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The HERO challenge

The new sessions of The Acting Class began on Sunday morning, with the first of the six Archetypes we will be exploring – one per class.

What is an Archetype? Well, first let me acknowledge that everyone who works with some principle involving Archetypes will do it differently. I begin with John Wright’s Masks of the Archetypes approach, and then play with it my way.

You will do it differently. That is because Archetypes are just ways of being human, ways of recognizing certain ‘types’ of people, ways of recognizing certain aspects of our own ways of being. There is no such thing, in the world, which can be identified as being an actual Archetype, and there is no such person who can, either. You can be a hero, huntress, child, fool etc, but that just means you are manifesting qualities which are recognizable from our mutual idea of what we understand as Hero, Huntress, Child or Fool. These are ‘types’ which occur in the folk tales and songs of cultures throughout the world.

Batman is a hero, just as Hercules, Sigurd, Beowolf, Calamity Jane, and Cathy Freeman are all heroes, real or imagined. Actors are heroes (NOTE to our American colleagues, here in OZ we are non-gender specific with the word ‘actor’).

A hero is an individual who behaves heroically, or does something heroic, and thus we call him a hero, or her (more usually) a heroine. The Archetype, Hero, has become manifest in them, and we recognize the qualities of Hero, and so we call them heroes. Note where I capitalize, and where I don’t.

So, having spent some time on Sunday exploring the physical experience of embodying Hero-like movement qualities, I have challenged the class to practice the exercise, to spend as much time in the coming week in Hero body as they possibly can.

This morning, I went out for a morning walk, before the heat settled in. As I headed down through the streets of Milton, along Park Road to Coronation Drive and back up Cribb Road, I challenged myself to move into Hero movement qualities, feeling the power in my legs, finding myself looking up and out as I walked (instead of my customary watching the ground). My shoulders dropped back, my chin tucked in and I noticed the impulse for propulsion forward in space now very definitely came from my centre of gravity, which was slightly higher than usual, somewhere round the solar plexus region.

It felt pretty good, I can tell you!  Then it lapsed, and I had to focus to regain the sense of equilibrium, it drifted, I brought it back – and then I realised just how much this way of working is analogous to Fitzmaurice tremoring. Just as the tremor is the body’s response to being placed in an impossible dilemma – the muscles begin to shake, and the breath flows in and out at its own pace – so trying to embody an Archetype is an impossible situation, brain and imagination struggle to make sense of the task of achieving an impossible goal, the body responds as best it can and then the magic happens…

The moment you feel LIKE a hero, it seems as if you’ve lost it. Here you are, all Heroic, and yet you’re being asked to do something absolutely ridiculous like hop on one foot, or remember and speak lines. You feel insecure, the only thing you are sure of is that you are ‘wrong’. In fact, you are absolutely on track, because what you feel is what your particular Hero is feeling, i.e. ridiculous. But you want to be Heroic, and sensible, and so you feel embarrassed, even a sense of failure. WOW!!! How cool is that? A hero who is embarrassed, who feels like a failure?

Your task, now, is to keep working to become more and more familiar with the physical movement qualities, to practise BEING in those qualities (just as you would practise speaking in a new language, or a new accent, if you want to become really skilful with it). I’m sitting here at my desk, realising that I am slouching, so I’ve now drawn up my spine, acknowledged my handsomely ridged brow, strong nose and firm mouth, my furrowed cheeks and my cleft chin, and Boy, am I going to defeat a few evil armies before bedtime?

Of course I shall.

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Open Slather

I’ve just removed the password protection on the handouts, and video demos. Having thought about it long and hard while I was away, I have decided that I would much rather everyone had access to these, and that people actually made use of them.

Of course, you will get much more from the exercises if you do them under supervision, with a teacher or trainer whom you trust.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to chat about any of the exercises, or to enquire about matters to do with actor training, or voice coaching.

