Ria Samartzi, Participant actor It is the third week of the actor’s course and, as is now customary, we begin with a game of volleyball. One of the observer directors is running the game and Kristine is observing. We are then asked to comment on how playing this game with one director is different from playing it with another. Suddenly it becomes really important to say the right thing, to express what you have observed in the right language, in a manner that will be constructive for your colleagues and promote your joint artistic endeavour. On the first session Kristine talked about the language we use in the rehearsal room and how important it is that it is ‘appropriate’ and helpful. This made a great impression on me at the time as it was a concept I had never come across before and, being analytical by nature, I found both interesting to observe and something to watch out for when I am speaking. Talking about our volleyball experience perfectly illustrated the point for me.
The later part of the session was spent working on scenes. The recurring theme of how to allow yourself or set yourself up as an actor in a scene so you can play well was at the centre of the work. Setting yourself a task, action, improvisation you know you will enjoy playing is a good start. Knowing and adjusting the parameters that make you good and avoiding negative tendencies are also tools to help you stay connected. Another useful observation, both for directors and actors alike, was that when something isn’t working for you or the actor you need to change it. I think it was the readiness and also the confidence with which Kristine provided the actors with tailor-made-on-the-spot exercises and improvisations and also her ability to quickly modify the ones that weren’t rendering any results that allowed some of the scenes to start coming to life and become believable and enjoyable to watch and the actors in them to play well.
Reflecting on the workshop so far I have one main thought/question: can an actor only be as good as the director they are working with or is there a way to also learn how to be good always? Is that maybe what we call acting skill?
Jen Tan - Participant Actor
Since I graduated from drama school 4 years ago, Kristine is the only person to have directly challenged me to be better. There is a rigour and specificity in the way that she works. Yes, play is paramount (playing as an actor NOT a child – not “being playful”) and it is important to have fun but it is important to be specific and authentic in your work. I am trying to use the learning experience inside of this workshop series to find a way to find that specificity and authenticity for myself so that I can move forward in my practice and be as good as I can be in workshops with Kristine on my own. After all, she’s not going to be in the UK much longer. I was really exhilarated to have seemingly done that in last week’s session when I managed to find my way through my monologue on my own. I really tried my best to apply notes I’d been given in the past to a new text, dodging my bad habits and approaching the performance with a spirit of openness and engagement with the actor who was helping me in that moment.
This week we moved on from monologues to looking at duologues together. Ryan and I didn’t perform ours this week, but when we were working we tried to find an improvisation which would help us access the scene in an authentic way. And, wow, it’s hard enough to think of improvisations and then adding that on top of keeping a check on whether the improvisation is working for you both from inside of it. I’d like to explore whether it’s possible to inhabit the improvisation and find a way to tweak it from the inside. I don’t have an answer for that yet. Something else I’m looking to interrogate as part of these sessions is a way of playing with someone who doesn’t want to play with you – coping with the selfish actor.
Someone had asked about playing with the audience so Kristine’s been setting various people a clowning exercise which involves miming to a song you don’t know and selling it like you know it. That’s a terrible description, but what it is is incredibly exposing for the performer and requires a delicate interaction between them and the audience members to encourage a complicity in the game where the failure is the pleasure and the joke. I look forward to trying it myself soon.
Lou-Lou Mason, Participant Actor
This is my third week on the Tamasha Acting Course. Kristine's honest and inspiring approach is completely different to anything I've encountered before. The free and spontaneous nature of the exercises encourages a spontaneous, free response for me, both in character and out. I've been mystified, to be honest, at the approach. My previous training has been academic, naturalistic and almost process driven based on text and character analysis and to lay all that to one side and just engage in 'Play' and then transfer that to acting has been really liberating. I have been watching and observing or taking part and not really understanding how the approach works, but watching my class-mates, and feeling the responses to the exercises within me, it so obviously does! The improvisation exercises Kristine uses might not appear at first to be relative to monologue or scene work, but through the exercise, the essence of the text comes through, and the result organically manifests itself which the actors can then transfer to the text. It's very much a learning by doing process.
Kristine's approach has encouraged me to relax and not to anticipate a character's response, and instead endeavour to stay in the moment, stay with my scene partner, and react in a much more immediate, honest way. Kristine has encouraged me to explore acting choices which i wouldn't have considered before. I believe the course is making me a much more instinctive performer, and also by engaging more truthfully, more completely, with my scene partner, hopefully I'm becoming a better scene partner for my fellow actors too.