BEHAVIOR is the key point in The Chart that gives us
This work is at the foundation of all communication, the
experience of the body in processing its connections, the
body being the channel though which all communication
flows. It does not teach acting. In that craft the artist
creates all of the specific meanings of each element of the
world that the person is connected to, as well as the
specifics of who the character is, and the specific
relationships of the person to that world.
The better the actor is in his crafting, the more fully this
technique will work.
The follwing material is only an introduction. Each of these topics are expressed in the various videos online.
(The Five Senses)
(The transformation of the inner physical life of the body)
We establish contact with the people and our surroundings. This occurs through our five senses.
(Just let yourself plunge into, give into, and do the following easily and quickly, as though it might be part of the beginning of a role that you are preparing for).
Imagine yourself---at this very instant---out of doors. Either actually go out, or imagine yourself going. You may be outside on the street, a beech, or in your yard, or the woods, or even in a city subway. What do you feel if you let your senses become totally alive to every person, every sound, alive to the colors in every object around you, to the smells of the town, the trees, the street, or to the touch of the pavement or earth under your feet? Just let your senses bounce from one thing, one place to another. You can't do this wrong. Just take in what ever comes to you.
Can you allow yourself to just keep expanding the life of your senses to more and more of the elements of your world in this moment? If your fantasy takes you to a new place, enjoy the journey! Colors, smells, sounds, heat or cold on your skin, give over to whatever this sensual aliveness does to you.
No thinking. Just experience.
This is Contact with our world through the five senses.
This is the most important principal of this physical technique: the inner physical life of the body must be transformed by the sensory contact, point one of the chart. When actors' vital inner systems are completely opened, their sensory contact activates the inner life of the body. Their total body becomes involved. Experience occurs. This interaction with the world around us is the meaning of the word Experience.
Every exercise for the first class to the most advanced is to develop a body in which this transformation (Experience) can occur. In this work, the body must become receptive: the muscular system must become free from those constrictions that produce defensiveness and anxiety; skeletal alignment must bring the body into the balance that services the unique demands of the character; breath becomes responsive to each sensory stimulus, and added to these must come the heightened sense of touch, and smell.
When Experience occurs, at that point we have a relationship. We are transformed by any person or place to which our senses connect us. Without this inner transformation, what ever we see-hear-taste-touch-smell becomes the property of the intellect, something we define, describe, think about. Or worse, we, unknowingly, pretend that we are connected to a person, a place when it actually is meaningless to us.
The following questions are an extension of the first point of the Chart: Contact. These questions, however, begin to deal with the specific sensory contacts through which an actor creates his character, circumstances, and relationships.
No matter how delicate or powerful, can you allow an experience to occur in your breathing, your muscular system, and all the other areas of your body as you travel thorough this events. Just give over to the sensory contacts. Take as much time with each as you wish.
Look into a sky streaked in the limitless colors of a sunset;
Relish the smell of a lover;
Feel the water on the skin of your body as you lower yourself into a warm bath?
Taste each mouth of the foods in a meal of your favorite meals;
Suddenly from behind you, you hear the voice of your most trusted friend who's been away from you for a long time;
When you arrive home after long day, hear the bark of your dog that may also be your most trusted friend and hold him in your arms.
The above is our introduction to Experience. Now we will look at Experience more specifically. The simplest explanation for these headings is that our connection with the life of the woods in a great storm, or street with its screeching music of horns and people shouting, of wonderful meal by the fire place, these can be a beginning of our transformation---physically and spiritually. But in art there are the extraordinary experiences and transformations that occur with out relationships with other human beings.
Connection is experience that is built on the first point of the Chart, sensory contact, but its unique characteristic is that it does not require an interaction with, or response from, that the person, place, or thing with which we have a Connection. Connection occurs with anything with which our senses establish contact: a person on the seat in front of us on a bus, a tree (yes, hugging a tree if that is your bent) or a blade of grass in a field, the flower in the window box of your apartment, a court scene in Imperial Russia, the waves breaking at the beach.
Through Connection our bodies receive the simplest from of Experience. It activates---transforms---own the inner physical life. And as such it may be the foundation of all artists' contact with life. Connection is our first experience of living in the current moment. It is the world of Henry David Thoreau in his world at Walden Pond. As a human being his life was transformed.
His life there had a profound influence on the young people of the late 1960's. At their best they were looking for a world uncluttered by self-serving politics and values that led to sterile lives. They embraced fully Thoreau's hurled out condemnation, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" (Chapter, Economy). In his chapter on "Solitude" Thoreau says, "I love to be alone. I never found a companion so companionable as solitude".
