Saturday, November 12, 2011

Introducing the Michael Chekhov Work

I’ve wanted to bring the Michael Chekhov work to Magis for some time now. I first studied it in grad school, and since then, I have always revered the technique as an accessible way of approaching the work of an actor. Then about a year in to my time with Magis, one of our now cross-country members, Casey, incorporated into training some work built around the Psychological Gesture. This is the most well-known and most associated aspect of the Chekhov technique. It was that training session where I got re-energized in this technique and vowed to myself that I would bring it to the company as a regular aspect of training, as it is so complimentary to what we already do as a company.

In the last year, I have been studying with a great teacher named Lenard Petit, who is very committed and dedicated to the work and the studying of the technique. He has developed some variations on the work, as well as some deepening of the technique that I have found to be very useful. So, as I embark on this process of integrating the Chekhov technique to Magis, I owe both Mr. Chekhov and Mr. Petit honor in the teaching.

So, just a brief intro about Michael Chekhov himself: as you may already know, Chekhov was a star pupil of Stanislavksy. But, if you can believe this, he outgrew the great acting teacher in a way. While he agreed with a lot of what old Stan was preaching, Chekhov was really focused on activating and enlarging the psychology of the character & the actor through the physical realm.

He said, “the actor...must not only find another attitude towards his physical body and voice, but to his whole existence on the stage...His kind of thinking must be different, his feelings must be of a different kind, his feeling of body and voice, his attitude to the settings – all must be enlarged...

So how do we achieve this? Concentration, said Chekhov. It is through concentration that we give ourselves the ability to access and discover the power that is greater than our everyday sense of being. If our true work as an actor “is to transform personal experience into a universal form of expression that changes something in our audience members,” if this is our ultimate objective, then how do we achieve it? By practicing. So through our practice, we have to find alternative, non-pedestrian, non-feeble ways to increase our sense of self as we experience transformation into various characters.

So, I think a lot of what we do in our Training helps us to accomplish that. Recognizing, developing, and understanding different energies inherent within ourselves and expanding our imagination to realize anything is possible. This fits in perfectly with the MC work; and so as we embark on this work together, remember that there is always a radiant energy within us, and this energy is just waiting, ready and willing to be formed, transformed, and made active.

Go with ease...

Taylor V