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Category Archives: Clowning

The Theatre of the Future – Interview with Simon Edwards 

We, both of us, Marian and I have been aspiring to create what Lecoq was calling for, many  years ago, which was to go out and create the theatre of the future.

Well, now here we are in the future, and here at The Actors Space, whenever we do any work on a daily basis, session by session basis, incredible work comes out every time. It feels like we’ve been gathering different exotic fruits in different places, with different participants, and also our own different perspectives, rooted in Lecoq’s work, the person who brought us together. When the audience experience THAT it can be a very rich and very powerful human experience. And that for me is the joy of theatre. 

THE AUDIENCE AND THE STORIES 

Listen to the audience, listen to that whisper inside that is guiding you to take another step. It’s not overreaching, it’s like just another little step.

And then trust, as well, the inner voice that goes “ooh, ooh”. When there’s that egomania that’s around sometimes with us, you need to be protected. Masks are a great example because they form a front in one way, as to who we seem to be and also as a protection. 

But again what’s more important is the thing that’s behind the mask because in the end the work that happens through acting, or creating characters or stories, or even the mask work, or the clown work is about what’s beneath the superficial.

The depth of existence is huge. It’s obvious, it doesn’t even need to be said. But when we share the work, drama or comedy, it can be discovered. In the work in relation to the others… Life itself is a miracle, so when you’re on stage having a blast you’re reflecting part of that miracle for the audience member who’s there. And remember they may be going through terrible times, they may be going through the loss of a loved one, they may be passing away themselves. So your work has to be as, without falling into perfectionism, as rigorous as possible, as disciplined as possible and as respectful as possible to yourself and to them, and it’s a simple contract:

Tell stories and have a wonderful time together. As soon as fire was discovered, around the campfire there became the need to tell stories. It’s as old as that. Because in that human wisdom is passed on. 

And what we’re about, definitely, is about underneath the mask and you don’t have to be brilliant, you don’t have to be talented, you don’t have to be any of those things, or any of those concepts one would have about themselves, either in a positive way or in a negative way. Just somebody coming along and having fun and wanting to explore human nature. And the nice thing is that it’s not about “Oh my God, my nature”. It’s not reflecting back on me, it’s human nature. It’s much more about the audience, one in the audience than about the actor and their complexes and hang-ups. 

And that’s a terrain that I reckon (and Lecoq was pointing at it rather a lot) that was the misunderstood Stanislavski work. Stanislavski’s work is very interesting. But a lot of the time people are looking into traumas and problems, and things that are locked up in their body, and they’re trying to regurgitate them into the dramatic scene. And it’s like “for goodness sakes, just be present in the scene”. And things will come out naturally. The character will have that journey and that experience. You don’t have to put yourself there, self-sacrificing to show how good an actor you are and how emotive you can be. That always gets in the way. 

And, in fact, in life, often the most emotional and powerful stuff is when people stop their emotions, stunt their emotions, for whatever reason. And then what happens, as long as the audience gets the feeling that’s beneath that mask, that’s what’s important. It’s not about an emotional display of fireworks and tears, or how great an actor or emotive a person can be. It’s about the audience having a poetic journey.

These are extracts from an interview made by Natacha Elmir. You can listen to Simon on this page. 

There are some places still available on this summer workshops. Contact marian@actors-space.org if you are ineterested.

Everybody is funny! – About The Art of Comedy

Within The Art of Comedy Workshop you are taught that basically everybody is funny.

Comedy is not something you put upon yourself or can be put upon you by other people or by words or whatever. It actually comes from yourself. 

And in The Art of Comedy workshop this is something that you unlock. So many people have said “Oh no, I couldn’t do comedy, it’s too hard”. You know, “Oh no, I’m not a funny person…¨ Everybody is a funny person, you just have to unlock it. 

And at The Actors Space, that’s what they’re gonna do for you. You will discover that you are a funny person.

By Caroline Hart. 

The Art of Comedy will take place from August 2nd to August 10th, 2022. More info here.

 

A review about The Art of Comedy Workshop

By Natasha Elmir

”The art of comedy helped me explore a side to my acting  that I never new existed. It gave me tools to tap into a playground within, and suddenly I had a new world I could bring to the surface. Apart from learning and developing and finding my comedic presence, I have been able to transport many of those layers into my dramatic acting as well. 

