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.

February Directors' Course at Actors Centre with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ash Bhalla - Participant Director I think performance is the most essential element of any film and I've studied a number of approaches to "working with actors" that amounted to transposing a preconceived reality onto the actor. For the past two days I have seen performances go from scratch to compelling scenes in minutes by enabling actors to do what they love: create an organic reality.

In a field loaded with various techniques, jargon and methods it is a relief to finally concentrate on a human being and trust that person to show you the truth of the scene, rather than making a decision about what the script requires and then asking the actor to "recreate" that truth.

With the actor-centered approach the actors play the scene, the scene doesn't tell them what to play.

Guillaume Laroche - Participant Director

It all started with a desire to push myself where I'd never been before in a professional way - Directing. I'd shot a few videos and trailers and was a keen writer with a couple of projects in the pipeline but I had no way to know - Am I capable of this? Do I have the right approach? Can I communicate with actors the way I like to be spoken to when I'm acting.

Yes, I come from an actor's background and I feel this week helped me tremendously and confirmed what I suspected: in my view, being an actor really helps to understand the process of working with actors. Sounds obvious but I needed confirmation. So, on the first day, after a delightful warm-up, we were thrown in the deep end and I found that switching from actor to director demanded a sort of mindset I wasn't accustomed to…after five days, the switch was clearly established thanks to the hands on practice and work we did with Kris but also thanks to the wonderful set of actors she invited to the workshop to be "played" with.

The most important point that came out of the week for me was TRUST! Trust yourself, trust your process but mainly and without fail, trust your actors. Nurtured and guided well, actors prove to be magnificent, and with clear communication, the trust gained allows you, the director and them, the actors, to speak and act freely thus bringing life where there was only a text before. It's pure magic! A well thought out warm-up is key to that and everyday this week, directors took charge of the warm-up in turn to deliver the best introduction to the day, i.e actors and directors alike joined in a very positive and ready to work attitude.

I also learned to talk less (which is a big deal for me) and let the actors find their way. Once again it all comes down to trust, trusting them to understand your vision almost instinctively and rise to the task with more assurance and deliver their best work.

Many of the actors left each day saying kind words or giving me a hug and this, to me, was the best feeling, proof that I did a good job with them more than anything else, learning to let them BE and PLAY, giving them my undivided attention. I loved the work, I loved the process Kris guided us through, I loved the participants and the actors and most of all, I loved what I was doing!

I left on Friday night feeling whole, in the moment, I felt like a director!

Tim Cowbury - Participant Director

Wednesday felt like a little turning point in the week for me. I'd been learning a lot and scribbling notes furiously all the way, but feeling very much like a hapless beginner, trying to second guess the master (and mostly not succeeding). I'd been thrown into the directing hot-seat on Monday and not managed to get anywhere with the poor actor who was trying to do a monologue from King Lear and had me interfering (directing). Having not prepared and not being familiar with the actor's text, I think I panicked, felt I had to say something, anything, (and ohmigod there's not much time!) and chucked a mostly random set of instructions (obstructions?) at her. We hadn't reached any kind of end point when we had to show the monologue to the group. Myself and the actor sat tense and still in chairs on stage while she delivered the lines 'at' me and I tried to smile encouragingly at her. It wasn't exactly an electrifying event. Afterwards it took Kristine ten minutes to completely free the text, the actor up, instigating an improvisation in Punjabi with another actor (rather than a frozen-with-fear me) the target of the actor's words. The situation allowed the actors to play and also to be versions of themselves: they acted instinctively and when the text was brought back in, it was imbued with this sense of fun, play but also - most crucially - honesty. The difference between seeing an 'actor' as you watch, doing 'acting' to just seeing a real person, speaking, being.

This was of course an important lesson for someone trying to get a grasp of a director's role. In the moment I felt like some sort of ridiculously simple magic had been done, and I was spending the week working out how to do the tricks, so I could learn to do what Kristine did with the Punjabi impro. But I also had lots of questions over whether this approach was transferable to different kinds of scenes. Or to live performance that doesn't really contain 'scenes'. The theatre that I make tends to mess around with or completely ignore psychological realism. I wanted to see how the use of improvisation and focus on creating something 'believable' would translate onto a very different style or mode of theatre. So on Wednesday I had my second go at directing, and chose to work with a scene from Caryl Churchill's completely brilliant but completely and utterly absurd Far Away.

