Our first input weekend was spent with the awesome Mike Alfreds and Polly Teale (http://www.sharedexperience.org.uk/) exploring the groundwork behind the Stanislavsky technique; how to apply this to text, character research & development, rehearsals and eventually a performance.
I was a bit apprehensive about this weekend to start with – I would hardly consider myself a natural born actress, and Stanislavsky was something which had been somewhat thrown at us at college without any real explanation as to what it was all about, thus rendering it’s first proper introduction as a tad overwhelming.
Prior to our session with Mike, we were asked to read ‘Different every night’:
and were also given a short extract from Chekhov’s ”The Seagull’ which we had to have memorized for the day. With Polly, we studied an excerpt from Kindertransport (a play by Diane Samuels which describes the life in World War 2 of a Kindertransport child),
The scenes were broken down into main concepts:
Want: Objectives Self explanatory, what does the character want? I.e he wants to find someone to love, to lead an honourable life, to avoid confrontation, to find the meaning of life etc.
Scene Objectives What does a character want, and tries to obtain from other characters throughout a specific portion of the text? A character can have more than one objective during a scene, and what each character wants from one another, fundamentally gives the scene it’s structure.
Through lines This is the character’s main objective throughout the story – it generates plot, and functions in response to the plot.
Super Objectives Usually very general, and deal with concepts i.e to conquer the world, avoid commitments etc.
* Who is my character? What do they say about themselves? Do I say anything about myself? What are the possible objectives for the scene? What is the through-line for my character in the whole opera? What is my super-objective? What are my actions / wants? What are my obstacles in the scene i.e external, internal conflicts and even other characters themselves?
I’ve spent so much time thinking about characters in opera based around feelings, rather than looking at hard facts, that this weekend with Mike and Polly really came as a revelation. So often we ‘play sad / play happy’ and this leads to a generalized performance which fundamentally isnt honest and frankly, rather dull. Openly exploring sounds, mannerisms and potential actions associated with certain emotions has made me realize just how much involvement we need as actors in order to fully understand how to portray that character. As a self-confessed ‘over thinker’, I’ve always found it difficult to just let go and ‘be’ a character, but after the work we all put into this weekend session and the feedback that was given, I think its much easier to understand what is absolutely necessary, and trust that knowing these foundations will serve your truthful portrayal of the character in itself.
We’ve been allocated our music scenes for this term (all Handel, HURRAH!). Our homework prior to the response session is to study the entire libretto and use the techniques learnt over this weekend in order to better understand our individual characters and our scene itself.. Watch this space…