Thoughts of a Drama School Boy No More

July 9, 2009

I have just come to an end of my drama school life. 3 years passed me by within a blink of an eye. So, it got me thinking about what I’ve learnt over this period of time, the sort of words of wisdom that I now hold. Of course I am a lot more maturer now than I ever was when I first started at the ripe age of 18, where I was eager to absorb everything I could as an actor. Interesting enough, I wouldn’t call myself an actor now by a long shot… I am somewhere between a performer [a vast difference than actor], a maker, a director, a writer, a… theatre maker or artist.

I’m pretty sure that some people are frowning at the term “theatre maker“, I remember a friend saying how ‘stuck up’ that sounds and how it’s far better to be called a theatre artist. No matter what labels you apply to yourself it is what you feel or want that matters. So all the same, my distinctions as to what I am in the theatre world is somewhat blurred, but there is nothing wrong with that.

Whilst I was at Drama School, it should be noted that I wasn’t on an acting course as such. I was ‘training’ in European Theatre Arts. The difference being that whilst we did train in acting methods and ideals, they were all born from European thinkers, practitioners and playwrights. Automatically the mindset of myself in terms of thinking as an actor/performer is slightly different from that of the ‘straight’ acting courses deep in method acting, I have a more European mindset.

My course took a more physical and contemporary look at theatre. We often engaged in lessons where we¬† would run around the room for an hour or so, before following another hour of rolling on the floor, without even speaking a line of text. What good does this do I hear you ask? It’s about training your body, to understand your body and to feel your body.

Again, it all sounds rather ‘airy fairy’ but for a actor/performer to have an understanding of their body is essential. To know where your body is in relation to everyone else in the class easily translates to when you are performing and being acutely aware of the distances between each of your fellow actors without needing to look.

You begin to learn an awareness and the essence of the ensemble.

Performers, Critics, and general theatre-going people are very quick to throw this idea of ‘the ensemble’ around. I can’t help but to think that there is a distinct lack of understanding as to what an ensemble actually is and does. For me, an ensemble are a group of performers who work together, extensively together in order to produce a form of theatre. They are a unit, a single body, and a team. Ensemble can be seen in the way that a Greek Chorus work with each other to build the dramatic action within a performance. From my learning, one of the easiest ways of creating theatre is as a collective, as this ensemble.

You learn to trust the ensemble, you gain support from the ensemble and you work together to form the ensemble.

This quickly can lead onto another fundamental idea that I learnt. Whilst there is an ensemble collectively working together to produce work, the role of the director as God, is dead. This might seem dramatic, but I have been trained that the time of when the director who rules over everyone, making all decisions and choices for a performance – this can no longer take place.

We are in the golden age of collaboration. We as performers are directors, or we are working with directors. What I am trying to get across is that the notion that the director and performer working together, collaboratively is what theatre is moving towards. By joining minds, you join together different perspectives of the creative work, and thus giving a broader outlook upon a piece of theatre. Collaboration also is found with designers too, where every element is brought together as a whole. Instead of one ruling person overseeing a production.

Some people might take delight in the fact that whilst I seem to be very critically minded through the articles I post on ‘A Younger Theatre’, my experiences come directly from being a performer myself. My course has built a variety of skills within me to work with companies in creating something which I completely throw my life into.

If I have learnt anything, it is a deep, deep, passion for an art form that I am willing to dedicate my life to. So maybe watch this space…?