Propeller blog
Propeller blog
Propeller blog
Propeller blog

Training week

Kristine Landon-Smith

I absolutely love these training weeks where actors, directors, designers and writers come together and really investigate the collaborative process around making a piece of work. The first morning is always the same – everyone is always terrified – and I always begin with pointing out how completely normal this is and how important it is to acknowledge how normal it is! I have found over the years that actors are often too scared to admit how scared they are and therefore try at every moment to appear not scared and confident in what they are doing. This means that they will come first to a place where they are not open, vulnerable, fearless, and therefore they will not really be ready to work – everything will be “pretend”.  It is completely unproductive to start work “covering up”. So one of the most important things for me as a director and teacher is to lay the conversations on the table – conversation around what we are making, what we are seeing, is always as important as being on the rehearsal room floor.

I worked closely with actors and directors with designers observing – moving from games to improvisations to text – using the actors’ and directors’ individual spirits and their cultural contexts to tease out the best I could from them moment by moment. I often find, after even very gentle enquiry, that directors and actors are unsure of the purpose of “the game” in the rehearsal room – the game is to encourage and look at the open spirit of play – and then to pull through that open spirit of play to improvisation and then to text. It is my feeling that this is the job of the director – to help the actor find their own unique spirit of play and then make sure it remains with them moment by moment through the rehearsal process. This is subtle and rigorous work which requires directors to really look, see, and then analyse what they are seeing and problem-solve.  It is hard work and often very unfamiliar territory.  This deep investigation of how to work with the actor often shows that in this country we ignore the actor as a really creative theatre-maker, and rather than ask them to be vessels through which an author’s text flows. My feeling is we need the open, fearless, confident actor first in order for them to be sensitive enough to let the real rhythms of the text come through.

We saw some phenomenal improvisations and some phenomenal pieces of text work from the actors and we saw the directors courageously working in unfamiliar waters with great success. Designers too were very close to the rehearsal room process which really impacted on their early thoughts – see the designers’ blogs for their response.

Week one complete – three more to go!

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