I suppose that it’s an understatement to say, that things are pretty bleak for those people who call themselves actors. Let’s face it. How can you call yourself an actor unless you’re actually doing it? Most of the time your career title is ‘unemployed’. Unless of course, you adopt the philosophy, that you’re not an actor, but an artist, acting is just a job you do.
For me, being an artist implies that you are not on bended knees pleading to the universe to deliver, but rather, that you have the power to manifest and create wonderful stories. The two precious weeks with Kristin Linklaiter reminded me of this. Her work encouraged performances that were pure, honest and surprising, but most importantly, that the answers lie in our physical selves and our unique imaginal worlds, the answers lie in our cells. With so little opportunity in this country to develop and nurture your art, it was such a joy to be pushed and challenged, to exercise our instruments, and to experience the privilege of engaging in work that asked something of us.
Simply speaking, actors are storytellers. It is no surprise then that so many acting teachers concentrate on the actor’s voice and the actor’s relationship to language. So what was my understanding of the key elements of Kristin’s work? Kristin’s approach aims to liberate the natural voice, by clearing away the blocks that diminish it’s potential. Bypassing rational thought and connecting with the physical body are paramount. Kristin enabled us to get out of our heads and into the physiology of our voices. She encouraged us to imagine that our minds are situated in our bellies, so that thought, feeling, impulse, breath and diaphragm co-exist as one organism.
It was not only the actors that benefited from Kristin’s work, but the Directors and Writers too. John Sheedy shares his experience of the workshop;
“There is an idea that the Director has all the answers, this is not true. The Director works as intuitively as the Actor. Sure our homework is done weeks before – we start with the text, read the words on the page, dig for the undercurrents and arm ourselves for the first day and the weeks to come. The trick is to then lead our actors to rediscover what we have spent weeks discovering and encourage them to find and inform us with their own fresh insights. Kristin Linklaiter offered some of the sharpest tools a Director can pack for approaching this part of the rehearsal process. Freeing up the natural voice by connecting an image with each word, allowing it to resonate in the body and then placing it out in the space allowed us to access the depth, meaning and clarity of the play. As each actor naturally exposes the essence of each word, each sentence and each scene, the play as a whole is ignited with an immediacy and an authentic sense of meaning. Linklaiter brought us back to the texture and significance of the text, reminding us that the words come first, and it is the text which leads us forward and carries us to the end!”
I believe that if you want to be an accomplished storyteller, you need to learn to work without ego in order for the simple truth of the story to be revealed to the audience. I found that it was impossible to engage with Kristin’s work unless you were willing to confront this battle. This is a lifelong learning. Having said that, I got immense pleasure out of observing this struggle in my own head, whilst my heart was firmly dedicated to the work.
Some people, (and I daresay that there will be quite a number), might consider travelling through a room, whilst contorting your body, and making strange abstract sounds whilst others look on, to be their worst nightmare realised. Frankly, I found it to be heaven. There were moments where I experienced my voice in direct contact with my impulse, uninhibited by my intellect. A highlight of the workshop for me was the day that I was lucky enough to experience a one on one intensive with Kristin using the text assigned to me, “Getting Away From It All” by Catherine Ryan. I was fortunate to have been given a text with a subject matter that demanded I take an emotional leap to the heart of darkness, and a text filled with rich and juicy language, essentially, a text that asked something of me.
As I scrambled around the room abstractly exploring the words, frantically trying to get out of my head and into my body, Kristin bellowed “LET YOUR VOICE OUT!” Despite my ego kicking in with pearly wisdoms such as “you are the worst actor in the history of the world” or “Kristin Linklaiter thinks that you are the worst actor in the history of the world” or “you can’t let go, you can’t ever let go, you’re uptight which probably means that you’re a prude and that you’ll be a childless spinster”………………………. I soldiered on. And when it seemed that The Link’s voice was exhausted from pleading for me to “Let Go”, she held me around my waist. And as the text dribbled from my lips, and the tears came, and I was truly in the centre of the words, part of my consciousness couldn’t help but think, “Oh my God, Kristin Linklaiter’s holding me!”
I fell into slight despair the week after the workshop had finished, but Kristin’s legacy lives on for me. It lives on as I scale Sydney bottle shops to find an expensive bottle of White Burgundy, (belonging to the people that I am house sitting for), that I felt compelled to let The Link drink as my friends and I relentlessly picked her brains about her life. When Gen Hegney and I said our final goodbyes to her at the Gala Night, insisting that we’ll track her down one day, she calmly responded, “You’ll never find me. I don’t take followers.” Spoken like a true guru.