Acting Technique- Michael Chekhov
• Characterisation (Imaginary Body & Center), Composition (Balance & Form), Psychological Gesture (embodies the psychology and objective of the character).
• Feeling of Style (specific to genre), Feeling for Truth ( to all elements), Feeling of Ease (to sit with a feeling of ease vs. to relax), Feeling of Form (own body & movement through space), Feeling of Beauty (living beauty & harmony in all characters), Feeling of Entirety (aesthetic wholeness).
• Qualities (sensations and feelings; coaxed not commanded; movement creates emotion), Body (psycho-physical exercises), Imagination, Radiating/Receiving, Improvising and “Jewelry” (final stages/uniqueness), Ensemble, Focal Point, Objective, Atmosphere.
Chapter One - Characterization (Imaginary body & center)
• To create characters with physical features different from his own, the actor must first visualize an “Imaginary Body.” It belongs to hers or his character, but the actor can learn to inhabit it; physically transform herself into the character.
• Every character has a “Center;” an imaginary area outside the body where the character’s impulses for all movement originate. It initiates all gestures and leads the body. (ex. a proud character leads with her chin)
• Finding a character’s center can lead to an understanding of her or his entire personality and physical make up.
chapter two - composition
• In nature & art there are mathematical principles that structure balance & form. This feeling for composition creates contours and prevents the expression of ideas, dialogues, movements, colors, shapes and sounds from being fake.
• The sense of composition guides the artist & the spectator into the sphere of creativity and understanding.
chapter three - psychological gesture
• This is a movement that embodies the psychology and objective of a character.
• Use the entire body; gives basic structure of character; can put actor in various moods required by the script.
chapter four - feeling of style
• Everything on stage is unreal. Work with feeling of style to capture the special nature of a play, rather than strive for superficial reality. Each genre requires a separate and precise experience.
chapter five - feeling for truth
• “Open” yourself; develop your sensitivity to truthful behavior while acting.
• Individual or psychological truth: movements and speech are true to self and own psychology.
• Be true to the given circumstances of the script.
• Historical truth: sense of style and age of character & nation.
• Stylistic truth: experience the style of the play & author (ex. Shakespearean, Brechtian...)
• Be true to the character.
• Be true to the relationships between characters; look for subtleties.
chapter six - feeling of ease
• A rich alternative to Stan’s relaxation technique: it produces immediate sensations and visceral imagery in the actor and avoids the intellectual, conscious process of interpreting a command.
• Ex. “To sit with a feeling of ease” vs. “To relax.” The actor can quickly perform the first command without stopping to think about the 2nd one.
chapter seven - feeling of form
• The actor must be sensitive to the form of her or his own body as well as to his own movement through space.
chapter eight - feeling of beauty
• Hidden in each artist is a living beauty and harmony of creation. Become aware of both! 1st step in allowing beauty to permeate all of her or his expressions, movements and characterizations - even the “ugly” ones (Malkovich!)
• Beauty is one of the outstanding qualities that distinguishes all great works of art.
chapter nine - the feeling of entirety (or the whole)
• An artistic creation must have a finished form: a beginning, middle and end; a sense of aesthetic wholeness. It must be felt by the audience and be second nature to the actor.
chapter ten - qualities (sensations and feelings)
• Feelings cannot be commanded, they can only be coaxed.
• Qualities are immediately accessible to you- especially to your movements. You can immediately move your arms with the quality of tenderness, joy, sadness…even though you do not experience the feeling of the emotions.
• After moving in such a way, you will experience the sensation which will very soon call up the emotion or “feeling.”
chapter eleven - body (psycho - physical exercises
• The human body and mind are inseparable.
• All of the actor’s exercises (actions) must be p-p and not executed in a mechanical fashion.
chapter twelve - imagination
• Nearly all acting is the result of the performer’s ability to imagine and reproduce reality of the play’s fiction.