The actors I worked with were baffled when we first read the scene (it's hard to get your head around even if you read the whole play!). They thought it was weird and had no idea what their 'characters' were on about. Interestingly, I think the actors were also quite baffled about these things even when we finished working, and baffled but pleasantly surprised after we'd shown the scene to the group. We managed to work with what was essentially a lack of or gap in understanding: we didn't discuss or explore directly the meaning of this strange text, we didn't talk about the characters (I banned the word) or really the fictional situation they were in, the world of the play. Instead we played some simple impro games based on a mixture of my ideas and the actor's comments ('it's like they've both been smoking something but they've definitely smoked the same thing' led to an impro of stoned people using repetitive language). We went back to the text once or twice, which felt risky, but on reflection was well-judged, giving the actors a sense of how the games we played might relate to the scene, without focusing on the scene really at all. If we had focused on the scene, tried to unpick it too much, I think we'd have ended up trying to make decisions about it. The strength of the work we did was that we didn't make decisions about the text.

Because the work we did was really light, not consciously analytic  not geared towards the actors having a clear sense of the fictional people they were stepping inside the skin of, it felt like the scene might be a shambles. How could people who haven't made sense, created internal motivations for, what they're saying, convey any meaning or reality to the audience? It seemed like I'd be making matters worse when I imposed a new experiment on the actors for the running of the scene in front of the group, asking them to sit at a table, facing front, looking out at the audience as much as possible, and do it as if they were newsreaders about to go on air. But given the scant amount of time we'd had to work, the scene played very well, was believable: not actors acting, but people speaking, being. There was space for the audience to impose their own meaning; if the actors had made lots of choices and tried to 'play' the scene a certain way, with intentions and meanings to certain lines, this space wouldn't have been there. Most interestingly for me, I'd deliberately chosen a text that was very different from anything else we'd seen that week, and I think from the sort of texts, styles, Kristine works with. I was testing her process in relation to mine, expecting to find that much of it didn't translate. But in this case, with me thinking critically, more sensitive to what was in front of me, rather than grasping at straws as I had on Monday, a process geared towards one style of work (and actor/actor training?) worked surprisingly well in a quite different context.

Kati Francis - Participant Director

So amazing to see a master at work! Kristine is a tour de force as she skilfully, efficiently and energetically crafts her art…I felt for a lot of the week as if I was stumbling through a dark but beautiful forest that Kristine knew all the secret pathways to! She would constantly, generously point them out to me...I was able to tell at least when I was off track, but learning how to navigate through the undergrowth was often bewildering and a little frustrating- particularly when guided by someone who does it so effortlessly!

My objective for the week was to put aside all of my own practice as a director and to try on Kristine’s shoes for a while…this was very exposing as I purposefully refused to fall back on my own techniques…although this did not help my actors have faith in me, it really helped me to unearth her methodology. As a devised physical theatre practitioner, working outside of psychological realism I was a little at sea…usually working from a stylistic premise or a concept. The placing of the actors before text- working with what they brought to the space- was not a novelty for me- but working with that idea in Kristine’s way was! I stumbled, I flailed, I laughed, I had a crisis of confidence- I glimpsed success a few times and then I began to see how I could take this back into my own world…

After some reflection I can say that it was great to be so immersed in someone else’s process for a while and try out their style of work…it helped me to understand the psychology of the performer- what makes them tick- the need to constantly feed them- to keep them safe and secure in your directorial embrace whilst inspiring them to make their own creative leaps. A lot comes down to trust- trusting your own vision/ instinct/ voice/ idea…but also trusting the performers- what they can bring- what they have to offer: give them too much- tell them what you want and they will feel redundant and bored, give them too little- and they will exhaust themselves trying multiple options- unsure of what is working, feeling despondent about their performance and unmotivated to create material/ believe in what they are doing… offer them a seed- highlight the truth within the situation that they are playing- draw out their strengths so that they can feel confident enough to grow what they are doing from pastel hues to vibrant colours, reflect back the essence of the scene that they have found through relaxed, honest and engaged play- a generous offering of themselves, and you will produce compelling theatre.

Daniel Gentely- Participant Director

I came to The Actors Centre with an open mind and not knowing too much about what the week had in store. After the first day it was clear that the directors involved were all from varied backgrounds and different theatre/film practices.

