Thursday, May 29, 2014


FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2014


Hard core.  No pics.  Inside stuff.  These pages are more clearly written out by Van Meter watching the class and taking notes, rather than AK talking.  This is a longer section.  I’m up to page ten of seventeen.


Exercises reproducing behavior of a blind person: (Part of the work on the visual sense, since this is the inability to respond to visual stimuli.)  A real blind person has such keenly developed senses that he can always tell where he is.  What does each specific blind person you study hear?  How does he identify objects, places, people?  What associations follow upon more identification?  We have sequences of responses.  What happens to a blind person’s voice?  Often they talk softly so as not to interfere with the intake of other stimuli.  Why do some blind people carry their heads so high?  There is no reason to look down and it’s easier to hear, to feel sounds, makes one more open and perceptive; you can feel light on your face.  

To give a student a sense of being deaf, AK has other students around her mouth words but make no sound; often they ignore her.  She begins to feel “out” of things, that she must strain awfully hard to keep up with others; that she needs to watch every second.  Student has an experience of what the world of deafness must be like and begins to make some of the adjustments a deaf person must . . . There are deaf people who can dance because they feel the music’s vibration on the floor or on their skin.  When there are silences around you, how do you know what is going on?  From vibrations in the air? . . . 

AK sends someone onstage to be a blind man standing on the edge of a cliff (i.e.:  Gloucester in Lear); There isn’t any cliff, only level ground;  someone goes with him, his objective being to make the blind man think he’s climbing, going up -- to make him believe absolutely; this is a transfer.  Find the thing that will make him believe: tell him how high he is; what do you see?  Create a visual image for him -- a valley -- people -- how big are the people? -- Is there a river in the valley -- what does one see from the height? -- what is this power of suggestion that makes a blind man believe?  She is applying what the class have been working on to an actual play . . . 

New exercises involve creating the stimuli around Lady Macbeth or Macbeth on the eve of murder.  She is concerned about Macbeth, wants to be with him, near him, but something keeps her here in this room.  What does she respond to in it?  What stimuli come to her?  Create the thing that halts her, keeps her here, causes her to jump owl [? sic], and ends with “My husband!”  How do you keep “Is this a dagger --?" from being a histrionic speech?  How do you create a dagger in the air?  Have you had any personal experience?  Have you ever seen anything materialize?  Why does it?  You’ve been thinking about it so hard it does.  When he comes from the murder, what has he seen that won’t ever leave him?  The images will never be lost from this great man’s life.  Movies would take us into the room; Shakespeare brings the murder onstage through Macbeths.  Have you stored up any images in the last three weeks that you can build to the sleep-walking scene with?  Sleep-walkers use senses better than when awake, are in danger only when someone wakes them up unexpectedly.

[There was a story going around at the time that the students who lived in rented rooms upstairs in AK’s house heard night noises, came out on the landing, and found AK balanced on the railing in her nightgown!  Probably apocryphal, but then -- what does it stand for?  What was she doing in her sleep?  They were afraid to waken her.] 

Her eyes are open -- seeing -- but seeing more.  She sees with her subconscious.  Lady Macbeth sees the blood there, smells it.  Juliet accepts the potion, then realizes she is going to be put in the tomb.  What do actresses do?  Run around the stage screaming?  Can you see the rows of people in the tomb?  Tybalt, newly dead?  Images must materialize before you -- out there.  Lady Macbeth relives the moment when she smeared the grooms with blood.  Have you ever had human blood on your hands?  For a lifetime she has to conceal this.  It’s pushed down in her subconscious but comes out in sleep.  Don’t dare act emotions: they will come if you create the stimuli.  “The Thane of Fife" -- where does that come from?  A message which said -- “The Thane of Fife’s wife has been murdered.”  

There isn’t one moment in drama that you can act without an image behind it.  The Greek drama class (second year acting) is having trouble because they didn’t learn to create a stimulus last year.  You’ve somehow got to see (if you’re doing Antigone) the brother’s corpse, smell the stench, sense the hot sun, see the vultures, etc.  The words that Sophocles gives come in response to these stimuli, which you must create for yourselves.

