I believe that the ultimate value in the theatre is the confrontation of all the life bodies in the room with the mortality which they share: the visceral confrontation with the reality that one is living now…Joseph Chaikin
The first level of training is for beginners and deals with the transformation of the daily body into a dramatic body. Body consciousness is developed, and stage presence enhanced. Focus is placed on the basic qualities of acting, that is acting without any imitative representation, whether fictive characters, actions or emotions. There are no special skills needed yet!
The aims of level I studies
The path of student development leads from the private to the collective, and the public. For the art of the beginner, the performer represents nothing besides himself, and he executes actions with or without an audience. There is no transformation into a character, and all happens here and now. The development of acting energy and focus are central to level I. Real props may be used. For the director Radu Penciulescu I created exercises for the enhancement of basic acting qualities and the connection of body and voice. There is no transformation of the actor into a character. The focus is on real action, on energy and presence itself and less on the skills of the performer.
The following main topics are practised in level I:
- Games bring the group together, create a relaxed atmosphere and kinetize the participants.
- Warm-ups: to get the body into working condition – to stimulate cardiac activity and blood circulation. The students should get out of breath and sweaty for a short time. Joints and muscles are warmed up.
- Body education: ‘gymnastics’ and body techniques developing energy, (force), movement-impulse and focus, as well as flexibility and coordination.
- Voice and body: ‘anchor’ the voice in the body.
- Basic acrobatics: train courage, decision-making and overcoming fear. At level I, these qualities are more important than the acrobatic presentation.
- Movement analysis: the basic techniques to move the body, balance, direction and rhythm.
- Improvisation – social interaction, to react to partner(s).
The beginner actor must overcome selfishness and consciousness and should not focus on himself. This is a difficult task for the teacher! This is possible by concrete training tasks, with clear concentration points given. The actor will forget himself, solve the task and learn to focus on it. All the exercises with objects (bamboo sticks, jinai, ribbons, plates, etc) below have this aim. I see them as very important, as did Radu Penciulescu and Li Ruru (for Beijing opera students).
Important note for teachers!
After an assessment about the physical level and the needs of the students, the teacher must carefully choose the exercises and know their purpose. He may change the exercise, develop it, or put it into another context.
An exercise hardly serves one purpose alone. It may cover a wider range of benefits. But the teacher should focus on one, simple and precise aspect each time he uses the exercise. One day it may be important to develop energy, another day not to slacken energy, a third day to work in space, or with speed or slow motion, with a partner, or an object to bring in focus.
Introduce each exercise with a minimum of words. And tell the students:
To empty their cup,
To flow with the situation (carpe diem),
To do one thing at a time, and
To make a friend of fear.