The first thing that stood out for me was how to create a group energy in the rehearsal space. I am an actor and have been in many rehearsals and simply forgot about how to warm a room up (or a good director can use the warm up to drive the week). This is something that when done well can create a energy and atmosphere that feeds through a company and creates a positive attitude and feel for your rehearsal.

Freeing the actor, relaxing the actor and giving them time to breath. This gives the company freedom to bring their wonderful ideas and interpretation to the rehearsal process. It is one of the first things that I latched on to and clearly made me realise what a good director can do ( as opposed to a director that imposes their vision form the off, this restricts and suffocates). The director gives the actor space and time to create and share their interpretation of the text. This organic process is a natural and positive practice that must be applied to the rehearsal process which creates the shared experience.

Working with a empty space or a restricted space. Towards the end of the week it became apparent that the actor can be restricted by the space you give them to work in. I found this section of the week really interesting. Creating an artistic environment for the actors to 'play in' is key to making the scene work. It was really easy for me to stick a table and chair centre stage and say 'there you go, that is your room'. When questioned about this I simply punched myself in the head and realised how I cramped and suffocated the playing space. Such simple and basic know-hows are key to giving the actors a space that you WANT to 'play in', it enhances creativity.

All in all, the week was tough and exposing but also a real reminder that the simple things are sometimes hard to remember but once they are logged and stored you can access them and use for everyone's benefit.

As a director you must be clear and make it evident from day one that you have a confident and clear working practice/ vision that will create a artistic atmosphere which encourages creativity.

I hope that makes sense and does not make me look a little mad. I think the key thing for me is Don't clutter and keep it simple!

Anshu Srivastava - Participant Director

In May last year I began to imagine a new kind of work for myself that would be very artistic, generative, collaborative and pleasurable. The idea of becoming a director in the theatre immediately sprang from these first musings and last week I had the wonderful opportunity to take a major step forwards when I participated in the Tamasha week-long directors workshop.

Having attended several of Kristine's actor masterclasses last year, as an observer, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of her approach and practice, but this time I would be working directly with the actors myself and here I had no idea what to expect... this was going to be all new.

During the first half of the week I was all caught up with ideas. I think due to my complete unfamiliarity with this kind of work, I was feeling pretty exposed and so I was kind of clutching at tactics, trying this or that idea that I had seen other people use to good effect, rather than explore my own capacity to play well; rather than trust my own voice. Some of these 'moves' worked better than others, as they were not entirely devoid of instinct, but they were a bit thin and couldn't really sustain and nourish the actors enough.

The anxiety that surrounded these first days meant that I was sometimes zoning out and kind of freezing and flopping. The great thing was that I could feed these observations back into the group discussions and take encouragement from Kristine's feedback and guidance. The feelings were never really catastrophic, I was enjoying myself too much, but they were inhibiting me from being good.

With these few flops under my belt, I began to relax and communicate more naturally and fluidly. I started zoning in and was able to listen and see more of what the actors were giving me and communicate back with more precision and simplicity.

The last two days went well, I really enjoyed the process of working one on one with the actors and together we produced some very nice work. Daily, I was blown away by the quality and commitment of the actors and my fellow directors. It was a real pleasure to learn and create through our respective and collective experiences. Kristine is an incredible teacher and constant source of inspiration and I thank her for her generous and straightforward guidance.

I'm now really looking forward to the next steps.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 5

Alia Alzougbi, Participant Actor Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed fellow actors giving themselves over with pleasure to Kristine’s processes, as she pushed, challenged and questioned them, and I have watched them improve drastically as a result. I understand this pleasure -- I too experienced it every time Kris was working with me on a monologue or a scene. There is indeed a pleasure of growing and improving by the minute with one of the many Kristine-esque exercises. She lures the actor into a collaboration, the purpose of which is to make the actor the best that they can be – and therein lies the pleasure for the actor. She is brutally honest, but she holds the space with such tenacity I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. I felt safe and open, and I witnessed others and myself improve by the minute under her critical guidance.

Nathan Crossan-Smith, Participant Director Observer

We came into the Rag Factory this week a little mournful, I think, that this would be our lest session together- the last of our Wednesday night sanctuaries. For, really, this is how our workshops feel- a retreat from our text-centric British theatre, a place to recharge, to reassess, to question, to improve our craft as artists, to flop- and flop again and better- to learn and, of course, to play. And so we entered the room, shuffled around, set our things down a little ruefully, and then got over (or around) ourselves and got ready to play.

