Our Founder and Artistic Director, Kevin Dowsett, shares his thoughts on connection and the importance of being in the moment:
For about 30 years I have been using an exercise with actors to wake them up. A lot of people don’t fully check in with their attention in acting class. They need to for this one.
I ask the group to split into two and line their chairs up facing each other so they can see a person opposite them and others at the side. The two lines are about 15 feet apart. I say that all they need to do is stand at the same time together and walk towards each other. But it has to be together, and no one must lead.
Off they go and it’s very easy to see one or two people standing up quickly in a sort of follow-me-everyone way. So, I stop them and remind them that it’s not about someone taking the lead and the rest following, it’s about everyone feeling the moment together.
“You’d be amazed how often so-called-leaders think they can’t be spotted.”
A moment of panic sets in as they start to realise that it’s not quite as easy as they first thought. I help them a bit. I say if you look at the person opposite you can see whether they are with you. In fact, if you’re clever you can see more than one of them. Even more if that whole other side is mirroring your side. then you can, in a way, see everyone. They try again – often with the same result. You’d be amazed how often so-called-leaders think they can’t be spotted. Maybe they don’t have the patience to wait.
Then you have the other extreme – the people who look so laid back that 100 volts wouldn’t rise them from their chair – they look like they are never getting up. I tell them that part of this exercise is about being ready to receive information and, without speaking, signalling that you are too are ready to go. I suggest they sit on the edge of their chair – showing readiness to roll. I even give them a clue of what they might be thinking. “I’m ready to go. Are you? Hello? Let’s go. Is it now?”
Still they try and still they find that some people are raring to go while others wait to see what happens. If this is so, I get them to link arms, so they are at least connected with the people on either side. Sometimes it works and together they feel the moment and act on it. When it does everyone feels they were in the same moment, but boy did they work for it. They are usually euphoric.
“To my surprise he gave the same instructions and asked his audience to stand together at the same moment.”
I was reminded of this when, this weekend, I heard the sad news of the death of Peter Brook, the hugely influential theatre director. I once went to hear him give a talk at the National Theatre in London. To my surprise he gave the same instructions and asked his audience to stand together at the same moment. We tried our best but a jam-packed theatre facing in one direction made it very difficult. We failed but it didn’t matter, his point was that good theatre brings everyone to a place of communion, we try to be in this moment together, and feel as one.
Here was a director who followed his instincts, who wanted to wake up the world and find a space to come together and recognise truth in what we see. A visionary. A true loss to the theatre.
For over thirty years, Theatretrain has been providing top-quality classes in acting, singing and dancing to kids and teenagers all over the United Kingdom. If you would like further information on what our award winning theatre schools for young people can provide your child then do get in touch with you local centre.