Contemporary Text Workshop Blog, October 2012

Anshu Srivastava, Participant Director Observer This was my fourth such masterclass and after a series of classes looking at classic texts, this week we were looking at contemporary texts. The class in general continued to delight, inspire and provoke.

As the masterclasses have progressed, so my confidence to participate and comment has grown. At one point Kristine picked me up on not being precise enough with my comments and I was lost for words. I did however appreciate her challenge as it helped me to see what I might need to do in a similar situation in the future so not to end up stuck. I sense I must be freer and more animated in my communication. Not just to use words in a neutral voice from the sidelines, but to find in myself the pleasure to play my role as the actors are being asked to find the same pleasure within theirs.

Manisha Hirani, Participant Actor

After having just complete the 6 week masterclass I was curious to see how much I could learn from just a one day session. Turns out - a lot! I've never really known where I was going wrong, didn't know how to push myself as an actor. However, when doing my monologue at the start of the class, Kris said 'whatever I give you, you can do, so I'm going to push you to the next level' - and she did! She created a situation where I had to learn to play along with the actor and Kris herself, I found it very difficult, becoming nervous really quickly because it was very much out of my comfort zone; but it was exactly what I needed. Kristine works with a vision and she instantly realises the potential of a scene; whether it's working with the actor or just simply moving around props and furniture, at the end, what's created is truly artistic. More than anything, I really enjoyed watching other actors reach a new level, and take pleasure in what they were playing. When learning to play down the character, and embrace your distinct characteristics, what is created is so raw and so satisfying to watch. Not having a plan or an idea of how a character should be allows you to feel something different, something you might not have ever felt before, you can shock yourself with your own reaction, which is again, what creates something so truthful. One big thing I am able to take away with me; I'm no longer afraid to approach a text and can even find peace in getting it wrong. Learning through mistakes - a great way of moving forward.

Alistair Donegan, Participant Actor

I had been interested in working with Kristine and Tamasha for a while, having heard from a fellow actor that the approach was vastly different to lots of the other work he and I had done before. The recommendation came from a friend who is also a director; he told me that now he only directs actors using methods learnt from Kristine. The reason? They're more fun.

I signed up for the contemporary texts workshop in particular because I go up for a lot of contemporary set television from my agent and was really looking for a new impetus, something to get my imagination sparking again and perhaps break some habits that were starting to creep in.

We started by playing several games, each one introducing elements that continued work from the last. The sense of play that we enjoyed during those games was then applied to our texts. The difference when Kristine had us look at the text using that same spirit of play, from when we presented our own, was remarkable. Personally, Kristine's work reminded me to enjoy what I was doing, to stop pushing and to have fun being at various points the bitter ex employee/the pretentious art owner/the malicious boyfriend etc.

Having recently worked with clown master Philippe Gaulier, I could see the lineage of the work and crucially a more clear continuation into contemporary acting and performance. In terms of the day, it was simultaneously light, fun and enlightening. Each moment of teaching made more sense as the day went on, and continues to now.

Since the course I've booked a job for the Sheffield Crucible. Partly coincidence I expect but also one of my greatest struggles in the past has been audition anxiety, which this sense of play and relish of what I'm playing has so far - touch wood - gone some way to overcoming. Recommended.

Poppy Corbett, Participant Director Observer

This was the final masterclass in the series. Time to consolidate some of the main points I have learnt:

- Start from the actor, not the text. The text is phase two.

- Remember 'the pleasure to play'. Play as actors in a rehearsal room, not children in a playground.

- Don't plan or come with too many ideas about the character/text, until you have seen the actor work on the text.

- Help the actor put their focus outside themselves - on their partner in a scene. Teach them to listen.

- The actors must control the text, not the other way around.

- Each actor will need a different key into their work.

- Consider the physical spacing of actors on a stage. Consider how they are stood/sat. If they are struggling, perhaps a different position will help to free them.

- Help actors to free up the text vocally.

- Be careful with the language you use with actors. Be specific.