I recommend it to anyone who has felt more comfortable in dramatic roles and has been afraid to discover that clown within. 

The course was both so much fun and serious. And whenever I fell, which was a lot, I knew I was in very safe hands. I would do it again and again.”

The Creative Actor Workshop – a review from Neema Lahon.

“I’ve been working as a professional actor in Barcelona for the past 6 years. In every project I’ve been involved with, I’ve heard the Actors Space brought up in conversation. Intrigued, I decided to ask previous students about their experience and received a barrage of positive reviews. I decided to do the Creative Actor to freshen up my acting skills and learn a new technique.

The moment I arrived I can see why everyone sang the Actors Spaces’ praise. Situated on the most idillic private grounds and surrounded by nature, a sense of calm washes over you. This place has an incredible energy that clears the stress of hectic city life and prepares you to dive into an artistic realm.
The Creative Actor course was much more than I expected. It takes your skills as a practitioner to another level. The course is designed to start simply, as each day you build on techniques you’ve explored the day before. By the end of the course you have created layered and sophisticated work using all the elements such as levels of tensions, mask work, physicality and improvisation, to name but a few. I learnt an immense amount in just the week I was there. Despite being an experienced performer I found this course eye-opening because it helped me understand the essence of performance.
During the course I discovered that I had comic skills that I wasn’t aware of. In the 10 years of studying and performing in theatre I had never been given the creative freedom I experienced at The Actors Space which enabled me to make that discovery.
I will be forever grateful for Simon and Marian’s inspirational teaching, encouragement and support”.
Neema Lahon, London.

The Actors Space Comes of Age

by Dorothy Max Prior | www.totaltheatre.org.uk 

The Actors Space is a renowned international centre of theatre and film, located in the Catalan hills, just one hour from Barcelona. In summer 2019, the centre marks 21 years of ‘empowering the actor to be free to play’. Dorothy Max Prior spoke to the founders and co-directors, Marian Masoliver and Simon Edwards, at the end of last season’s Dramatic Writing residency

‘Sometimes I have to pinch myself – can it be 20 years? So far so good!’

So says Marian Masoliver, co-founder and co-director of The Actors Space, which she runs with her partner in life and work, Simon Edwards, speaking in summer 2018 as the centre celebrated 20 years in operation.

The two met at the Lecoq school in Paris. After graduating, they both – separately and together – performed, directed, taught, and toured (with companies such as La Fura del Baus and Kneehigh) before deciding to set up a residential summer school in a beautiful old farmhouse in the hills of Catalunya, close to the Roman town of Vic, where Marian’s family had lived for many generations.

And so, for every year of the past two decades, they have welcomed students of all ages and experiences, from all corners of the globe, to participate in their unique actor-centred programmes.

‘In a typical workshop of eighteen people, there might be people from across Europe, India, Russia, the USA, Australia the Middle East… It is very interesting as a teacher to see how they all work together – beautiful to see that, and the different ways people approach theatre,’ says Marian.

This internationalist approach is key to both of their beliefs. In life – as in theatre – international collaboration, harmony, resolving difference, and learning to live together are essential, to combat and contradict what Simon calls ‘the strange distorted mirror of modern media’. In a world in which the US presidency has turned itself into a sickening reality TV show; the Spanish government have cast themselves as bullies, taking agency away from the people of Catalunya; and the Brexit obsessed UK parliament has descended into a pantomime, political life today has moved beyond anything we could satirise as they are all doing it so well at it themselves. What on earth, then, can we do?

‘Celebrate the things that unite rather than divide,’ says Simon. ‘The things that divide us change – they aren’t fixed – but the things that unite us are the same. We always gravitate towards peace.’ He talks of ‘sweet banality – the fruits of gratitude, joy, affection’.


