William Esper Studio

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INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

PHYLICIA RASHAD

BILLY CRUDUP

CAROL LAWRENCE

ANDRUS NICHOLS

MARTY RAYBON

ALONZO KING

JAKE LANDERS

KERRY GILBERT

YI-MIN CAI

MICHAEL SHANE NEAL

TONYA S. HOLLY

CAROLYN PALMER

Spotlight On
International
Artists


Essays

Ingredients Of A Creative Life: Sketches Summer 2017

The Method Acting Exercises Handbook

The Laboratory Instinct

All People Are Famous: Instead of an Autobiography

“CREATE! How Extraordinary People Live to Create and Create to Live”

Films That Make a Difference

Witness to Spirit: My Life with Cowboys, Mozart & Indians

My Life and Art

A Healing Art: How Eurythmy Lives in the World

Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell: Teaching Through the Lens of Neuroscience

Chasing Light: Notes on Creativity

Changing Ourselves to Change Society

An Excerpt from DAH Theatre: A Sourcebook

I Can Resist Everything Except Тheater: the Work and Role of The Macedonian Centre — International Theatre Institute

Real Life Drama

 

“Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Above all things, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.”
– John Singer Sargent

“So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music is some living form will accompany and sustain it.” – Aaron Copland

“The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink - and in drinking understand themselves.”
– Federico García Lorca

“Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.” – Jerzy Grotowski

“Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others.” – Danny Thomas

“Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and  responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.” – Sidney Poitier

“Art became the first teacher of nations.”
– Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.”  
– Marlon Brando

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
– Helen Keller

“The theatre should be treated with respect. The theatre is a wonderful place, a house of strange enchantment, a temple of illusion.”
– Noel Coward

“Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation...see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.”
– John Singer Sargent

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
– T.S. Eliot

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
– Harriet Tubman

“Feel is if you are reborn each day and rediscover the world of nature which are joyfully a part.”
– Pablo Casals, at the age of 96

“The secret of all natural and human law is movement that meets with devotion”
– I Ching

The Method Acting Exercises Handbook

Improvisation

Lee Strasberg told us that he was fascinated by the preliminary sketches, studies, and drawings done by his favorite artists for their future work, and he likened that process to an acting Improvisation, where an actor builds a work of art - a performance - by expressing preliminary thoughts, which are changed, molded and finessed until you perfect your work. Improvisation inspires you to face and deal with the challenges of the character by looking at the world differently, taking risks and making spontaneous connections, all of which can lead to solutions that carve out a path toward the character.

Improvisation is a procedure that you perform extemporaneously without a prepared dialogue or action: You’re exploring a theme, a relationship, an event or a situation. When preparing for scenes, monologues and during rehearsals, or throughout a production, you can use improvisation whenever there’s a need for clarification and understanding of a specific moment in the scene.

You act out unscripted scenes with no sequence of behavior at first, sometimes out of context, in the hope of creating situations that will shed light on the author's material and allow you to go deeper into your characterization

You search for behavior without worrying about how to feel or say the lines. Be free of any self-consciousness. Improvisation requires imagination, and a kind of creativity that allows for some chaos, mistakes, experimentation, and coming upon fresh, unexpected and unusual behaviors.

Lola Cohen directing in Russia at Anton Chekhov's Dacha​

Improvisation is a theatrical art form as old as acting itself. In its earliest form, shamans may have acted out their dreams to the members of their clan or tribe.  In the sixteenth century, the Comedia dell’arte became one of the first professional acting companies to employ improvised scenarios on streets and in market places, using masks with exaggerated features to play a fixed scheme of action with basic stock characters and adapting specific qualities to their own personalities using traditional dialogue passed on by word of mouth. They sometimes broke through the fourth wall that separates the action from the audience and addressed the audience directly while acting out unscripted scenes for a specific circumstance with references to local and topical events, all while staying true to their exaggerated personas.

