The Stranger by Baudelaire: Embodied Techniques in Youth Theatre Training

In this video clip I seek to show how young non-professional actors make use of embodied techniques by minimizing the expressive vocabulary in the performance but still retaining traces or echoes of extensive training techniques that preceded the rehearsals and shooting of the act. The video was filmed during a series of training sessions that aimed at studying how certain training ideas – developed within the research project Actor’s Art in Modern Times at the Theatre Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki – could be applied in the context of youth theatre training. This work has also been presented at the TaPRA conference 2014. The project did not involve any public performances .

The two actors, Victoria Godden and Jarkko Lehtiranta, had been training with me using a set of embodied techniques, mainly working with ‘states of being’ and transitions between them. The actors were offered signposts for the creation of these states of being in the form of ‘frames’, such as ‘the carrying/being carried’ frame (that establishes the contact between the actors and “embodies” the ethics of care during training), ‘the network’ frame(that highlights the actor’s awareness of the outer world) and ‘the somatic’ frame (that focuses on subtle movements of the body, the ‘feel’ in the body that makes a movement meaningful for the actor). The extensive movement training the actors had had before the rehearsals was organised around the above mentioned frames (that tended to appear simultaneously, as a mixture). For example, the actors were resting on each other’s arms (carrying/being carried frame) but were still very aware of any changes in the situation (network frame), and sensing the subtle feel in the upper torso when making changes in breathing patterns, for example, as if taking a cold shower (somatic frame). The actors used certain techniques at certain points in the text, for example, at the line “Gold?” Victoria “strikes” Jarkko and Jarkko strikes back, immediately, by saying “I hate it”. When rehearsing these lines they actually hit each other with an invisible bat (network frame). In the end, when Victoria asks, “What then, extraordinary stranger, do you love?” Jarkko uses the technique of in-between-ness, hence saying, “I love the clouds” as if he were on his way to some specific thought but not quite there yet. In the video performance the use of these techniques were almost entirely hidden, leaving only traces or echoes to be perceived.

The text used is The Stranger, a poem by Charles Baudelaire.

Video: Otto Färm

 

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