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Tadashi Suzuki's Actor Training Technique

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Alaine Wagner

on 24 April 2012

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Transcript of Tadashi Suzuki's Actor Training Technique

Tadashi Suzuki's
Actor Training Technique Who is Tadashi Suzuki? Tadashi Suzuki...
... is the founder and director of the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT)
... created the Suzuki Method of Actor Training
... is a member of the International Theatre Olympics Committee
... is a co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Japan Performing Arts Foundation
... authored "The Way of Acting" Famous for directing adaptations of classical works, some of his better known productions are "The Trojan Women," " Electra," and "Clytemnestra." "Waiting for Orestes: Electra"
At the Napoli Teatro Festival Italia What is the Suzuki Method of Actor Training? Let us start with the fundamental theory... To act, one must have a point of view.
"'Acting' is the formal act or experiment that tries to convey a particular point of view, derived from an investigation of human behavior and relationships. Acting is an art form, creatively examining how human beings exist within the systems and groups that maintain social life. It follows that an actor’s performance is driven by a desire to make others re-evaluate the world and perceive it anew, both collectively and as individuals."
-SCOT Philosophy For acting to begin, one must have an audience. "A heightened awareness of displaying one’s body and communicating written language can only be achieved when another person observes it. Even though actors may not be able to see themselves or the others sitting in front of them, they can still be aware of a presence—be it human, animal or god—that is watching their movements and hearing their language. Once actors perceive this presence outside of themselves in space, they quickly form a desire to communicate their point of view, stimulating this presence with a written text made flesh through physical and vocal craft."
-SCOT Philosophy To sustain acting, an awareness of the invisible body is required. "A human being's most important daily needs are (1) energy production, (2) breath calibration and (3) center of gravity control. Since none of these phenomena—energy, oxygen and center of gravity—can be seen with the naked eye, they do not receive a lot of attention in our daily life. However, as soon as we have problems with any one of them, it becomes difficult to maintain our health and participate in modern society. This is due, in part, to the interdependency of these particular functions. Training exists, then, not only to grow our capacity in each of these functions independently, but also to deepen and fortify their interrelation. The more we are able to fluidly expand the process of producing energy, taking in oxygen and maintaining balance with our center of gravity; the more variety of movement becomes available to us, which in turn increases the stability and sustainability of life. Through disciplined, integrated development of these three parameters, the body gains strength and agility, the voice acquires range and capacity and an awareness of the “other” grows. Such work develops the expressive potency needed to transmit the actor’s point of view. It follows, then, that the core requirements for the art of acting lie in disciplines created to deepen an awareness of these three crucial, interrelated, “invisible” phenomena."
-SCOT Philosophy The Suzuki Method of Actor Training is a collection of exercises that cultivates understanding of these fundamentals by attempting to disorient the center of gravity, disrupt the breath and challenge the limits of physical and emotional experience.
All of the exercises are designed to antagonize and challenge the actor's control of the body, breath, and awareness. The actor must learn how to manage these tools efficiently and collectively in order to complete the exercises and avoid the most pain. Due to the rigorously precise requirements of the exercises, Suzuki has created a method for training in which perfection is the goal and failure is the only outcome. So why would anybody do it? The impossibility of success and the guarantee of failure can actually be relieving. A person is more comfortable with failing when everyone else is doing it, too. Goals for the actor during training: Understand the different ways in which the feet contact the floor. Breathe through the nose. Maintain a blank expression or 'cool face.' Be constantly focused and aware. When stomping, send the energy through the floor into the ground, not onto it.
Keep the upper body free, but strong. Keep the lower body constantly engaged and powerful underneath the center of gravity to support the breath and the vocal instrument. The actor should learn how to access all of the energy, power, and grace within their physical selves. The center of gravity is like a well of power. If you use your breath like a bucket, you can access endless energy. Now, the exercises... Ten Ways of Walking Standing Statues Sitting Statues Kanjincho Stomping in Shakuhachi Marching Basic One Basic Two Slow Tenteketen "Two lines of trainees facing each other traverse the space to slow music and at a very slow pace, passing each other in the middle. The whole body moves at a constant tempo and remains level and controlled. At a prescribed time in the music the body turns, shifts to another level, and returns across the space."
-Paul Allain "Suzuki Training" An exercise with three different movement patterns, each building off of the last. The actors execute the stomping in a circle, the first round being a wheeling up of the leg to be parallel with the floor then stamping it into the floor. The second round involves moving the arms in a cat-like gesture and switching the focus of the eyes to the space above the hands, in addition to the stomping. The next movement is a double stomp in half-time and a crossing motion of the arms that ends with the hands facing palms-out. Everyone stomps up-tempo for three minutes straight, either in free-form or a path. Then the actors stomp upstage and face downstage for the final stomp, after which they collapse onto the floor. Shakuhachi is the portion of the exercise, where the actors are free to create a fiction and explore movement; however, all movement must be slow, controlled and focused downstage. Lose yourself in fiction. This exercise combines squats and side stomps.
"We moved up and down over counts of 15, 10, 8, 3, and I. The count can stop at any point, and the position must be held until the numbers resume. We started with legs and heels pressed together, pushing against each other, the feet pointing 45 degrees to the left and right."

