Woah woah woah! Where do I even begin with this blog? I am so confused, skeptical, but also really excited by the theatrical vision and pursuits of Meyerhold. One of the most fundamental qualities of his work was the integration of Pavlov’s belief in the chain of reflex responses to the external world. As actors, we don’t act but REACT to different stimuli of our environment. Meyerhold rejected Stanislavski’s emphasis on the actor’s subjective psychology; their inner emotions and experience. He believed emotion does not come from the inner workings of the mind, but from an outside stimulus: so, he says emotion is reflex.
I have really mixed feelings about this. In a way, it’s quite liberating to feel as though I don’t need to worry about how many useful personal experiences i have in my life to draw upon. I’ve never murdered anyone, so how could I possibly imagine what that feels like? Will I ever be a strong enough actor without being able to draw upon the unexperienced personal? On the other hand, how on earth is it possible to reach those emotionally heightened moments by physically getting into the appropriate position or executing the correct movement- the one in which I would be able to trust that my reflexes would do the work?
Is the external more interesting than the internal? I would argue yes! (…mostly). The work and vision of Meyerhold sounds so incredibly theatrical and entertaining. I love his opinion on the space itself- he rejected Naturalism. He wanted Stylised theatre. Why invest such effort in attempting to disguise the theatre’s own theatricality? He hated predictability. I firmly agree with him that predictability leads to comfort which leads to boredom which equals death to the theatre. Why would we want to watch the boring banalities of everyday life when we go to the theatre? It’s absurd. He centered his attention on the ‘principal material resource of the theatre’: The Actor’s Body. Like Meyerhold, I believe that movement is the most powerful means of theatrical expression.
His use of commedia, mask and the grotesque are thrilling to me and support this notion of predictability equaling death. His quest in stimulating the audience’s imagination and his use of contradiction in the work are concepts that are so useful today. We all want to create compelling and visually stimulating theatre, so why do we so often default to naturalism? My actor training has been 90% based on the personal internal. Yeah, I’ve had a few mask classes, and movement certainly, but I don’t believe this type of training that focuses on the external, is something that is readily available and integrated in North American theatre. It is such a shame. And all of the reading on the Biomechanics sounds fascinating, but I have a hard time believing that it can produce theatre that is not only visually stunning, but also deeply emotionally revealing. I know that when i go to the theatre, i want to be taken on a journey and somehow how moved or changed by the end of it. I want to there to be some truth about the human condition revealed. I want to experience revealing theatre. I’m not saying I think that it’s impossible for the actor’s soul to be embodied in these ‘etudes’; in fact the opposite. It gives me shivers to think of the enormous theatrical possibilities that lie within this work.
Meyerhold concluded that training in these biomechanic ‘etudes’ was all the training that an actor needed. I’m resistant to believe it, but I really really want to! This has wet my appetite to investigate this external approach to the work. There is freedom in the form and this form sounds like it’d be years of vigorous practice and training, but the freedom and theatricality that could be found, I’m sure, would be awe-inspiring.
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- October 19, 2009 / 8:36 pm