Side comment on stagefright:  AK has a student who confesses to being afraid come off the stage and study the setting which has been put up for a forthcoming production.  What kind of play would you act in this setting?  Ibsen?  Tennessee Williams?  What does it do to you?  Does it make you fight?  Is it frustrating?  Does it lift you up? Does it warm you?  If the curtain went up and there were no actors onstage for 60 seconds, what would the set do?  After actress has forgotten herself by concentrating on something hard (here, the setting) AK sends her back up to present her scene.

Lear scene again:  Two actors have been working on it.  AK asks if actor playing Gloucester was “psychologically on a cliff.”  Tells both of them that they have to get some of the “why” into it, especially at the beginning, to show the compulsion in it.  Says it has to be more kinesthetic than they are making it, must seem to be really climbing, although on the flat surface.

Critique of actresses pretending to stop to admire baby in carriage: there seemed to be “blank spaces” in it -- too many did not believe there was a baby there -- you couldn’t describe the baby even now -- you were acting in a plot -- you didn’t hear the baby cry -- you didn’t ask yourself questions: is it big or little, etc.

Critique of actress doing Lady Macbeth reading letter and trying to motivate what she says and does:  Walk tells nothing, with which scene was begun -- and Shakespeare begins in the middle of the scene and the letter reading.  If there was to be a messenger to bring the letter, what became of him?  You’ve been standing all day, perhaps days, waiting for a messenger to bring a letter from Macbeth.  Plays don’t begin when you come onstage -- they begin offstage.  If there are other people present when the letter arrives she must get to a room alone.  What does the letter look like?  What kind of paper is it on?  What is she learning?  What does she do?  The scene leads to:  “Glamis thou art, etc.”  and a tragedy is underway.  On a later try at the scene: Work until you can sustain a horizon there (at the back of the audience) as long as you want.  What is on it?  What color is the sky?  Are you listening for the sounds of the battle?  Don’t stay on one stimulus longer than you need to.

If an object materializes for you, or a sound, we out in front will see it or hear it, too.  Use your senses, not your minds.  You see, hear, with your senses.

Critique of actor doing Macbeth and imaginary danger:  He did see something, but then began emotionalizing; he was aware himself that he was faking part of the time.  AK adds an “if.”  "If you are a general, strong, brave, courageous -- now go on with the situation.”  Posture of actor has changed:  “You are a leader, you have just won a battle. . .”  You create Macbeth or Lady Macbeth one step at a time.

Critique of actress doing sleepwalking scene:  What should be your first question?  What is blood?  It is an image which runs throughout the play.  The blood is where?  You’ve got to get it there (on your hands) first.  And if you’re squeamish about blood, you look anywhere else but at it.  If you have no response to the image of blood, to smearing blood, you are no actor.  If the idea hit you, it would show in your stomach.  You have to sense it now, every time you do it.

Bad method acting is: getting lost in yourself.

What does your dramatist tell you about Lady Macbeth?  That she is revolted by blood.  She is driven to suicide by it.  Actress must be able to get to this ultimate point of the role.  Lady Macbeth’s subconscious mind will not tolerate it.  Again: she cannot look at it ; she is sleep-walking; she even has nightmaries when awake; the things she sees are out here.  Work for images that will come instantly.

Critique of girl doing potion scene as Juliet:  I’m going to question the position of that chair.  For four weeks we’ve seen people placing chairs center stage.  Chairs are placed in relation to something.  Chairs center stage cause me to question the truth.  What is now in relation to the chair (which has been moved)?  A bed?  Walk around it.  Where is the head?  If a piece of furniture is not in relation to something else, you’re acting in a vacuum.  Tell me what the dramatist gives you;  he is always very specific.  A holy man has told a young girl: here is a potion, take it, and you will fall asleep and seem dead.  It begins withtrust.  If she hadn’t trusted, she wouldn’t have accepted it or wouldn’t take it.  How big is the potion?  In a tall glass !!  Who put it there?  Why didn’t family see it?  You violate something when you make it big.  I had you create a room so that you would know what it is to be alone alone.  Start with one reality and build from this -- justify.  You’re in a room that has suddenly become empty.  You’d love to hear voices in the passage . . .

