3 Day Actors' Course with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ali Zaidi, Participant Actor Working with Kristine teaches you many things. Essentially you come to understand your place in the process of theatre, you know you are there on-stage to play truthfully with the other actor. Kristine has an excellent ability to guide actors from any background, of any race, towards realising this. With the use of well-crafted improv scenes actors come to bring the freedom and joy of play they experience in the improv to any scene, thus creating (in my opinion) excellent theatre. My greatest joy of that weekend - next to working with Kristine one final time before she leaves for Australia - was to see actors come to realise the ideal Kristine pushes for and to revel in it. It was a pleasure to be in the room.

Bomy Gandhi, Participant Actor

‘Where to start and where to end’, is always the case when you are out seeking knowledge and well, when you write a blog. So much to learn and so much to say.

To begin with, I feel extremely pleased having done this Masterclass with Kristine. Having thought about it for few months, and finding out that this might be last opportunity for long time to come, I had to be there.

Being a beginner in the arena of acting, I wasn’t sure what to expect and what was expected out of me, but the very first day itself was eye opener. The fact that the concept is ‘actor-centered’ made it very easy to forget the worries and have ‘pleasure-to-play’. Constructive feedback, practical exercises which stretch your thought process, focus on actors and utilising their strengths were best part of the 3 day workshop. Kristine’s strive to focus on strengths of an actor and bringing the best performance out of them, makes one feel confident and focused on playing their strengths and make an actor ‘real’ in performance. Kristine’s approach of constantly engaging artists instead of one-way communication, has definite impact on performance, instantly.

Being part of a diverse group in terms of experience, skills, background and approach, it was a workshop filled with lot of learning. The positive change in performance and ease of playing a scene were well evident at each stage of the workshop.

I hope to continue on what I’ve learnt and learn more from Christine in future.

For me as an actor, ‘Tamasha’ is vital. Thank You.

Cathy Conneff, Participant Actor

To me the whole course wasn't just about acting and finding your voice on the stage. I found the whole weekend made me question who I am as a person and why I have chosen to go into acting in the first place: this is a good thing.

It became apparent to me, that I have been using acting as a refuge to hide from myself, to forget myself and leap whole-heartedly into living life onstage "as another person". Not that I ever realised that I was doing this. I have been creating a mask, based on my perception of myself and projecting this back onto myself meaning that I end up as some weird, slightly odd stereotype of me. It was very difficult to let go of this and there were times over the course that I struggled and felt very exposed and uncomfortable and, dare I say it, incompetent.

However, I had a breakthrough on the last day of the course and let, for once, the text do the work and it just felt right.

Ana Baldia, Participant Actor

Kristine approaches the scene from a very logical point of view. First, she focuses on the actor. She has very high expectations from her actors, and works with a blunt honesty which, in return, places the actor in a position of vulnerability and honesty that helps them creating a raw but believable scene. She is quick at getting rid of the egos in the rehearsal room and clear and precise with her directions. She uses a diversity of games in rehearsals which develop in actors a sense of spontaneity, alertness and complicity that permeates the common ground and helps building a common language in the rehearsal space.

Then, she approaches the text with the same degree of commitment and honesty. Her approach is sophisticated and yet simple. She tends to unravel the scene rather than compose it. The actor is expected to fill in the text with their own self- their accents, backgrounds or life experiences. Her proposal is for the actor to play. Her understanding is that the audience wants to see the performer PLAY.

When studying the scene, Kristine asks the actor not to over prepare. She expects the actor to be open instead and respond viscerally to what is happening in the moment, in the scene. To maintain this authenticity, the actors must first connect- with themselves and to one another. In this, Kristine’s method focuses more on reaction and less on action. She prompts the actors with improvisations which allow them to find either and emotional or a physical state which serves the scene. She builds atmospheres.

By exploring the actor’s default (each actor’s blocks or habits) and contradicting it, she releases the actor so they can find freshness and vitality in their work each time.

