing with my jacket by throwing it around the floor and hiding under it when Alice grew made my character crazier and therefore strengthened the effectiveness of this performance for me, despite my confusion with Chekhov’s techniques. I feel I applied the PG to the best of my ability and understanding at the time.

Section Four: Practical Portfolio Task Two - The Cut by Mark Ravenhill and The Directors Craft by Katie Mitchell – In Yer Face Theatre

The second practical portfolio task was based on two members of the big three in relationship to In Yer Face Theatre: Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Kane (Sierz, 2010). Sierz (2010) also states that In Yer Face is designed to ‘shock’ and ‘discomfort’ the audience and is ‘the voice of youth’.

We selected The Cut by Mark Ravenhill, which is about a government worker who performs The Cut and his relationships (2006, pp.34-37). We selected a scene between him and his wife. Rehearsals were effective because of our strong collaboration and creativity.

In rehearsal, I annotate my script with various ideas for staging which we both agreed to. I also highlight my lines, as a learning technique because one of my greatest weaknesses as an actor is that I struggle to learn lines in a pressured environment. (Appendix C). I have also included our lighting script to show our exploration into the production aspects of performance (Appendix D).

We took the liberty of using spaced out staging, sitting some members of the audience on the stage so the audience could get several different viewpoints on the same story. We also did this because we worked around a path, to show the never ending cycle of life and also Paul’s torment. This was all to develop a link to Experiential Theatre. According to Sierz (2010), In Yer Face Theatre was also called Experiential Theatre, where the audience is forced to ‘confront the reality of the feelings shown to them’. We had many other broad ideas (such as the use of a chalk circle), but this would have disrupted the work of other groups and also we were only asked to perform a short extract.

One of the most effective parts about this scene was the realistic nature of how our piece started. We warned our lecturer before our piece that that was how we were staging it. My character Paul checked the lights and moved people into their seats and then walked up the stairs and sat next to Susan and shouted my first line ‘What?’. This, according to feedback surprised the audience. It surprised them because they were not expecting the piece to start straight away and in line with the staging, broke down the barrier between actor and audience, which was one of our aims for this piece.

In addition to this process, We were requested to read an extract from Katie Mitchell’s The Directors Craft, which is a book about developing practice as a director. I believe for ‘The Actor In Performance’ this book is not entirely applicable but this book is an essential resource for later directing projects.

I like Mitchell’s listing and her organisation of facts and then questions which must be answered (Mitchell, 2009, pp. 12-13). Mitchell focused on ‘The Seagull’ in her approach to her directing style (Ibid, pp.13) and I hope in the long term, to take this on board as I move on in my directorial and acting career.

Section Five: Practical Portfolio Task Three - Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett – Theatre of The Absurd

The third task of the practical portfolio was to research the writers called Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco and to select a scene from their plays. Beckett was particularly fascinating for our group and we selected Waiting For Godot (Beckett, 2012), as it is one of my favourite plays because of its absurdist qualities (Our scene is included in Appendix E). In class, we had to research Beckett and give a presentation which I felt was effective because of how we worked as a group, although we did not capitalise on the potential of the application of his techniques within our presentation, such as the constant questioning of the concept of ‘performance’. Waiting For Godot is theatrical genius because of its control over the audience’s lack of understanding and yet as one goes away, it feels as if you completely understand it and every audience member goes away with a different interpretation.

I researched into ‘The Theatre of The Absurd’ and discovered that according to (Culik, 2000) it was designed by a group of writers (Beckett and Ionesco included) who shared ‘the view that man is inhabiting a universe with which he is out of key… his place within it is without purpose. He is bewildered, troubled and obscurely threatened’. I found this fit our selection because it focuses on the pointlessness of life. This theme is one of the main themes with my character Estragon, who asks whether to kill himself at one point in the play.

While exploring Waiting For Godot, one of our issues was that we had three people and we had four characters. However, we made the executive decision because the piece is existentialist and absurdist, we would take the strange but effective decision of portraying our piece in a dream like world where the character of Lucky was a gigantic bear and every person dressed in pyjamas. This was an effective decision receiving my highest grade to date within this module.

Section Six: Evaluation of Actor Development

I appreciated the exploration of various different styles and I feel I strongly understood the majority of concepts and even concepts I did not fully understand I gave my all into each project. My line learning and decision making skills have developed, with line learning being less of a weakness for me now. I appreciated each text and critically analysed my work, other’s work and each practitioners work despite apprehension towards certain styles. I am less nervous as an actor and my body and voice have advanced thanks to The Feeling of Ease and the movements within The PG.

Through this process, I have explored styles I would not normally approach such as In Yer Face Theatre or The PG. This has enriched my development as a person and as an actor.

Reference List

Beckett, S. (2012) Waiting For Godot: tragicomedy in 2 acts. Available at: http://www.samuel-beckett.net/Waiting_for_Godot_Part1.html (Accessed: 12th February 2012)

Chekhov, M. (2002) ‘The Actor’s Body and Psychology’, ‘The Psychological Gesture’, and ‘How to Approach the Part’ in To the actor: on the technique of acting (Revised and expanded edition) London and New York: Routledge, pp. 1-20 and pp. 63-76, and pp. 133-140.

Culik, J. (2000) The Theatre of The Absurd: The West and The East. Available at: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/Slavonic/Absurd.html (Accessed: 14th February 2012).

extraghost, (2007) Yiruma – River Flows In You Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhN7SG-H-3k&feature=artist (Accessed: 16/02/2012)

Gordon, M. (1991), ‘Introduction’, in On the technique of acting, by Michael Chekhov (New York: Harper Collins, pp. ix-xxxiv.

Mitchell, K. (2009) The Directors Craft: A Handbook for The Theatre. London: Routledge. pp.11-19, 41-74.

Ravenhill, M. (2006) ‘The Cut’ in The Cut and Product London: Methuen Publishing Limited, pp. 34-37

de Rooy, L. (2011) Disney's Alice In Wonderland script and lyrics. Available at: http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/books/script.html (Accessed: 12th February 2012)

Sierz, A. (2010) In-Yer-Face Theatre. Available at: http://inyerface-theatre.com/what.html (Accessed: 14th February 2012)

Strasburg, L. (1957) Introduction, in The Paradox of Acting, by D. Diderot, trans. By Walter Herries Pollock. New York: Hill and Wang, pp. ix-xiv.

This was an assignment to write a creative logbook of our time exploring various theatre practitioners. For this paper i received an A+ and my paper is used as the example paper for future years on the course.

Note: This was not an academic essay - so the use of I was fully permitted by the tutor.

Copyright © 2013 Johnathan Colourfield; All Rights Reserved.
The content presented here is for informational or educational purposes only. These are just the authors' personal opinions and knowledge. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are based on the authors' lives and experiences and may be changed to protect personal information. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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