Being an actor, director and founder of the Australian Acting Academy, I have found useful workshops and instructors harder and harder to find. Over the past 20 years I have either dabbled or studied Method, Meisner, Practical Aesthetics, Impulse work and Eric Morris. Because of this I was delighted and somewhat skeptical when I was accepted as an actor for Theatrelab 05 masterclass with world famous LA acting coach Ivana Chubbuck.
Despite her clientele reading like a who’s who of Oscar winners, I was still concerned that this lady would bring nothing new, and like many other workshops, just tell me the same thing in a different way. Any fears of this were soon dispelled in the first 15 minutes of the masterclass. There was a new Fear to replace them, Ivan Chubbuck.
This lady was a firecracker who dispensed with niceties when they weren’t appropriate or when an actor dared to question her BEFORE trying her advice or direction.
I watched as actor after actor took the stage unprepared, or thinking that they could charm their way out of the situation and again and again I saw them slink form the stage with a “who the Hell is this women?” look on their face. Thankfully I was on Day 2 and had a night to prepare my work, and a great scene partner in Lucy Cornell. We hit the stage and surprise surprise, no harsh comments. No Put-downs, threats, nothing but respect. What were we? The teacher’s pets? On Day 3, I watched people try and get their scenes up. A few had picked it up, others got more of the American’s tongue lashings. Then it became clear. This lady wasn’t cruel. She merely expected you to do your work. If you did it, she guided you, if you didn’t, she made you feel pain that would make you not want to not do your work again.
Another night of rehearsal and Lucy and I hit the stage for our scene. I had never worked a scene so much, or enjoyed dong it, and the result was joyous. People in the audience including Ivana wept, and despite it only being our second time up, we were rewarded with another, more challenging one, and only one day and night to get it up. Thankfully we had listened and applied her words both spoken and written in her book “The Power of the Actor” to the scene, were blessed with a wonderful chemistry together and on the last day of the masterclass we nailed our second scene.
So what is this magical technique that afforded me and my scene partner in the masterclass two outstanding scenes, and me the best work I have done in my life since? Her book outlines the technique better than I can explain, and has many similarities yet subtle differences too many of the widely studied masters. But in a nutshell, (a pretty big nutshell) you work out your:
Then your scene objective,
Your obstacles to obtaining your scene objective,
A substitution from your own life to overlay over your scene partner (must be an unresolved issue similar to that of the character you are playing)
Inner objects from your own life to overlay meaning to places and things in your text,
Your Beats and actions (mini Objectives)
The Moment before (relating to your substitution)
Place and Fourth wall,
Doings (actual things you will be doing relating to your character and actions)
… and finally the best bit LET IT ALL GO.
So despite so much work, once you get into the flow it is done very very quickly, and by the time you have your scene on its feet you know it better than any other technique will afford you. There are a couple of other tools she taught us (and these are also in her book) Sexual Fantasy – to build chemistry with your acting partner. Also Emotional Diary, ways to connect to your emotion just before you go on. Too hard to explain in a short review, but well worth reading the book for…
So is this the answer? Could this be the ultimate in acting techniques? Is this the Holy Grail for Actors, that once you drink from it your work will be forever strong? Of course not. It still requires you to interpret your script with what you already know about stories, it helps if you have had some pain or unresolved issues to draw on, and if you are an actor who gets stuck in your head this is a blessing.
Did everyone like it? Most, but some didn’t get it to work (like most techniques it’s a case of not every technique fits every actor). Did she get results? Out of 32 actors she had 31 breakthroughs, in 6 days I was impressed. Was she fair on the actors? Not really but she was ill, and used to working with top professional in the states who would not dream of not doing their work, I think she showed her disapproval, bit also showed her approval. Did I find it valuable for me? As an actor, Director and instructor it was invaluable. In fact I put it as a turning point in my career. Finally one has to say THANK GOD for Theatrelab. For they understand the value of the statement “ if you want to be the best you must study the best” and they continue to bring form around the world the best. I for one will be at as many of the events they run as I can.
Australian Acting Academy