Personally, in my lodge in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains---I have lived the life of Walden Pond for many years longer than his two. I wish every artist, actor, and human being could have the profound experience of living each day experiencing the world around us. Each day, each moment of each day is one of transformation. Only in the world of Çonnection can we stand without the clutter of definitions of who we should be, without future ambitions, without plans on how to live our life in the next minute or day. We stand only Connected to our world in the current moment.
Exercise and thoughts for consideration:
See a person who is down the street or across the yard, who is not looking back at you, and allow yourself to experience what ever the life is that you see in them?
Stand in a woods, a park, your own yard and let yourself become aware that every growing thing around is an alive being. The trees, the shrubs, the ground under you are not objects to look at. They are living constantly growing beings. Can you let that reality come alive in you. The roots on the tree near you are under your feet as you stand on that ground. It's plain fact the those roots are taking in nutriments from the soil under your feet and that is traveling through that tree up into the highest leaves that you can see in that tree. The roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves are alive. Just let that life come alive in you. Let it open your own breathing, your blood circulation, our muscular softness releasing the compressions in your spine. e.e cummings had his go in his poem, "If everything happened that can't be done." His words for describing the center of all life was a simple experience, "so world is one leaf, so tree is one bough, and birds sing sweeter than books tell how".
Walt Whitman's masterpiece Leaves of Grass--- for many readers one of the greatest celebrations in poetry of the human experience---rests in one simple event, his experience of, his connection with, "a spear of summer grass". Of his connection with it he says, "I invite my soul."
Can you, as did Whitman, spend time with the simplest of connections for you, even a blade of grass? Then allow your entire inner life to be transformed by this simple connection.
Contact can be the beginning of our life transformed. It is our first event in living in the moment.
Contact is often thought to be best found in the mysteries of Solitude. Intimacy is profoundly not. Intimacy is the second of our areas of Experience, and built on sensory contact and connection. It occurs when we allow our own experiences, connections---our inner life---to flow into the experiences of another person, and another person's experiences flow into us. Intimacy is the ultimate vulnerability in sharing. There can be no defenses. Intimacy, therefore, is shared connection, and therefore must be a physical occurrence. It is a connection that bypasses intellect, and leaves both people totally presence in the experience of one another.
Intimacy is rare, a mutual inter sharing of experiences. There can be no Romeo and Juliet lacking intimacy of the two actors. There can be no duet of two great musicians without intimacy. We could say that the basic issue in all theater is one of intimacy between the characters or the lack, or even destruction of intimacy.
Empathy occurs…poetically; empathy is living in another being's experiences, and the surrender of any of our own gratifying experiences in return. Empathy requires complete acceptance of the life in another person and the suspension of all judgment or monitoring of another person with preconceived definitions of who or what they should be. Of all experiences in life---and art---it is the most demanding. Empathy is the foundation of all nurturing: allowing our life to be activated by the experiences of another being and allowing that life to flow back into them, with the sole experience of giving life to someone else. Most often in characters in plays, these are the heroes, martyrs, saints, or the people who are fully experience and simply selfless. The most interesting characters are those who are a mixture of selfishness and empathy.
A father holding his frightened daughter, and is conscious of no existence outside of keeping her safe.
The political leader who never questions that his major work is to protect the quality of life for his people.
Once again, Empathy leaves us completely in the experience of the present moment. Our inner physical life is fully activated by what see, smell, touch and the experience bypasses intellect.
The experiential involvement of the inner life of the body---such as the activity of circulatory, respitory, nervous, muscular systems---emerges from us in the form of BEHAVIOR such as sounds or gestures. However, behavior in acting, indeed in any communication, is completely the product of experience. This definition requires that behavior is the product of a body that is vulnerable to experience. The behavior itself is vulnerable. It is expressive of the experiences that transformed the inner life of the body. Such behavior in turn enriches our relationship with our original CONTACT, which enriches EXPERIENCE. The circle continues with more enriched BEHAVIOR. For the artist---in our work the artist actor---initial contact with a person, place, or thing begins a cycle of communication that grows more and more rich, as the moment, the scene, the play continues.
Examples: (in each case the line of dialogue leaves every possibility for a circle of communication to begin.)
The effortless expression, "I hate you", when seeing, hearing, touching the brother who betrayed you.
The ringing celebration of "I love you", to the person who has given you wonderful support.
"I swear I will kill you", can come rolling out in bitter laughter instead of screaming tension, when the actor is totally open to experiencing the person he or she hates.