Sunday, March 01, 2009

Workshop with Todd Waite

Yesterday, the second-year grad actors (remember, we're in an accelerated program, anywhere else we'd be "third-years") had a workshop with actor Todd Waite, an Alley Company member of long-standing, and a hugely energetic, insightful, experienced actor of both contemporary and classical texts.  He worked simple techniques with us, but his teaching style seemed to bring them home to us with greater than usual effect.  Todd is one of those first folio dudes big on breathing or pausing on the ends of lines, not so much ignoring internal line punctuation, as using internal punctuation to accelerate speaking, or to off-set parenthetical phrasing with any technique other than pausing (e.g., through pitch, elongation of vowels, shortening vowels, volume), though above all, with dead-on intent by the character.  Todd's emphasis on line endings makes even more necessary that the actor grasp in his body and soul the character's need, a word that has come back to life for me as an acting object, after this workshop.  Also, I in particular need to work against line endings--rather than over-playing internal punctuation--because I tend to get tangled in the trees and lose the forest.  I start "shatnering."  Driving to the end of the line along the rails of a dead-clear character need saves my ass.

Todd said, "commas accelerate thought," which I had missed, before.

Todd quoted Elias Kazan as saying that as an actor you "pass the soul of the character through you faster than thought."

Though it takes some training or experience to quite get the richness of this phrase, I also found helpful hearing Todd remind us that we must "just commit to the word."  "In the speaking of the word itself is the emotions," (which does not at all suggest one can skip the homework.  If the actor doesn't internalize these texts before working them, the words will only half-evoke the spirits living through them.)

One more bit I got out of yesterday:  a reminder not to deprive myself of on-stage privacy while I'm working.  I feel that my experience of MFA training is that I've pulled myself more and more out to the audience, to scene partners, to attempts to get my work 'right,' and have been pulling away from my self at the center of all this.  So, I'm now rediscovering my on-stage privacy.  Last week, in an in-class presentation, I managed to do so--and do it in a scene requiring song, dance, mime, chanting, laughter, and tears (we're doing The Greeks), so I'm hopeful.

1 comment:

Jon said...

This sounds fascinating, David. Kind of reminiscent of the RSC line work in those "Playing Shakespeare" videos with John Barton by which I first discovered your blog.

It sounds as if you have good reason to be hopeful.