-Paul Allain "Suzuki Training" "The knees are bent, with feet and legs pressed together and with the center of gravity low. With a rapid movement the right leg swoops forward to show the sole of the foot to an imaginary partner opposite and then is pulled back, bringing the bent knee in as close to the body as possible with the foot flexed upwards. The level of the torso must stay constant. You then stamp directly down and slide the foot forward along the floor until the back leg is straight with the back foot flat on the floor. The hips must finish positioned over the front leg so that it takes all the body's weight. This can be tested by lifting the back leg without having to move the torso forward over the front foot. You then shift up onto tiptoes and down as two isolated movements. The first leg movement is repeated for the left leg pulling through from behind the body. The sequence continues, alternating legs."
-Paul Allain "Suzuki Training" Marching is the basic combinations set to music with a constant speed and beat. Research Surveys allowing the participants to assess themselves in the focus areas were given before and after training.
There were a total of twelve meetings during which actors participated in all of the previously mentioned exercises.
Individual monologue work was done with standing statues exercises.
Actors performed a short monologue.
Then, actors were cued in standing statues, adding one sentence of speech at a time.
Eventually, the entire speech was used.
Phrasing through breath and movement, connection with the center, and breaking physical barriers were emphasized through cuing the actors at specific times.
Specific survey for participants to assess the helpfulness of the monologue exercise afterward. Personal Observations All of the participants were eager to talk about their experiences, and each made new discoveries during all of the meetings. At first, I guided the actors onto the right track with the different forms. Further into the process, I realized that many of the problems I identified during the exercises were also being noticed by the participants themselves. The participants were focusing on being aware of their physical and "invisible" bodies, therefore correcting the problems themselves. Each individual found their own journey through failure and triumphs during the research. Each person certainly improved in the form, and began to discover physical habits that were previously unidentified. I witnessed several times when participants would make a discovery, or work hard and leave feeling excited and confident. I think that is worth the pain. Participant Comments "To be physically exhausted not only breaks habits and tensions, but it also requires an adequate amount of breath, something which I have been learning currently in my class setting. What I have noticed with my Suzuki breathing when we speak the text is that it is what Fitzmaurice calls "restructured," meaning my ribs expand on my inhalation and whenever I exhale with sound, my lower abs pull in and my ribs slowly fall. It happens quite naturally when I have been working in statues, without me having to think about it other than to notice that it is happening." "Doing the monologues in statues was probably the hardest thing we've done so far. I was scared and embarrassed and thought I wasn't going to make it. The best moment for me, though, was when I did. When I made it through the whole thing, nearly in tears... that feeling was amazing. I felt unstoppable and like I had found some really instinctively accurate moments within my monologue. Which to me is quite bizarre because I tend to focus much more on the intellectual element of acting preparation." "As actors we know that we have our "actor tics." I notice now that I can pick up, recognize and fix these habits in walking exercises as they happen... I think we could see the effects in our work onstage as we recognize and fix the habits that aren't of the essence of a particular character we're playing." Tell us something you like about Suzuki or that you have learned from the method... Tell us something you hate about the training... Questions? Arigato.
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