I was 23 when I first got to go to The Actors Space and I belived I already knew a lot about theatre. This was quite sweet and naive. My first two weeks with Marian and Simon during ‘The Creative Actor’ workshop killed a fair part of my ego and opened an entire new world of theatre to me, a world that was not so much based on realism as on magical playfulness. Where other people feel that the play doesn’t work, but cannot properly describe the trouble, Simon and Marian find precise words to explain the irritation and also show you how to avoid this irritations in the future. Their teaching is very much from the heart and at the same time impressively sharp-witted.
I came back a year later for ‘The Art of Comedy’, because I was about to direct a Clown paly in Germany. I learned so much during this course, by watching the play and listening to the teachers and slowly starting to understand, why some play mechanics work and others don’t.
I got back to Germany and our Clown play touched the audience to laughter and tears. I also made a production of Molières ‘Malade Imaginaire’. On the first evening we had about 200 spectators (already a lot for a layman group), on the third and last night there were more than 400! Even guests from Thailand who didn’t understand the words had to laugh at the strong and amusing physicality. I also applied at a public university (Folkwang) for Physical Theatre and got into the finals (then they took oher people, damn it! :0) )
I owe so much of this succes to Marian and Simon. Sometimes I hear myself using precisely their words to describe theatre. The Actors Space is a wonderful place to stay, to learn and to go back to, both in reality and memory.
The Mask, a fundamental tool for Theatre and essential for actor training…acting with Masks structures and simplifies Play…It lifts movement and text above the naturalistic, filtering the essential while ignoring the anecdotal… Acting becomes ample, simple and elemental… When playing a Mask the actor cannot use the body or the voice as we do in everyday life, physical attitudes are needed! …So, what is a physical attitude? To compose the body in such a way that the actor gives the illusion of another character, animal, object, action, state, emotion, passion…’
These are all words by Ana Vazquez de Castro, a great Spanish theatre practitioner that had, amongst many other great theatre masters, the same great teacher as myself, Jacques Lecoq.
I completely concur with her…and I admire her. I would have like to know her, unfortunately she passed away last year…
Acting technique can be taught and Masks are great for that; but there is something that cannot be taught which fascinates me…and that is ‘ Play’ (with capital P). Rare and delightful… It is undefinable because, it is an essence, a feeling, an energy that contains in it a great power, unique, simple and beautiful…and you cannot make an actor ‘repeat that’, it is as unique and alive as each breath because it only lives in the moment…
If you understand Spanish I recommend watching the video bellow. It is 1:30 min. For those who like me are passionate about physical theatre it is a must see. Just sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy this Masterclass – from Neutral Mask to Commedia Dell’Arte, a real treat to watch, such is Ana Vazquez’s talent…and not just technically but also in ‘Play’ (with capital P). It is not easy what she does because she is alone on stage (so who do you play with)? If you don’t understand Spanish you can jump to 1:16:29 and watch a delightful scene between Arlecchino and Arlecchineta (her own creation) in which she uses ‘Pantomime Blanche’, or you can watch a a sketch of Otello in which she plays 4 characters (full Masks, no text) from min 57:45
‘it is your creativity which ultimately will be the key to freedom’ – Ana Vazquez de Castro
Thank you Ana for sharing your great knowledge and insight.
With so much bad news in the world the only way to counter it is to focus on the good!!! Why do we need to tangle ourselves on all sorts of absurd problems? What has happened? (as you might have guessed I just read the paper, you see, part of me wants to be informed of what is going on of course, but I must admit that every time I read the paper I regret it!)
Have we not got enough reasons to celebrate? Reasons like Love, kindness, Respect, Beauty, Nature, Children, Life?…
‘I spent three consecutive summers in the glorious world of the Actors Space learning mask, clowning and on the “Acting for Camera” course, which was paradoxically the place where I first tried my hand at writing a script. Working with Marian and Simon was the experience that reminded me what I was meant to be doing with my life! The simple mantra that is “Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy” has stayed with me and so much about their sheer joy, sensitivity, wonder, playfulness and also their robust analysis of what makes good theatre continues to inform what I’m up to. I can’t thank them enough for the open-hearted, crazy, joyful world that they create up in their Spanish hills for people to take risks, discover and figure out what it’s all about’.
The attitude of a beginner is great. They are completely open and don’t have any bad habits that are hard to shake off. A pure and uncontaminated actor, if they are enthusiastic, committed and enjoy playing, they are a pleasure to work with.
I feel that this is where I have to come from as a director. When I approach a new project it is so important to me to be open and listen…find out what is there, in the space, in the actors, in the play. This is my job, like a gardener I must care for and develop the good, the rich and the healthy. I must not impose what is in my head… my ideas can become weeds.
How important is it to enjoy when we are playing? Without it there is nothing, it’s dead, dead!!!! Technique can be learned BUT without the enjoyment mmmmmhhhh, clinical, may be impressive but not moving. How many times have I seen an actor and have said, they are good, they are impressive, but was I touched? No!!!
The Pig, a character from the Show
‘Amateur’: Lover of ( French)
We actors have to be lovers of acting…(please, if you don’t enjoy it don’t do it! The way I see it, it is not a good idea to suffer…) Enjoyment has to be an ESSENTIAL tool for an actor, to be used over and over again. And when it is not enjoyable, take 5, go for a walk…come back to it after you have cleared the cobwebs from your head!
Technique can be learned (let’s make sure we learn the right techniques and not those who screw people’s heads up…) and if you are going to make a show make sure the script is good and you are in the hands of a good director (very important). Actors sometimes think that they are not good enough, that they have to be better. But if the structure of a house is not good, you can’t get in it. So, how is an actor suppose to come up with the goods if there is no dramatic structure?
A greedy banker, another character from the Show
I am doing a play with amateur actors about the king of Carnival. He comes around Feb/March every year to tell everyone to enjoy, party, go mad and don’t listen to rules. After a week of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ everyone becomes chaotic. He gets caught by the authorities, judged and burned.
These guys, the actors I am working with, are doing this because they enjoy it, and get a sense of achievement from it. That is it, no money attached to it. I am the only one that is getting paid by the Town Council. Tricky… The Town Council are paying for a show that is essentially about rebelling against authority! No wonder they ‘censored’ my first script!! They felt threatened by it (it was not at all my intention, innocent as I am…) a shame I think… any parent that is self critical and can laugh at their own authority is a better parent. The worst are those who pretend that they do, but in reality they don’t! But hey, I understand, these days people are pretty burned out…
The Heart, beautiful hu?
It is fun to work with Amateurs…because they love it…!
This outdoor show, with live music, will be performed on the 19th Feb for an audience of 4000 people in Mollet del Vallès. I will share my experience on the next blog…Keep having fun!
This is a video by Tom Adams, he is an ex-student of The Actors Space. He is doing a gig on Tuesday 14th Feb in Manhattan 34, 34 Rutland Street, Leicester at 19:00. Do go if you are around, he is very funny!