TOTAL THEATRE writer Dorothy Max Prior captures the essence of what it is to be a Clown during our summer residential workshop ‘THE ART OF COMEDY’ at The Actors Space near Barcelona.
Read the complete review of this week-long workshop which sold out last year. The course focusses on exploring comic creation, our own ‘Ridiculousness’ and how we can apply it in comic and dramatic acting.
Are you ready? It is day one of The Art of Comedy and already we are getting to the crux of the matter…
Find out about other Actors Space Theatre and Film acting and directing workshops
I was 23 when I first got to go to The Actors Space and I belived I already knew a lot about theatre. This was quite sweet and naive. My first two weeks with Marian and Simon during ‘The Creative Actor’ workshop killed a fair part of my ego and opened an entire new world of theatre to me, a world that was not so much based on realism as on magical playfulness. Where other people feel that the play doesn’t work, but cannot properly describe the trouble, Simon and Marian find precise words to explain the irritation and also show you how to avoid this irritations in the future. Their teaching is very much from the heart and at the same time impressively sharp-witted.
I came back a year later for ‘The Art of Comedy’, because I was about to direct a Clown paly in Germany. I learned so much during this course, by watching the play and listening to the teachers and slowly starting to understand, why some play mechanics work and others don’t.
I got back to Germany and our Clown play touched the audience to laughter and tears. I also made a production of Molières ‘Malade Imaginaire’. On the first evening we had about 200 spectators (already a lot for a layman group), on the third and last night there were more than 400! Even guests from Thailand who didn’t understand the words had to laugh at the strong and amusing physicality. I also applied at a public university (Folkwang) for Physical Theatre and got into the finals (then they took oher people, damn it! :0) )
I owe so much of this succes to Marian and Simon. Sometimes I hear myself using precisely their words to describe theatre. The Actors Space is a wonderful place to stay, to learn and to go back to, both in reality and memory.
Ari Nadkarni, Germany.
My name is Orla Burke and I am from Ireland. I came here in September 2011 to do the Directing Performance Course. I had experience in acting so I wanted to learn more about other aspects of performance. The course description said that there was an emphasis on the “creative triangle” – writing, directing and acting.
The Directing Course is five days long. I wondered what one could achieve in such a short amount of time. On the very first day I had my first light bulb moment. I, along with most of the other participants, “failed” at the very first exercise that we were set. However it was one of the most satisfying failures I have ever experienced. That very night I sat down and wrote a script based on what I had discovered that day.
We were asked to bring along a script we would like to direct. We worked through this and also had to do a session of directing in front of the whole group. Normally I would have thought that this would have been like one of those horrible dreams where you realise you are naked in front of everyone you know! However Simon and Marian created an atmosphere where you felt safe to explore and take risks.
Simon and Marian have a wealth of experience and generously share this with the participants. They trained with Jacques Lecoq in Paris and have worked both as actors and in other aspects of theatre and filmmaking. Their respect for the performer shone through. For participants coming from a technical background such as filmmaking, this course is an excellent bridge between technical training and the art of working with performers. All directors must act at least once on the course. I thought this was particularly helpful as it gave potential directors, who may never have worked as actors before, a chance to feel what it is like to act. This in turn could help directors to be more compassionate towards the actor. Without actors we are nothing so we must treat them with respect in order to continue in our work as directors.
Every one of the directors must write a short piece based on the principles learned throughout the week. Simon and Marian had drummed into us that you “should not direct what you write, you should not act in what you direct”. I could see the potential pitfalls of doing either of these, however on Friday I was to have my eyes opened to the potential of the creative triangle.
I was given two pieces of advice before embarking on the writing – “Trust the actors” and “Trust the writing”. With this in mind I scoured the piece of any extraneous stage direction and exposition.
I handed Simon one sheet of paper the next day. He looked at it questioningly “You know it has to be three minutes?” I said it would be and went off to direct the piece he had just given me.
That evening at the showing my piece was up first. I had no idea what to expect as I had wanted to have the audience experience of “the reveal”. I had known what I was writing about the night before but the director and actors had made an even stronger choice than I could have imagined. I was blown away by the depth they brought to the piece. We were all moved by the piece and I was moved to tears! At the time I felt that it was not my story but an even better story than I could have envisioned. (Later when I returned home I realised it was my story – I could just not see it at the time.)
Time at the actors space is not all work work work. In fact Simon and Marian’s philosophy is “Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy” (And when you have finished doing that enjoy a little bit more!) The work of directing is punctuated with relaxation exercises and warm-ups that feed the directing work. In the evenings you can socialise with the other participants and explore the beautiful surroundings.
I have found the work here has kept me inspired for months afterwards. I have continued writing and performing with the ideas I have learned here. One thing that stuck with me as a performer is that when auditioning for parts but I should also audition directors. This is my chosen art and I want to know that directors I work with will respect me as an artist. It has also inspired me to want to work with people who have trained here.