As a director-observer I’ve watched as Kristine has nudged, encouraged, provoked, teased, pushed, pulled, cajoled and jerked our participants into getting out of their own way, or leaving aside reverence to the text, or opening themselves to their playing partners and finding the pleasure in playing here, now, with these artists. Tonight was no different: our participants returned to duologues explored in week four, as well as some monologues from our earlier sessions, with the spirit of approaching freshly, of recreating (rather than repeating); Kris tried to find the right rhythms, the right musicality, and the right structures, that would work tonight- in this small, worn, make-shift room full of light and artists ready to play- in order to provide the actors with the conditions within which they could play at their best, most sensitively to their fellow artists. “It’s important to get off on the right foot”, Kris has repeated in recent weeks; so the entrances (as well as the playing space) are set up carefully.

Some of our scene work tonight is slow, ‘we can’t push them to a conclusion”, we leave scenes where we have managed to get in this time scale, and we move swiftly to the next: we’re working hard, Kris, the actors in the scene, the observers; we’re seeking the best in ourselves and each other (yes, our real selves and the real interplay between each of us!). Sometimes it’s ‘elbows down’, or ‘let’s work in your French accent- your face is open when you speak in French’, for some ‘hair-up’, for others ‘hair down’, whichever helps to make the actor open up, be themselves, whichever helps them to enjoy playing. Some exercises work first time, others we discard for new approaches, Kris points out that the director seeking out the right exercises is an important activity in itself; the work is artistic, exploratory- not learned rote or as a set method.

The whole session we seem to be paying attention to making sure we are coming to play, making sure we are getting out of the depths of our own heads and really listening to our partners. There is a slight fierceness to our work tonight because it’s our last week, we want to get it right- but of course, we really just need to come ready to play. And once the bags and coats were picked up and wrapped around us again and we left the small make-shift room filled with night to face the night’s chill we chatted, smiled, laughed, having played hard and played well.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 4

Anureeta Kaur, Participant Actor The last few weeks have been very informative. This week was a great learning experience as I spent a lot of time simply observing other actors as they worked. A recurring theme this week was 'why do we make certain decisions for a scene' and how we can avoid making bad choices which ultimately restrict us as actors. One thing I have learnt over the last few weeks is subtlety. This is very important when creating artistic work as even slightly missing a beat or not timing your actions correctly can greatly affect the rest of the scene. Yet this requires the actor to be open and fully immerse themselves in the pleasure to play. In doing so, the actor intuitively starts to make the the right decisions and is able to play with fellow actors to bring a text or improvisation to life.

Sunnie Sidhu, Participant Actor

This is the second acting course I have been on with Tamasha, I obviously can’t get enough! I believe that they provide a safe place for you to make brave/strong choices and not be scared to fail, which is a different attitude to the one I experienced at Drama School. This ethos frees you up as an actor, makes you feel more open and maybe it provides a bit of reverse psychology, but I think I have done my best performances as a result. Kristine cares about the individual actor and refuses to give up on them when she knows they are capable of being amazing. Her infectious determination to get the best out of you and solve any niggling problems renews your confidence and passion as an actor. I wish there were more directors out there like her...there would definitely be a lot better actors as a result! I hope I can maintain what I have learnt from Tamasha and Kristine throughout my acting career. If I can I know I will always give an honest, engaging and interesting performance.

Ryan Blackburn, Participant Actor

The Tamasha masterclass has been a fantastic opportunity for me to 'play' as an actor. I'm now learning to play more and leave myself open! The warm up games make you aware of filling the space whilst leaving yourself open to receive from others. It's interesting to observe my peers playing the games, as it allows you to see the actors seeking to play and open to receive. When working on our chosen piece I made character choices that stopped the scene progressing and having truth, I had already decided upon the relationship the two characters would have with each other rather than being in the moment and finding the truth, by taking the time to drop the text so the text doesn't control me allowed me to be free and play with the scene, and Kristine's approach when working with the actors really encourages this. She will set up the scene and encourage you to create the conditions, if the scene is going well you will use that as a reference point to go back to when it's not. Kristine has a very honest and direct way of working, and what i have found to be interesting throughout this process is concentrating on getting rid of the 'character' stuff as it's not the way to situate yourself in the play and focusing on the actor responding not the character. The classes have been a great opportunity for me to working in such a warm and encouraging environment, and as an only English speaking actor, it's exciting to observe my peers perform in their own accents and languages, giving their chosen text depth and honesty. I feel more confident now in approaching the text and having fun with play in the scene rather than making unhelpful choices.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course - Week 3