• The more the actor can train or stimulate her imagination, the greater will be her power to communicate the depth and meaning of the character.
chapter thirteen - radiating/receiving
• Radiating is the ability to send out the invisible essence of whatever quality, emotion, or thought you wish; sent with great strength. It is an activity of your will; charisma is invisible radiation; some need to develop it.
• Receiving is “pulling in” from other characters, atmospheres, audience. . .with great strength.
• Which type of character are you? Radiating or receiving?
chapter fourteen - improvising and "jewelry"
• Improv is also valuable during the final stages of work on a part. Rehearsing invented activities will make it much easier to develop the “jewelry” in your performances; the nuances of uniqueness.
chapter fifteen - ensemble
• Theatre is a collective art; be open and in tune to your fellow actors.
chapter sixteen - focal point
• Not everything going on in a scene is of equal importance.
• The director should guide you; but actor should be aware.
• The actor should know which moments are most important for her own character; how the actor focuses the attention of the audience on those moments is a truly creative task. (ex. use a lift of an eyebrow vs. the spoken word)
chapter seventeen - objective
• This is the purpose or goal toward which your character is striving.
• Each character has an objective and a super-objective.
chapter eighteen - atmosphere
• sensory mediums, like fog, water. darkness, that permeate environments and radiate from people; they fill the theatre they communicate: ex. hospitals, cemeteries…
• Personal atmospheres are also given off: tension, love, hate. . .director & actor work together to maintain it.
Michael Chekhov teaches the actor how to get right into the core of the character, turn the character inside out and upside, so that you aren't just playing a character but are completely becoming the character. In his teachings he breaks the dynamics of acting down into 18 different chapters. I particularly find that chapters 1,5,13,15 and 16 are very relevant to The Devils and are crucial in any actors process.
Chapter 1- Characterisation
Characterisation is all about finding what exactly your character is about and putting that down to a core that can be created and put inside of you, making you completely become the character. This is incredibly important as without mastering the art of your character and all details however big or small will leave you with an empty role. To see your character as a costume or an ‘Imaginary body’ enables you to step into it and inhabit the life and form of this character, research, attention to detail, investigating and experimenting all help to create this ‘Imaginary body’. Characterisation is important in any play but i find it most important in this play as all the roles in this play are strong characters and belong to a world very far from the one we are in now, If all the cast go into depth with their characterisation the play will be the best it can possibly be.
Chapter 5- Feeling for truth
In acting you always have to be truthful to your role and allow yourself to develop a truthful approach to finding the character. This includes, doing full character research to the time (1600) and place ( France, Loudun), the history of the character ( background, how they became Governor of the Town, what they would of worn etc.), the status and how they would of reacted to the other characters status’s in the play. If the character is not true or accurate it will not fit into the play or make sense to the audience and furthermore yourself. Feeling for Truth is incredibly important in this play as there are so many elements that must be accurate because of the subject matter and historical setting of the play.
Chapter 13- Radiating and Receiving
Radiating is the ability to send an emotion or thought our with strength, sending out the voice to radiate through the other actor you are in conversation with or to the audience. Radiating is not only important when being in a theatre and making sure the voice is being sent out but is also important that the character is being heard by the other/s. With Radiating comes receiving which is pulling in the other characters radiation, whether that be their words, their atmosphere, their whisper etc. and having this almost dance going on in a scene where characters are really listening to each other and repeatedly giving back what they receive and vice verse.
Chapter 15- Ensemble
Being open and in tune to your fellow actors is paramount in this play as we not only have ensemble/ chorus work but need to make sure we are continuously working together to keep the energy levels high and the play flowing.
Chapter 18- Atmosphere
The play is all about atmosphere and creating a world for the audience to feel a part of. Personal atmospheres like love between Phillipe and Grandier need to be felt by the audience in order for the audience to feel empathetic towards Phillipe and Grandier when their relationship falls apart. This particular atmosphere is amplified by the chorus who stand with them in their first love scene and feel their pulses ( their arm, their neck, their heart). Atmosphere is incredibly important not only for the audience but to make sure that the actors believe what they are a part of and are able to feed off this.