View from the roof of The Actors Space – a beautiful setting in the hills of Catalunya

If you visit The Actors Space, the peaceful and communal ethos of the place becomes abundantly clear from the start. Yes, the work in the studio is important – it’s what has brought us here – but there is so much more. There’s the shared meals – home-cooked, using local produce as much as possible – taken around long wooden tables. There are the evenings after dinner, sitting and talking, or watching the bats and owls fly over the tree tops. There are the morning walks, through beautiful countryside, and the opportunity to swim in the pool, or just sit in the sun and read or write. There’s something very special about a residency in such a lovely environment, and the people you are with for the week become everything – family, friends, work colleagues. A tight-knit international community.

But what of the work inside that beautiful barn that serves as the training space? Simon says, ‘our strapline is “celebrating creativity” – and we really mean it!’

How the Actors Space operates, and what the work entails, has, Marian says, ‘developed organically’. It has grown from their training with Jacques Lecoq (who never espoused the notion of a ‘method’ in any case) to developing their own way of teaching, based on the observation of life, influenced by the work they have done around the world, and by their growing interest in film-making, both drama and documentary. Both speak of the need to continuously grow, change and develop as a teacher; to learn from your students and from the world.

‘In Iran, running a clown workshop, I learnt how much people valued coming together to tell stories, making each other laugh, blowing off steam – they influenced me deeply,’ says Simon.

‘As soon as there is a method, you’ve killed it,’ says Marian. ‘Killed the baby. Put it in a box. I teach in other places, and I am always researching.’ Tout bouge, as Monsieur Lecoq often said).

So, having started firmly wedded to the physical theatre work learnt with Lecoq – embracing movement theatre, mime, mask and clown – Simon and Marian have, whilst always honouring those roots and core practices – moved into very many other ways of working. They spend part of their year working on film projects, which have recently included some extraordinary documentary work with child soldiers in Colombia; and they have also worked in Ecuador creating radio pieces built around gang-leaders’ stories. Truth and reconciliation, and the part that theatre could play in those process  is a growing interest. ‘Even a small amount of expression of truth has power,’ says Simon. It is vital not to be cowed by oppression and injustice; to resist the tyrants and the
bullies; to see that justice wants to be seen to be done, and that this is the natural human order. Collective hope is important, to counter the feelings people (worldwide) have of being isolated or abandoned. Theatre, they believe, is a healing force, bringing people together – be it 8 or 800 people.

Inspired by these sentiments, Simon and Marian have also, in recent years, become involved with a local Carnival organisation in the small Catalonian town of Mollet (near Barcelona) – an opportunity for community celebration, and to laugh together at the ridiculousness of human behaviour.

Whatever media or environment they work in, they feel that they are always true to themselves: ‘This is the terrain: it is always about life, human relationships, how we deal with each other – our perceptions, dreams, realities…’

‘We need to hear stories,’ says Marian. ‘Who are we? What are the choices?’ These questions are paramount – and universal. The work they both do year-round, outside of The Actors Space, informs what they bring to the residencies there. As does their personal experiences – as a couple, as parents, as members of their local community (the centre is their year-round home).

The summer residencies at the school have grown to include acting to camera, directing for film and theatre, and dramatic scriptwriting workshops.

These workshops have joined The Art of Comedy, which takes the student on a fabulous journey from full mask to red nose to creating comic sketches on-camera (written about by Total Theatre here); and The Creative Actor, which brings together Lecoq influenced physicality with a development of the complete actor, voice and all.

‘Why separate the voice from the body?’ says Marian ‘We speak! The voice is part of the body…. Stanislavski played a very big part [in the development of the actor] but Lecoq said, Why just the head? What about the rest of the body? Physical training is very important but that doesn’t mean you can’t use words… Like a musician, you need to learn all your notes! Use the full spectrum to create.’

Nevertheless, it is good to note that, as Simon puts it: ’In action, there’s meaning. In words, there can be the opposite of meaning. Look at the times we are in: lies upon lies! You try lying with your body – you can do it, physically you can lie – but not like the lies in the twisted world of fake presidents, fake news, and “alternative facts”.’ Where are the Fools? he wonders. The Fools in the courts of the oligarchs who can bring them down to a human level. ‘Is there a new surrealism? The work needs to be created – to burst the egos of these maniacs who think they are in control of things.’

Ah, lies and truth… Simon and Marian are both fans of the screenwriting guru Robert McKee, and often quote his strapline, Write the Truth: ‘A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling,’ says McKee, ‘When society repeatedly experiences glossy, hollowed-out, pseudo-stories, it degenerates.’

