3 Day Actors' Course with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ali Zaidi, Participant Actor Working with Kristine teaches you many things. Essentially you come to understand your place in the process of theatre, you know you are there on-stage to play truthfully with the other actor. Kristine has an excellent ability to guide actors from any background, of any race, towards realising this. With the use of well-crafted improv scenes actors come to bring the freedom and joy of play they experience in the improv to any scene, thus creating (in my opinion) excellent theatre. My greatest joy of that weekend - next to working with Kristine one final time before she leaves for Australia - was to see actors come to realise the ideal Kristine pushes for and to revel in it. It was a pleasure to be in the room.

Bomy Gandhi, Participant Actor

‘Where to start and where to end’, is always the case when you are out seeking knowledge and well, when you write a blog. So much to learn and so much to say.

To begin with, I feel extremely pleased having done this Masterclass with Kristine. Having thought about it for few months, and finding out that this might be last opportunity for long time to come, I had to be there.

Being a beginner in the arena of acting, I wasn’t sure what to expect and what was expected out of me, but the very first day itself was eye opener. The fact that the concept is ‘actor-centered’ made it very easy to forget the worries and have ‘pleasure-to-play’. Constructive feedback, practical exercises which stretch your thought process, focus on actors and utilising their strengths were best part of the 3 day workshop. Kristine’s strive to focus on strengths of an actor and bringing the best performance out of them, makes one feel confident and focused on playing their strengths and make an actor ‘real’ in performance. Kristine’s approach of constantly engaging artists instead of one-way communication, has definite impact on performance, instantly.

Being part of a diverse group in terms of experience, skills, background and approach, it was a workshop filled with lot of learning. The positive change in performance and ease of playing a scene were well evident at each stage of the workshop.

I hope to continue on what I’ve learnt and learn more from Christine in future.

For me as an actor, ‘Tamasha’ is vital. Thank You.

Cathy Conneff, Participant Actor

To me the whole course wasn't just about acting and finding your voice on the stage. I found the whole weekend made me question who I am as a person and why I have chosen to go into acting in the first place: this is a good thing.

It became apparent to me, that I have been using acting as a refuge to hide from myself, to forget myself and leap whole-heartedly into living life onstage "as another person". Not that I ever realised that I was doing this. I have been creating a mask, based on my perception of myself and projecting this back onto myself meaning that I end up as some weird, slightly odd stereotype of me. It was very difficult to let go of this and there were times over the course that I struggled and felt very exposed and uncomfortable and, dare I say it, incompetent.

However, I had a breakthrough on the last day of the course and let, for once, the text do the work and it just felt right.

Ana Baldia, Participant Actor

Kristine approaches the scene from a very logical point of view. First, she focuses on the actor. She has very high expectations from her actors, and works with a blunt honesty which, in return, places the actor in a position of vulnerability and honesty that helps them creating a raw but believable scene. She is quick at getting rid of the egos in the rehearsal room and clear and precise with her directions. She uses a diversity of games in rehearsals which develop in actors a sense of spontaneity, alertness and complicity that permeates the common ground and helps building a common language in the rehearsal space.

Then, she approaches the text with the same degree of commitment and honesty. Her approach is sophisticated and yet simple. She tends to unravel the scene rather than compose it. The actor is expected to fill in the text with their own self- their accents, backgrounds or life experiences. Her proposal is for the actor to play. Her understanding is that the audience wants to see the performer PLAY.

When studying the scene, Kristine asks the actor not to over prepare. She expects the actor to be open instead and respond viscerally to what is happening in the moment, in the scene. To maintain this authenticity, the actors must first connect- with themselves and to one another. In this, Kristine’s method focuses more on reaction and less on action. She prompts the actors with improvisations which allow them to find either and emotional or a physical state which serves the scene. She builds atmospheres.

By exploring the actor’s default (each actor’s blocks or habits) and contradicting it, she releases the actor so they can find freshness and vitality in their work each time.

Jess Woo, Participant Actor

There was a fantastic diversity of culture and experience within our group. Everyone was really open, friendly and committed. It was a supportive environment in which to play. I think I learned as much if not more observing others as I did in my own work. I felt proud of us as a group, and was surprised how quickly we gelled.

Kristine was great. She made the three days fun, and she was supportive and honest – she could immediately recognise the “issues” or blocks of each actor, and knew what to do to help us past these problems. She gave clear advice, and was patient but challenged us constantly to be good and not settle for “passable” when “great” was achievable.

It was revelatory to see the intracultural part of the process in action, and how much difference improvisation around a scene tailored to the individual actor could inject it with life and energy. And it was great to see everyone have “lightbulb” moments as Kristine applied this approach to monologues and scene work.

As an ethnically endowed (!) actor it’s been reassuring that cultural diversity, when acknowledged, can be freeing rather than something to stumble over. Having permission to be authentic allows one to be at ease, open, ready to play. I now have some great new tools and an awareness of how to apply them: bringing spontaneity, openness and the pleasure to play when working with text. It’s made me more confident as an artist, and in approaching work in a constructive way - and given me a sense what I need to work on. I think I’ll be better to work and play with, too, which is important to me.

Laura Freeman, Participant Actor

Hoorah! I was one of the lucky ones who got a dose of Kristine Landon-Smith before she disappears off to Australia. I took part in her last UK 3 day Actors workshop. And I'm extremely happy I did.

I have been to drama school, studied lots of different methods and forms, I have been acting professionally for 10yrs with different directors, I read the books and I feel like I am constantly learning and getting better (then getting worse, then learning how to get better again)

After all that time, now, in 3 days with a ridiculously simple idea - the pleasure to play - I feel like I have got an almost fail safe method. It has the same joy and excitement of Meisner technique, but a million times simpler. I feel like it shouldn't work but it does. I still feel disbelieving because surely it can't be so easy and effortless?

The "playing well together" principle appears to work without any of the things I have always thought were an essential part of my job. But you can't deny it when you have watched a scene, with your own eyes, completely transformed purely by an actor "enjoying play" and "playing well" with another actor (or with their character). It sounds just silly when you put it on paper, but it was magnetising. People's faces literally changed and became captivating faces that you couldn't take your eyes off.

I've been thinking about all my favourite actors and the "magic" quality they all share. Stage presence or Star quality or whatever. But now I think it's probably just - the pleasure to play. Why didn't someone tell me before! Thanks Kristine.

Charlotte Baker, Participant Actor

It was a pleasure to meet Kristine and get to work with her so intensively over the 3 day course. I was apprehensive going in but soon forgot all about my nerves as the first morning progressed. It was a really supportive environment with a great mix of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures and it was really satisfying to see how well we were playing together on the final day when we ran scenes from a play that Kristine had once directed.

On the first day, I remember Kristine said that her view of acting is very simple, it’s about the ‘pleasure to play’ and over the three days I couldn’t believe what a difference these three little words had made. I realised during the course how much as an actor you can become bogged down with meaning and character decisions and all this does is overshadow the text and it loses its spontaneity.

Kristine’s approach was great, she absolutely told you the truth and gave clear advice about what you were doing wrong or rather what was preventing you from connecting with the text and at the same time she was really encouraging and told you when the work was excellent. Through improvisation tailored to each individual, Kristine brought out the best in each and every one of us, encouraging us to play well both individually in our monologues and later in scenes together. This was great to observe during the course of the weekend. The wonderful open actor that is present in the improvisation is no different to the actor with the text. In this way you allow the text to unfold, discovering it spontaneously in the moment, enjoying the pleasure to play.

It was such a fantastic weekend, challenging, fun and I’ve learnt a lot that I can now carry forward in my acting – I only wish I had got to work with Kristine sooner!

Anureeta Heer, Participant Actor

All of the Tamasha courses and workshops that I have been a part of have always been a great learning experience and this last course with Kristine was no exception. Kristine's straightforward approach of placing the actor at the centre of any work and starting from there enabled actors to explore their creativity with freedom. Each improvisation and scene were carefully set in order for actors to realise their potential, their strong points as well as how to distinguish and work on any weaknesses they may have. As well as actively participating on the intensive course, it was also a great learning opportunity to simply observe fellow actors and watch how Kristine worked with them. By the end of the course, I believe I had a genuine understanding what it means to play with pleasure as an actor and how this simple phrase should be realised and incorporated with utmost sophistication.

Desmond Healy, Participant Actor

What a breath of fresh air! Working with Kristine has been such an incredible experience for me. I heard that this was an opportunity I could not miss, I’ll admit I did not know much about Kristine or Tamasha before the course, but a friend who works very close with Tamasha guided me in the right direction and I went into the course completely open-minded with a need of gaining self-confidence in my art, and this was certainly the case. The course was full of energy, enthusiasm and knowledge in acting and working on developing yourself and bringing your own self to the stage and having a ‘pleasure to play’. an invaluble lesson.

I have worked with people who just tell you what they want and that’s all they want you to deliver and love the sound of their own voice too much, not Kristine. From the word go I felt completely comfortable and input was encouraged, Kristine was very eager to hear our input into the games and exercises, and out of nowhere I discovered I had a voice of my own and was given the platform to voice my opinion and now I have skills I didn’t realise I had. There were times when I found what Kristine had to say a little hard to digest but when she practised what she preached she got results from both me and the other actors and that just raised the bar to a whole new level that just made my jaw hit the floor! I loved working with such an incredibly creative and intelligent but above all FRIENDLY and nurturing director.

Working with such like-minded people was delicious! We gelled so quickly in such a short space of time, I couldn’t get enough of it! We learned equally as much from watching each other as we did from Kristine. Sometimes when Kristine gives you feedback that maybe u have trouble getting your head around, sometimes it takes seeing someone else in the same situation for you to have that ‘Oh! I see now!’moment. Also it was incredible to work with actors of different ethnic groups, and improvising scenes with more than one language and feeding off the other actors without knowing what they were saying back to you!…and still making it work! Awesome!

Kristine was incredibly hands-on she has amazing energy and just gets so into every aspect, every word of the text, every gesture. I learned as much observing her teach and direct as actually being directed by her. Kristine made sure every person in the room was as involved in every scene that was covered.

It was a course that left me elated and made me walk taller, such a simple idea of how to approach acting brought forward incredible results and attitude to the profession. A massive Thank You to Kristine for allowing me to be a part of her final masterclass…WOW!

Llila Vis, Participant Actor

This was my first time working with Kristine and it was fantastic. She gave me a completely different outlook on the process of improvisation which I know will help me in my work going forward. She is encouraging and supportive and yet able to pinpoint where and how you are going off course. This insight is so critical and being made aware of it is so important for the actor as then you can go about sorting it out. Here, again Kristine was able to direct you in a way so that you do manage to find it. I am glad I had the chance to work with her before she left and really very much hope that i will be able to do so again. Wishing her much luck!

Ruby Rall, Participant Actor

After having done the Actor Director course in November 2011, when I first experienced Kristine’s intracultural practice, I was eager to continue supplementing my learning and get onto an Actor course with Kristine as well. It’s tough competition applying for a place, and I’m grateful I finally got a place on the very last UK course actor course with her. As I still had a very strong positive experience impression left upon me from the Actor Director course, I was keen to make the most of the rare place given to me on these next three invaluable days on the actor course.

It’s great when we get called upon by Kristine to work on a scene or support another actor, as we are experiencing her practice first hand. Yet, there is so much learning to be equally gained if not more in being an observer too. This is because by watching another actor go through their transition of pre and post KLS intracultural practice process, I can clearly see their ‘aha’ moments of realisation(s), and I also find another actors lessons learnt very valuable and applicable to me also.

