The Actor / Director Laboratory, day 1

From 6 - 10 December 2010 at Graeae's Bradbury Studios, Tamasha ran the first Actor / Director Laboratory:  an intensive, subsidised training week for 16 artists (5 directors and 11 actors) which explored the relationship between the actor and director.  Participants came from a wide range of cultural backgrounds including Turkish, Greek, East Asian, Columbian, Portuguese, Italian as well as British and South Asian. The Lab is part of the Tamasha Developing Artists programme.

Photographs by Robert Workman.


Renu Arora (Director participant):

"What an inspiring first day on the actor/director lab. It's inspiring to once again witness Kristine's unique style focusing very much on play, and the journey from a game, to improvisation, to text, keeping the thread of play alive throughout. I love that the games are purposefully and carefully tailored to the level of the group/actors at any given time.

"I find fascinating how quickly Kristine intuitively knows exactly what is stopping the actor being totally present and open, and sets up very appropriate improvisations which act as a springboard into text. After working on a scene with the actors myself today as a director, I realise I need to be much more specific and clear in my language, and keep my senses attuned at all times. I am very much looking forward to exploring and honing my own style during the rest of the week."

Suzanne Ahmet (Actor participant):

"Listening acutely felt key today. And from that space finding a truthful arena in which to play, freely. One often enters or leaves the first few days of an intense course with feelings of acute desolation and self-loathing. Your ‘mistakes’ or “flops” shinning big and bright and you wonder why anyone should employ you. Nothing to do with the course leaders I hasten to say, just a personal default! However, this feels unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental today. It’s just another block to hearing, seeing and implementing tangible solutions. If your head isn’t crammed with self-doubt, you are freer to hear and hopefully develop.

"Watching other participants respond so delicately to improvisations and then take that same free dynamic into a text was also tremendously helpful and inspiring. I would like very much like to avoid broad brush strokes when reflecting on these sessions as the aim of them is to find subtly and nuance.

"Various ‘blocks’ arose in the room today. My personal one “being too strong”. A phrase which seems to be haunting me at present. Kristine explained that always choosing to be strong or hit the drama of a scene blocks me from all the other colours/possibilities available. “Your door needs to be wide open”. In fact, it blocks you from finding out, discovering, playing with the person opposite - who is infinitely more interesting than a fixed idea. The story and its nuance lies in being present, in the situation, with your fellow actor – then are you both free and unique. You are unique when you are not driven by a fixed idea and it seems a director is most helpful when he/she is not doggedly sticking to a solution/improvisation that’s only kind of working.

"Be rigorous with yourself. As an actor, speaking personally, hear when every choice is ‘strident’, ‘strong’, ‘argumentative’, ‘going for the drama’. Maybe pause, reconnect to the present moment, the person opposite you and PLAY with what is there and living instead... "

Jackie Kane (Director participant):

"As ever, Tamasha has assembled another talented and interesting group of actors and directors for its workshops at Graeae's base, and Kristine shows us how she does it.

"As a relatively newbie director, I am both in awe and terrified of the ease with which she manages both to knock us into shape, yet tease out - and help us as directors to tease out - more layered and nuanced performances from our actors.

"As a director who is also an actor, I am particularly grateful to be part of this workshop, as I wish to be able to support and encourage my own actors in a way that is rare in a time when we're continually being reminded that we need to 'serve the text, trust the text...'. I think we have forgotten that we need to trust our actors, and Kristine - refreshingly - sets her actors at the fore.

"First day today and we played. Played properly. Well, tried to - it's not as easy as you might think just to allow yourself to 'not do; not think too much; jump on the first bus; fail, even - win, even (isn't competitiveness a dirty word these days?) or however you'd describe just taking what comes along and using it and not forcing anything. The games we discovered via Kristine and participating directors led us into improvisations and scenes which, in turn, improved upon work already done by the participating actors. Every performer had Kristine tailor bespoke improvements to their monologues which left all us of in no doubt of the benefits of a workshop with such an experienced "actors'" director at the helm.

"It's quite late on Monday night now and I'm a tad shattered, but I'm looking forward to what's in store for us all tomorrow. I'd like to pretend I know more than I do as a director - but Kristine would only sniff my ruse a mile off and bring me up on it. As Manuel says in Fawlty Towers... 'I know nothing...'. But I know that, by the end of the week, I will know a lot more than I do now."

Jennifer Bryden (Actor participant):

"What a fantastic and fulfilling day! Today was the start of our Actor / Director Lab and it brought a conglomeration of emotions – thought provoking, exciting, and inspiration in abundance. I was most taken with the notion of “play”; I had absolutely forgotten how fun our job should be and actually is. It is all too easy to take myself too seriously and to worry about not getting things right. And actually sometimes it’s as simple as changing a mindset; as soon as you re-label otherwise frightening exercises like improvisation as “playing” the whole process becomes more liberating. Kristine provided a safe, energetic and insightful environment in which I certainly felt free to rediscover the joy in performing and in which it was also okay to make a flop. Having always approached all roles with the text first and now being thrown into a workshop in which it’s the actor that comes first I face the rest of the week with curiosity, excited to see what new processes become available to me!"

Deborah Leveroy (Actor participant):

"The morning of the first day we were all introduced to several of Kristine’s working principles. The first is the idea of finding pleasure in our play, the second is the link from game to improvisation into text, and the last is the observation of the actor – what is happening and why?

"In the games we played the aim was to come to an edge of quality of play to something that more resembles a game. As actors we were warming up to play and then considering the texture and level of play. Through games we looked at how can the actor top up their level of play ; playing simply and openly and playing to win (but not too hard!)

"Kristine then introduced us to a way into text which uses discussion and improvisation as the route in to text. It also revealed Kristine’s ability to ‘diagnose’ the actor (for blocks or habits) which she (as director) then provides strategies to overcome. It felt liberating to have the ‘responsibility’ placed on the director to make the actor ‘good’ or not. This structure took the form of asking the actor to describe the scene; the actor then improvises around the scene with another actor (sometimes in another language, keeping the essence of the scene); and then moving into text in a way that is connected with the improvisation so that there is no ‘gap’. The idea is to look at the actor first before the text. It is clear that there is an art to setting up an improvisation which determines the outcome of the scene. It was fascinating watching Kristine train the directors to work with the actors, and her ability to read the actor."