Content is King.

Marian speaks of ‘the creative triangle – writing, acting, directing’ as part of the same act of creativity. ‘The creative actor is writing when they devise – everything goes together.’

Regardless of which workshop they are enrolled on, the crucial thing for participants is, as Simon puts it, for them ‘to really explore what they are interested in, to trust their life experiences’. He talks of the theatre process as being like a sophisticated extension of child’s play. Explore the conflicts, find the resolutions. ‘Entertainment is important,’ says Simon, ‘Fun is underestimated. But we don’t want to just indulge, or be frivolous. We want to find the poetic depths – our common humanity…’ And later, he says: ‘It is not about making change, it is about sharing truth.’ Speak your truth, write your truth, act your truth.

‘Theatre,’ says Marian, ‘Will not die. There is something about being in the moment, unedited. It is very different to film. It’s immediacy is special’. And, she emphasises, even though the annual courses might bear the same titles, each one is unique – developing its own special character depending on who is there. As they say on their website: ‘Each workshop creates a new culture, one that shares our common humanity. Participants are freed from their own cultural constrictions and opened to fresh possibilities and new ways of working.’

Maskmaking in the evening during The Creative Actor Workshop

And this is a good moment to note that there are always newcomers, but also very many ‘returners’ – people who have come back repeatedly over the past 20 years to this unique and special centre for theatre-makers and film-makers of all ages, experiences and nationalities. Marian says: ‘There is no Actors Space company, but it feels a bit like a company – there are people who come every year. There is a lot of trust – an environment of trust and safety. We only do this in the summer, which makes it very special.’

Simon talks of the returning experienced artists, and what they gain from the repeat experience, as having something to do with ‘the capacity to be a beginner [again] – allowing themselves to explore and discover’. And, on doing new things, and how successful that can be, he says: ‘Beginner’s luck isn’t luck, it’s a principle to be developed. In the not-knowing, inviting in the discovery.’

To be at the Actors Space is truly a gift – a way to give yourself the time and space for artistic renewal.

‘As long as people want to come here we will continue, it’s a wonderful experience for us and them’ says Marian. ‘Lecoq taught until he died – and we will continue as long as we are enjoying it.’

Long may that be!


Marian Masoliver and Simon Edwards

The Actors Space provide high quality training for actors, directors, writers, teachers and students of dramatic art.

Dorothy Max Prior attended the inaugural Dramatic Writing residency at The Actors Space in July 2018 as a guest of the centre. She has previously taken part in The Art of Comedy, Bouffon, and The Nomadic Fool residencies at The Actors Space, all previously written about for Total Theatre Magazine; and has led the Dance Yourself Stupid Eccentric and Comic Dance workshop there.

This summer’s residential workshops are:

Directing Performance only 3 places left!

19–27 July 2019 (including arrival and departure dates)

The Creative Actor

1–9 August 2019 (inclusive of arrival and departure dates)

The Art of Comedy

13–21 August 2019 (including arrival and departure dates)

For full details and to book see The Actors Space website.

This article was originally published by Total Theatre Magazine. See www.totaltheatre.org.uk

Celebrating 20 years at The Actors Space

Come and celebrate at The Actors Space, near Barcelona!

Dramatic Writing 24th-29th July (fully booked)
The Creative Actor 2nd-10th August
The Art of Comedy 14th-22nd August
Screen Acting 26th August-3rd September (only a few places available)

 

Just Feel It!

We live in a world that is so driven by thought. A world where people sit for hours and hours in front of a computer. What has happened to the expressiveness of the body? This body that has evolved over millions of years which travels through time and space and is driven by life’s essential rhythm?

Masks made by the students during The Creative Actor

 

Masks teach us to communicate through action, to fully inhabit our bodies, to project, to connect with the space and to fully relate with the other.

With expressive mask work the actors visibility is greatly reduced and the senses must work harder. Listening with the whole body is a skill that must be honed and practiced. This heightened awareness opens the door to the here and now. When an actor is open to feeling and responds to the moment something magical happens – dramatic life manifests. A small look, a slow gesture can transport the audience to the realm of the poetic.

