* * * BODY AND VOICE WORK by Cinda Jackson
An actor must be connected physically and vocally in order to be connected emotionally.
* The whole spectrum of tension needs to be explored, as each extreme renders us incapable of real freedom of expression.
* I think of tension as a continuum; on one extreme, you have tightness to the point of immobility. On the other extreme, you have numbness and lack of sensation, resulting in a slackening deadness. They are both forms of tension. They both apply to the body and the voice.
* The key is to find the appropriate use of muscle tonus…both active and passive. For an actor, the body and the voice are our instrument. An instrument is a machine and it must be finely tuned to function efficiently. This is where the degree of active and passive muscle tonus comes into play. Using more energy (effort) than is called for results in “pushing, indicating, and overacting.” A lack of active energy manifests as lethargy, weakness, and a lack of clarity. There must be a fine balance, so that the actor is neither on a runaway train nor hidden under water.
* An actor’s body must, above all, be responsive. The voice is part of the body. If there are blocks, physical or psychological, our ability to be present and responsive is impaired.
The idea is to be energetically aligned, so that we are “at the ready”, not anticipating and jumping the gun, or dully behind the beat and missing the moment. Being present and be responsive to what’s happening NOW…IN THE MOMENT.
*** Those of you who have worked with me in the past know what I always say…that you cannot be at the height of your power, if you’re not working on your acting every day. Every other artist knows this. A singer or musician wouldn’t dream of auditioning for the Met, if they weren’t practicing and playing every day. A dancer wouldn’t dream of performing, if they were not in class and training every day. It’s the same for writers and painters and sculptors. Professional artists work at their art form every day. An amateur does it every once in a while. That’s the difference. A professional plays for keeps. For an amateur, it’s a part-time hobby sort of thing. Which are you?
*** I am looking for actors who are artists, who want to become the best they can be.
An excerpt from Peter Brook’s THE EMPTY SPACE:”The dilemma of the actor…Singers and dancers often keep their teachers by them to the end of their days: actors once launched have nothing whatsoever to help them to develop their talents. After he reaches a certain position the actor does no more homework. Take a young actor, unformed, undeveloped, but bursting with talent, full of latent possibilities. Quite rapidly he discovers what he can do, and, mastering his initial difficulties, with a bit of luck he may find himself in the enviable position of having a job which he loves, doing it well while getting paid and admired at the same time. If he is to develop, his next stage must be to go beyond his apparent range, and to begin to explore what really comes hard. But no one has time for this sort of problem. Building a career and artistic development do not necessarily go hand in hand; often the actor, as his career grows, begins to turn in work that gets more and more similar.
How does the average actor spend his days? Of course, it’s a wide range: from lying in bed, drinking, going to the hairdresser, to the agent, filming, recording, reading, sometimes studying. But whether his use of time is frivolous or earnest is beside the point: little that he does relates to his main preoccupation–not to stand still as an actor–which means not to stand still as a human being, which means work aimed at his artistic growth–and where can such work take place? Time after time I have worked with actors who after the usual preamble that they ‘put themselves in my hands’ are tragically incapable however hard they try of laying down for one brief instant even in rehearsal the image of themselves that has hardened round an inner emptiness. On the occasions that it is possible to penetrate this shell, it is like smashing the picture on a television set.
The tragedy is that the professional status of actors over the age of 30 is seldom a true reflection of their talents. There are countless actors who never have the chance to develop their inborn potential to its proper fruition. It has long been recognized that without a permanent company few actors can thrive indefinitely. However, it must also be faced that even a permanent company is doomed to deadliness in the long run if it is without an aim, and thus without a method, and thus without a school. And by a school, naturally I don’t mean a gymnasium where the actor exercises his limbs in limbo. Flexing muscles alone cannot develop an art; scales don’t make a pianist nor does finger work help a painter’s brush: yet a great pianist practices finger exercises for many hours a day, and Japanese painters spend their lives practicing to draw a perfect circle. The art of acting is in some ways the most exacting one of all, and without constant schooling, the actor will stop half-way.”
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