Tag Archives: Actors

Alexander Technique for Actors on Backstage

(Click on the photo to watch the video interview on BACKSTAGE)

‘Un-Getting Ready’

(This is an excerpt from the article ” Keeping Up with Alexander Technique” by Lisa Jo Sagolla.  For the entire article click here)

Jakubecy teaches mainly performers and public speakers, working with them on making direct connections between Alexander work and what they do in auditions and presentations.

“It’s all about application,” she says. “If you understand the work but can’t apply it to what you want to do, it’s not very useful. For example, when I teach, it’s ‘Okay, we’ll do some floor work, some hands-on guidance, some identify and release tension, but now let’s have you stand up and do a monologue.’ At the very beginning of a monologue, a performer’s habits jump in right away, so as soon as they go up on stage, I’ll ask them what they notice. They might notice that they’re locking their legs, or their lower back, or their chest—and that’s before they even begin speaking. Then at the next class, I’ll have them say just the first line of the monologue and notice what they do when they’re getting ready to speak. Do they gasp for breath? Lift their chin? Tighten their neck? Then I give them guidance regarding how to undo all of those inhibiting habits—’un-getting ready,’ so to speak. That’s one of my favorite terms. I teach actors how to ‘un-get ready.’ ”

Jakubecy thinks the growing interest in Alexander work stems from an August 2008 article in the British Medical Journal reporting the results of a study that had been done in England on the relationship between back pain and the Alexander technique. It compared the effectiveness of Alexander, exercise (in the form of walking), and massage in the relief of generalized lower back pain, and Alexander was found to be the most effective of the three. Patients who had 24 Alexander technique lessons experienced 85 percent fewer days of pain in a month than the control group. “So with the publication of that study, more people started seeking out Alexander technique for back pain relief,” Jakubecy says.

 

For the entire article, please visit Keeping Up with Alexander on BACKSTAGE

Open & Emotionally Available Without Over-Exertion

An Acting Teacher’s Take on What the Alexander Technique Can Do For You (first posted on Backstage.com)

There’s a reason the Alexander Technique is the only form of movement training that the Yale School of Drama requires its acting students to study for the full three years that they attend. It’s an extremely powerful practice of body-mind integration that pays dividends for actors on many levels.

If you talk to an Alexander teacher, you’re probably going to hear them talk about ease of movement and efficiency—both extremely important when it comes to acting. And while studying the technique certainly requires that you invest your time and money in the practice, I’m here as an acting teacher to convince you that it’s a tremendously worthwhile investment both for your work and yourself.

A big part of the Alexander Technique is becoming conscious of the unconscious physical habits we’ve developed to move through our lives and do the things we need to do. Most of these habits involve chronic tension or overexertion aka using more effort than we really need to.

Engaged in continuously over time, chronic tension and overexertion have an impact on our neuromuscular system: the tensed muscles form a kind of body armor that we use to brace ourselves against the incoming emotional volleys we’re constantly subjected to.

For actors, this is a problem. We need to be emotionally available to the impulses being directed at us by our scene partners and the armor chronic tension outfits us with obstructs this process.

One thing we learn with the Alexander Technique is how unconscious we are of much of this chronic tension. This means we can’t expect to be able to just throw a switch and deactivate the armor when we want to—or at least not without some training. It’s this training that’s one of the most valuable things that the Alexander Technique can offer an actor: the ability to consciously promote physical openness and receptiveness, which go hand-in-hand with emotional openness and vulnerability.

The ability to be vulnerable is essential to crafting a memorable performance, but so is the ability to engage, to assert oneself, to play to win. The characters we play have needs and we need to embody these needs and then take up the character’s struggle to get those needs met. If that involves confrontation or conflict, we need to be able to enter into this conflict fully, to truly care about the outcome of the conflict, and to use our will, body, and voice to resolve it in a way that means that our character’s needs are met. In this process of pursuing what we need, we want to avoid either under-exerting or overexerting ourselves.

The Alexander Technique is terrific for learning to do what is necessary but not more so that we manifest our emotional truth without clogging ourselves up with unnecessary tension.

There are other advantages to the Technique as well. Through the study of the Technique, you will gain an intimate understanding of the human anatomy and how it functions, allowing you to see more subtle possibilities as you explore a character’s physicality. But in some sense this is icing on the cake; the Technique’s capacity to help us become more emotionally available on the one hand and to assert ourselves without overexerting on the other are gifts any actor can derive enormous benefit from for fuller, richer, more memorable work.

Andrew Wood is the founder of Andrew Wood Acting Studio in L.A., artistic director and founder of Uranium Madhouse, a Los Angeles-based theater company, and Backstage Expert. Check out his full bio here!