- Don't let actors 'play emotions.' ('Sad', 'happy', 'angry' etc)

- Don't censor yourself in the rehearsal room - be honest with actors, use clichéd situations if it helps them.

- Don't ignore problems in the rehearsal room - deal with them, or the work cannot progress.

- If you think an actor is unsure of HOW you have helped them be better, make them talk through everything you have done with them.

I'm looking forward to being in rehearsal and using some of the techniques I have picked up during these masterclasses.

Fariyal Wallez, Participant Director Observer

Following this third master class where I had the privilege to observe Kristine working with the participant actors, I had an insight about directing in relation to my new brace, which I had fitted to my upper teeth at the beginning of October. Physically, there has been no discomfort or pain; the issue I have is emotional. There is something about having this ‘thing’ attached to me, that I cannot move or get rid of, or change my mind about, or get distracted is simply there and present in my life, constantly, with no break or holiday. This brace is commitment on a level I have not experienced since I got married three years ago...and reminds me precisely of the quality of presence that Kristine’s manifests in her artistic practice. The actors were from a diverse range of backgrounds and observing Kristine’s skill in working with them was, as always, fascinating.

Anureeta Kaur, Participant Actor

I have recently been part of the six week actor course and so the masterclass was a chance to continue to explore the pleasure to play through games, improvisation and scene work. Over the last few weeks I have been gradually feeling much more free and relaxed while playing actor-centric games and I definitely noticed the difference in the masterclass. I noticed how my concentration had improved through the use of games and how I felt more open, more outside myself and therefore less restricted. In the masterclass, this gradual openess allowed me to stay in the games for longer and play with actors which was a positive surprise for me! The games at the beginning of the masterclass have helped in freeing my creativity and thus I was able to give more during my monologue and scene work. By being more open, I was able to immerse myself into scenes and improvisations with a sense of pleasure and it is this pleasure which enables any actor to perform truthfully.

Alex Barclay, Participant Actor

For the work of a single day, Kristine Landon-Smith’s workshop provided a huge amount of food for reflection. I have always had a mental block with “monologue” driven auditions, which is what attracted me to the workshop in the first place. I left feeling much more able to approach them with a positive attitude. The warm-up games developed in a way that brought us together quickly and got us playing with each other, and learning how to play with each other. By the time we were working our monologues, the atmosphere in the room was positive and focused and really playful, and the effect of the games was visible throughout the work. Too often there is no correlation between the warm-up and the work. I have been in so many rehearsal processes where the first week has no continuation into the second week, where the warm-up has no follow through into the work etc. This felt holistic – everything had an effect on everything else. Kristine also has a lovely way of putting the focus on her actors in a positive unthreatening way, and being perceptive enough to key into a couple of things in them quickly that helps free them of blocks or move them forward. The actors in the room were quite a diverse bunch in terms of approach, and she worked with each of us individually, working to the person rather than working to a formula. Her creativity somehow revolved around enabling our creativity. And the focus was always on the actor and the work.

In the afternoon, we worked on reading scenes from Port. Much like in the morning where we brought a pre-prepared monologue, we were left to work in pairs for half an hour without assistance. She would then take what we brought to her and throw ideas at it quickly to both challenge us and move us forward in the work. She would not let us get away with failing to connect properly, and often stopped us when we were running down blind alleys, but again it was always about the work and everything fed in. There was much use of improv, and the improv was clearly set up and had a marked effect on the text when we came back to it.

The more people I meet like Kristine, the more it seems worth it to keep plugging at this job, despite the jungle of ego and dinosaurs out there. I really enjoyed myself, and left feeling empowered, happy, and awakened.

Armaan Kirmani, Participant Actor

Now I know why daytime soap operas are so successful despite their reputation . Kristine's actor-centred approach has made me think that actors don't really need to rely on writing, lighting or direction - although of course they would all contribute to a better product but not necessarily a more entertaining one. Bad writing, bad lighting and bad direction can be overcome by good actors by applying their craft to the project. People like to watch other people perform. Attention to detail is nice, but not at the expense of not giving your actors enough attention and freedom to perform. An actor needs nothing but themselves - you are the biggest tool for any production!