The Neutral Mask – The Creative Actor

When an actor feels, his performance comes alive. Mask work becomes a powerful tool for the training of the actor.

So, just feel it!

The Creative Actor Workshop  2nd-10th August 2018

The Actors Space – Celebrating 20 years of creativity

From Fiction to Facts

In my life I am moving and evolving… dancing and flirting with acting,  teaching actors, directing actors,  script writing and now documentary/film making. It’s fascinating. And as I move and shift and jump from fiction to facts, from facts to fiction I realise that it is all the same thing… It’s about sharing truth. Because, like the elements, some things just are. To make a good documentry, just as to make a good show, structure is needed. These are some of the things we look at:

(Silence)
Space
Presence
Tempo
Relation
Rhythm
Conflict
Creixendo
Suspens
Event
Transformation
Space
(Silence)

We are born, we exist, we die. Three act structure. Aristotil  made the connection, he understood about the drama of life…

FARC guerrilla women in Colombia

 

I am about to go to Colombia to shoot a documentary called ‘Process of Peace’. I’ll be talking to ex-combatents and victims of the war that are trying to get back on their feet with the help of the ‘Peace Education Program’.

Here is a link to the trailer of the documentary we made in Ecuador about Gang Members moving from crime to doing social projects

And then, two months later, when I get back I’ll be teaching at The Actors Space on the International Summer Theatre & Film Workshops for actors and directors.

And every time it is new. Fresh, exciting, like every single breath…full of life!

Here are three thoughts for aspiring artists:

1/Learn from the best or from those that feel right to you.
2/Practice your art, experience it!
3/Trust your self and enjoy.

And here is book for those who want to write but don’t know where to start form by Natalie Goldberg ‘Writing down the bones’. I suggest you read it slowly, like eating a good meal, savouring each mouthful. It’s a short, easy to read book and it’s so potent that, like a good session of love making, it is good to make it last.

OK, I am done for today, if you fancy exploring your creativity and learning techniques as an actor or director you can come to The Actors Space this summer. The Screen Acting Workshop is fully booked (waiting list only). Only 4 places lefty on The Directing Performance Workshop. Places available on the other Theatre acting and directing workshops.

Wishing you the best creative life.

Cheers!

Marian

 

About The Art of Comedy Workshop

 

Last summer was my first time at the Actors Space doing ‘The Art of Comedy’ and it was for many reasons the most magical and constructive experience. In this generous, safe place that Marian & Simon have made, I learned to strip away my judgment and quieten my overthinking in order to really listen and react in the moment. To trust my instinct and to make brilliant ‘mistakes’.

I sometimes find the idea of remembering the joy a little silly, I create because I love to. But actually so often day to day and specifically in auditions since the workshop I find myself actively making the decision to relax, to have fun and to revel in playing. It’s a treat.

The course has given me the confidence to begin to create my own work and further explore my clown. It’s exciting. It has made my approach to working with others far less fearful. The wonderful structure of the course, the intelligent and spot on teaching and the beautiful setting made for a hugely positive time. I really couldn’t recommend it more. Thank you to the Actors Space. Words will not do you justice but you have stayed with me and I will be back.
Anna Brooks-Beckman, UK

Find out about The Art of Comedy Workshop

 

What participants have to say!

THE CREATIVE ACTOR: “For me, it was one of the most worthwhile weeks of my life and I certainly plan to return next year”. Sheyla Sly.

SCREEN ACTING: Thoroughly enjoyed the Screen Acting workshop! I learnt so much and I felt I developed a part of me I did not know existed. It has helped me prepare for an audition which I was successful in getting. Fantastic direction from Simon and Marian and an absolutely beautiful place to be learning in”. Tara Hodgson

ART OF COMEDY “The wonderful structure of the course, the intelligent and spot on teaching and the beautiful setting made for a hugely positive time. I really couldn’t recommend it more. Thank you to the Actors Space!”. Anna Brooks-Beckman

DIRECTING PERFORMANCE “My senses were filled, my creativity re-ignited and energised. I discovered skills i didn’t know i had. Marian and Simon create a safe non judgmental, yet growth environment that allows each student to feel they are contributing something. I absolutely loved it”. Janine Hardy.

Find out more…

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