Ways into Psycho-physicality

Three weeks ago I started working at a new school with a new group of IB Theatre students in their first year of the course.  As they had not heard of Stanislavsky and were not familiar with theatre theory I thought it would be good to immerse them in some practical work to understand The System. We stared with Psycho-physicality leading to MPA (Method of Physical Actions) and then they made their own connections between inner feelings and outer communication to an audience.

This blog entry will share with you some ideas about how I went about approaching this work.

Having done some initial warm-up exercises to get the students used to working together and in the environment, we started to work a little on the inner and outer experiences. I asked them to do the following:

Exercises on internal and external

  1. Reacting externally to words with a frozen tableau after an initial movement: [words + tableau] sky, night, school, traffic, beach, knife, blanket, rain, roses, clock, sunset
  2. React internally to words, being aware of mood, facial expression and changes of tension in the body: [words + mood/expression] childhood, holiday, love, safety, conflict, safety, disappointment, loss, success, pain, bravery
  3. In pairs show physical resonance: [select any words from 1 or 2 above] work in pairs taking it in turns to echo the physical position of your partner. As they respond to the words said see how the external position you imitate has an impact on your internal (feelings and thoughts)
  4. In groups respond to the second set of words, move from internal to external and feel the physical and vocal changes. Do they have presence, environment etc

Having gone through these exercises we had a discussion about their own discoveries, and I gave them times to make notes in their journals before we discussed the following quote:

Quote from Creating a Role’, Stanislavsky p247 (1957, Theatre Art Books)

“Our deep spiritual well springs open wide “only when the inner and the outer feelings of the actor flow in accordance with the laws fixed for them, when there is absolutely no forcing, or deviation from the norm, when there is no cliche or conventional acting of any kind.”

From these exercises the students started to see the connections between the internal and external and how your posture can impact your feelings and thoughts and visa versa – thus starting to touch on MPA and psychological resonance.

The next class we focused a little more on VITAL ENERGY and how the emotions of another person of the environment and action can impact your thoughts and posture. I created a patchwork quilt of life, but putting cards around the room with items written on them, including: a dead bird, a dark street, a broken gold chain, a scream, some piano music playing from an upstairs window, a beggar asking you for money etc

Exercises on vital energy and environmental response:

  1. Ask students to walk around the room and become familiar with the items in the space
  2. Freeze in response to the item closest to you on the sound command
  3. Now add a vocal response to each item, adding movement and intent
  4. Walk around the room freely reacting to things you pass
  5. Share some of your responses with a partner
  6. Work in pairs to mimic your partner’s responses and see what impact ‘walking in their shoes’ has on you.
  7. Discuss their responses and reactions as a group

After this exercise the students learnt quickly about character development and the connection between the inner and the outer, and started also to realise the importance of context and backstory. We took our own notes then discussed the quote:

Quote from Building a character’, Stanislavsky, p276 (1948, Theatre Art Books)

“Your immediate objective ……has to be to train your physical apparatus to the limits of your natural, inborn capacity. You must…go on developing, correcting, tuning your bodies until every part of them will respond to the predestined and complex task….of presenting in external form your invisible feelings.”

We are now working on heightening our senses and using our imagination, so the quote below will be one to use with your students, and discuss how it relates to The System.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” (Einstein)

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/556030-imagination-is-more-important-than-knowledge-for-knowledge-is-limited (accessed on 5 July 2017)

I hope that you found this useful.

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