We always started work by playing games. Not just child’s play type playing games – no not acceptable. Kristine made it very clear and specific why playing games had to serve a useful purpose to the actor, otherwise they were just a waste of time and no more than a physical warm up, and supportive to the work the actors were about to do. In all of Kristine’s games, she was very clear and simple in instruction, and this reflected in her direction too later on. She was successful in getting the actors ready to have and enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’. Actors were open and ready to play and connecting with others, by being open to whatever might be happening during game play. There was no opportunity of blocking myself my being stuck in my own head space and focusing on myself; otherwise I wasn’t playing with everyone around me. So it was liberating to be spontaneous just like young children are impulsive and thus TRUE in whatever results we were creating/experiencing. Hence the outcome was an authentic experience for the game participants, and pleasurable experience to be watched by the game audience. This was the standard set that all actors had to maintain and transfer into their acting by being equally ready and open to simply enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’ during acting. Easily said, but when came to acting we learnt how we blocked ourselves and reverted back to whatever our ‘default’ mode was in our old acting comfort zone and quickly forgot how to stay in play mode with our fellow actors. Yet, Kristine’s radar is so sharp at picking up on this, so she set useful and helpful improvisations that served the scenes and quickly brought the actor back into play mode and just be themselves. This was a useful lesson and observation in realising that in the outside world how much damage has been done to actors in getting all kinds of unhelpful information, feedback and programming etc that it just stifles the actors. Amazingly, Kristine was strong in staying actor focused and breaking through all the psychological clutter surrounding the actor in order to get the actor to trust that it is simple yet sophisticated enough for them to be their true authentic natural self. No need to over prepare, no need to over rehearse because it was more compellingly important for the impulse and spontaneity to unfold. As an actor it felt so enjoyable to DISCOVER the scene organically, rather predecide, predefine, presume, prepare ...avoid overly ‘pre’ anything when the moment hasn’t happened yet. There is only the present moment, there is only now, now now, and each now moment is a moment of discovery unfolding for the both the actor and the audience. Oh what a joy to finally having permission of being just me, myself, simply Ruby Rall being enough... my natural true self simple and yet still sophisticated....in the present, enjoying the pleasure to play. That was the same for every single actor in the room, and as our shrouding onion layers peeled away it was refreshing to change from being an actor that just ‘exists,’ to now being an actor that is living and breathing in the present, and playing with pleasure, and a joy to be watched by audiences. A win: win scenario for both the actor and the audience.

I was amazed at when actors were speaking in different languages to each other in a scene that everyone remained connected and open to each other and still somehow understood each other. A perfect example of how much we communicate to each other so much more that words alone. I could see how the intracultural practice got actors to get to a comfortable place and ready to open up and express themselves more authentically. After all, my cultural background/heritage is a part of what makes up me Ruby Rall, so it is not affordable to be ignored or dismissed. I don’t want a director or audience to see something that is other than me, and as an actress it doesn’t make sense to play something that is not me – it just doesn’t work. Kristine’s practice created transformations in the actors, during which they change from trying to get away with their pretence to discovering their truth, so much so, that actors’ face, voice and physicality changed and observers picked up on this metamorphosis gave great feedback on how much they enjoyed and believed the actors performances. Now I have a greater sense of how in my job of actor, I am actually an artist who is truthfully, present in the moment, and enjoying the pleasure to play, and experiencing the discovery of each unfolding present now moment... and it is my unfolding experience that I am showing the audience...and that is what the audience is paying to watch and enjoy.

As the UK TDAs lose Kristine to become Australia’s gain, I feel grateful that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing two courses with her, which I wish I did sooner and for longer. Thanks to Tamasha for creating the TDA network where we can keep Kristine’s practice alive as she has given us actors and directors a common language that we understand and it works. Being a Leeds, West Yorkshire based actress it is well worth the time cost travel etc for me to participate in the course and therefore I would strongly recommend this experience to others. Although I know I am one of the fortunate last course actor participants at present, no doubt I’ll be back in the applications queue if ever there is a future chance to top up on a dose of Kristine’s intracultural practice.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 5

Alia Alzougbi, Participant Actor Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed fellow actors giving themselves over with pleasure to Kristine’s processes, as she pushed, challenged and questioned them, and I have watched them improve drastically as a result. I understand this pleasure -- I too experienced it every time Kris was working with me on a monologue or a scene. There is indeed a pleasure of growing and improving by the minute with one of the many Kristine-esque exercises. She lures the actor into a collaboration, the purpose of which is to make the actor the best that they can be – and therein lies the pleasure for the actor. She is brutally honest, but she holds the space with such tenacity I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. I felt safe and open, and I witnessed others and myself improve by the minute under her critical guidance.

Nathan Crossan-Smith, Participant Director Observer

We came into the Rag Factory this week a little mournful, I think, that this would be our lest session together- the last of our Wednesday night sanctuaries. For, really, this is how our workshops feel- a retreat from our text-centric British theatre, a place to recharge, to reassess, to question, to improve our craft as artists, to flop- and flop again and better- to learn and, of course, to play. And so we entered the room, shuffled around, set our things down a little ruefully, and then got over (or around) ourselves and got ready to play.

As a director-observer I’ve watched as Kristine has nudged, encouraged, provoked, teased, pushed, pulled, cajoled and jerked our participants into getting out of their own way, or leaving aside reverence to the text, or opening themselves to their playing partners and finding the pleasure in playing here, now, with these artists. Tonight was no different: our participants returned to duologues explored in week four, as well as some monologues from our earlier sessions, with the spirit of approaching freshly, of recreating (rather than repeating); Kris tried to find the right rhythms, the right musicality, and the right structures, that would work tonight- in this small, worn, make-shift room full of light and artists ready to play- in order to provide the actors with the conditions within which they could play at their best, most sensitively to their fellow artists. “It’s important to get off on the right foot”, Kris has repeated in recent weeks; so the entrances (as well as the playing space) are set up carefully.

Some of our scene work tonight is slow, ‘we can’t push them to a conclusion”, we leave scenes where we have managed to get in this time scale, and we move swiftly to the next: we’re working hard, Kris, the actors in the scene, the observers; we’re seeking the best in ourselves and each other (yes, our real selves and the real interplay between each of us!). Sometimes it’s ‘elbows down’, or ‘let’s work in your French accent- your face is open when you speak in French’, for some ‘hair-up’, for others ‘hair down’, whichever helps to make the actor open up, be themselves, whichever helps them to enjoy playing. Some exercises work first time, others we discard for new approaches, Kris points out that the director seeking out the right exercises is an important activity in itself; the work is artistic, exploratory- not learned rote or as a set method.

The whole session we seem to be paying attention to making sure we are coming to play, making sure we are getting out of the depths of our own heads and really listening to our partners. There is a slight fierceness to our work tonight because it’s our last week, we want to get it right- but of course, we really just need to come ready to play. And once the bags and coats were picked up and wrapped around us again and we left the small make-shift room filled with night to face the night’s chill we chatted, smiled, laughed, having played hard and played well.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 4

Anureeta Kaur, Participant Actor The last few weeks have been very informative. This week was a great learning experience as I spent a lot of time simply observing other actors as they worked. A recurring theme this week was 'why do we make certain decisions for a scene' and how we can avoid making bad choices which ultimately restrict us as actors. One thing I have learnt over the last few weeks is subtlety. This is very important when creating artistic work as even slightly missing a beat or not timing your actions correctly can greatly affect the rest of the scene. Yet this requires the actor to be open and fully immerse themselves in the pleasure to play. In doing so, the actor intuitively starts to make the the right decisions and is able to play with fellow actors to bring a text or improvisation to life.

Sunnie Sidhu, Participant Actor

This is the second acting course I have been on with Tamasha, I obviously can’t get enough! I believe that they provide a safe place for you to make brave/strong choices and not be scared to fail, which is a different attitude to the one I experienced at Drama School. This ethos frees you up as an actor, makes you feel more open and maybe it provides a bit of reverse psychology, but I think I have done my best performances as a result. Kristine cares about the individual actor and refuses to give up on them when she knows they are capable of being amazing. Her infectious determination to get the best out of you and solve any niggling problems renews your confidence and passion as an actor. I wish there were more directors out there like her...there would definitely be a lot better actors as a result! I hope I can maintain what I have learnt from Tamasha and Kristine throughout my acting career. If I can I know I will always give an honest, engaging and interesting performance.

Ryan Blackburn, Participant Actor

The Tamasha masterclass has been a fantastic opportunity for me to 'play' as an actor. I'm now learning to play more and leave myself open! The warm up games make you aware of filling the space whilst leaving yourself open to receive from others. It's interesting to observe my peers playing the games, as it allows you to see the actors seeking to play and open to receive. When working on our chosen piece I made character choices that stopped the scene progressing and having truth, I had already decided upon the relationship the two characters would have with each other rather than being in the moment and finding the truth, by taking the time to drop the text so the text doesn't control me allowed me to be free and play with the scene, and Kristine's approach when working with the actors really encourages this. She will set up the scene and encourage you to create the conditions, if the scene is going well you will use that as a reference point to go back to when it's not. Kristine has a very honest and direct way of working, and what i have found to be interesting throughout this process is concentrating on getting rid of the 'character' stuff as it's not the way to situate yourself in the play and focusing on the actor responding not the character. The classes have been a great opportunity for me to working in such a warm and encouraging environment, and as an only English speaking actor, it's exciting to observe my peers perform in their own accents and languages, giving their chosen text depth and honesty. I feel more confident now in approaching the text and having fun with play in the scene rather than making unhelpful choices.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course - Week 3

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.

Greek Tragedy Workshop Blog

Nitasha Rajoo, Director Observer "Do not fear for me. Make straight your own path to destiny."― Sophocles, Antigone

Whenever I go into an actor's / director's workshop, you get the onset of butterflies in your tummy, the anxious palm sweating of 'Will I be good enough?' or 'Was this the right choice?' My first Tamasha Masterclass was a complete awakening to the creative spirit and I wanted to ride this wave for a bit longer and decided to take this master class.

I should point out - I don't like Greek Tragedy. I find it stuffy and daunting and overdone...badly. I want to like it..so I thought this could do it for me. I was right.

The class was small and intimate, which I loved. Annie created such a safe environment that put the nervous butterflies at ease. The class was practical...on our feet working with the idea of levels, and bringing physicality to a character. I loved the stick work; I had practiced something similar in a workshop I did with Told by an Idiot. The choral work we did was amazing, and watching as a director observer/ when the actors turned and walked to the audience in unison was very powerful.

Annie helped break the wall with Antigone, bringing it into a modern day spotlight helping us conceptualize the themes and journeys the characters faced. I completely appreciated this and saw this as a great learning tool. When we stumbled and apologized, Annie said: 'Stop. Rehearsals are for mistakes to be made. There is no need to apologize'. I take that away with me because it is so true..thats why the nervous butterflies are there - because we are so scared to fail in front of our peers. Funny thing though, when you try and flop, is when you learn the most.

Do I love Greek Theatre now? I don't know if I would go that far but I can now honestly say I have a great appreciation for it, and Annie made that possible.

Anureeta Heer, Participant actor

Participating in the Greek masterclass was an enriching experience. I wanted to take part to see how I would respond and create through using Stanislavski based techniques in tackling classical texts. For some actors such techniques and methods are an invaluable tool for them whereas for myself I do not find myself subscribing to set 'methods' and so this class was a great learning experience. At some points, there was a great emphasis on 'working from the outside in' and using this to merge and engage with fellow actors was very interesting. I also had the chance to teach an Indian dance move to my fellow actors to observe how we can use physical movement to create various rhythms and a sense of cohesion as actors. Many of these exercises reminded me of the cohesion and sense of creation one creates as a group of dancers and so I was able to draw parallels and make connections. As an actor, I also observed that I was able to adapt and play freely with Annie's teachings as she was very open and as in all Tamasha masterclasses, there was the opportunity to flop, get up and try again.

Cathy Conneff, Participant actor

The course really helped to put me back in touch with the reason why I act – the sheer pleasure of it and the experience of sharing a moment with an audience and another actor. It also helped me in terms of not overthinking (a terrible habit of mine!) and accepting and following an impulse without trying to adapt it to my ends!

