Last Updated on Saturday, 02 March 2013 03:39 Written by Rob Adler Saturday, 02 March 2013 03:37
"The remarkable thing about her work--one of the remarkable things about her work--is that she honored the text to an almost penitential degree, but then allowed it to marinate within her, at which point she expelled it and it was if I had never read it--much less written it. She imprints her intelligence and humor on everything, and her performances feel improvised, wild. No matter how good the other actors were opposite her, they appeared stiff and amateurish in her orbit. How lucky to be a series of words traveling through her mind and her body. A fantastic voyage, indeed!" Tennessee Williams on Meryl Streep/Interview with James Grissom/New Orleans, 1982/Discussing "27 Wagons Full of Cotton."
Written by Rob Adler Monday, 25 June 2012 06:57
Training is not acting. The actor’s primary instrument is his body. Lectures do not train the body. Good training provides preparation for the event. Boxers jog, not because they’ll jog in a fight, but because it trains them for the fight. Dancers stretch not because they stretch in a dance, but so they are able to dance. No matter how hard an athlete trains, there are essential differences between the training and the event. No matter how closely training replicates the actors’ job, there are essential differences. In my classes we train the whole instrument, so that when it comes time to act, the instrument is so conditioned that the acting feels effortless.
Sociologist Neva Boyd said “Because of its dynamic character, the playing of a game is never twice alike, regardless of the number of repetitions or the stability of the membership of the playing group.” Games provide the best training for actors. Too many actors grow stale attempting to repeat performances take after take, negating the primary demand of their art form, spontaneity. Using games to train actors evokes spontaneity (and joy) no matter how similar or frequent the previous attempt.
Of course, the art of acting is complex, maybe the most complicated art form. Boyd continued “The discipline of making judgments, often instantaneously and of acting upon them within a static frame of reference i.e. verbalized rules, is unique to playing a game. While a game is an imaginatively set up structure into which the players project themselves psychologically, they act with the demands of the situation…” Games provide the best training for actors because they require people to behave spontaneously within the limitations of imaginary circumstances, the very definition of acting! No lecture can train this ability, playing does. Maybe this why Viola Spolin asked "Were they acting? Get them to play!"
Written by Rob Adler Thursday, 21 June 2012 07:48
Check out this great blog i found by Jill Eickmann
As an improv teacher, I have been greatly inspired by Viola Spolin, a woman that is often deemed “The grandmother of improvisation.” For new improvisors, and/or those who need some education on their lineage, here’s our history:
Viola Spolin (1906-1994) initially trained to be a settlement worker, similar to our modern day social worker- a person who works with underprivileged people. She studied with Neva Boyd at Group Work School in Chicago, and was highly influenced by Boyd’s teaching on the areas of group leadership, recreation, and working with traditional game structures to create changes in social behavior for inner city youth and immigrant children. She later formalized her concepts into “Theater Games” that focused on tapping into each individual’s creativity, and on the concept of play for unlocking creative self-expression.
Spolin believed that every person can learn to act and express themselves creatively. In the beginning of her book, Improvisation for the Theater she wrote:”Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become ‘stage-worthy.’ We learn through experience and experiencing, and no one teaches anyone anything. This is as true for the infant moving from kicking and crawling to walking as it is for the scientist with his equations. If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever he chooses to learn; and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach him everything it has to teach. ‘Talent’ or ‘lack of talent’ have little to do with it.”
With her maternal wisdom, Viola Spolin not only birthed improvisation, she literally birthed Paul Sills, her son. Paul enrolled at The University of Chicago and established himself as a theatre director, and co-founded the Playwright’s Theater Club. In 1955, he and David Shepherd founded The Compass Players- deemed the first improvisational theater in the US. In 1959, Sills and friends (Bernie Sahlins and Howard Alk) opened The Second City in Chicago. Revues were developed improvisationally under Sills’ direction. Bernie Sahlins later opened the Second City in Toronto in 1973 and was also one of the creators and producers of SCTV. Del Close and Charna Halpern, the next wave of great improvisation teachers in Chicago can be traced back to their early training at Second City.
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