I would recommend this course to anyone interested in the creative process. Whether you see yourself as an actor, director or writer this course will give you a chance to do all three. If you see yourself as only one of these, you may discover you have a talent for one of the others. If you are a writer you will get a chance to see your work performed by highly talented actors. If you have ever been hurt during the creative process, you will see that there is an alternative to result directing and meet people you would like to work with in the future. As a director the training is excellent – although not a long course it is deep and thorough. Not only a great starting place for fledgling directors but also a great refresher course for directors mid-career that will keep you inspired for a long time to come.
One word of warning about coming to The Actor’s Space – its addictive. You may enjoy yourself so much here that you want to come back again and again. I hope you get the chance to come here at some stage and if you do “Bon Viatge!” with your journey. You will not regret it.
The Actor’s Space offers professional Lecoq-based theatre and film courses throughout the summer. It’s in the mountains around Vic about an hour from Barcelona. The courses take place in the idyllic setting of 16th century farmhouse. The courses are fully residential with food and lodging included in the price.
Yes we are all different and yet we are all the same. When we see a tree, a sunset, climb a mountain…The Neutral Mask allows the actor to be present in the space. As human beings we have been given good imagination. Instantly the images come, we just need to let them in. As if for the first time the Neutral Mask sees, touches, hears….It has a state of awarness…technically the mask raises the level of tension of the body and teaches the actor to project physically. The movement becomes clean, clear and amplified. It finds an economy of movement which is precious and poetic. It engages the whole body and it finds the attitudes (strong dramatic moments of stillness).
A well-worn Neutral Mask is beautiful. It shows us the essence of men and women. It’s a very precious tool for the actor. Not just physically (actors will benefit a lot in terms of ‘cleaning’ their body), but also emotionally and psycologically. When we come from the Neutral Mask we are detached. When we play a character we don’t need to come from a place which is personal. We can understand that as human beings we have anger, hate, rage as well as tenderness, love, kindness… If we can tap in that which is common to all (because we are humans and is part of our spectrum), we can have a distance and actually even ‘enjoy’ playing someone nasty… This is very helpful for film work as well as theatre. The Neutral Mask taught me this. This is why I love Lecoq’s approach because it is so healthy!
Theatre is an Art. And when it is carefully cultivated and understood it can tell us about Truth.
With so much bad news in the world the only way to counter it is to focus on the good!!! Why do we need to tangle ourselves on all sorts of absurd problems? What has happened? (as you might have guessed I just read the paper, you see, part of me wants to be informed of what is going on of course, but I must admit that every time I read the paper I regret it!)
Have we not got enough reasons to celebrate? Reasons like Love, kindness, Respect, Beauty, Nature, Children, Life?…
Here is a video about two shows I just directed
‘I spent three consecutive summers in the glorious world of the Actors Space learning mask, clowning and on the “Acting for Camera” course, which was paradoxically the place where I first tried my hand at writing a script. Working with Marian and Simon was the experience that reminded me what I was meant to be doing with my life! The simple mantra that is “Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy” has stayed with me and so much about their sheer joy, sensitivity, wonder, playfulness and also their robust analysis of what makes good theatre continues to inform what I’m up to. I can’t thank them enough for the open-hearted, crazy, joyful world that they create up in their Spanish hills for people to take risks, discover and figure out what it’s all about’.
The attitude of a beginner is great. They are completely open and don’t have any bad habits that are hard to shake off. A pure and uncontaminated actor, if they are enthusiastic, committed and enjoy playing, they are a pleasure to work with.
I feel that this is where I have to come from as a director. When I approach a new project it is so important to me to be open and listen…find out what is there, in the space, in the actors, in the play. This is my job, like a gardener I must care for and develop the good, the rich and the healthy. I must not impose what is in my head… my ideas can become weeds.
How important is it to enjoy when we are playing? Without it there is nothing, it’s dead, dead!!!! Technique can be learned BUT without the enjoyment mmmmmhhhh, clinical, may be impressive but not moving. How many times have I seen an actor and have said, they are good, they are impressive, but was I touched? No!!!
‘Amateur’: Lover of ( French)
We actors have to be lovers of acting…(please, if you don’t enjoy it don’t do it! The way I see it, it is not a good idea to suffer…) Enjoyment has to be an ESSENTIAL tool for an actor, to be used over and over again. And when it is not enjoyable, take 5, go for a walk…come back to it after you have cleared the cobwebs from your head!
Technique can be learned (let’s make sure we learn the right techniques and not those who screw people’s heads up…) and if you are going to make a show make sure the script is good and you are in the hands of a good director (very important). Actors sometimes think that they are not good enough, that they have to be better. But if the structure of a house is not good, you can’t get in it. So, how is an actor suppose to come up with the goods if there is no dramatic structure?
I am doing a play with amateur actors about the king of Carnival. He comes around Feb/March every year to tell everyone to enjoy, party, go mad and don’t listen to rules. After a week of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ everyone becomes chaotic. He gets caught by the authorities, judged and burned.