Veejay Kaur, Participant Actor

This class was a great intro to different approaches to perform Greek Tragedy. The exercises were playful and empowering which helped to physicalise the language in ways that I wouldn't have even imagined. A great class for those who want to familiarise with Greek tragedy. I left feeling enthusiastic wanting to explore more Greek texts and to perform them.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course - Week 2

Rodrigo Peñalosa - Participant Actor This is my first experience as an actor in a Tamasha workshop. The approach is really different from my previous experiences in its accuracy and straightforwardness. Here are my reflections that came out of the second workshop.

There is a true simplicity in letting yourself be how you truly are in order to act; avoiding an idea of “acting” or becoming something we are not. Why not base it on something more solid, something we are. I often act the part of the actor acting a part, instead of going directly to the essence of the work, from me to the text, and not through this third party, this idea, this representation.

One of the tools to avoid being stuck in our ideas is to focus on the other. The pleasure of letting everything stand on the audience’s shoulders, stopping focusing on ourselves. And instead of being fed by your stress, fears, expectations, you can build on the other, the audience, the one you are there for.

Another person you are there for is the other actor. This workshop reminded me how great and vital the feeling of caring and being there for the other actor is. And how marvelous it is when the actor in front of you feeds back to you. (Before, during and after the scene)

If I had to concentrate one word on my experience of that night it would be the word –available. Available to the text, to the audience and to the other actors.

Thank you Kristine.

T. Patel - Participant Actor

"I want to 'flop.'" After our second workshop, I told myself to remember this phrase – a revelation via an exercise: lip syncing to unfamiliar music, often in another language.

The exercise sounded intimidating. "How can I appear confident?" was my first thought, feeling as Kristine says many actors do, that I must always 'succeed'. But this impulse – of stress, fear, and self-focus – prevents actors from being themselves, from being present. And as the exercise revealed, self-focus creates distance between actors and audience.

As fellow actors each began the musical exercise, one could see their conflict between wanting to 'succeed', yet feeling vulnerable. As Kristine coached each actor to concentrate on connecting with the audience, they changed. Their awkwardness – focusing on themselves – transformed outwards, into a connection with others. When they did, they became genuine, and engaging to watch.

Kristine encouraged us to embrace this vulnerability, rather than try to 'perform'; and to not be afraid of 'flopping'. Sharing memories of training with Philippe Gaulier, and 'flopping' repeatedly, Kristine conveyed the sense of leaving oneself open to 'flopping'. It gives one freedom to 'play', to discover ways to 'be' with the audience, and to react with and off them.

Suddenly, I wanted to 'flop'. At least for those moments, I released my need to 'succeed.' It's stressful to feel one has to perform and excel. It's much more freeing to leave oneself open to 'flopping', and bring that sense of openness with us into a room.

I tried to bring that dynamic into my monologue and improvised scenes. Normally, performing a new monologue, I'd let nervous fear make me over-perform. This time, trying to be present with other actors, I left myself open to sense dynamics that might take me forward. That same openness transformed an improvised scene with actors facing one direction, with no eye contact, and few words. I realised that scenes between actors often have much more eye contact than people maintain in reality; so they feel artificial. Indeed, many real people barely make eye contact, yet still powerfully communicate. Removing eye contact lets us better 'sit into' the scene – rather than trying to 'perform' reactions – and connect with the effects our words and body language offered each other. Kristine confirmed that watching these human dynamics makes actors more engaging.

And I confirmed that 'flopping' is nothing to be afraid of. And for the future, a way in.

Weekly Actors’ Evening Course - Week 1

Paul Raymond – Participant Actor The strong narrative of the workshop meant having clear basic principles to apply to our monologues, and how to play the text – play being key. Kristine trumps playing well, playing as the actor rather than the character. Openly enjoying being within the skin of a role, not becoming a different character may lead to purer, more honest performances.

The games promote quick-thinking and natural reactions, trusting your instincts, they show us a framework of rules, and within them is room to play. If you pretend to play, you lose. Actually commit to playing properly, and your audience is captivated, you have fun, and you make your partner/team have fun.

We then used extensive improvisation to help open us up and feel natural with our monologues. We channelled concepts of ‘playing well’ with text and your scene partner in particular in this part of the workshop. This produced some incredible performances of monologues and improvised scenes.

Japjit Kaur - Participant Actor

This is my third time in masterclass with Kristine. Having only attended the first session so far, I am reminded how very easy it is to fall into traps of bad habits, old patterns and things that can very quickly block you up if you are not careful when you are “away”. However, once you do step back into Kristine’s space, layer by layer starts to fall off and you feel free to play again! My question to Kristine just at the beginning of session 1 was: How can I still be amazing when you are not there? I look forward to finding the answer and applying it to my practice in the future.

(We started off with playing some games and by the third exercise, my stomach felt different. I knew I was a bit nervous but hadn’t realized how much till then. And it wasn’t just me, it seemed everyone had relaxed a lot and come together - sharing a common playground. Later whilst working on a contemporary monologue Kris got me to try out an accent I have never attempted before. I didn’t think I could do it (or at least not without feeling a little silly) though I was willing to try. To my surprise I felt really good after the imitation exercise Kris had set up for me. It was scary to start with but very liberating in the end. It was funny and I really enjoyed it!)

This keeps on happening for some reason. I unknowingly keep putting boundaries on what I think I can and can’t do and when I work with Kris, I am surprised by how much I can do. Last time she made me brilliant at performing Woody Allen and now she is bringing an American out of me!

Jamel Rodriguez – Participant Actor

Kristine led us through a series of games and improvs that gradually led to scene work. In the games, we were encouraged to be fully present and to fully play using tactics. By bringing one's cultural context wholeheartedly to the scenes, from watching classmates and experiencing it as guided by Kristine, it felt like effortless work. I felt as if I was out of my own way and just working in response to the moment, my impulses and other actors in the scene. As this was only day one, I look forward to what the other four classes have to offer!

Contemporary Text Workshop Blog, October 2012

Anshu Srivastava, Participant Director Observer This was my fourth such masterclass and after a series of classes looking at classic texts, this week we were looking at contemporary texts. The class in general continued to delight, inspire and provoke.

As the masterclasses have progressed, so my confidence to participate and comment has grown. At one point Kristine picked me up on not being precise enough with my comments and I was lost for words. I did however appreciate her challenge as it helped me to see what I might need to do in a similar situation in the future so not to end up stuck. I sense I must be freer and more animated in my communication. Not just to use words in a neutral voice from the sidelines, but to find in myself the pleasure to play my role as the actors are being asked to find the same pleasure within theirs.

Manisha Hirani, Participant Actor

After having just complete the 6 week masterclass I was curious to see how much I could learn from just a one day session. Turns out - a lot! I've never really known where I was going wrong, didn't know how to push myself as an actor. However, when doing my monologue at the start of the class, Kris said 'whatever I give you, you can do, so I'm going to push you to the next level' - and she did! She created a situation where I had to learn to play along with the actor and Kris herself, I found it very difficult, becoming nervous really quickly because it was very much out of my comfort zone; but it was exactly what I needed. Kristine works with a vision and she instantly realises the potential of a scene; whether it's working with the actor or just simply moving around props and furniture, at the end, what's created is truly artistic. More than anything, I really enjoyed watching other actors reach a new level, and take pleasure in what they were playing. When learning to play down the character, and embrace your distinct characteristics, what is created is so raw and so satisfying to watch. Not having a plan or an idea of how a character should be allows you to feel something different, something you might not have ever felt before, you can shock yourself with your own reaction, which is again, what creates something so truthful. One big thing I am able to take away with me; I'm no longer afraid to approach a text and can even find peace in getting it wrong. Learning through mistakes - a great way of moving forward.

Alistair Donegan, Participant Actor

I had been interested in working with Kristine and Tamasha for a while, having heard from a fellow actor that the approach was vastly different to lots of the other work he and I had done before. The recommendation came from a friend who is also a director; he told me that now he only directs actors using methods learnt from Kristine. The reason? They're more fun.

I signed up for the contemporary texts workshop in particular because I go up for a lot of contemporary set television from my agent and was really looking for a new impetus, something to get my imagination sparking again and perhaps break some habits that were starting to creep in.

We started by playing several games, each one introducing elements that continued work from the last. The sense of play that we enjoyed during those games was then applied to our texts. The difference when Kristine had us look at the text using that same spirit of play, from when we presented our own, was remarkable. Personally, Kristine's work reminded me to enjoy what I was doing, to stop pushing and to have fun being at various points the bitter ex employee/the pretentious art owner/the malicious boyfriend etc.

Having recently worked with clown master Philippe Gaulier, I could see the lineage of the work and crucially a more clear continuation into contemporary acting and performance. In terms of the day, it was simultaneously light, fun and enlightening. Each moment of teaching made more sense as the day went on, and continues to now.

Since the course I've booked a job for the Sheffield Crucible. Partly coincidence I expect but also one of my greatest struggles in the past has been audition anxiety, which this sense of play and relish of what I'm playing has so far - touch wood - gone some way to overcoming. Recommended.

Poppy Corbett, Participant Director Observer

This was the final masterclass in the series. Time to consolidate some of the main points I have learnt:

- Start from the actor, not the text. The text is phase two.

- Remember 'the pleasure to play'. Play as actors in a rehearsal room, not children in a playground.

- Don't plan or come with too many ideas about the character/text, until you have seen the actor work on the text.

- Help the actor put their focus outside themselves - on their partner in a scene. Teach them to listen.

- The actors must control the text, not the other way around.

- Each actor will need a different key into their work.

- Consider the physical spacing of actors on a stage. Consider how they are stood/sat. If they are struggling, perhaps a different position will help to free them.

- Help actors to free up the text vocally.

- Be careful with the language you use with actors. Be specific.

- Don't let actors 'play emotions.' ('Sad', 'happy', 'angry' etc)

- Don't censor yourself in the rehearsal room - be honest with actors, use clichéd situations if it helps them.

- Don't ignore problems in the rehearsal room - deal with them, or the work cannot progress.

- If you think an actor is unsure of HOW you have helped them be better, make them talk through everything you have done with them.

I'm looking forward to being in rehearsal and using some of the techniques I have picked up during these masterclasses.

Fariyal Wallez, Participant Director Observer

Following this third master class where I had the privilege to observe Kristine working with the participant actors, I had an insight about directing in relation to my new brace, which I had fitted to my upper teeth at the beginning of October. Physically, there has been no discomfort or pain; the issue I have is emotional. There is something about having this ‘thing’ attached to me, that I cannot move or get rid of, or change my mind about, or get distracted from...it is simply there and present in my life, constantly, with no break or holiday. This brace is commitment on a level I have not experienced since I got married three years ago...and reminds me precisely of the quality of presence that Kristine’s manifests in her artistic practice. The actors were from a diverse range of backgrounds and observing Kristine’s skill in working with them was, as always, fascinating.

Anureeta Kaur, Participant Actor

I have recently been part of the six week actor course and so the masterclass was a chance to continue to explore the pleasure to play through games, improvisation and scene work. Over the last few weeks I have been gradually feeling much more free and relaxed while playing actor-centric games and I definitely noticed the difference in the masterclass. I noticed how my concentration had improved through the use of games and how I felt more open, more outside myself and therefore less restricted. In the masterclass, this gradual openess allowed me to stay in the games for longer and play with actors which was a positive surprise for me! The games at the beginning of the masterclass have helped in freeing my creativity and thus I was able to give more during my monologue and scene work. By being more open, I was able to immerse myself into scenes and improvisations with a sense of pleasure and it is this pleasure which enables any actor to perform truthfully.

Alex Barclay, Participant Actor

For the work of a single day, Kristine Landon-Smith’s workshop provided a huge amount of food for reflection. I have always had a mental block with “monologue” driven auditions, which is what attracted me to the workshop in the first place. I left feeling much more able to approach them with a positive attitude. The warm-up games developed in a way that brought us together quickly and got us playing with each other, and learning how to play with each other. By the time we were working our monologues, the atmosphere in the room was positive and focused and really playful, and the effect of the games was visible throughout the work. Too often there is no correlation between the warm-up and the work. I have been in so many rehearsal processes where the first week has no continuation into the second week, where the warm-up has no follow through into the work etc. This felt holistic – everything had an effect on everything else. Kristine also has a lovely way of putting the focus on her actors in a positive unthreatening way, and being perceptive enough to key into a couple of things in them quickly that helps free them of blocks or move them forward. The actors in the room were quite a diverse bunch in terms of approach, and she worked with each of us individually, working to the person rather than working to a formula. Her creativity somehow revolved around enabling our creativity. And the focus was always on the actor and the work.