Jess Woo, Participant Actor

There was a fantastic diversity of culture and experience within our group. Everyone was really open, friendly and committed. It was a supportive environment in which to play. I think I learned as much if not more observing others as I did in my own work. I felt proud of us as a group, and was surprised how quickly we gelled.

Kristine was great. She made the three days fun, and she was supportive and honest – she could immediately recognise the “issues” or blocks of each actor, and knew what to do to help us past these problems. She gave clear advice, and was patient but challenged us constantly to be good and not settle for “passable” when “great” was achievable.

It was revelatory to see the intracultural part of the process in action, and how much difference improvisation around a scene tailored to the individual actor could inject it with life and energy. And it was great to see everyone have “lightbulb” moments as Kristine applied this approach to monologues and scene work.

As an ethnically endowed (!) actor it’s been reassuring that cultural diversity, when acknowledged, can be freeing rather than something to stumble over. Having permission to be authentic allows one to be at ease, open, ready to play. I now have some great new tools and an awareness of how to apply them: bringing spontaneity, openness and the pleasure to play when working with text. It’s made me more confident as an artist, and in approaching work in a constructive way - and given me a sense what I need to work on. I think I’ll be better to work and play with, too, which is important to me.

Laura Freeman, Participant Actor

Hoorah! I was one of the lucky ones who got a dose of Kristine Landon-Smith before she disappears off to Australia. I took part in her last UK 3 day Actors workshop. And I'm extremely happy I did.

I have been to drama school, studied lots of different methods and forms, I have been acting professionally for 10yrs with different directors, I read the books and I feel like I am constantly learning and getting better (then getting worse, then learning how to get better again)

After all that time, now, in 3 days with a ridiculously simple idea - the pleasure to play - I feel like I have got an almost fail safe method. It has the same joy and excitement of Meisner technique, but a million times simpler. I feel like it shouldn't work but it does. I still feel disbelieving because surely it can't be so easy and effortless?

The "playing well together" principle appears to work without any of the things I have always thought were an essential part of my job. But you can't deny it when you have watched a scene, with your own eyes, completely transformed purely by an actor "enjoying play" and "playing well" with another actor (or with their character). It sounds just silly when you put it on paper, but it was magnetising. People's faces literally changed and became captivating faces that you couldn't take your eyes off.

I've been thinking about all my favourite actors and the "magic" quality they all share. Stage presence or Star quality or whatever. But now I think it's probably just - the pleasure to play. Why didn't someone tell me before! Thanks Kristine.

Charlotte Baker, Participant Actor

It was a pleasure to meet Kristine and get to work with her so intensively over the 3 day course. I was apprehensive going in but soon forgot all about my nerves as the first morning progressed. It was a really supportive environment with a great mix of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures and it was really satisfying to see how well we were playing together on the final day when we ran scenes from a play that Kristine had once directed.

On the first day, I remember Kristine said that her view of acting is very simple, it’s about the ‘pleasure to play’ and over the three days I couldn’t believe what a difference these three little words had made. I realised during the course how much as an actor you can become bogged down with meaning and character decisions and all this does is overshadow the text and it loses its spontaneity.

Kristine’s approach was great, she absolutely told you the truth and gave clear advice about what you were doing wrong or rather what was preventing you from connecting with the text and at the same time she was really encouraging and told you when the work was excellent. Through improvisation tailored to each individual, Kristine brought out the best in each and every one of us, encouraging us to play well both individually in our monologues and later in scenes together. This was great to observe during the course of the weekend. The wonderful open actor that is present in the improvisation is no different to the actor with the text. In this way you allow the text to unfold, discovering it spontaneously in the moment, enjoying the pleasure to play.

It was such a fantastic weekend, challenging, fun and I’ve learnt a lot that I can now carry forward in my acting – I only wish I had got to work with Kristine sooner!

