My class cycles in both cities ended last week. Since then, some thoughts have been rattling around in my head that I thought were worth getting out.
I had been teaching for three or four years before I figured out that it was a good idea to have students “warm up” their scenes on Friends and Family Night, that is, do them once for me alone, before the guests arrived. I found that it made a huge difference for people to be able to walk through the scene once, say their lines, and remember where the furniture was. I would give some encouragement and a tiny piece of feedback, to give them a little challenge for the final presentation and keep them on their toes.
This past cycle, doing the warm-up round in both cities, I noticed that the note that I seemed to need to give time and again was “remember to connect to the need”. It’s a little ironic, since the whole course is about the need and how everything emanates from that, that THAT was the thing that students would forget to bring on stage with them, but there it is. In most cases, once I reminded them, they brought it the next time. But I found myself thinking about the fact that so often that was what they initially left behind.
I suppose nerves is part of it. And then there is the damned complexity of the scene. The practical complexity, such as costumes, setup, props, etc. And also the complexity of the unfolding give-and-take with the partner. The actor can get fixated on all of this complexity, and forget to see the proverbial forest for the trees. The irony is that if the need has been uncovered and rehearsal has been used well, then the need acts as an organizer of all of this complexity, if the actor just remembers to focus on it and to allow it to guide them. This is what Stanislavsky refers to as the “channel” of the scene. If the actor can allow herself to be guided by the channel, the rest will mostly take care of itself.