In the afternoon, we worked on reading scenes from Port. Much like in the morning where we brought a pre-prepared monologue, we were left to work in pairs for half an hour without assistance. She would then take what we brought to her and throw ideas at it quickly to both challenge us and move us forward in the work. She would not let us get away with failing to connect properly, and often stopped us when we were running down blind alleys, but again it was always about the work and everything fed in. There was much use of improv, and the improv was clearly set up and had a marked effect on the text when we came back to it.

The more people I meet like Kristine, the more it seems worth it to keep plugging at this job, despite the jungle of ego and dinosaurs out there. I really enjoyed myself, and left feeling empowered, happy, and awakened.

Armaan Kirmani, Participant Actor

Now I know why daytime soap operas are so successful despite their reputation . Kristine's actor-centred approach has made me think that actors don't really need to rely on writing, lighting or direction - although of course they would all contribute to a better product but not necessarily a more entertaining one. Bad writing, bad lighting and bad direction can be overcome by good actors by applying their craft to the project. People like to watch other people perform. Attention to detail is nice, but not at the expense of not giving your actors enough attention and freedom to perform. An actor needs nothing but themselves - you are the biggest tool for any production!

Greek Tragedy Workshop Blog, September 2012

Sarah Johnson, Participant Actor Throughout the workshop, I was particularly excited and inspired to see each actor touch moments of bringing a world to life and succeed, even if momentarily, under Kristine's skilled work.

After making an initial attempt at the text, Kristine set up a scenario for us to improvise. It was a relief to play with my partner and discover moments spontaneously. We then layered the text back in and it became more of a rhythm rather than a cage. Something playful; no longer the driving force. It became easier to use as raw material to explore moments, rather than a weight hanging around the neck! This was especially clear to me in the work of other participants, when they were speaking in languages other than English.

Through improvising, in a related context, but not a precise replica of the situation, I discovered there can be a space between the improvisation and the text. This felt similar to the freedom and empowerment that comes from wearing a mask. Paradoxically, by using an oblique approach, a side step away from the text, when I returned to it, it felt like something more truthful began to emerge.

Spatially, I found the workshop fascinating. My background is physical theatre and I think most easily through the body and through movement. I enjoyed stripping all that away and playing sitting down. It allowed the freedom to try and connect in a different way.

The workshop felt like step one on a path. I look forward to returning!

Anshu Srivastava, Paricipant Observer

Following the first two workshops on Chekov and Shakespeare I decided to look up Philippe Gaulier on the web. Kristine had mentioned him many times and clearly was greatly influenced by her time with him. Reading Gaulier immediately put into context how Kristine feeds back to the actor in the session and how she is present herself in the session.

"It's not bad, not bad at all, ok let's see how we can (together) make it brilliant". The feedback whilst being direct is not crude, it is actually very subtle.

So I came to the Greek Tragedy workshop interested to observe again with this new perspective and again I was impressed how quickly the actors trust this dynamic and reach that brilliance.

I'm having a great time. I feel very lucky to have happened upon this particular company and their way of working. It sits well with me.

Camila Fiori, Participant Actor

What Kristine really brought to the fore in our session was the importance, and in a sense, the simplicity, of understanding the text within the world we live in, not just as it was in ancient times.

Having already experienced the way Kristine works, when I did the ‘Actor Director Lab’ last November and then again in February during an intensive actors’ masterclass week, as well as in a secondary way through working with other TDAs for the recent scratch event, I was familiar with her system of fluid movement from improvisation to text, and I expected this would be the same approach used whether the text was classical, contemporary, Greek or in any other language. Working with us individually and as a group to make what could seem archaic, real, Kristine used the same principles I have seen her use before, with much success. The thing is, the process, and indeed any creative process, is ‘messy’. Hearing her say this again was a huge relief, when I often find myself longing to find a step-by-step formula for anything I’m doing, knowing full-well it is impossible, and at times allowing myself to get tangled in the process or jump around rather than work through a process. I mean this not just in acting, but also in writing, making or devising of any kind. ‘It’s messy’ – and this is what makes it impossible to define or pin down in any formulaic way.

However, using a carefully crafted set of principles, at the root of which is an emphasis on ‘the pleasure to play’, Kristine works through each situation individually. These may draw on different elements, often cultural, in the case of each actor, as her process is working with the specifics of that individual. By this, I don’t mean in an over-analytical or probing way, but more by getting some basic background information and with that in mind, trusting her intuition to discover what might work.

The action of ‘finding the pleasure to play’ is the way into this, and the warm-ups are so important for this reason. It was particularly clear to me this time how much we need to be constantly seeking out the opportunity to play in every situation during the games rather than just finding the pleasure when we find it. The ‘find’ is a search as well as an openness-to.

After another chair swapping game, Kristine asked us why it is a useful game to play in warming up, and one of the suggestions I made was that because it’s fun, it opens us up to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and take risks. No! That it is fun and opens us up is true but it should not be a risk – it’s not dangerous, we are not vulnerable. As actors working and playing together, there is no ‘risk’. The words ‘risk’ and ‘vulnerable’ highlighted for me my own fears around really, completely letting go, and that in being completely open there is still a part of me that feels vulnerable. We are not born scared, we develop this through experiences and witnessing others experience things. Somehow, just focussing on the play – on playing well and on having fun in playing with each person – it helps to reduce any sense of vulnerability or fear.

Tanja Pagnuco, Paricipant Director Observer

By the end of the day, I felt like I had been on a powerful introductory journey into a unique actor-centered approach. Kristine introduced her way of working gradually, allowing us all to live it first hand by playing games and discovering the joys of play. I had so much fun in these games, I could have continued all day, trying to have the most fun and being the best I could at playing it. I thought the transition to then using the Greek texts would create a break, a gap, a fall in playfullness, a change of mood but on the contrary I realised how Kristine encouraged all actors to continue playing, to continue having fun. Having fun doesn't mean no hard work. There is hard work. A lot of it. But it can and should continue to be playful. A lesson never to be forgotten.

I then watched the actors delve into their monologues courageously and at first facing some difficulties but through Kristine's direction, they all found amazing ways to release the tensions, the pre-conceived ideas about them as an actor, about the character, about the play... and created sometimes wonderful truthful moments. Trust, an openess to explore and play are essential in a rehearsal room. Kristine allows these to happen by first of all 'placing the actor in a place where they are ready to play well', in a place that belongs to them culturally. As an observer, it felt like the actors were finally allowed to be themselves, to express and explore their cultural identity and what they -as human beings- have to offer to the character. A very generous and open approach which clearly worked miracles in a very short space of time. I then wonder how to continue using this approach when working on the specifics of the script and characters at hand, how to continue building the bridge between where the actor is placed and where the characters breath.

I witnessed how the actors were actively challenged throughout the day to question themselves and their craft. It was wonderful to see all this humility in a rehearsal room. By the end of the day, I was eager to try directing using this approach and to be challenged / provoked by Kristine. I look forward to an opportunity of doing that soon on a Director's Lab.

Gurkiran Kaur, Participant Actor

I first worked with Kris in 2007 and the one thing that is continually cemented and consistent is that once you can play, you can work. This is applicable whether it’s in a workshop class or a rehearsal room. We began playing games, games to force us to play and if not to find out what was stopping us from playing. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies and in order to combat something, you need to find it first to hit it head on. Like some others, I found it easy to play as I’m a natural observer. In new situations I watch, learn and then I join in, I don’t really rely on going in blind. Once we were playing, we moved on to working. I had learnt my monologue the night before and I knew I would be conscious of the lines before delivering it. So, I made a conscious choice of watching some of the others and encouraging my playing condition. Sometimes I could relate to other people’s hindrances and I witnessed their journeys. I noticed, I was always ready to help out in improvisations, whether it was in broken conversational Punjabi or English in a village based Indian accent. If something works well, you stick with it. With Kris’ coaching, I found as an Actress for the purpose of this master class, I worked best with a scarf around my head, sitting on the floor with oddly folded legs talking with an Indian accent. I watched her work individually as she helped unlock an internal passage to achieve the best at what each actor can do. All actors are individual and we must always use what and who we are. I may not be a regular Punjabi speaker but my broken and conversational Punjabi helps me especially when combating classical texts. I chose to do the Helen of Troy monologue from Women Of Troy. Kris doesn’t beat around the bush, “It isn’t bad, but we need to make it great!” and that’s exactly what I wanted. Who wants not bad? I always want my work to be brilliant. After creating an energetic, funeral prayers scene for me to fight against, I was able to get out of my head and “stop watching myself” and it was no longer “a block of text”. Things are and can be as simple as “don’t sit that way because it doesn’t help you”. I watched Kris help every actor to become a great actor and I was impressed by everyone’s powerful and honest performances whether they were incredibly sensitive or ruthlessly strong.

Bushra Laskar, Participant Actor

This was my first masterclass with Tamasha. I really, really enjoyed the class, and that perhaps is the most valuable lesson to be learnt from working with Kristine, that is, acting is playing and it should be fun. Kristine emphasised from the start how actors need to get out of their heads and stop overthinking, which is something that I have heard several times over the years as an actor, but am always in need of being reminded. Kristine also emphasised how detrimental certain vocabulary, such as "risk" and "asking permission", can be to an actor - they are just another trap into overthinking and stepping back from the "playing" the scene.

Kristine worked systematically and efficiently with each actor in our small group, and I was startled to see how each brought a unique and vibrant honesty to their monologue. It was joyous to see how we stopped acting in ways we had learnt to be acceptable and 'the right way' and instead brought our own individual personalities to the text and the character. In theory that sounds easy enough, but it seems to be something that would need practice, and I look forward to exercising those muscles.

Amina Zia, Participant Actor

To be honest, my mind hasn’t stopped buzzing since the Greek masterclass, yesterday. There were profound moments, breakthroughs, and plenty of play. Afterwards my body was tired, but my mind just kept dancing, wondering, and thinking. It was what felt like a day’s rehearsal.

After a game-playing session for starters, the actors in turn performed their Greek monologue of choice to everyone. I was quite moved watching every actor’s individual breakthrough. Kristine often asserted that her role was to bring out the best in the actor. After watching the actor’s own interpretation and the extent of their connection to the text, quite prescriptively she would transport the 'greekness' of the story to the heritage of the individual actor. Suddenly monologues and improvisations were spoken in Assamese, Portugese, Gujerati, West Country, Punjabi and in my case, Urdu.

I had chosen the messenger speech from Medea, because it’s my favourite speech, full of images and storytelling and I had performed it over a year ago and wanted to refresh it with a new approach. After hearing what felt like a stale and flat delivery, Kristine asked me to imagine that I was a matriarch speaking to members of the community about something awful my daughter in law had done. I assumed the sitting pose and began improvising a story to the actors in Urdu and slipped into Punjabi now and again when my character began to feel emotional. I enjoyed embellishing the story of my floosy daughter in law who would sneak out at night to be with her lover down the road and everyone was talking about it. In my improvisation, not one actor spoke the same language, and as all spoke in our individual languages, we all got a sense of what each other was saying. In fact, during this improvisation it felt like suddenly we all spoke the same language and that felt quite profound especially the connection between us. I was so comfortable telling that story I had discovered a fun character and as I relaxed into the character, Kristine asked me to start my monologue but in a Pakistani accent, and as I continued I began to discover specific characters within the story of the monologue – I found humour in the husband’s voice telling his wife to accept his sons gifts, there was a renewed connection to the words. Kristine tried to minimise my tendency to physicalise which was how I had initially told the story and instead I found a stillness and calmness and I could hear that everyone was listening. I was centred, I was in the moment like a kite that had caught the wind and I soared to the end of the monologue alone.