Critique of girl doing sleep-walking scene:  She wasn’t sleepwalking, was awake and using her “thinking mind,” which should be shut off -- it’s just the subconscious that is going.  Have you ever come up out of ether?  What happens?  You hear sounds, buzzings, drumming; then you see colors -- blue, green, etc.  Doctor and Nurse seem to be miles away.  In sleepwalking you do not think, you re-experience more vividly than you have before.  What tells me on Monday morning you’ve had a wild weekend?  Your eyes don’t focus.  Well, her eyes don’t focus.  Then images begin to come.  

What is her objective?  Sleepwalkers always have a very strong objective.  How does she enter?  Slowly? Nooo!  If there is something she has to do (wash her hands), she comes with terrifying directness.  She is reliving that moment of “Come, come, a little water --” (irony!)” -- cleans us of this deed.”  It is horribly ironic.  It is the moment of leading of Macbeth and washing his hands for him and her own and being at the gate to meet people -- which moment lives in her memory forever?  Voice?  Something is cut out of it, as it is out of her mind.  The vocal tone is direct, but something alive is missing.  they both physically get the blood off, but neither really do.  

Now you hear voices.  “The Thane of Fife has lost a wife.”  The stimulus comes in and then another on top of that.  Shakespeare gives the whole scenario.  How do you get at sleepwalking if you’ve never done it?  One does things clearly, positively, decisively (like you do when you turn off the alarm and then get back in bed and pull up the covers and go to sleep.)  She can’t touch her garments and doesn’t.  Associate sleep-walking with hypnotism -- you are fully aware, but “looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”  Doctor says:  “Her eyes are open, but their sense is shut.”  Don’t get too involved, but get at producing the stimuli.  We are trying to get you to discover what acting is and where emotions derive from.  You’ve got to store up sensory images, sensory memories, so vividly that they come to you, bang;  you can’t wait ten minutes.  And all the time you’re doing this, you’re asking yourself -- not me -- am I an actor?  A good director give you images to build on; a director has to have an actor’s approach when working with actors.

Actress playing waiting scene from Macbeth must not say to herself, “Lady Macbeth is tense.”  Find instead the verb that states what she is doing.  She is listening for a sound which will say, “Duncan is dead,” after she has left people she has drugged, hoping they won’t wake up.  Offstage the man she loves is killing the king who is a guest in their house and she knows her husband well enough to knows her husband well enough to know that at the last minute he may turn “milk-livered.”  You must walk silently down the hall, but part of you trails behind, and she must be close to something, like a wall.  Shakespeare does a brilliant thing: he brings the murder onstage when it is off.  Actress who tries scene is criticized:  “You come onstage anxiously, as if thinking, I wonder if the refreshments have come?  Or, is that the children stirring in the nursery?  Not enough.  You have to recall an experience of your own, observe someone, or else read something hoping for a vicarious experience.

Side issue:  A class in body movement is announced; it will meet at an hour convenient for enrollees, maybe limited to upper class students.

Critique of girl attempting Juliet’s potion scene:  What was your working objective?  “To show why Juliet has to drink this potion.  Why carry a candle?  (Poor reading of scene when studying it.)  What does Shakespeare give you?  What is the correct actress’ objective?  Actress has to find what will get her to:  “Stay, Tybalt, stay;  Romeo, I come!”  Why does she take two or three minutes first?  If she has doubts, why?  You must find the inner motivation for the lines the playwright has given.  She has made up her mind to take it, but she hesitates; why?  What happens during the hesitation?  The hesitation has something to do with the appearance of Tybalt’s ghost, with the quality of an imagination that conceives of things as hers does.  

This scene is full of realizations, one after another.  She realizes the room is empty, there is nobody in it.  Tell me what you see that says to you the room is empty.  What does she see as she turns around?  Her shadow?  She’s been alone in this room before but now sees a shadow of some sort.  Potion is where?  (If it is at her breast, your hands will go to this spot when you sense it.)  Bed is where?  How does she look at dagger?  What does the dagger symbolize?  Death is what a dagger always says.  Maybe you can’t play through a whole scene, from moment to moment, realization to realization, stimulus to stimulus; but it is your job as learning actors to find out what a sensory response is and bring it off onstage.

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