Sunday, June 29, 2008

Abhayarthikal (Refugees) by G Sankara Pillai--production journal III


We started to device exercises for preparing the actors for this play and to reach on specific acting exercises suitable. The participants are almost fresh, who had undergone only the very basic training for acting.

The first set of exercises was based on walking. We worked on the pace and rhythm of walking, and started to investigate how the emotional levels affect the pace and body positions while walking. The breathing, mouth/head position, the look/gaze and its focusing, the trunk position, stooping or relaxing of body segments etc, changes with the emotional state of the body. Finer aspects like pace of breathing, concentration of look, focusing of eyes, the tension on the body parts, opening and closing of body, the weight of the body etc changes with emotional kevels. The actors were asked to identify those changes they feel in the body with a particular emotion and then have to push that affects to maximize the feeling level and sustain it.

This exercise was emerging to be the combination of the internal to the external (the effect of the emotional level on the body as Stanislavski suggested) and then applying it the reverse direction (from the external to internal – to affect the emotional state by advocating affects on the body as Mayerhold suggested). A combination of these two opposite processes proved to be working faster on the new actor.

We are depending more on Stanislavski in the beginning sessions since the play needs a realistic acting approach, but instead of accepting the techniques rigorously and as such, we are adapting and improvising to suit our needs and situation. We are still on the physical aspects of emotions, making the motors of body movements smooth and in control, trying to reach the internal rhythm of movements, and also to change the neutral body into an actor’s body.

Also we had a session on aging and its effect on the motor and make it genuine and again this is indebted to Stanislavsky.

We were trying to involve the backbone into our movements and make it active, and figuring the actor to concentrate on his backbone and breathe while moving. The breath relates to the emotional level and the backbone enables the flexibility and continuity of the movement. The set of exercises can be called ‘emotion and walking’, and we tried to carry and sustain those emotional charges achieved, while we sit or lean on stage.

The exercise sessions continued on to the next few days of work. Mostly the exercises involved walking and slowly we added weight shifting exercises so that the actor could balance his body postures and positions. Also rhythm is worked out into the natural walking movements. We improvised rhythm and body weight shifting to walking exercises so that the movement may lead to a spontaneous choreography. We are aiming on the flexibility of body movements, controlling the gait and speed of the movement so that clarity of gesture and expression is achieved.

We are trying to focus more on to the sense of our own body in the exercises. The exercises involved physical work with an involvement of concentration and then adding rhythm into it.

After a few days of these exercises we could feel that the body of the actor started to respond faster in the improvisations. And it was much spontaneous in caricaturing and creating characters on stage. There is an obvious sign of development.

Slowly we added movements from kalarippayattu the martial arts form that instill fast reflux and higher flexibility in physical actions.

Also we agreed upon the division of the text into 19 units. The 18nth unit is pretty long and while working further it may be divided into subunits.

In the next post I will write about our experience with improvisations of units and the result.