Watching other breakthroughs and being part of them in improvisation was also a huge experience.

What also made the masterclass so special was the diversity and use of language. I enjoyed the fact that as actors we were all so different. I was fascinated listening to the differences and similarities in the languages and consequently valued the connection that developed between us in our work. One of my favourite moments was when the English speaker made up her own language which was so convincing and truthful that we all asked her what it was and she said it was gobbledegook.

Fariyal Wallez, Participant Director Observer

I felt less nervous and much more willing to engage with the group of actors and director observers on this second masterclass. One piece of advice that really stuck with me from the day was about not censoring myself. I came away with a quiet and excited voice in my head wondering whether I could in fact explore the possibility of directing, as well as designing and writing. So much of our ‘personality’ gets in the way of letting us simply be and enjoying being and playing with each other. I realised that by not censoring herself, Kristine actually gets her personality out of the way to be present in the moment. For the actor, this is also one of the keys aspects of playing any character of any era, regardless of ethnic and cultural background.

What I heard loud and clear in today’s masterclass was that a director must love the actors, genuinely, for their willingness to be up there, on stage, showing themselves to the world. They are judged and criticised for their skills and ability to play, and as a director, once I understand that the actor is far better than I am at ‘playing,’ then my job is to respect and facilitate that brilliance.

I saw a process that cuts through all the analytical and psychological nonsense we make up about ourselves, to something beyond, where it is possible to be in the realm of the child and simply experience a joy in being there. Of course, it was not enough to simply ‘be present’; it is necessary to be with each other and play freely, letting go of the hang-ups of who we think we are, or are not. In those moments, where the work manifested into life, I experienced a timelessness.

I learned that the archetypes of Greek Tragedy from the ancient world are as relevant today as they were then; the death of a child, or the consequences of incest and murder. Kristine’s skill in directing an improvisation for the actor was in seeing how to open a door for each actor to be able to make an individual connection in a modern context. I noticed the subtle and dramatic shifts between moments when the actor is self-conscious (inward looking) and when they are free (outward looking). This is the muscle of skill that I need to practise and build upon. Thank you for an enlightening day.

Urmila Divani, Participant Actor

Kristine's approach is to use who you are, your identity, to access text. She asked me to do my monologue which I started to do by being sad as it's a sad monologue. She stopped when I was a few lines in and said that wasn't sophisticated as I was playing the emotion. Then she asked me to improvise a scene where I was a Gujarati woman in a village in India where one of the village women had drowned her daughter because of her sex. I was livid that this had happened and other actors played the village women who all agreed to drowning this child. Then when the scene was well underway she asked me to go straight into my text with an Indian accent. I really felt I was Hecuba whose slain grandson had just been brought to her. I didn't have to find the character, elongate the vowels, remember to breathe, find my full voice and project, think about my physicality because all of it just happened by itself. I was Hecuba and the speech just flowed and it felt great.

We were given dualogues to work with in the afternoon. Because the Indian accent had worked really well in the monologue I thought I'd use that in the scene. Kristine said that I had to really use my identity in order for it to work. We were then asked to improvise the scene where I was a fat, greedy, Gujarati executive whose company wasn't making as much money as it should have been and wanted answers as to why this was from my employee and then go to text. I found the scene improvisation more difficult and also the scene didn't flow as much as the monologue had. Kristine pointed out to me afterwards that I wasn't fully committing to the scene. I realise what I have to do next time which is to be totally committed and play and take pleasure in playing with my character and with the other actor in the scene.

Poppy Corbett, Participant Director Observer

‘Don’t censor yourself in an artistic space.’

This was my third Tamasha masterclass. Every time I walk away from the room at the end of the day I churn over so many questions surrounding my own directorial practice. So often directors do not give themselves the time to challenge their own approach and this is what is so useful about these masterclasses.

I more clearly noticed in this masterclass how a slight shift in an actor’s physical position, or how changing proxemics on stage can completely help an actor’s performance improve. I have always believed the physical comes first and watching the actors in this masterclass helped confirm it.

During the masterclass I also realised that Kristine’s work is not only about the ‘pleasure to play’, but it’s also concerned with freeing up the text vocally. This is particularly important when working on a text such as Greek Tragedy which is not natural to our daily speech.

Kristine suggested not to have an objective or attitude to the script until the actor takes the first step – you must see their approach to it first and where they’re coming from when working on it, instead of trying to immediately impose your own thoughts on it.

Something else that strongly came across during this masterclass was that although a director must be careful in the language they choose to use to actors, you must not censor yourself in the rehearsal room. If an actor is flopping and bad, tell them – they probably know it anyway. If you want to use a clichéd situation – use it – as long as you can defend why you have. Don’t ignore obvious problems with actors who are not committing – challenge them and deal with the problems early on before they escalate.

Something very useful that Kristine did at the end of the masterclass with some of the actor’s was to make them talk through the masterclass, how Kristine helped improve them and to give improvised examples of this. I thought this was a great idea as then the director is 100% clear that the actor has understood the process and how to use what they’ve learnt to be great next time.

I’ve seen the first stage of Kristine’s work and I’m really interested in what stage two is. What happens when more detailed work on the play begins?

Suzanne Ahmet, Participant Actor

"Do not absent yourself from the situation you are playing". Kristine’s actor centered approach is about trying to locate a door through which each actor can play with pleasure. And it’s different for every individual.

My work on several occasions with Kris has focused on playing “softly” or being on stage with a “soft centre” in order to have a broader spectrum from which to play. A default of mine is to attack, hitting the text too hard and thereby losing nuance and blocking off possibilities to play. “I don’t know where you go when you play too hard”, “we don’t recognize this person”.

That being said, I approached a monologue from Medea "softly" and Kris stopped me and asked what I was doing. I replied that I was trying to be soft and not attack. And she recognised that actually, I was putting on a skin of being soft, a sort of soft glow, instead of just sitting, as myself in the space and talking to the people sitting with me. Talking to them, as me. She did an exercise where everyone had to turn away from me, if they didn't believe that I was talking to them. This brought out my own voice, with its London sounds and rhythms and a relaxed physicality. A classical text became fluid, accessible and open to me to take pleasure in playing.

By questioning me like this, Kris was encouraging me to articulate when something is working and when it is not and to try and discover, for myself, why. She had this kind of conversation with several participants.

The actor centered approach is not just about putting on an Indian accent if you have Indian roots or a 'London girl' voice just because you grew up in London. You don’t just put on a skin and think that everything will be OK. It is fuller than that. It's about "committing to a fullness that is a gift to you as an actor".

6 Week Actors' Course

Armaan Kirmani, Participant Actor I was excited about the prospect of working with Kristine and Tamasha as I felt that I would be able to rekindle some of the acting passion that was ignited under my first acting teachers Hilary Wood (RADA) and Justin Pierre (Actor Prepares). Tamasha has a history of promoting British Asian creatives but now has a more 'multicultural' focus as I was informed on my first session.

Just play she says - Actor's need to play. It is the actor who is integral to the performance and entertainment. Not the character, not the writing - the ACTOR. This is the empowerment that we need and Kristine's direct and honest approach is refreshing.

On my way to buy some milk for my dad's cuppa I contemplate about why each acting session begun with competitive games. 'It's about learning how to play. Winning does not matter'. But hang on a minute, come to think of it - if the warm up volleyball didn't reach the 100 count it seemed like the end of the world and during musical chairs even Kristine was devastated at not getting a chair once the music stopped. Perhaps there is no fun in playing unless one plays to win, But even if one does not win, they should take pleasure in the play as there can be pleasure in losing as well.

As an actor, for me, as Kristine says - less is more. But interestingly for others, less is less and more is more. We're all different, but actually we all want to do more and not less - so finding truth in the 'more' is something that needs to be explored in more detail while accepting that less is more is a challenge.

The temptation to read scripts in a stereotypical way limit and confine the actor, and actioning a script although has certain merits can also have a devastating impact on truthful performances - so use it to find truth when all other things have been explored and yet some flavours in the scene are still missing. Don't rely on it.

When Shakespeare, Chekov and Greek tragedy didn't come across as convincing - we were asked to try it on our native accents. My native accent is from North London. Honest I went to private school and a top University. She wasn't convinced - and here we were being the fresh off the boat Romeo and interestingly the performance was far more effective and engaging. Something about reading Shakespeare in a strong Indian accent - gives it a lot more meaning. Go beyond the stereotype and the social stigma and say 'To Be or Not To Be' with strong heavy t's and b's treat your accent like a sound and not a political statement - now you're performing! Liberation. An actor's job is to empathise and not judge.

Working with other talented actors is always an educational experience - we had a fun and talented bunch. You learn more and find more truth in any performance when you play with other actors. Improvisation helped to find more truth in performing texts - texts which often led the actors to shrivel up and lose imagination. When we stopped imagining, we stopped playing. When we stopped playing, we stopped having fun and the audience had no interest in watching a bored actor and they also lost interest.

The course indeed posed more questions and gave more food for thought. There is a new generation of British Asians, ones who were brave enough to follow their ambitions and dedicate time to a craft which does not provide a regular and stable income. But actors tell stories and stories influence society. This can be the start of something special, a revolution in our industry - it's exciting times for British Asian and ethnic actors because the market doesn't really exist. There is an acceptance of ethnic actors having talent, but there is yet to be acceptance that ethnic actors can play non-ethnic centred stereotypical roles - and until this change comes through, I will continue to train and perform! Otherwise there won't be an industry - there will only be a competitive hobby called British Asian theatre and film. However, when this change comes through - I will be ready. Armed with all the tools that people like Kristine have given me - not being apologetic for my ethnic background or the versatility in character that my various other languages give me but instead using them to help celebrate my identity and to help tell more honest and meaningful stories.

Nelly Scott, Participant Actor

The past 6 weeks have been incredible, to get to know other actors through seeing their soul and pleasure shine in performance, background and experience don’t really matter in the moment where true beauty is present because it's living in front of the audience, alive in the imagination.

I would dedicate today’s class to sophistication, precision and detail. As an actor in the course I have witnessed and experienced the importance of finding something sophisticated and unpredictable in how one plays, to stray away from what is most actors biggest downfall: playing the “meaning” of the text, we have been challenged to fill the script with our own personal colour unique from any other. As most of my work has been with improvisation today I truly grasped how precision underlining the text can really help an actor be open, when the actor knows his/her simple objective there is more room to play with the detail because there is no reason to feel lost or confused. Attention to detail was another important lesson, if we are too direct on stage we can not be sophisticated and unpredictable we will lose the audience to boredom for seeing yet again another version of the same scene we’ve seen 100 times before, its got to have that spice of something special.

Today’s class was especially fascinating as I found the errors in most scenes were alike and fell in to one of the aforementioned categories which all seem to be members of the same family. Sophistication, precision and detail are all the fundamental qualities of those theatre productions that leave you wanting more, leaving you in a place where you can dream for days as though the performance couldn’t have gone any other way. That is our work as actors to recognize when we’re on fire and when we’re just mediocre, its about how we can find that simple unpredictable perfection when we give the audience what they want without them knowing beforehand that is what they wanted.

Something that has come up a few times in after class discussion is “How can we find these moments alone when every director has a particular way of working and so many put all the focus on the meaning of the text?” and I feel this question will be our greatest challenge now that the course is finished. To continue working from a place of pleasure, a place that is open, free and comfortable in search of that moment where the text pours out as though everything was in the perfect time and place. We may have to keep coming back for a click of the recharge button whilst looking for opportunities to work with creative people with a similar goal.

This experience has been a blessing, I learned as much from observing as from performing and I recommend this course to actors and certainly directors who really want to focus on creating compelling and sophisticated work.