Anureeta Heer, Participant Actor

All of the Tamasha courses and workshops that I have been a part of have always been a great learning experience and this last course with Kristine was no exception. Kristine's straightforward approach of placing the actor at the centre of any work and starting from there enabled actors to explore their creativity with freedom. Each improvisation and scene were carefully set in order for actors to realise their potential, their strong points as well as how to distinguish and work on any weaknesses they may have. As well as actively participating on the intensive course, it was also a great learning opportunity to simply observe fellow actors and watch how Kristine worked with them. By the end of the course, I believe I had a genuine understanding what it means to play with pleasure as an actor and how this simple phrase should be realised and incorporated with utmost sophistication.

Desmond Healy, Participant Actor

What a breath of fresh air! Working with Kristine has been such an incredible experience for me. I heard that this was an opportunity I could not miss, I’ll admit I did not know much about Kristine or Tamasha before the course, but a friend who works very close with Tamasha guided me in the right direction and I went into the course completely open-minded with a need of gaining self-confidence in my art, and this was certainly the case. The course was full of energy, enthusiasm and knowledge in acting and working on developing yourself and bringing your own self to the stage and having a ‘pleasure to play’. an invaluble lesson.

I have worked with people who just tell you what they want and that’s all they want you to deliver and love the sound of their own voice too much, not Kristine. From the word go I felt completely comfortable and input was encouraged, Kristine was very eager to hear our input into the games and exercises, and out of nowhere I discovered I had a voice of my own and was given the platform to voice my opinion and now I have skills I didn’t realise I had. There were times when I found what Kristine had to say a little hard to digest but when she practised what she preached she got results from both me and the other actors and that just raised the bar to a whole new level that just made my jaw hit the floor! I loved working with such an incredibly creative and intelligent but above all FRIENDLY and nurturing director.

Working with such like-minded people was delicious! We gelled so quickly in such a short space of time, I couldn’t get enough of it! We learned equally as much from watching each other as we did from Kristine. Sometimes when Kristine gives you feedback that maybe u have trouble getting your head around, sometimes it takes seeing someone else in the same situation for you to have that ‘Oh! I see now!’moment. Also it was incredible to work with actors of different ethnic groups, and improvising scenes with more than one language and feeding off the other actors without knowing what they were saying back to you!…and still making it work! Awesome!

Kristine was incredibly hands-on she has amazing energy and just gets so into every aspect, every word of the text, every gesture. I learned as much observing her teach and direct as actually being directed by her. Kristine made sure every person in the room was as involved in every scene that was covered.

It was a course that left me elated and made me walk taller, such a simple idea of how to approach acting brought forward incredible results and attitude to the profession. A massive Thank You to Kristine for allowing me to be a part of her final masterclass…WOW!

Llila Vis, Participant Actor

This was my first time working with Kristine and it was fantastic. She gave me a completely different outlook on the process of improvisation which I know will help me in my work going forward. She is encouraging and supportive and yet able to pinpoint where and how you are going off course. This insight is so critical and being made aware of it is so important for the actor as then you can go about sorting it out. Here, again Kristine was able to direct you in a way so that you do manage to find it. I am glad I had the chance to work with her before she left and really very much hope that i will be able to do so again. Wishing her much luck!

Ruby Rall, Participant Actor

After having done the Actor Director course in November 2011, when I first experienced Kristine’s intracultural practice, I was eager to continue supplementing my learning and get onto an Actor course with Kristine as well. It’s tough competition applying for a place, and I’m grateful I finally got a place on the very last UK course actor course with her. As I still had a very strong positive experience impression left upon me from the Actor Director course, I was keen to make the most of the rare place given to me on these next three invaluable days on the actor course.

It’s great when we get called upon by Kristine to work on a scene or support another actor, as we are experiencing her practice first hand. Yet, there is so much learning to be equally gained if not more in being an observer too. This is because by watching another actor go through their transition of pre and post KLS intracultural practice process, I can clearly see their ‘aha’ moments of realisation(s), and I also find another actors lessons learnt very valuable and applicable to me also.