Lola Cohen production of “The Seagull”
at Anton Chekhov's dacha

By using Improvisation and inventing scenarios that aren’t in the play or script, you develop a familiarity with a character. Acting out scenes that may have happened before or after the play’s action builds history and strengthens your belief in what you’re doing. When the production is from another era with an unfamiliar culture, improvisations are especially valuable for you to acclimate to the imaginary world of the play.

In “An Actor Prepares,” Stanislavsky says that the play, the characters in it, the circumstances and all art is the product of imagination. He said that for the actor “to turn the play into a theatrical reality... imagination plays the far greatest part.” Improvisation as a means of exercising your imagination is used in training in rehearsal procedure, or in production when needed. Harold Clurman, in his book, “On Directing,” said that Improvisation is not a form of anarchy, and it doesn’t mean doing anything you want.

The Group Theatre in the 1930’s used Improvisation in staging their highly regarded, progressive, political, and innovative work as The Method began to evolve. Stanislavsky, who was fluent in French, used the French term, etude, meaning a focused improvisation or study, and can also refer to a short solo performance musicians use to perfect their artistry and skills. There’s an on-going discussion about whether the terms, etude and Improvisation should be used interchangeably, or if one is more general and the other more specific. Either way, I teach the technique as a means to act with greater self-awareness and inventiveness in order to enhance your performance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have encountered talented actors who have worked with the ideas and techniques of Lee Strasberg, Michael Chekhov, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Elia Kazan, Uta Hagen, Robert Lewis, and Kim Stanley, all highly regarded, who have made invaluable contributions to both The Method and the craft of acting. I believe there are more similar ties between these artists than differences in their search for authenticity and truth. You will find threads connecting their words and methods to the work of Constantin Stanislavsky, Vladimir Nemirovich Danchenko and their trailblazing creation of the MAT. Explore the different approaches and take from each those things that resonate most with you to illuminate the precarious human condition by making conscious artistic choices in your work.

You will learn resilience, perseverance, experimentation, and investigation experienced through the lens of the senses. This work can mold your spiritual and intellectual life and give it profound meaning. It tests you and your ability to handle chance encounters and accidents, and, it’s said, that those not tested can’t know enough about themselves and the world to act well.

It is my hope that your lifelong dedication to acting and the arts grows exponentially as you gain discipline and confidence in your own work. Your burning curiosity and drive in learning The Method and reading the works of Stanislavsky, Strasberg, and others will foster discipline and a steadfast preparedness to face the many challenges involved in acting.  Finally, act in plays and films which propagate spiritual and human values that incite you to rise above the present moment and enchant yourself so that you can enchant the audience. That is the true goal of The Method and the “Handbook.” •

2017 Excerpt from The Method Acting Exercises Handbook by Lola Cohen. Published by Routledge. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

LOLA COHEN began her life in the Theater by studying acting with Lee Strasberg during the last five years of his life (1977 to 1982) at The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. She also trained with Kim Stanley, Jose Quintero, and David Proval. She has taught at the Strasberg Institute in NY and LA, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Drama at the Strasberg Institute. An Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, she has also taught at American University, Washington, D.C., Milan’s Academia 09, Melikhovo’s Telltojoy Theater-Chekhov International Theater School, Russian Center for Science and Culture in Copenhagen, National Film School of Denmark & Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen’s Holberg Film/Theatre School, Mon’s Theatre High School Rødkilde, Pratt Institute, and at Boston’s MASS Design Group. As a member of Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Review,” she made her film debut in “Renaldo and Clara” in 1975 and was Judge Kaplan in Rik Cordero’s “Inside a Change,” which won best film at HBO’s Latino International Film Festival in 2010. Ms. Cohen’s directing includes “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Woodstock Youth Theater), “The Maids” (Strasberg Institute,” “Snowangel” (SUNY-Ulster, Strasberg Institute), and “The Seagull (a Work in Progress)” in Melikhovo, Russia. Ms. Cohen’s books include “The Lee Strasberg Notes” was published in 2010, and “The Method Acting Exercises Handbook,” a concise and practical guide to the acting exercises originally devised by Lee Strasberg.


“Above all, you must remain open and fresh and alive to any new idea.” - Laurence Olivier

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