Emma-Rachel Blackman, Participant Actor

Armaan and I were working on a scene from Port. A scene of two friends who crossed 'that line' the day before and had sex. It was very unclear to me how my character, Rachel, felt towards Danny the day after and what her true feelings were about what happened. Without talking to Kristine about my uncertainty, we got on stage and did the scene. I hoped that I would be able to answer these questions instinctively once I was on stage working with my partner. However, one the scene began, I felt extremely stuck. The character seemed to take my uncertainty as an actress, and Rachel became a quiet and somewhat odd person. It was obvious to me that this was not the right path for Rachel, given her lines, her age, her profession and of course, given the circumstances of the play. We finished the scene and Kristine gave her feedback. I raised my question about how Rachel and Danny are with each other after having crossed the line between friends and lovers, and Kristine simply answered - they are just being nice to each other. Such a simple answer that just made it all fall into place. We did the scene again, after scrapping off the accents and the uncertainty of the relationship and just enjoyed being nice to each other. And it worked. And since there was so much pleasure in playing, I was relaxed and open on stage. Purely enjoying the time on stage and the relationship with my partner, Rachel seemed to laugh uncontrollably once there was too much silence between her and Danny and her physicality was much bigger and less held up tight than the first time round. The idea of the pleasure to play that Kristine has introduced to us in this course is quite a new way for me to think of my craft. And yet it seems so vital. If I approach even the gloomiest tragedies with the actor's inner thought of – 'Yay! I get to share this wonderful story of true human pain in front of all these people in the audience!', maybe it will be easier to avoid self-pity on stage and succumbing to the slow and lethargic pace of utter despair and sadness. I also believe that this pleasure to play is also better for the actor's psyche, by keeping the sense of enjoyment of one's craft whilst portraying a person in the midst of a life threatening catastrophe.

Michael Quartey, Participant Actor

Having taking this course I have learnt a lot about myself and what you, the actor, can bring too the role. I have learnt to play with my fellow actors and being able too engage with them from a game to a piece of text, which is vital in terms of the audience believing me as a actor. The course has allowed me watch other actors and progress on my journey as I have learnt a lot from them and Kristine.

Clare Barrett, Participant Actor

Week 5 of the Actors’ Course and I am deeply sorry that there is only one more session left after this. It is proving a transforming experience for all of us, I think. Certainly, in my own practice as an actor, I feel I now know the things that stop me from finding the pleasure to play and how to detect when they are cropping up and circumvent them, and I know how playing well feels. You can see this learning in every one of the performers in the group.

This week we looked at Greek tragedy and paired up with the task of finding a way to play a scene using both monologues. We started from the point of improvising a situation that helped both (or in one group’s case, all three) of us with our monologues. We then played the improvised scene again, but using our Greek tragedy monologues instead of the improvised dialogue. The result was like watching or being in a particularly intense Complicité exercise – brilliant for ensuring that we were playing well together, and really allowing you to feel when the rhythm of the scene was right or wrong.

The atmosphere in the studio throughout this course has been properly exciting – hard, detailed work going on everywhere, and everyone experiencing enormous pleasure in the work being done.

Sue Ahmet, Participant Actor

The weekly continuity of the masterclasses is proving to be invaluable. It gives you time to digest the feedback you receive personally and as a group. The amount you learn from watching your colleagues is of equal value and we are in a privileged position to be in a generous, open room, learning from one another. When we let go of our 'idea' of a scene or playwright, or drop our need to control the situation or come to an understanding of what is stopping us from playing in the moment with our partner, the difference in the work is marked and truly inspiring. Kris often says we want to come to the theatre to see something "extra ordinary". From watching and being with my colleagues last night, I am gaining a greater understanding of what this means. They excited me as an audience member and as a fellow actor when they came into the scene - their vocal rhythms, their individual physicalities flowing naturally from themselves. A smile, an inflection, an idiosyncratic hand movement or expression and all your thinking is - "this is lovely, more please". You want the "play" to last, the moment to linger and everyone in the room is excited by not knowing where the improvisation/scene might go next. But within this freedom there is discipline - you must be with your partner, not running off on your own narrative or simply diving into a stale box of tricks. Audience and actors are not stupid. We are delighted and feel pleasure when the journey is organic and the play is happening for real, in this moment, in front of us.

Anureeta Kaur, Participant Actor

It has been an interesting three weeks so far. Having the opportunity to concentrate on the ‘pleasure to play’ has been very helpful as it has gradually allowed me to relax and focus on being in the moment. Exploring creative possibilities with a group of talented actors and observing how Kristine works with each actor has been an effective learning tool. Whether working on my monologue or now working on a duologue, I have been able to play to see what possibilities there are in a scene. One of the interesting ways to explore has been the use of one’s background and language. The opportunity to improvise in my mother tongue was freeing as it brought other sides of myself to the foreground and I feel that this actor-centric technique allowed me to enjoy improvisation and be in the moment rather than finding it daunting.

Ali Zaidi, Paricipant Actor

Two weeks in I have to say it’s been game-changing. The workshops are proving to be progressively challenging, and more fun. We’ve delved into the idea of play as a state of being for an actor - removing the idea of obtaining pre-set goals and instead enjoying playing with the other person in the moment. That is the very least I will take away from my time with Kristine.

It’s strangely comforting to uncover that everyone in the group, all of whom are excellent actors, seem to share similar issues in their work. The idea of being present, to enjoy the moment, and to use themselves (and all the various connotations that it entails i.e. culture, race, age, etc) as a valid starting point. The idea of a “neutral” starting point is an interesting one and one that particularly resonates with me. It’s weird, but until Kristine mentioned it I was happy to totally disregard my own identity in my approach to acting, when it is quite clearly my greatest asset. The idea of myself, an Asian actor, forcing myself to approach work from a White perspective does seem really strange, and it’s only because of this course that I’ve come to realize what I’ve been denying myself in my work.

On a personal note, I did my monologue (Othello’s Iago) the week previously. I had, at the beginning, admitted my fear of improvisation. We quickly found our feet in the situation provided by Kristine and were off. I was lucky that my partners were somewhat more confident than I was. Kristine has a really interesting way of working, and accessing an actors’ full being. She had me improvise in Urdu, then switch to English with a Pakistani accent before launching into my monologue. I found this liberating. An experience I had never had before. I found that I brought a lot of myself to the scene and, most importantly, that was absolutely fine. I hit a point in my monologue that Kristine calls “riding the crest of the wave”- a point where you, the scene and the words flow just right. And you are on the line, and you’re living it. I’ve felt it before in moments where I’ve known I’ve down some good work. Hitting that point was an indication for me. It showed me that I was doing myself a disservice by disregarding my own personal background and everything that essentially made me who I am. It also showed me that this process was something I could take with me and implement in my work, my art.

Sunnie Sidhu, Participant Actor

It’s refreshing to work with a company that celebrates and encourages the individuality of the actor, rather than oppress it. Working with Tamasha has reminded me to trust my instincts when it comes to text in order to find its natural rhythms and depth, rather than over analysis, which keeps you acting in your head rather than your gut. Most importantly, the workshops have reminded me to play.

Anshu Srivastava, Participant Director Observer

OK, third workshop in and I am properly excited (I also attended the Chekhov and Shakespeare masterclasses). This is a great group of actors! I'm especially pleased as this is going to be a chance to see the group develop over six weeks.

My observations from the Shakespeare masterclass were reinforced. To locate and enjoy the pleasure to play, not only within oneself but within the other and to hold that connection is important not only between the actors, but also between the actors and the director. A phrase that was used on the night was 'to ride the crest of a wave and stay there as long as possible'. It’s clear that this place is temporal and not obviously easy to sustain. Some people asked how can an individual actor access that 'sweet spot' when they are alone in front of an audition panel. I began to wonder, how can you authentically attain that place, night after night in front of an audience.

I'm looking forward to the following classes where some of these questions can be addressed with the group.

Nitasha Rajoo, Participant Director Observer

"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." Edwin Land

Enjoying the pleasure to play - Director Observer

As many children growing up in Canada, we are all exposed to the breadth of society having grown up within a multitude of cultures. I, like others were privileged to be surrounded by an awe of diversification and I, like others witnessed the beauty and struggle that surrounded lives as west and east traditions tried to merge. However, in the melting pot of colours, cultures and languages, it still remains to be a question: What is our identity? Attending the workshop tonight reinforced that it is OK just to BE.

After I graduated university, I was ready to live my dream...on stage. Audition after audition I was unable to attain anything of merit, and it crushed the soul (every actor knows this feeling!). As an actor, we are stripped to a neutral starting point to be rebuilt and moulded – I witnessed this last night. Observing some of the actors wanting to question the premise of some of Kristine’s activities is healthy – I had numerous questions running through my head. But the end result – the work that was conjured was even better than the initial.

In a workshop years ago, I asked the question: “Where is the culture in the cultural sector”? and the response was silence. It was then skidded over and reiterated that culture was naturally the arts – encompassing dance, music, theatre. Naturally, but is there not a deeper meaning...a deeper layer? This was years ago.

I started a theatre company in Vancouver Canada called Shakti Arts – in a reaction to creating action for South Asian artists to emerge on stage. A place to express one’s cultural identity ...one’s spirit. This again was projected in the first workshop – Kristine encouraged actors to participate in having fun. ...to connect with the spirit.

As a drama teacher now, my ‘actors’ are raw, new and are open to the idea of play. The freedom and no inhibition in the game of tag, is a game I tried the next day with my year 7’s . They loved it. When I encouraged my GCSE group to play the same game, they started asking questions about the rules, the winner, the competition, all before the game could commence. They had the extra layers from shows (they just finished performing Othello).

I am a director observer on this project, but at heart I am ( and always will be ) an actor. I came into the session, excited to observe ( but I’ll be honest I was gutted not to be able to participate). However, after just watching I take away so much: ‘Finding a meaning through different voices, learning from the flop, and being able to make mistakes, showing conflict without all the noise’- these will all help in my delivery in the classroom but also it will aid in my own approach to texts as a performer.

I am very much an actor that likes to get into the nuts and bolts of the character. I like the challenge and exploration of the inner layers and makeup of a character – what truly makes them tick. I was thoroughly impressed in how Kristine used the idea of one’s mother language and improvisation to convey this practice. Getting to crux using our own cultural makeup makes our scenes, that much more real, and genuine.

It seems so simple. ...Until next week...

Manisha Hirani, Participant Actor

I have only ever been taught on-screen acting, and even though it helped kick off my career, I felt like I wasn't progressing anymore and I knew more work needed to be done but I wasn't sure what. After 1 workshop I learnt so much. It was almost like going back to basics - which is exactly what I had missed, especially with having no theatre training whatsoever. The idea that an actor should take pleasure in their role is so simple but forgotten by so many including myself. After 1 workshop I already feel confident in approaching scripts, without having to worry about how I should be portraying the character, or succumb to (what i think) is other peoples' idea of a particular character. Cannot wait for next weeks workshop!

Shakespeare Workshop Blog, August 2012

Anshu Srivastava, Participant Director Observer Over the Chekhov and now the Shakespeare workshops, I have observed how the actors are encouraged to be confident not through some self regarding sense of their own ability, but through an open and trusting interplay, one with the other. Once the actor is fully open to working in this way, then the text, however archaic, powerful or strange becomes immediate and human.

Watching Kristine work, one is both very aware of her experience and knowledge, but also of her constant flow of humour, creativity and sensitivity with the actors. Through the day, I began to think myself of improv scenarios, tweaks, adjustments, that I might bring to a first rehearsal but realising that this must be with the same open attitude to the actors as they are being asked to find with each other.

Ragevan Vasan, Participant Actor

As soon as the masterclass began I realised I was in for a challenging day. There was a lot to take in for one day's work and being able to summarise everything I learnt probably wouldn't do it justice. However, the workshop provided me with everything I wanted; a great insight into Shakespearean text. I feel more at ease with these texts and I am more confident with playing/ improvising around the text. Krisitine's methods were completely new to me and I can't wait to go back at some point and learn more.

I highly recommend it!

Caroline George, Participant Actor

I believe she (Kristine) is able to stretch each actor with almost immediate effect which is not easily found in our industry. I found her direct approach and the class in general to be a challenging, inspiring and rewarding experience which has motivated me to become a better actor, for which I am truly grateful.