We always started work by playing games. Not just child’s play type playing games – no not acceptable. Kristine made it very clear and specific why playing games had to serve a useful purpose to the actor, otherwise they were just a waste of time and no more than a physical warm up, and supportive to the work the actors were about to do. In all of Kristine’s games, she was very clear and simple in instruction, and this reflected in her direction too later on. She was successful in getting the actors ready to have and enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’. Actors were open and ready to play and connecting with others, by being open to whatever might be happening during game play. There was no opportunity of blocking myself my being stuck in my own head space and focusing on myself; otherwise I wasn’t playing with everyone around me. So it was liberating to be spontaneous just like young children are impulsive and thus TRUE in whatever results we were creating/experiencing. Hence the outcome was an authentic experience for the game participants, and pleasurable experience to be watched by the game audience. This was the standard set that all actors had to maintain and transfer into their acting by being equally ready and open to simply enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’ during acting. Easily said, but when came to acting we learnt how we blocked ourselves and reverted back to whatever our ‘default’ mode was in our old acting comfort zone and quickly forgot how to stay in play mode with our fellow actors. Yet, Kristine’s radar is so sharp at picking up on this, so she set useful and helpful improvisations that served the scenes and quickly brought the actor back into play mode and just be themselves. This was a useful lesson and observation in realising that in the outside world how much damage has been done to actors in getting all kinds of unhelpful information, feedback and programming etc that it just stifles the actors. Amazingly, Kristine was strong in staying actor focused and breaking through all the psychological clutter surrounding the actor in order to get the actor to trust that it is simple yet sophisticated enough for them to be their true authentic natural self. No need to over prepare, no need to over rehearse because it was more compellingly important for the impulse and spontaneity to unfold. As an actor it felt so enjoyable to DISCOVER the scene organically, rather predecide, predefine, presume, prepare ...avoid overly ‘pre’ anything when the moment hasn’t happened yet. There is only the present moment, there is only now, now now, and each now moment is a moment of discovery unfolding for the both the actor and the audience. Oh what a joy to finally having permission of being just me, myself, simply Ruby Rall being enough... my natural true self simple and yet still sophisticated....in the present, enjoying the pleasure to play. That was the same for every single actor in the room, and as our shrouding onion layers peeled away it was refreshing to change from being an actor that just ‘exists,’ to now being an actor that is living and breathing in the present, and playing with pleasure, and a joy to be watched by audiences. A win: win scenario for both the actor and the audience.

I was amazed at when actors were speaking in different languages to each other in a scene that everyone remained connected and open to each other and still somehow understood each other. A perfect example of how much we communicate to each other so much more that words alone. I could see how the intracultural practice got actors to get to a comfortable place and ready to open up and express themselves more authentically. After all, my cultural background/heritage is a part of what makes up me Ruby Rall, so it is not affordable to be ignored or dismissed. I don’t want a director or audience to see something that is other than me, and as an actress it doesn’t make sense to play something that is not me – it just doesn’t work. Kristine’s practice created transformations in the actors, during which they change from trying to get away with their pretence to discovering their truth, so much so, that actors’ face, voice and physicality changed and observers picked up on this metamorphosis gave great feedback on how much they enjoyed and believed the actors performances. Now I have a greater sense of how in my job of actor, I am actually an artist who is truthfully, present in the moment, and enjoying the pleasure to play, and experiencing the discovery of each unfolding present now moment... and it is my unfolding experience that I am showing the audience...and that is what the audience is paying to watch and enjoy.

As the UK TDAs lose Kristine to become Australia’s gain, I feel grateful that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing two courses with her, which I wish I did sooner and for longer. Thanks to Tamasha for creating the TDA network where we can keep Kristine’s practice alive as she has given us actors and directors a common language that we understand and it works. Being a Leeds, West Yorkshire based actress it is well worth the time cost travel etc for me to participate in the course and therefore I would strongly recommend this experience to others. Although I know I am one of the fortunate last course actor participants at present, no doubt I’ll be back in the applications queue if ever there is a future chance to top up on a dose of Kristine’s intracultural practice.