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The fate of June Bloom

There are some pretty cool tools out there on the world wide web, including Wordle, which creates a 'cloud' from text you enter into it. Following the example of Canadian actor Kris Joseph http://www.krisjoseph.ca/, I extracted all of June’s lines from the script, and entered them into the Wordle. Here is my cloud:

Wordle: The Fall of June Bloom

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“Deep Voice” is coming to The Acting Class

Just back from my trip to the States, I managed to sleep from 8 pm till 3.30 am, so here I am…

And I am inspired!  So much rich inspiration at the VASTA Conference in New York, catching up with the work of Kristen Linklater, Catherine Fitzmaurice and Patsy Rodenburg,(in workshops) and Arthur Lessac (4 weeks short of his 100th birthday) gave a totally wonderful, political and joyous Keynote speech. He actually danced down the aisle to receive his Lifetime Honorary Member plaque!

I collected my copy of the latest Voice and Speech Review, dedicated to “The Moving Voice”, and an article by Marya Lowry has reminded me just how far our voices will take us, inwards and outwardly, if we allow them the space and size of our imaginations. So –

Not only will be working on our Archetypal qualities, physical and vocal, but they will be HUGE. We will be playing with some of the lamentation work I did with Marya six years ago, Frankie Armstrong’s Voices of the Archetypes and the Roy Hart work I have done with many wonderful teachers and performers over the years.  There will be much laughter, and many adventurous explorations.

And in a day or two I will report on the performance of The Fall of June Bloom which I gave at the conference with my amazing co-actors, John Graham and Micha Espinosa.  Suffice it to say, for now, that it was very well received…

See you Sunday week!

June Bloom at VASTA

June Bloom at VASTA

Jerome (John Graham) and June (Flloyd Kennedy)Jerome (John Graham) and June (Flloyd Kennedy)
watching Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

watching Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

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Voice is Physical

I’ve been having a lot of really challenging, and incredibly productive discussions lately with friends and colleagues, about what the voice is, how it is, why it is, and how I work with it, both as a teacher and as a performer.

In this little clip of students playing with ‘material essences’ they are exploring different movement qualities, the experience of moving in unaccustomed ways, and the effect that the physical movement qualities have on the voice itself, as it speaks.

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Preparing a Monologue

Now that you’ve chosen a monologue to work with, here are some thoughts and ideas about how to begin to approach the text.

Start by thinking about, and acknowledging where you want to end up – sounding as if you know what you are talking about – sounding as if you are the character who actually speaks those specific words because they express what the character needs to say at that moment.

Rather than trying to ‘do acting’ at the beginning, begin by getting familiar with the actual words, by taking the time to say those words clearly, honestly and specifically.

I’ve chosen a short passage from Romeo and Juliet, but the same principle applies to contemporary text, to ALL text.

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Brooklyn Workshop : The Shakespeare Shake: 13 December 09

Playing with Shakespeare and allowing Shakespeare to play (with) you
Taught by Master Teachers Flloyd Kennedy & Aole T. Miller
Studio 5, Brooklyn,

