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Daring to be real on stage – Bodywork for actors

A good actor is good at being real. I love the theater, because I enjoy watching the actors. A good play in my opinion is not depending on the text or the aesthetic components, but most of all on the physicality and the liveliness of the actors. I like listening to complicated thoughts on stage, if I can feel that the actor is actually thinking them in that very moment. And I love watching movements, if I can feel that they are filled with meaning. Detecting the emotional relationships between the characters on stage, if the actors are daring to allow those emotions to be there in that moment, is an amazing experience. Being real is what makes a good actor.

I teach people to be real, how to be themselves without fighting against it. In general, physical therapy is a wonderful learning tool for actors, because their bodies are their instruments. They are very aware of being a body. Therefore it is easy to find a common language during the sessions.

Personal challenges artists face are also an interesting field to look at when working with actors (e.g. How to manage the demanding situations of rehearsing, how to use your fear in very competitive surroundings like a casting, or how to stay creative under pressure?) I would like to write about how I use somatic coaching and bodywork when approaching a role – in addition to a rehearsing process or  preparation for a casting.

At acting school in Germany most actors get familiar with the term “Durchlässigkeit” – which means “permeability or “being transparent” in English. It means being able to feel your partner, to react to your surroundings and the impulses from outside adequately and to allow your emotions to be visible. It is an ability demanded of students, but it is not taught. Most people consider it a given talent, but in my experience this can be learned.

How can you learn this? It’s simple. You have to learn to be afraid and vulnerable. This is the most important ingredient for an intense performance.

In a bodywork session I can teach you what you are doing in order NOT to be afraid. What posture have you learned to take on when pretending to be strong? What expression does your face have? What happens to your voice, when you pretend to be untouched by other peoples’ judgments? Once you discover all the physical efforts in your body and the automatic thoughts and feelings that accompany them, you can influence this state of being. When you have gained control over it, you can let it go – let go of the extra efforts and trust that you are good enough. If there is no extra effort, there is no pretense. You enter a state  of being that is permeable and intense, where your emotions are seen, your thoughts are heard and your movements are felt.

If an actor is able to create this state of permeability and transparency, he or she has easy access to all the parts of themselves needed for creating a role. And that doesn’t mean that the person can only play a role if they have a set of similar experiences to what the character has. You can approach a character, which feels completely strange to you, scene by scene, act by act. Which emotion within yourself do you need to get in touch with and then express without restraints?

Acting doesn’t mean faking. It means being intensely real and putting your focus of expression onto a certain part of yourself. Acting means daring to stand out by standing on a stage and acting FOR us. That is the historical origin of the theatre: a ritual, where one person takes an outstanding place on the part of all the individuals of the community and expresses something for them. It means being very connected and very alone at the same time. Conditio humana, everybody!

If an actor manages to perform in this state of being, it creates a similar experience for the audience, too. A good actor can create a shared reality with the audience. That’s the experience I love!

About the author:

Katrin Sadlowski is a Qualified Practitioner of the Grinberg Method
in Hamburg, Germany

Click here to see her IAGMP profile.

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