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Week 18 - Alex Hassell on Harold Guskin
Alex Hassell lead a session based on the theories and working methods set out by Harold Guskin in his book How To Stop Acting.
Alex wished to explore with the group Guskin's methods of responding to text, stating that he has found this work revolutionary in his own acting, and will hopefully greatly serve those actors who go onto perform in the productions of The Hamlet Project. - providing they find the exercise helpful and wish to explore and develop / train themselves in their own time – as it is a slow and time-consuming process, as we discovered in this taster session. Due to the time required for the work to take hold, Alex pointed out at the start of the session that we were likely to do only one exercise and variations on it for the whole evening.
This exercise consisted of the following:
- looking at your text momentarily and taking in a short section ( whether a word, phrase or line) – anything short enough to ensure no mental work was done remembering the words.
- taking a breath.
- within this breath allowing a free association with the words, any thought or memory, whether it bore an explicable link to the text or not, to colour / inform / power the speaking of that short section of text.
Very simply, there was no wrong or right in how this exercise was followed. The very fact that any thought, no matter how private or inexplicable, could occur within the actor's mind gave access to infinite possibilities of the informing of the text.
Even “ Oh god, I'm supposed to think of something quickly in this breath so I can speak the line” is a valid thought, which if the actor then uses those feelings of frustration or inadequacy will ultimately bring an urgency or feeling to the words and for the listener.
We come back to the idea that whatever you bring to the part, the audience's natural instinct is to make a 'character' from what they see and hear, and from those characters – a story.
It is not our responsibility to stifle the rich and infinite possibilities that each line, phrase and word may throw up in the moment of the actor's breath, by 'armoring' ourselves with 'choices of character'.
Once an actor has decided upon 'the motivation' of a line that is 'consistent' with their character he has shut out all possibilities that are true to speech in life. - How often have we seen or experienced in life the speaking of words triggering emotion: by forcing words out, it can trigger hysteria, anger, grief and not as some actors try to do, force a pre-prepared emotion into the words!
The exercise therefore introduced us to the beginning of a process that can possibly act as a conditioning of response to each moment in the text.
If you find yourself as an actor performing your interpretations of the text and then each evening repeating and repeating those performative interpretations, surely your alternative is the freshness and immediacy arising from an openness to the moment by moment changes within the text which ensures an urgency and constancy of live delivery.
- why should one choice made months ago in rehearsal be any more superior than the infinite choices bubbling up naturally and instinctively each evening?
- Why force your idea of character down the audience's throats when the alternative is to allow them to experience a live, reacting, thinking, responsive human being not knowing what will occur in the next few seconds?
As the book's blurb says:
“Guskin offers this strategy based on a radically simple and refreshing idea that the actor's work is not to “create a character” but rather to be continually, personally responsive to the text, wherever his impulse takes him, from first reading to final performance. He presents acting as a constantly evolving exploration rather than as a progression toward a fixed goal.”
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|Anonymous||This sounds pretty good but... former Guskin student||3||Dec 14 2009, 7:24 PM EST by buckwildeart|
Thread started: Aug 19 2009, 4:29 AM EDT Watch
Thanks for taking the time to post this, your group sounds really terrific. As a former private student of Harold's, I think it's terrific. However, it sounds like you may be making, "taking it off the page into a technique", which is as bad as 'technique' of any kind. As Harold says," taking it off the page is simply a way to start to explore our work but not a technique in and of itself. It's just a way to start that makes sense. The only real technique is to 'not act' and do what interests "you" in the moment, no matter how arbitrary it may be, as long as it is your real response in "the moment". Otherwise, i thought you have extrapolated a great deal from the book, and your pretty close to what i believe he's getting at. He really does give his work to the world through this book, I worked with him for a few years and I think the book is quite an achievement. This work is revolutionary and it has changed my life for the better. If you really want to pursue this I strongly recommend studying with Harold. It is worth it's weight in gold and then some.
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Keyword tags: Harold Guskin
|Anonymous||I like Guskin's book||0||Mar 11 2009, 10:31 PM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Mar 11 2009, 10:31 PM EDT Watch
I had been using it as a secret on the side of my acting class and my coach had noticed difference. I had never mentioned what I am doing. But she's stating she saw a huge difference fast. The reading off the pages had helped me know the character faster. I think it could work well for a few but some people might not like it. I like it. I got the habit and its been doing wonders for me.
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