Using objects as a starting point

For the student blog this month I focused on how the use of the towel in ‘Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures’ had inspired me. To get your imagination flowing, watch the short section below that is also on the student blog.

For teachers I thought that it would be good to compile a few activities, related to theorists, that use objects as a starting point for work. Some will be old, some new, but I hope that you will find them all of use in your work wth students when devising or working with theorists.

Stanislavsky and Objects

When working with Stanislavsky’s theory students need to start with OBSERVATION of their object. As Stanislavsky states in ‘An Actor Prepares‘:

‘Intensive observation of a object naturally arouses a desire to do something with it. To do something with it in turn intensifies your observation of it. This mutual inter-reaction establishes a stronger contact with the object of your attention.’ (page 76)

Here is an exercise taken from ‘The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit‘ (page 302-303):

  • Ask the students to sit in a circle. Put on blindfolds.
  • Gather a selection of objects and put them in the centre of the circle (for example: a rubber duck, a pebble, a plastic toy, a scarf, a velvet glove, a pumice stone. You can use anything, but make sure there is a variety of textures and sizes/shapes).
  • Students pick up one object at a time and explore it with touch. What does it make them think/see/hear? What does it remind them of? What do they imagine?
  • Some students are selected to then share how they have responded to their object. It is important that they do not identify the object, so that each student has a virgin experience with each object they encounter.
  • This process is repeated until several objects have been explored.

Bogart and Architecture

When working with Bogart’s Viewpoints the area of Architecture is related to sight and awareness. In ‘The Viewpoints Book’ (page 52) architecture is introduced by stating:

‘We always, in some way large or small, position ourselves in relation to mass: to walls, to objects we on or stand near or far from, posts we lean on, tables we rest on, space we centre ourselves in or find the corners of etc’

The exercise (ibid page 53) that relates to objects goes as follows:

  • Find smaller objects in the space and dance with them.
  • Explore the space to find objects that can: travel with you, open and close, move: a chair, book, waste paper basket, window, pencil etc.
  • Move with the object and develop a relationship with it.
  • Turn the object into something else.
  • Really look at it and exploit it for its raw qualities rather than its functional ones.

Grotowski and Voice

In Grotowski’s Actor Training he focuses on the individual being enabled to find the potential of their voice. He states in ‘Towards a Poor Theatre’ (page 165):

‘In order to exploit organically one’s respiratory and vocal apparatus according to the multiple demands of the role, individual research must be carried out. One must determine which images and associations produce, in a certain actor, the “opening” of the vocal apparatus (resonators, larynx, etc)’

The exercises (ibid page 166) below must be approached in a spontaneous manner to be able to free the voice and explore potential:

  • Create ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ circles around oneself, using the voice
  • Using the voice build a bell that gets larger and smaller
  • Project a sound through a wide and then a narrow tunnel
  • Make a hole in the wall with your voice
  • Other vocal actions against objects include: overturning a chair, put out a candle, make a picture fall off the wall, to caress something, to push something, sweep the floor, wrap something up etc.
  • The voice can also be used as an object: a hammer, an axe, a pencil, a hand, a pair of scissors etc.

Bibliography:

‘The Viewpoints Book’, Bogart and Landau. 2005

‘Towards a Poor Theatre’, Grotowski. 2002

‘The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit’, Merlin. 2007

‘An Actor Prepares’, Stanislavsky. 1980

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