Ria Samartzi, Participant actor It is the third week of the actor’s course and, as is now customary, we begin with a game of volleyball. One of the observer directors is running the game and Kristine is observing. We are then asked to comment on how playing this game with one director is different from playing it with another. Suddenly it becomes really important to say the right thing, to express what you have observed in the right language, in a manner that will be constructive for your colleagues and promote your joint artistic endeavour. On the first session Kristine talked about the language we use in the rehearsal room and how important it is that it is ‘appropriate’ and helpful. This made a great impression on me at the time as it was a concept I had never come across before and, being analytical by nature, I found both interesting to observe and something to watch out for when I am speaking. Talking about our volleyball experience perfectly illustrated the point for me.

The later part of the session was spent working on scenes. The recurring theme of how to allow yourself or set yourself up as an actor in a scene so you can play well was at the centre of the work. Setting yourself a task, action, improvisation you know you will enjoy playing is a good start. Knowing and adjusting the parameters that make you good and avoiding negative tendencies are also tools to help you stay connected. Another useful observation, both for directors and actors alike, was that when something isn’t working for you or the actor you need to change it. I think it was the readiness and also the confidence with which Kristine provided the actors with tailor-made-on-the-spot exercises and improvisations and also her ability to quickly modify the ones that weren’t rendering any results that allowed some of the scenes to start coming to life and become believable and enjoyable to watch and the actors in them to play well.

Reflecting on the workshop so far I have one main thought/question: can an actor only be as good as the director they are working with or is there a way to also learn how to be good always? Is that maybe what we call acting skill?

Jen Tan - Participant Actor

Since I graduated from drama school 4 years ago, Kristine is the only person to have directly challenged me to be better. There is a rigour and specificity in the way that she works. Yes, play is paramount (playing as an actor NOT a child – not “being playful”) and it is important to have fun but it is important to be specific and authentic in your work. I am trying to use the learning experience inside of this workshop series to find a way to find that specificity and authenticity for myself so that I can move forward in my practice and be as good as I can be in workshops with Kristine on my own. After all, she’s not going to be in the UK much longer. I was really exhilarated to have seemingly done that in last week’s session when I managed to find my way through my monologue on my own. I really tried my best to apply notes I’d been given in the past to a new text, dodging my bad habits and approaching the performance with a spirit of openness and engagement with the actor who was helping me in that moment.

This week we moved on from monologues to looking at duologues together. Ryan and I didn’t perform ours this week, but when we were working we tried to find an improvisation which would help us access the scene in an authentic way. And, wow, it’s hard enough to think of improvisations and then adding that on top of keeping a check on whether the improvisation is working for you both from inside of it. I’d like to explore whether it’s possible to inhabit the improvisation and find a way to tweak it from the inside. I don’t have an answer for that yet. Something else I’m looking to interrogate as part of these sessions is a way of playing with someone who doesn’t want to play with you – coping with the selfish actor.

Someone had asked about playing with the audience so Kristine’s been setting various people a clowning exercise which involves miming to a song you don’t know and selling it like you know it. That’s a terrible description, but what it is is incredibly exposing for the performer and requires a delicate interaction between them and the audience members to encourage a complicity in the game where the failure is the pleasure and the joke. I look forward to trying it myself soon.

Lou-Lou Mason, Participant Actor

This is my third week on the Tamasha Acting Course. Kristine's honest and inspiring approach is completely different to anything I've encountered before. The free and spontaneous nature of the exercises encourages a spontaneous, free response for me, both in character and out. I've been mystified, to be honest, at the approach. My previous training has been academic, naturalistic and almost process driven based on text and character analysis and to lay all that to one side and just engage in 'Play' and then transfer that to acting has been really liberating. I have been watching and observing or taking part and not really understanding how the approach works, but watching my class-mates, and feeling the responses to the exercises within me, it so obviously does! The improvisation exercises Kristine uses might not appear at first to be relative to monologue or scene work, but through the exercise, the essence of the text comes through, and the result organically manifests itself which the actors can then transfer to the text. It's very much a learning by doing process.

Kristine's approach has encouraged me to relax and not to anticipate a character's response, and instead endeavour to stay in the moment, stay with my scene partner, and react in a much more immediate, honest way. Kristine has encouraged me to explore acting choices which i wouldn't have considered before. I believe the course is making me a much more instinctive performer, and also by engaging more truthfully, more completely, with my scene partner, hopefully I'm becoming a better scene partner for my fellow actors too.