These guys, the actors I am working with, are doing this because they enjoy it, and get a sense of achievement from it. That is it, no money attached to it. I am the only one that is getting paid by the Town Council. Tricky… The Town Council are paying for a show that is essentially about rebelling against authority! No wonder they ‘censored’ my first script!! They felt threatened by it (it was not at all my intention, innocent as I am…) a shame I think… any parent that is self critical and can laugh at their own authority is a better parent. The worst are those who pretend that they do, but in reality they don’t! But hey, I understand, these days people are pretty burned out…
It is fun to work with Amateurs…because they love it…!
This outdoor show, with live music, will be performed on the 19th Feb for an audience of 4000 people in Mollet del Vallès. I will share my experience on the next blog…Keep having fun!
The Actors Space is a centre dedicated to the professional training and development of the creative actor. Now taking bookings for the 2012 Summer Workshops
This is a video by Tom Adams, he is an ex-student of The Actors Space. He is doing a gig on Tuesday 14th Feb in Manhattan 34, 34 Rutland Street, Leicester at 19:00.
Do go if you are around, he is very funny!
Marian Masoliver- Teacher, Director.
When I was little I wanted to be a dancer until I discovered the power of theatre and how good it felt to be angry on stage. At primary school I had a fantastic drama teacher, Joan Anguera (today a renowned Catalan actor). My big success came when I played Satan at the age of 8 for the school Christmas play.
During my childhood I spend a lot of time at my family’s farm. I remember the Shepard, an old man with a wrinkled, dark face and huge ears. He was wild, knew about the weather and had a female dog that looked like a black sheep. One day I found her breast feeding a piglet! One of my favourite things was to put my hand inside the mouth of the baby calves, they didn’t have any teeth and would suck and suck onto my hand…It produced a feeling of both danger and pleasure in me (something I also experience in performance)…
At 17 I went to study Theatre in Barcelona and from there to Paris to train with Jacques Lecoq at his international theatre school. There I met my partner Simon Edwards.
Lecoq was followed by 10 years of working as an actress: I travelled across half of the planet and had a thrilling bohemian lifestyle. At 22 I was hanging naked from a crane in the middle of ‘les Rambles’ in Barcelona with The Theatre Company ‘La Fura dels Baus’. While touring with Kneehigh Theatre in one of the shows that Simon directed, I ended up in the township of Soweto in South Africa. In New Mexico I played in community centres and old peoples homes with the Puppet Theatre “Los Titiriteos” (which my dear sister runs).
One day, as if by magic, the animals of the farm left. And the actors came…!!!
It’s been 14 years and I feel that The Actors Space is more alive than ever. We must have done around 50 international workshops, with approximately 1000 participants from over 50 different countries (you can click here to find out about this years workshops).There has been a lot going on here, Theatre, Film, Clowning (of course), Artists, Musicians, Flamenco, Magicians and Feldenkrais to mention some. Many shows and films have been made. One thing I know: it’s been fun! My future plans? To continue walking the path of artistic creation, and, hopefully, say something worth saying to the world.
I am now directing an outdoor Mask Theatre Show. It will be performed during Carnival to an audience of 4000 people. Fun, fun, fun!…
Simon Edwards- Teacher, Director.
A blog? What exactly is a blog, it sounds like something my cat might do in the corner of the room if she were locked in all night.
You will have to forgive me, I think Im suffering from cabin fever (not to be confused with cabin phobia which is fear of small buildings, two completely different things).
OK, so the plan is to share on this ‘blog’ some of our creative adventures and experience, including tips, techniques and videos so that this can be a further resource for training and creative expression.
This is a little taster of something I am working on at the moment.
I’ve been creating shows for more than 30 years and I have to say that something extraordinary is happening. A revolution is unfolding in the way that we connect and communicate with each other. This phenomena is clearly visible (on the political side of things) with those recent shifts of power around the world. From an artistic point of view new horizons are appearing. As Jung pointed out we are way too dependent on science and technology, civilisation needs art to help guide the way…. This more so than ever in this age, as we risk becoming corrupted by the art of power rather than freed by the power of art.
It’s a very exciting time to be creating work, with the new technology for making and sharing dramatic art now being more accessible than ever. It’s time to get into action, to get going with all those creative projects that we have only been able to dream about until recently. There is an opportunity for creative artists to get their work across to a previously unimaginably huge audience, by passing the established hierarchies of tv and film and being able to share directly with ‘your’ audience. This of course also applies to theatre artists, as by engaging online with the audience you can get them to know about the next show and share when they can see it.
It all comes down to two things WHAT do you want to share and HOW? How creative do you want to be?
For Marian and I The Actors Space has been a dream come true and as we continue to realise that dream we aspire to help other artists realise their creative dreams also!
If you have any comments or questions to ask (personal or professional) please post them below and we will try to answer as swiftly as possible. Happy new year of the Dragon!!!
The Actors Space is a centre dedicated to the professional training and development of the creative actor. Now taking bookings for the 2012 Summer Workshops