The Alexander Technique for Actors

The Alexander Technique

for Actors

 

The Alexander Technique is included in the curriculum of many major theatre institutions including RADA, Julliard, UCLA, Yale School of Drama, Royal National Theatre, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Actors Studio MFA Acting Program, Old Globe Theatre London, London Academy of Music and Dranatic Arts, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Why does the acting profession consider the Alexander Technique so essential to its members? The New York University Tisch School Of The Arts describes the importance of the Technique in its programme:

In your first year, you spend time getting to know how your body, voice, imagination, and feelings are released through the elimination of tension/muscular holding.The Alexander Technique (a technique for freeing and centering the body) is the hub of the work and relates to all the other classes – voice, speech, singing, even circus.”

Unlike musicians, actors do not have an external instrument to perform with – the actor is his/her own instrument. Body, mind and voice need to be in constant interplay as a unified whole. Actors are required to become another person, to enter the imagination of a character, and to embody their thoughts and actions. To do this well, they must first know themselves.

For all of us, not just actors, life puts great stress and strain on our bodies. The Alexander Technique has given me a self-help method of teaching me to relax and adjust my posture so that my body, which for an actor is an instrument, can work as well as possible.” Jeremy Irons

The Alexander Technique teaches self-awareness first of all, and then how to ‘use’ the self with more poise and control, and less excess effort and tension. Self-observation reveals previously unacknowledged habitual patterns of posture and reaction, which can manifest themselves during performance. These interfere with imaginative character portrayal. Discovering one’s habitual patterns is the first step to freeing oneself from them. Undoing habitual postural patterns releases excess tension, allowing for the right amount of tension at the right time. This in turn enhances freedom of movement and gesture, which increases choice of response in rehearsal and performance. Increased self-knowledge is also the first stage in overcoming fear: fear of failure, of memory loss, fear of judgement. Overcoming fear helps us to step into the unknown in a spirit of adventure and excitement. As William Hurt succinctly put it:

“ The Alexander Technique has helped me to undo knots, unblock energy and deal with almost paralysing stage fright. ”

No-one who has acted will underestimate the physical and mental demands of rehearsing and performing. One wants, above all, freedom of expression in the moment; yet most actors have experienced the frustration of feeling that freedom disappear at the point of delivery, due to fear, tension, or distraction.

Alan Rickman describes how the Technique helped him:

“With the best intentions, the job of acting can become a display of accumulated bad habits, trapped instincts and blocked energies.  Working with the Alexander Technique to untangle the wires has given me sightings of another way.  Mind and body, work and life together.  Real imaginative freedom.”

Alexander Technique workshops for Actors

Book a workshop for your theatre group

In my workshops we work on self-awareness in simple activities (sitting, standing and walking, for example), discovering and liberating ourselves from habitual patterns of posture and reaction. Through games, discussions, and group/paired work, we explore how much choice we have in all our movements, and how exciting (rather than frightening) it is to venture into uncharted territories of movement and thought processes. We then apply the work to issues that are of concern to you and your theatre group.

My Alexander Technique workshops for actors can be tailored to your needs. Careful planning with me prior to your workshop ensures that you maximise the benefits for your group.

These are some of the themes covered in workshops.

  • self-discovery though self-observation
  • finding the right levels of tension and release
  • taking time to be present
  • creative response rather than habitual reaction
  • character exploration – broadening the range of available choices/responses
  • stepping into the unknown

The Alexander Technique teacher can help the actor with both self-discovery and character discovery. A character has to evolve out of the actor’s mind, body and emotions; reside there truthfully and experience the story of the play or film, moment by moment…You simply cannot learn the Alexander Technique from a book. You can read about the concepts and principles of Alexander work, but at some point it is absolutely necessary to engage with a trained and certified Alexander Technique teacher.”  The Actor And The Alexander Technique by Kelly McEvenue