Greek Tragedy Workshop Blog

Nitasha Rajoo, Director Observer "Do not fear for me. Make straight your own path to destiny."― Sophocles, Antigone

Whenever I go into an actor's / director's workshop, you get the onset of butterflies in your tummy, the anxious palm sweating of 'Will I be good enough?' or 'Was this the right choice?' My first Tamasha Masterclass was a complete awakening to the creative spirit and I wanted to ride this wave for a bit longer and decided to take this master class.

I should point out - I don't like Greek Tragedy. I find it stuffy and daunting and overdone...badly. I want to like it..so I thought this could do it for me. I was right.

The class was small and intimate, which I loved. Annie created such a safe environment that put the nervous butterflies at ease. The class was practical...on our feet working with the idea of levels, and bringing physicality to a character. I loved the stick work; I had practiced something similar in a workshop I did with Told by an Idiot. The choral work we did was amazing, and watching as a director observer/ when the actors turned and walked to the audience in unison was very powerful.

Annie helped break the wall with Antigone, bringing it into a modern day spotlight helping us conceptualize the themes and journeys the characters faced. I completely appreciated this and saw this as a great learning tool. When we stumbled and apologized, Annie said: 'Stop. Rehearsals are for mistakes to be made. There is no need to apologize'. I take that away with me because it is so true..thats why the nervous butterflies are there - because we are so scared to fail in front of our peers. Funny thing though, when you try and flop, is when you learn the most.

Do I love Greek Theatre now? I don't know if I would go that far but I can now honestly say I have a great appreciation for it, and Annie made that possible.

Anureeta Heer, Participant actor

Participating in the Greek masterclass was an enriching experience. I wanted to take part to see how I would respond and create through using Stanislavski based techniques in tackling classical texts. For some actors such techniques and methods are an invaluable tool for them whereas for myself I do not find myself subscribing to set 'methods' and so this class was a great learning experience. At some points, there was a great emphasis on 'working from the outside in' and using this to merge and engage with fellow actors was very interesting. I also had the chance to teach an Indian dance move to my fellow actors to observe how we can use physical movement to create various rhythms and a sense of cohesion as actors. Many of these exercises reminded me of the cohesion and sense of creation one creates as a group of dancers and so I was able to draw parallels and make connections. As an actor, I also observed that I was able to adapt and play freely with Annie's teachings as she was very open and as in all Tamasha masterclasses, there was the opportunity to flop, get up and try again.

Cathy Conneff, Participant actor

The course really helped to put me back in touch with the reason why I act – the sheer pleasure of it and the experience of sharing a moment with an audience and another actor. It also helped me in terms of not overthinking (a terrible habit of mine!) and accepting and following an impulse without trying to adapt it to my ends!

Veejay Kaur, Participant Actor

This class was a great intro to different approaches to perform Greek Tragedy. The exercises were playful and empowering which helped to physicalise the language in ways that I wouldn't have even imagined. A great class for those who want to familiarise with Greek tragedy. I left feeling enthusiastic wanting to explore more Greek texts and to perform them.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course - Week 2

Rodrigo Peñalosa - Participant Actor This is my first experience as an actor in a Tamasha workshop. The approach is really different from my previous experiences in its accuracy and straightforwardness. Here are my reflections that came out of the second workshop.

There is a true simplicity in letting yourself be how you truly are in order to act; avoiding an idea of “acting” or becoming something we are not. Why not base it on something more solid, something we are. I often act the part of the actor acting a part, instead of going directly to the essence of the work, from me to the text, and not through this third party, this idea, this representation.

One of the tools to avoid being stuck in our ideas is to focus on the other. The pleasure of letting everything stand on the audience’s shoulders, stopping focusing on ourselves. And instead of being fed by your stress, fears, expectations, you can build on the other, the audience, the one you are there for.

Another person you are there for is the other actor. This workshop reminded me how great and vital the feeling of caring and being there for the other actor is. And how marvelous it is when the actor in front of you feeds back to you. (Before, during and after the scene)

If I had to concentrate one word on my experience of that night it would be the word –available. Available to the text, to the audience and to the other actors.

Thank you Kristine.

T. Patel - Participant Actor

"I want to 'flop.'" After our second workshop, I told myself to remember this phrase – a revelation via an exercise: lip syncing to unfamiliar music, often in another language.

