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Ask Veleka Question, "Acting Schools and Methods"

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  • Veleka Gray
    Hi everybody! Johnny Rock here....The rumors are not true. I am alive and well. Please forgive my absence since the 1st. I hope that everyone else has had a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2006
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      Hi everybody!

      Johnny Rock here....The rumors are not true. I am alive and well. Please forgive my absence since the 1st. I hope that everyone else has had a Great New Year so far. I really wanted to kick off the New Year with our much inticipated "Ask Veleka Question".... however......without further delay......

      Gulf South Actors:
      Q). How many legitimate, established, or at least respected acting
      schools / methods are there out there, and how does an actor know
      which one to study?

      Veleka Gray:
      A). Johnny, as you know, there are dozens of methods. No single school
      or method is going to suit every actor. I studied with four wonderful
      teachers, but only with Warren Robertson did I study eight hours a week
      for six years because only the techniques he developed out of his
      training at the Actors Studio were best for me.

      Actors may need to explore a lot of methods before they find the best
      for themselves. Only three months before his death in 1938 Konstantin
      Stanislavski, the father of our modern acting training, said: "One must
      give actors various paths. One of these is the path of action. There is
      another path: you can move from feeling to action, arousing feeling
      first."

      One excellent way to introduce students to the "various paths" KS
      suggested is to examine the odd history of the Americanization of the
      Stanislavski System as it evolved from the American Laboratory Theater
      in the 1920s (Boleslavsky and Ouspenskaya) to the work of their
      students, Strasberg ("The Method") and Stella Adler ("Given
      Circumstances") in the '30s, then in turn to Strasberg's and Adler's
      pupil, Sandy Meisner, whose discoveries in the '50s and '60s ("Creative
      Daydreaming") are now so popular.

      Another "path" is to examine the Sovietization of the KS System from The
      Method of Physical Action at the Moscow Art Theatre in the 1940s, which
      in turn led to Grotowski's post-war work in Poland, and eventually to
      the present-day importance of outer physical rather than inner
      psychological action that we see in the work of so many Americans such
      as Anne Bogart.

      To begin your research, here is a list of well-known teachers. You have
      the works of:

      Konstantin Stanislavski
      Anne Bogart
      Bertolt Brecht
      Bobby Lewis
      Eugenio Barba
      Jacques Copeau
      Jerzy Grotowski
      Joan Littlewood
      Joseph Chaiken
      Lee Strasberg
      Michael Chekhov
      Peter Brook
      Richard Boleslavsky
      Sandford Meisner
      Stella Adler
      Tadashi Suzuki
      Uta Hagen
      Viola Spolin / Paul Sills
      Vsevolod Meyerhold
      Warren Robertson
      Wlodsimierz Staniewski
      and David Mamet / William H. Macy (A Practical Handbook for the Actor).

      That's just to begin, and that list can be broken down into several
      different branches according to teachers that split off with their own
      styles and methods. During the '60s and '70s, there were many directors
      of experimental theatre who designed exercises in sound and movement...
      folks like Joe Chaiken of the Open Theatre and Richard Schechner of The
      Performance Group. Arthur Wagner worked transactional analysis into his
      actor training. And Michael Green parodies bad acting in his classic,
      "The Art of Coarse Acting" (a text that was required reading when my
      friend Bill Smith taught MFA acting at Cornell.) Of course, Michael
      Shurtleff gets an honorable mention for his book "Audition" and his
      workshops, which made Stanislavski practical.

      There is also the work of:

      Arthur Lessac
      Catherine Fitzmaurice
      Cicely Berry
      John Barton
      Kristin Linklater
      Simon Callow

      And you have body training:

      Alexander
      Dance (modern and classical, and there are splits in those branches)
      Feldenkrais
      Pilates
      Yoga, which has many variations: Hatha, Lyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini
      (and I know there are more!)

      And what about acquiring such skills as fencing or horseback riding or
      learning dialects? Does the actor's training ever end?

      Frankly, I never touch on any of this with my students. I don't think
      they need it, and if they do require special training like scuba diving
      or piloting a plane for a production, I can't give them that. What I
      can do is teach them the art and craft of acting as developed over a
      lifetime of my own work as an actress in film, on television, and on
      Broadway. Then I support their development until they are adept at it.

      This training I developed came out of my work in soap opera where I had
      to give a good performance quickly. Since I was hired in starring roles
      on six soaps consecutively over a period of fifteen years, I have
      confidence that what I teach makes it possible for my students to access
      their creative centers in the fastest and simplest way. Nearly all my
      work with actors is designed to help them find and clear their center,
      which is one of Four Steps basic to my system. Starting with the first
      step that I call Going Home, actors learn how to tune into their
      creativity, and it's a process that is as available to the beginner as
      to the experienced professional just looking to conquer blocks. You,
      among others, have watched that process, Johnny, in the workshop you
      took last December 3rd. You saw that even fledglings were able to grasp
      most of it in four hours and begin to give credible performances. In
      the twenty years I've been training actors, I have seen that once you
      have mastered my technique, accessing your creative center is easy and
      virtually instantaneous.

      However, I can't put into writing what clearing and accessing your
      center means anymore than I can tell you what spinach tastes like.
      Going Home and progressing through the Three Stages of Artistic Eminence
      is something you must experience. No amount of description can give
      someone a fair report. But once you have found your way into that
      internal labyrinth and know how to go in and out at will, everything is
      available to you, and you can then do exceptional work time and time
      again and enjoy it.

      Can anyone teach my method? I doubt it. I cannot teach exactly what I
      learned from Bobby Lewis or Warren Robertson. But what works for the
      individual is all that's important, and how successful you are with any
      method or school depends on your relationship with your teacher, not on
      the method they teach. If you can trust your teacher and find that they
      truly support your education and advancement, you're lucky. Stick with
      them, and you'll go far.

      ###

      If you are interested in studying with me, there are a few slots open in
      a class starting in Metairie on Tuesday, January 10th. Contact me at
      ActorsAlliance@... for more info or call (504) 812-3379 and
      leave me your number.

      Internet Movie Database: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0336999/
      Personal Web site: http://www.Veleka.com/
      Actors Alliance Web site: http://TheActorsAlliance.com/


      For more reading on this topic of schools and methods, check out two
      texts, both of which survey and define the most influential artists in
      acting theory: 1) "Actors on Acting" by Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chonoy
      and 2) "Twentieth Century Actor Training" by Allison Hodge.

      (Special thanks to Norman Schwartz, Annie Lower, and Bill Smith for
      their input for this question.)
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