What is it that makes us want to watch one actor more than another?
What quality do they have that moves us and engages us?
Can we learn it?
On stage one needs to be relaxed, since tension brings about a kind of awkwardness and the actor seems to lack spontaneity. Some people think acting is something you generate on your own - working on character- but really it is a social activity. As an actor, you need to connect both with your fellow actors and with the audience. You need to engage, respond and give the audience some kind of way in. That’s what makes us want to watch you. So being relaxed allows you to deal with this complex state of being on stage.
We think of relaxing as letting go of tense muscles, but actually we need some tension to stand up and move, so it’s more about reducing the unnecessary tension. When we don’t feel safe, we cannot be relaxed and so connecting with other becomes more difficult. Under ‘threat’, our nervous system prepares to protect us with a myriad of changes to posture, digestion, breath, heart rate, vision and muscle tone and even shuts down some facial gestures that enable social connection. This is what gets in the way of acting. So how can you enable your system to feel safe enough to engage?
You need SUPPORT. Support is something that you can lean on and that holds you up. In life it can be family, friends, social structures, but in a fundamental physical way it is the ground you stand on, the furniture you sit, lie or lean on - and your skeleton. Ideally your bones are suspended in a perfect constellation by just the amount of tension needed and adjust constantly, creating new constellations of support as you move. But no one is perfect. One tension or another pulls those bone constellations out of shape, so your system resorts to activating any muscle that can help keep you upright. Those extra tensions create more disruptions and make it even harder to find effective skeletal support: a vicious cycle. However, if you can begin to unravel those habitual distortions and re- activate clearer, better ways of finding support, the unwanted tensions will fade simply because they are no longer needed. With proper support your system can switch over to safety mode, relax and enable you to connect and engage — and the audience can stay connected with you.
Which Feldenkrais lesson does that? Every Feldenkrais lesson.
Moshe Feldenkrais created about a thousand of Awareness through movement lessons (ATM) focused on different bodily functions that clarify and improve our posture and movement both in everyday life and onstage. Moshe Feldenkrais worked with Peter Brook and his company of actors for many years.
Making the impossible possible, the possible easy and the easy elegant.
'η προσοχή είναι η πιο σπάνια και αγνή μορφή της γενναιοδωρίας'