The exercise sounded intimidating. "How can I appear confident?" was my first thought, feeling as Kristine says many actors do, that I must always 'succeed'. But this impulse – of stress, fear, and self-focus – prevents actors from being themselves, from being present. And as the exercise revealed, self-focus creates distance between actors and audience.

As fellow actors each began the musical exercise, one could see their conflict between wanting to 'succeed', yet feeling vulnerable. As Kristine coached each actor to concentrate on connecting with the audience, they changed. Their awkwardness – focusing on themselves – transformed outwards, into a connection with others. When they did, they became genuine, and engaging to watch.

Kristine encouraged us to embrace this vulnerability, rather than try to 'perform'; and to not be afraid of 'flopping'. Sharing memories of training with Philippe Gaulier, and 'flopping' repeatedly, Kristine conveyed the sense of leaving oneself open to 'flopping'. It gives one freedom to 'play', to discover ways to 'be' with the audience, and to react with and off them.

Suddenly, I wanted to 'flop'. At least for those moments, I released my need to 'succeed.' It's stressful to feel one has to perform and excel. It's much more freeing to leave oneself open to 'flopping', and bring that sense of openness with us into a room.

I tried to bring that dynamic into my monologue and improvised scenes. Normally, performing a new monologue, I'd let nervous fear make me over-perform. This time, trying to be present with other actors, I left myself open to sense dynamics that might take me forward. That same openness transformed an improvised scene with actors facing one direction, with no eye contact, and few words. I realised that scenes between actors often have much more eye contact than people maintain in reality; so they feel artificial. Indeed, many real people barely make eye contact, yet still powerfully communicate. Removing eye contact lets us better 'sit into' the scene – rather than trying to 'perform' reactions – and connect with the effects our words and body language offered each other. Kristine confirmed that watching these human dynamics makes actors more engaging.

And I confirmed that 'flopping' is nothing to be afraid of. And for the future, a way in.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course - Week 1

Paul Raymond – Participant Actor The strong narrative of the workshop meant having clear basic principles to apply to our monologues, and how to play the text – play being key. Kristine trumps playing well, playing as the actor rather than the character. Openly enjoying being within the skin of a role, not becoming a different character may lead to purer, more honest performances.

The games promote quick-thinking and natural reactions, trusting your instincts, they show us a framework of rules, and within them is room to play. If you pretend to play, you lose. Actually commit to playing properly, and your audience is captivated, you have fun, and you make your partner/team have fun.

We then used extensive improvisation to help open us up and feel natural with our monologues. We channelled concepts of ‘playing well’ with text and your scene partner in particular in this part of the workshop. This produced some incredible performances of monologues and improvised scenes.

Japjit Kaur - Participant Actor

This is my third time in masterclass with Kristine. Having only attended the first session so far, I am reminded how very easy it is to fall into traps of bad habits, old patterns and things that can very quickly block you up if you are not careful when you are “away”. However, once you do step back into Kristine’s space, layer by layer starts to fall off and you feel free to play again! My question to Kristine just at the beginning of session 1 was: How can I still be amazing when you are not there? I look forward to finding the answer and applying it to my practice in the future.

(We started off with playing some games and by the third exercise, my stomach felt different. I knew I was a bit nervous but hadn’t realized how much till then. And it wasn’t just me, it seemed everyone had relaxed a lot and come together - sharing a common playground. Later whilst working on a contemporary monologue Kris got me to try out an accent I have never attempted before. I didn’t think I could do it (or at least not without feeling a little silly) though I was willing to try. To my surprise I felt really good after the imitation exercise Kris had set up for me. It was scary to start with but very liberating in the end. It was funny and I really enjoyed it!)

This keeps on happening for some reason. I unknowingly keep putting boundaries on what I think I can and can’t do and when I work with Kris, I am surprised by how much I can do. Last time she made me brilliant at performing Woody Allen and now she is bringing an American out of me!

Jamel Rodriguez – Participant Actor

Kristine led us through a series of games and improvs that gradually led to scene work. In the games, we were encouraged to be fully present and to fully play using tactics. By bringing one's cultural context wholeheartedly to the scenes, from watching classmates and experiencing it as guided by Kristine, it felt like effortless work. I felt as if I was out of my own way and just working in response to the moment, my impulses and other actors in the scene. As this was only day one, I look forward to what the other four classes have to offer!