Saturday, December 13th
11am – 4pm
$100
This workshop will incorporate Fitzmaurice Voicework, Aole’s Archetype Masks, and Flloyd Kennedy’s signature Archetypal Character Development. Bring your favorite speeches from Shakespeare, anything from monologues to sonnets, and spend fab, fun, physical five hours exploring the sounds, the tastes, the smells, the images and the movement of Shakespeare’s language. This will be a great opportunity to work graduate school classical monologues.
Fitzmaurice Voicework work is one of the best voice techniques for getting actors out of their heads, and into their bodies. In Fitzmaurice Voicework, there are a series of positions inspired by the work of Wilhelm Reich, yoga, and shiatsu designed to activate the human body to breath and energy, to allow and encourage breathing patterns to change size, direction, placement, and rhythm, as required by both the demands of the body and of the thought to be expressed (text). As a result, actors open up to what is happening with the body rather than trying to make something happen that they think ought to be happening. It also allows actors to:
*Expand the range of what can be experienced and expressed through breath and language
*Become more emotionally available to heightened text
*Speak expressively even when nervous or emotional
*Strengthen the voice and reduce vocal fatigue
Masks show the important connection between Body and Voice. The Greek word personae means Mask, the personae was a projected image through the voice. Almost everyone at one point in his or her life is conscious of their voice and the sounds that the body makes, and it is these sounds that actually aid in the development of human character. The power that exudes through the deep connection of body and voice is easily accomplished through masks. Aole will incorporate mask work when working on freeing the voice’s pitch range, the physical center of character and deepening the experience of vocal transformation within character and text.
Archetypes are familiar, yet heightened ways of being human, from which we recognize friends and enemies, dream figures, iconographic and mythic ideals. Unlike stereotypes, which are fixed, unvarying, oversimplified conceptions of ways of being, Archetypes allow the actor to manifest the intrinsic instability which lies at the core of life and which the actor strives to embody in performance, essentially alive and transformative. Playing with Archetypes is mask work without the mask, physically and vocally liberating, providing the foundation for developing truthful and credible characters.
AOLE T. MILLER a Certified Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework is the Creative Director of STUDIO 5, Executive Director of the International Antonin Artaud Fringe Theatre Festival, and the Producing Director of The New Moon Rep. in Brooklyn, New York. He has been an actor-director-writer-teacher in the United States, Denmark, Singapore, Australia, and Bali, Indonesia since 1992 and has been Director of the Bali Conservatory since 2002. He is the first African American Ceremonial Mask Dancer of Bali and the first teacher to bring Fitzmaurice Voicework to Denmark. He coached Michelle Williams for her Academy Award nominated performance in Ang Lee’s movie Brokeback Mountain. He teaches Mask Work, Fitzmaurice Voicework, Michael Chekhov, Viewpoints, and Grotowski’s concepts of the physical container and the plastiques for character development. He is a member of VASTA and is on the faculties of Chautauqua Theatre Company. He has taught at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Yale University, The Actors Center, Wayne State (MFA), The New School (MFA), SUNY Purchase College, University of Southern California, The Bill Esper Studio, Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, The National Theatre Institute, Howard University, Western Michigan University, The School for Film and Television, and the Michael Chekhov Conference 2002. Directing credits: Proof (New Moon Rep), I Kreon (New Moon Rep), Voices of Juarez (New York Fringe 2003). He is currently he is translating Jean Genet’s The Maids and The Blacks and developing Romeo and Juliet, which he will be directing in Perth 2009. He holds a B.F.A. in theatre from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Flloyd Kennedy is an actor, director, voice and acting coach and who has spent many years traveling the world, exploring different performance techniques and ways of creating theatre (including The Original Shakespeare Co). She has performed in, and directed Shakespeare productions from Scotland (as artistic director of Golden Age Theatre) to Brisbane, Australia, working with professional actors, students and community and youth groups.  Flloyd has taught voice skills, verse speaking and Shakespeare at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (Glasgow Scotland), QUT (Queensland Australia), Rutgers University (NJ USA), University of Otago (Dunedin NZ) and La Salle University (Singapore). Directing credits include All’s Well That Ends Well (Young Actors Co, Qld), Pericles (Golden Age Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe), The Winter’s Tale (Qld Shakespeare Ensemble), A Life in the Theatre (Trocadero Productions), Iphigenia in Tauris (Golden Age Theatre), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Golden Age Theatre, Mayfest, Edinburgh Festival Fringe). Flloyd is researching “A Theory of the Voice in Performance” (PhD) at the University of Queensland, and provides voice and acting training through her private studio Being in Voice. She will appear in her latest play, “The Fall of June Bloom: A Modern Invocation” at !Metro Arts in Brisbane in 2009.
To register contact:
Aole T. Miller
347-351-8430
dreamshavewings@gmail.com
or
Flloyd Kennedy
348-278-2032
fkennedy@being-in-voice.com

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