This series of video clips offer glimpses of the six Workshop Approaches documented in Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali’s Yoga and Actor Training (Routledge 2016) DVD/booklet that focusses on ways in which the practice of yoga may be applied towards actor training purposes. Six Workshop Approaches are proposed, and contextualised with a historical overview of the use of yoga in the work of Konstantin Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski and Joseph Chaikin. Within the six videos, as well as the publication as a whole, two key perspectives are proposed as being directly, or indirectly, helpful to actor training: the first is an understanding of yoga in relation to actor training that does not prioritise, or pit, ‘interior’ against ‘exterior’, ‘mind’ against ‘body’, ‘mental’ against ‘physical’, but recognises their interdependence and interconnections. The second is an understanding that the ‘internalization’ of attention, which may be perceived in aspects of yoga, is not inimical to the creative processes of a contemporary actor, but can contribute to the cultivation of an attitude of ‘alert receptivity’ that is particularly relevant to processes within actor training.
The third video clip derives from Workshop Approach 3 which focuses on an application of the lying down yoga posture Savasana as a pathway towards tapping into the student actor’s imagination. It proposes that the channels within the posture between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ offer effective psychophysical tools that can help student actors to engage with writing, and creating, their own performance imagery. A glimpse of this process may be seen in the clip selected here. In it the student actors are guided in the practice of Savasana, during which there is a shift in attention from placing the body very precisely in ‘exterior’ space towards awareness of the breath and the ‘interior’ body-mind, as well as the sources of energy inside the self (Iyengar 1978).
In the DVD, the student actors are guided in three detailed steps within this shift. These three steps offer a precise and effective way of focussing and relaxing the body-mind of the student actor in order to reach a state that is both deeply relaxed, at the same time as being consciously aware; and it is in this dual state of ‘alert receptivity’ that the student actors are invited to withdraw their senses from the ‘external’ world in order to imagine the character that each of them has previously chosen.
There are two intentions within this application of Savasana. The first is to allow time and space for each student actor to become receptively aware of images relating to their chosen ‘character’ to come up, as it were, from the body-mind without consciously placing them there. The second is to invite the student actor to imagine a ‘character’, not solely through a process of visualisation in the mind’s eye, but also through a process of sensing imagery lower down in the body, physically located at the bottom of the breast bone and just above the solar plexus. This interior place is psychophysically related to the area B.K.S. Iyengar refers to as the body-mind’s ‘centre of emotions’ (1978: 5); and it is a place where different emotions such as excitement, or fear, are experienced. Focussing on it encourages psychophysical connection between imagination and feeling.
The process of imagining a ‘character’ receptively within the Savasana posture is repeated three times within the process, each time being related to a different perspective on the ‘character’; and after each cycle, the student actors are invited to write a short ‘word text’, at speed, for a limited period, one perception immediately following another. After writing three ‘word texts’, the student actors are then invited to create three ‘movement texts’ related to the ‘character’ they have chosen, and juxtapose these with spoken fragments selected from the ‘word texts’. The process of generating these enactments draws on a number of actor training exercises approached through the frame of the four body-mind dialogues introduced in Workshop Approach 1. A glimpse of such an exploratory enactment may be seen in the selected clip.
The overall intention within this approach, then, is to offer the yoga posture Savasana as a tool which can be used to facilitate the development of the student actors’ imaginations in order to create performance imagery. Such imagery can be understood in broader terms than those associated with ‘realistic’ forms of theatre. Potentially yoga’s capacity to link ‘interior’ with ‘exterior’ perception develops an ability to juxtapose disconnected, sometimes contradictory, perspectives which correspond, also, with some of the ‘questions of character’ articulated by Joseph Chaikin (Chaikin 1972: 16, 17).
Chaikin, J. (1972) The Presence of the Actor. New York: Atheneum.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1978) The Art of Relaxation. Exeter: Arts Archives (formerly Theatre Papers).
Workshop leader: Dorinda Hulton
Student Actors: Emilio Iannucci, Noa Manor, Shanice Sewell and Haraldur Stefansson (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)
Filming and editing: Original filming, editing and DVD-ROM by Peter Hulton, Arts Archives www.arts-archives.org