Actors on the Move: 10 Performers Analyze the Training Regimens That Animate Them on Stage

Article excerpt

The interviews in this collage of voices--actors and actor-trainers who are devotees of a range of movement techniques--were conducted by the American Theatre editorial staff. Some are presented entirely in the artist's voice and others incorporate the reporters framing comments.

RICHARD CRAWFORD and ADRIENNE KAPSTEIN, actors and directors; co-founders, Movement Theater Studio NYC, Brooklyn.

THE METHOD: Lecoq

THE TRAINING: Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq, Paris; Rose Bruford College, London (Crawford) and University of Edinburgh, Scotland (Kapstein)

CRAWFORD: "Lecoq is a way, a path--not a 'technique'--that asks the actor: What do you have to say? Tragedy, commedia and bouffon all have a different approach, but the overarching theme in Lecoq is 'actor as creator.' The process helps you develop your own voice, not just as an actor but also as a theatre artist. That rounded training is lacking in the U.S. The empowerment of the actor to understand more than just the role he is playing is not often embraced here, and in New York there is a palpable hunger for physical-theatre training.

"In New York City the writer rules. But in Lecoq, the writer becomes another voice in the group. We don't always start with the text, but if we do, we don't necessarily sit down and analyze it. Rather we ask: How does the writing move in space? What images does the text provide?

"The aim is to use your body as a way to approach emotion. It's pointless to have a wonderful inner life if your body doesn't know how to show that, and vice versa."

KAPSTEIN: "The Lecoq method demands that you think in multiple ways. Lejeu, which means play, is something I use all the time--finding the spirit of play and using games with actors to build ensemble. The big secret that's not such a secret is: If the actor is having pleasure on stage, the audience will, too.

"We use the neutral mask a lot because it is such a truth-teller. You put it on and people can see all the idiosyncratic things you do with your body, things you should be aware of so that you can heighten them or shed them depending on a role. I like to do a lot of object work, too. I'll take a piece of newspaper and crumple it and watch it struggle to regain its shape. I'll then ask students to find that dynamic in their own breath, bodies and gaze. I will ask them to become the quality of that newspaper. In this way we can find the spirit of Tragedy, for example.

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"Lecoq is a way of bypassing the psychological--it engages the actor with his or her body and breath so that the delivery of text can provoke an emotional response in the audience. It's not that Lecoq avoids the psychological, rather that if the actor is present and playing he can use this approach to create a psychological effect. It goes back to the idea that everything moves (my former company was called SaBooge, a play on ca bouge, meaning 'it moves' in French). When my eyes opened up to the idea that everything moves, it became a wonderful jumping-off point for inspiration--how empowering that is!"

BEN CUNIS actor, resident fight choreographer, Synetic Theater, Arlington, Va

THE METHOD: Parkour

THE TRAINING: B.A. in drama, catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; Primal Fitness parkour gym, Washington, D.C.; Urban Evolution parkour gym, Alexandria, Va.

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"PARKOUR IS A PHYSICAL DISCIPLINE in which the artist, or traceur, attempts to negotiate obstacles in his environment in the most efficient way possible. Jumping, running, vaulting, climbing, balancing and quadrupedal movement are all part of parkour. Where martial arts are the fight impulse made systematic, parkour is the discipline of the flight impulse. Parkour may often be viewed as an extreme sport in the media, but traceurs tend to emphasize the focus, philosophy and discipline of the form over the 'extreme' aspect. …