Elena Procopiu, Participant Actor

Every actor improved dramatically in an exceptionally short space of time. Shakespeare is often viewed with suspicious reverence by actors, the language often jarring instincts, but Kristine managed to get each actor to make the words sound like they were truly their own. All first rehearsals should be like this.

Poppy Corbett, Participant Director Observer

‘Don’t come into the game prepared how to play – you will play differently with each person so you can’t prepare how you will play.’

This was my second workshop and even though I was just an Observer, I felt I have improved in understanding ‘how to play well’. Possibly, this has to do with feeling more relaxed in the environment of the masterclass, as I had already experienced one before. However, it is also to do with the fact that Kristine ingrains in you the importance of actors playing WITH each other, as opposed to pre-determining how you approach the playing: not to worry about yourself and how YOU look/play, but to focus on working out how to play with your partner. If more actors realised this on the stage, their work would soon become remarkable.

Even though the exercises and methods were same as the Chekhov workshop, I still leant a great deal from observing. This time, I could more readily see the vast improvement actors made on their speeches after Kristine worked with them. What interested me in particular was the moment in improvisations where actors jump from the impro to the text. Some actors seamlessly achieved this and retained the playfulness of their impro. Others found the line between their impro and text a little harder to cross smoothly; almost as though a panic alarm of ‘TEXT’ sounds before they jump into it. However, I was very impressed by seeing how much the actors improved their performances after working with Kristine and finding a new way into the text. There are always ways to work towards an engaging and fantastic performance.

I’ve always wanted to direct a Shakespeare, but have always felt somewhat daunted by it. Kristine spoke of that moment the director goes cold with fear and thinks ‘what do I do next?’ and I feel I would be thinking this all the time with Shakespeare! The density, the iambic, the complex language – where on earth to begin!? Following the workshop, I feel much more confident how to begin. Kristine suggested the iambic is almost the ‘icing on the cake’. When working on scenes, work from the actor themselves first and make them confident, then worry about anything fancy. Kristine reassured that sometimes it takes longer to work out how to improve something and what’s wrong – but don’t give up, try different things. The actor can be brilliant and it is the fault of the director leading them down the wrong path and giving up on them if they’re not.

Keeley Jo Jupp, Participant Actor

I really enjoyed my day at Tamasha. I was inspired to watch other actors and was happy to meet observing directors. When I performed my first scene, Kristine immediately helped me improve. I was able to perform the scene again and felt a huge improvement after having Kristine’s input. Again in the afternoon, when I performed scenes from Romeo and Juliet, Kristine helped improve the performance by giving us some improvisation techniques to work with and then finally placing the text over the top. I have never done this before and I was really impressed with my results. Kristine spent a lot of time with me on this and we tried a few different methods, which I am grateful for. I will take away some great tips from that day and would definitely go there again.

Jen Tan, Participant Actor

Ah, Shakespeare. That name conjures so many different thoughts and feelings for many people, especially actors. We’re all supposed to love and revere him and be able to recite huge swathes of his text on command. Only it doesn’t work like that. For me personally I feel like I was lured into loving his work at drama school where almost daily practice took away the fear and bolstered my confidence. Fast forward a few years and the fear’s been allowed to creep back in. It’s that Catch 22 – if you don’t get a Shakespeare job then you don’t have the experience to get a Shakespeare job so you don’t practice. And then it gets scary again. However good your acting it, somehow the text starts to get in the way again.

Earlier this year I saw the Marjanishvili Theatre from Georgia perform As You Like It at the Globe as part of the Globe to Globe season in Georgian and it was, hands down, the very best production of a Shakespeare play I have ever seen. The actors were really playing together well and looking after each other as an ensemble. It was funny and alive. There was no ego. This production completely represented the kind of theatre I want to make as an actor, and see as an audience member. I drew a lot of parallels between the way I saw these actors working and the way we’d worked with Kristine in the Actor-Director Laboratory. So when the opportunity arose to work with Kristine on a Shakespeare Masterclass, I jumped at it.

We were all nervous when we stepped through the door – a group of 8 actors that don’t know each other and 3 director-observers to watch. It was like the start of any rehearsal. A bit like the first day of school. Then Kristine led us in a series of warm-up games to start. Sound like any rehearsal? Well it’s not. At every stage we were asked why the game was beneficial, what the aim of it is in relation to acting. We were encouraged to play ‘well’, not be ‘playful’. That distinction is massively important and I feel is a big key thing which envelops this preliminary work. Kristine commented on the interplay between individuals and gently reminded us to play together and ‘not too hard’ when appropriate.

From games we moved on to text and looked individually at the monologues we had prepared. Using improvisations and exercises uniquely tailored to each individual actor, Kristine honed, tweaked and improved each performance, taking away the fear from each of us and bringing us back to ourselves.

For me personally the workshop served as a stark reminder never to stand still because you’ll end up looking backwards. By this I mean that Kristine saw my habits and forced me out of them. We had very helpful conversations about what they are and how dangerous they can be. She also reminded me of ways to avoid them and was incredibly frank about pointing out when I was slipping into them. If nobody points these things out to you, then how on earth are you supposed to go about working on correcting them?

The scene work we moved onto in the afternoon produced some really beautifully engaging snippets of scenes with real engagement.

We only scratched the surface of what Shakespeare could be during this day, but imagining what a full production could be if all the tiny moments we found were knitted together is electric and exciting. I for one would like to see it.

Grace Chilton, Actor Participant

Kristine talked about the moment when text is introduced as often being one of fear for the actor - I’m certainly always scared of speaking for the first time in rehearsals and often suddenly have a silly sense of responsibility to deliver what I think the text should be, rather than being brave enough to play moment to moment with a partner (whether the other player is the other actor, or the audience). Although I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of learning how to “play well” this Masterclass was very useful in discovering some bad habits, which gives me the chance to undo, re-learn and re-evaluate in future practice. The emphasis on learning how to play in a room with another person, and to a certain extent scrap “prep” work (as you can’t predict what the other player will bring to the room and what play will exist between you, as all text needs to come as a response) was so useful. It was great to work with Kristine as she created an environment in which actors could play well with each other; her feedback was specific, direct and personal and I think every actor was given a note they could take forward both in working on their Shakespeare text and also into future work. I enjoyed the way improvisation was used to marry the gap between the actor and the text; it effectively bought new life to all our speeches and scenes which was exciting to watch; seeing how other actors became less blocked as improvisation helped to breach the distance between actor and text, giving the text more life as it became more personal and powerful made it a worthwhile Masterclass.

Ellen Hill, Actor Participant

I like to play (or try to) so it is enjoyable to use games at the start of a workshop. Kristine is nice and genuine which means it is easy to listen to her and get advice on how to improve. I wasn't asked to do anything stupid or 'affected' which again was good. I think I learnt/enjoyed as much, if not more, watching everyone else's work than actually 'acting' myself.

Hassan Khan, Actor Participant

Best value for money master class an actor should attend, especially if you are looking for an intense, crash course experience. Loved it.

Anna Jordan, Participant Director Observer

A great workshop. The way Kristine works is really imaginative and her passion was infectious.  Since my experience at Tamasha I feel much more confident using impro in my rehearsal room, and I have learned some new games too. I am glad to be coming back in October to work on contemporary text so I can reaffirm everything I have already learnt.  Really pleased to have been a part of it. I hope to work with Tamasha more in the future.

Chekhov Workshop Blog, July 2012

Eleanor Buchan, Participant Actor A brilliant masterclass.

I wanted to take this particular masterclass because I have never liked or 'got' Chekhov and I wanted to approach it from a different direction. Kristine broke it down for us, and by starting with improvisation (the actor rather than the text) I was felt able to find my way in. Suddenly it doesn't seem so daunting. It was a complete delight to watch the other actors interpret these complex scenes.

Being able to build on my previous Tamasha training is invaluable. Most significantly, it helps me develop the language that I need to communicate with the people I work with, have my needs met and meet theirs. Being able to pop back for a refresher lesson is brilliant.

A lovely day.

Frankie Haynes, Participant Actor

Too often the industry can feel like a walled garden, and for so many actors opportunities can feel few and far between. Tamasha's one day Masterclass has not only given me more confidence when approaching classical texts for the future, but also the chance to meet and work with some very inspiring talent. If only more theatre companies could be as accessible and forward thinking as Tamasha.

Poppy Corbett, Participant Director Observer

'Always start with the actor, not the text.'

The Chekhov Masterclass with Kristine was inspiring, challenging and fun. I came away with fresh ideas as to how Kristine's approach can help improve my own directing technique. Kristine's methods liberate the actor through finding ways into the text, often by using their own cultural background/language to help. By not starting with the text, but instead finding the key to the text through improv, Kristine encourages the actor to view the text as not as something distant and difficult, but something which is accessible to them and with many possibilities of different ways to play it. So often as a director, you are not challenged as to why you have done or said something, because you are the one challenging others. Kristine challenged me as a director to be specific about the words I choose to use with actors so that everything I say is useful for them, not confusing. My own practice will become more focused and playful as a result of attending this Masterclass.

Tuyen Do, Participant Actor

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure to be back in the classroom with Kristine to work on text from one of my favourite writer's, Chekhov. That morning, I realised I had seen and read a lot of his work but, as an actor, had never acted it throughout any of my training thus far.  I learnt a lot in just one day from watching others as well as working myself and am looking forward to the next challenge. My only regret is that it wasn't a week rather than a day.

Indranyl Singhara, Participant Actor

I undertook the Chekhov workshop with Kristine and was greatly pleased I did. Kristine's methods allowed me, as an actor, to use my own intuition instead of forcing a character upon a classical text. I definitely feel more confident in approaching the text as a result. To have had the opportunity to work in this environment with Tamasha was one I would definitely recommend. I hope to be able to attend more in the future.

Robin Morrissey, Participant Actor

Tamasha’s Master Class with Kristine Landon-Smith was a truly valuable experience. I’ve come away from the day feeling invigorated, confident, instinctive and extremely grateful. Certainly something I will recommend to anyone wanting to delve into some Chekhov.

Anshu Srivastava, Participant Observer

This was the first acting workshop I have ever attended and it proved to be a wonderful experience. Tamasha’s open access policy in full effect! I found Kristine’s confident and direct approach very refreshing.  It was a wonderful introduction, I feel quite inspired and looking forward to the next class.

Fariyal Wallez, Participant Observer

The Chekhov masterclass with Kristine was an inspiring and unforgettable day. How rare such opportunities are where, as a designer, I am able to observe from a director’s perspective. It was a real treat...to see the passion, energy and attentiveness it takes to truly ‘play’. I had the sense that any text, however removed or distant from my own life experience, could be accessed on a fundamental level when the layers of formality are taken away...a great reminder for me to keep learning by seeing the world from the eyes of a child. Thank you everyone for a wonderful day!

Adrian Li Donni, Participant Actor Participating in Kristine's Chekhov workshop gave me a greater sense of awareness while working on the text. Too often, I tend to get heavy headed when I work. Kristine reminded me of what it is we are essentially doing when we act, which is to "play".

 

Elena Procopiu, Actor Participant

I loved the fact that I performed in Romanian and French and worked around the scene every which way and finally, when the time came for the text, I was a completely different actor to when I started. My nerves were distracted by the wonderful and fun exercises I did before the scene. I would do this everyday if I could.

Days 4 & 5 on the Acting Workshop Blog

Day 4 Ok where do I begin? I have worked with Kristine on numerous occasions but this time I had a week whereas on the other occasions I was only really just skimming the surface of her practise. Somewhere along the way to me becoming an actor Mr Thinker came into my life. Serious training, character work, what’s my motivation, text analysis, am I good, am I doing it right, do the audience like me etc came into the melting pot in my pool of thoughts. There was a time when I wanted to become an actor because it was fun and I enjoyed it. So the evident word of the week to “play” stuck out for me like a sore thumb. I was able to play openly with the careful guidance of Kristine to bring the simplicity of acting back. But it wasn’t easy. I thought that as I had worked with Kristine’s practice before I would fly. But as soon as the first words of Claudio’s “Ay, but to die” from Measure for Measure came out of my mouth something instantly happened where I wasn’t myself which really is 90% of my strongest asset as an actor. I know what you’re thinking. You’re an actor. It’s your job to be someone else! But surely to become someone else you need to first become comfortable with yourself?  With your identity and culture!  Working this way is enabling me to see how I can use this work in the profession to become clearer and more concise when it comes to making choices and approaching work. I need to find a way in so that it works for me. An organic process where I can always go to if I find myself lost in this ridiculous 1 dimensional profession. Mr Thinker your time is up! Mr Play you are needed immediately!

