Contact Improvisation with a monologue from Julius Caesar

Blake Morris and Kevin Shewey working on a monologue from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Having explored scenes through contact improvisation, we started working on monologues, where one person is speaking their text to a silent, but responsive partner. We found that the physical engagement with that normally invisible “other” allowed a freedom of emotion for the speaker, and a visceral connection to language that was so highly charged that it dictated separation of thoughts.  The text becomes a necessary expression of ideas.   Once a clear commitment to the “other” and the intention of the text is achieved, the silent partner moves away and the actor works on his own.The resulting “realistic” monologue, now done without movement and without partner, is personal and intensely embodied.  Reminded to “share” with the room, Blake delivers a fully committed audition monologue to the audience in the room.This video is an example of a very responsive partnering with a monologue. The text of the scene can be found at the end of this post.


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Contact Improv with a scene taken from “Trudy and Max in Love”


Grace Morrison and Kevin Shewey  in a scene taken from Zoe Kazan’s  “Trudy and Max in Love” (2013)

 Over the years we have explored contact in application to scenes, finding both blocking and unselfconscious intensity of relationship. This is a scene about romantic realization about the push/pull of forbidden emotion. This scene is new for the actors- a showcase scene that is memorized, but not yet blocked.  The contact with the scene dialogue is fueled by their comfort with each other as frequent scene partners, and the emotional content of the text.  They are literally circling around each other, testing.

In this video, first we see an exploration of the scene through contact improvisation while the actors are speaking the text, and then the same scene immediately played out without contact.  I ask the actors to maintain the energy of the relationship explored in the contact session. The resulting realistic scene is physically and emotionally charged and responsive, and it blocked itself, driven by actor intent. The text can be found at the end of the post.

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Contact Improvisation and actor training



My article “Contact Improvisation to Scene Study: Authenticity in Word and Deed” (2012) explored the use of C.I. (contact improvisation) in actor training. The following one minute video shows an example of a CI session between actors Jacob Dresch and Claire Edmunds during a training session concentrating on the use of counter balance.

Drawing on mime, modern dance and dance/theater explorations and expanding through 30 years of studio work with actors, this use of C.I. in actor training releases the physical/emotional honesty of actors. This is a training of energy and weight exchange in which the ultimate goal is kinetic and intimate responsiveness to a partner. The playful, dynamic and exhilarating shifts of counter-balance that characterize this work are reached through the practice of contact improvisation. Basic tumbling, energy exchange exercises and partnering dance lifts are its fundamental building blocks. Text may also be used in a contact session and this allows the spontaneous physical language of the actors’ bodies to parallel the spoken dialogue. Without consciously imposing objectives actors inter-relate spontaneously, dynamically and elegantly; and the outcome is an imprinted ability to deliver emotional and physical honesty in a scene. Counter-balance Theater (my physical theater company) uses this technique to train performers within the company, in classes at UCI, and in workshops for the wider public. The physical techniques in leveraging, complicit interchange and trajectory of motion, are used to create the imagery scored in the Counter-Balance scripts.