Siu Hun Li

Having heard a lot about Kristine's method of play and improvisation I was curious to understand how this practice worked and how I could use this to influence my work as an actor. I have already used the word "work" in my opening sentence twice and this idea of "working" to analyse the text, make decisions about the character and generally over think things seems to be more harmful than helpful in our journeys as actors. It's Kristine's emphasis on play and finding the pleasure to play and make those discoveries naturally and truthfully that unlocks the actor and opens them up to a much more free way of (dare I say) "working."

The group is big enough to be able to learn so much from one another but small enough for Kristine to work on a very individual basis and there is a real focus on the individual incorporating all aspects of the actor including cultural background which in many other training courses is not as heavily explored.

Today I looked at a piece from Chekhov and  original writing. It's a challenge to go straight into text and be good which is often what is required in an audition situation. Using the technique that Kristine has shown us I find that I am able to find a way in with a carefully set up improvisation that provides me with the right conditions that I need to naturally go from being off the text to on and use the totality of myself rather than an idea of who or what the character should be and just play, play, play, PLAY!

Rehana Samuel

Day 5

The last day of the Acting Masterclass has come around very fast. It has been an eye opening experience for this “wanna be” director. As someone who has never been to a workshop like this I wasn’t sure what to expect so I had started the week with some trepidation but also lots of excitement about watching how Kris works with actors. She didn’t disappointment, her commitment to her craft, her pleasure in playing and her fearlessness has been truly inspiring.  Today as the actors run through the texts that they have been working with all week I can see the big steps that they have taken under her guidance. There is more freedom in their work, an aliveness and connection with themselves, the other actors and the audience (in this case me!). The lessons I am taking away from the week are: bringing one’s culture, identity and idiosyncrasies to the fore is critical in bringing out the best in people. One has to be very serious about playing, in fact it is an art form itself and when people let themselves play they become more present to the moment, it’s as though the natural generosity that exists in us comes out to play. I have seen this time and again this week in the way that the actors have supported each other in all that we have done. Watching the way that Kristine uses and sets up the physical space and her intuition have also been fascinating, these two things seem to bring the actors to the truth of what is needed in the text.  Once they have relaxed they can turn their hand to anything from Chekov to not very well written TV scripts and engage an audience.

If I ever decide to take up directing I will pay closer attention to the set up in the rehearsal room, making it light and playful and really finding out more about the characteristics of the actor. This commitment to the actor is what will make a great piece of work. I have a feeling these lessons can be applied to any situation in life.

Deepa Patel

Days 2 & 3 on the Acting Workshop Blog

Day 2 I saw the House of Bilqis Bibi three years ago and I was struck by the emphasis of geometry not just in the beautiful set, but also in the marking of the actors. Today I watched Kristine have a conversation with someone from Graeae, whilst absentmindedly arranging pots of tea, coffee and sugar on the countertop into a symmetrically imperfect, but geometrically sound formation. It made me think that when humans or animals are engaged with each other, the dynamic of space is defined, and each party is always aware of this. Yesterday when working with my text, Kristine created distance between me and Assad, who I was working with; to create a cleaner, more engaged speech. The difference was marked, and suddenly I found new urgency and purpose to the words I was speaking- incredible.

Isobel Mascarenhas-Whitman

Day 3

Here I am working with Kristine again and with a wonderful group of actors from different cultural backgrounds. It is very nice to start every session with the exciting Kristine’s warm-ups that make us feel ready and confident to start working with the texts. Kristine proposes a few games for the warm up then she joins and plays with us. According to her, games that involve some kind of competition are the best ones to get the actor ready. After having played a couple of Kristine’s games, she usually asks the actors what game would be suitable to keep going with the warm up and increasing the actors needs to feel completely ready to play the scenes. She wants to see as well how the person that chooses an appropriate game sets it up and explain how it works and the rules to the rest of the company. It is very interesting to see and analyze why some games are not a good option for the company.

To finish the warm-up we did some breathing and voice exercises that were very useful and very good material for the actors to keep for ourselves. Thanks to these very exciting warm-ups, the rehearsal room becomes a pleasant place to work and help the actors in their challenging scenes that they will be performing later. Besides, it is always very nice to start the day with a smile and with that energy that the games provide plus their function to unite the people.

After the warm-up we started working in the texts. Day 3 was quite pleasant with both classical and modern scenes but very intense as well. I worked with Anna-Maria and thanks to Kristine’s guidance and directions we achieved an excellent result. We did an improvisation from a Shakespeare’s text and it was very rewarding to see how applying Kristine’s corrections the scene got better and better.

Last November I took part in The Actor & Director Lab and I also worked with Kristine last July when she was directing our 2nd year ensemble at Circus Space. I realized how beneficial and effective Kristine’s method is and her capacity to obtain the best from every actor. Kristine analyzes and focuses in every single detail at all the levels of the performance – text, voice, breathe and movement. What I really like from Kristine is the empathy she establishes with her actors and she is very good at keeping us calm and passing on to us her support; that way the actor feels confident and achieves incredible outcomes. It is very pleasant to take part in this workshop as you can see these amazing scenes from other actors and you can learn a lot as well from them. To sum up, the Acting Masterclass is being an amazing learning experience. Thank you very much Kristine!

Marcos Tajadura

I have taken the course recommended by friend. I am so glad to be working along with Kristine who is an absolutely fantastic teacher and helps a lot in order to make sure that a sensitivity of acting can be performed naturally. I love being around her. Her pushing, criticising, understanding is brilliant. I have learned a lot. It has helped me in many ways being an actor and model. I would love to work with her again.

Laila Khalid

Day 1 on the Acting Workshop Blog

  Back in the rehearsal room with the woman that changed it all for me and many others. Morning coffee is sipped over bubbling conversations of lost and confused actors in the industry – I guess we are all here for the same reasons then! We get straight off with some volleyball and it feels so good to be back in a room playing with other artists. As the day proceeds, a few others and I get to revisit Kristine’s practice, only this time there are a few hidden gems for each individual. The practice itself becomes clearer and clearer, in other word’s cutting out all the academic bullshit and just keeping it as simple as ' finding the pleasure to play'. There's no fancy explanation and this sends a very settling feeling through me as a director. My new gem for today was directing in Vietnamese, it was such a poignant moment for me in my process. This ease and instinctive way of working came flooding out of me and there I was 'underneath the rehearsal room' as Kristine puts it! So fascinating how the mother tongue can empower you as an artist even though I you might feel you identify with your British side a lot more!

Anna Nguyen

 

Day 1 of our Actors Masterclass but my second workshop with Kristine and it feels good to be back. The key word here is Masterclass.  From the get go we are brought into a room to master our craft and artistry. Everything has a meaning and reason and is useful! So we play games for 2 hours to begin with. But not just any theatre games, we work in detail, intelligently and maturely to play games as only we as actors can. And it is actually beautiful to watch, when we play well together! Who would have thought a game of keeping a soft ball in the air between 10 people or musical chairs could actually be beautiful to watch. Don't get me wrong though- it isn't an easy task as we discover and are pushed to find the reason behind games old and new. Words and concepts easily bandied about in the rehearsal room such as focus, team work, warming up, and readiness are all thrown out for the simplicity but specificity of "PLAYING WELL TOGETHER" playing as an artist and not as a child.

Already everything I have been previously taught is being turned on its head and it actually makes sense. Later we throw out the idea of "Character" and introduce ourselves onto the stage and the joy of 'Anna-Maria' playing well with other actors and with the text!

"If we the actors are not present on stage then there is nothing to see" or words very closely to that effect.

So picking up from where I left off in my last workshop with Tamasha (Nov 2011). I work in a Ugandan accent on a London Nigerian piece of writing (I know it sounds messy and crazy but it works!) and the piece flies in ways I cannot explain. Knowing that the Ugandan accent is some kind of key to help me unlock the way I play with text and with other actors - I quickly use this to help find exciting choices and freedom to play with the text. Then I am switching between this and my naturalLondonaccent but keeping the same freedom and sense of play. What took me a week to begin to uncover in the last workshop comes to fruition in a matter of minutes. I now understand what this key is, how powerful it is and how i can start to use it independently.

This is going to be an amazing week I can feel it already...

Anna-Maria Nabirye

Acting Workshop Blog with Kristine Landon-Smith – Day 3

"Kristine knew that one of the participants - "a young handsome boy" - had been usually cast to play an energetic boy. As soon as she said this, the boy blushed & agreed - both to the complement and the right guess. However, immediately he added that he didn't always like it. Kristine's instinct was right. She said that he would be good with energetic roles but he would also be wonderful with playing the role of a gentle young boy. I don't know how he felt - but I knew Kristine had given him a gift. A gift suited to him. A gift he embraced when he next went on floor. Whenever he forgets his gift, Kristine reminds him - and there he is on floor - "a young handsome gentle lovely boy."

During the past couple of days, lots of big words have been abandoned & only the pleasure to play has been focused on. Through insights, improvisations & play, the participants have been playing the game Kristine think they might like. Which has opened doors for the participants. And a window for me." Neha Nahata - Observer

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"Inevitably my reflection on this fascinating week so far is to some extent reflecting also on my experience of having been part of the Actor/Director Laboratory in November. This week is a great opportunity to re-visit Kristine’s approach and work through the process by engaging in a whole five days of playing and exploring, this time with a different and smaller group, and therefore in a more detailed way. I’m finding it really helpful to clarify and go deeper into things that came up during that week, and to further develop and consolidate my understanding through doing and observing in this context. By actually working through these processes again in an intensive way, it is helping me to marry what I learnt during the Actor/Director Lab with what I had learnt before then, have learnt since, and am learning now. As well as developing my own process, it’s so interesting to watch and be part of the development of each actor in a more sustained way than was possible during the Lab. The Lab was equally fascinating but a whole different experience, not least because of the dynamic of seeing and being part of Kristine working with the directors.

At the heart of it all though, is the simplicity of playing and connecting, and the notion of starting always from ourselves. Of course, rationally, we know to start from ourselves, completely ourselves unshielded, openly and truthfully, (and I don’t just mean actors working on a scene but all artists and creators). However, even knowing this, and knowing that having any preconceived or pre-learnt notion of how something is expected to be or ‘should’ be only holds us back, everyone at times has the temptation to use/return to what they have learnt or know will ‘work’ (either as an actor, artist or person approaching a given moment). Doing what we think or even know will ‘work’ may make something good but not extra-ordinary. By starting from ourselves, completely letting go of everything else, we find the keys to make what we are doing extra-ordinary. It is about really noticing and challenging the subtle ways we can at times slip into things that are safer as opposed to taking the risk of something murkier and less tangible. As Kristine said today, it is having the courage to ‘not know.’ It’s a fascinating journey and one we go on exploring and developing throughout our lives as artists, learning more and more to trust the intangible.

There is so much to say and document but just to give a sense of ‘shape’ to how this week is progressing: we are beginning to work more with how to bridge what we are learning with the next stage of working on/actually performing a monologue or scene in another setting (such as an audition or performance). The idea is that we can then take what we’ve learnt and apply it to a different scene, context, or requirement, trusting that we can set ourselves up through detailed steps and follow these steps through to create an extra-ordinary final performance. The specifics of these ‘steps’ are something we cannot know until we explore each situation or scene and then work through the process that is inevitably, and by nature as something ‘in creation’, ‘messy’ and uncertain.

Here’s to another two days of the course and to the future..."

Camila Fiori - Actor