Ready to take your performance on stage, on camera, and in the spotlight  to the next level?  Sign up for Power Poise Performance a 6 week workshop for professional performers who want to up level your game so you feel unstoppable in auditions, on set, and when all eyes are on you! Begins June 27!

3 Mistakes You Make When You Get Nervous

You got the phone call.  You are going in!  This could be a chance of a lifetime!

Nervous Wreck

 

You have to be at the top of your game.  But what if you get nervous?  Can you handle to pressure?  What’s going to happen when all eyes are on you?

 

You know that when you get nervous your body acts like it doesn’t have a brain anymore.  Maybe you are like some of my clients who fidget.  Or you lose all awareness and you have no idea what you are saying with you body language.

Unconscious behavior thrives when you are nervous.  Habits that interfere with your clear thinking and professionalism take over your body and your voice so you look like a powerful force on stage and on camera.

Some of the biggest mistakes you make when you get nervous diminish your stature and your body’s ability to deal with the demands of higher levels of adrenaline.

Watch the video below to see if you make these mistakes:

VIDEO 3 Mistakes You Make When You Get Nervous

 

Being calm in high-stakes situations takes training.  When you learn how to ground your body and your nervous system, you can very consciously choose how you want to communicate in auditions, pitch meetings, and performances.

Training in the Alexander Technique gives you skills to heighten your awareness.  You learn to release the tension patterns that prevent you from breathing easily.  You gain conscious control of your body so you can release over activated muscles.  You can soften your shoulders and allow your chest to open inviting your audience in to your world.  You are free to express your authentic emotions without the nagging inner critic telling you “This is too dangerous!!! Shut down!”

Your awareness or your consciousness opens up the possibility of choice, of power over your own destiny, of thinking thoughts that will streamline your success.  If you want this choice, this powerful consciousness, it requires training, practice, mindfulness and CURIOSITY.  Being curious allows you to see clearly what your unconscious patterns without beating yourself up.  Curiosity moves you away from trying to be right and allows you to venture into the world of the unknown and non-habitual, a world of vulnerability and authenticity.  Here is where you truly connect with others and share your truth.

If you want this curiosity, vulnerability, and honesty, sign up for our free video series!

Subscribe to receive "5 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress" our free video series

* indicates required



Email Format


Alexander Technique at the Santa Monica Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare Santa Monica Festival
Shakespeare Santa Monica Festival

The Santa Monica Shakespeare Festival begins August 9 with “Twelfth Night” and then continues with “Taming of the Shrew” on August 15.  Visit Santa Monica Shakespeare for information and tickets.

 

I have had the honor to teach Alexander Technique during the Classical Training Intensive with Louis Scheeder and John Farmanesh-Bocca.

Performing Shakespeare has heightened challenges for the actor.  Shakespeare’s characters truly mean what they say and they are usually dealing with life-and-death circumstances.  These circumstances trigger anger, confusion, desperation, exalted joy, rage, overwhelming love, deep desire, and suicidal sadness.

These are all emotions that the normal person does everything in their power to avoid.  They are difficult and painful to honestly communicate.

In my first 2.5 hour training with these enthusiastic actors who were hand-picked for the training and festival, I emphasized the essential ability for the actor to be able to breathe.

Under the high-pressure stakes of Shakespeare and rehearsing in front of renowned Shakespeare teachers and other highly-skilled performers, many of the actors interfered with their own ability to breathe freely so that the emotion could not pass through their bodies.

Here are some of the ways they interfered:

1) Sniffing in a deep breath before beginning a monologue.  This sniffing action requires your body to work much harder to receive the breath necessary to support the complicated language and rhythm.  You will actually make yourself more nervous and your body will tighten with tension.

2) Rushing to begin and get the monologue over with.  When you rush, you usually have to push the words out and you compress your neck, ribs, and spine.  The actor I worked with was losing her lines.  Even her memory wasn’t serving her because the rushing triggered a “Fight Flight or Freeze” response.

3) Pushing the head, neck, and shoulders forward to communicate anger and/or frustration.  This requires a lot of physical tension and cuts you off from your breath and voice.  You also close your body off by narrowing the chest, shoulders, and abdomen.

Realinging your Body, Breath, and Spine with Sharon Jakubecy

As I worked with the actors, I gave them the light and guided touch that Alexander Technique teachers have in order to communicate the release in their neck, shoulders, and abdominal wall.

 

 

Each actor reported feeling lighter and that it was easier to breathe.  This release of tension in the neck and shoulders make them look powerful and open.

I invited them to think about having space for breath to happen to them.  They did not need to BREATHE.  Their bodies breathe FOR them.  Another way to think about this is allowing for length, width, and depth in the torso.

 

Sharon coaching a client to release strain and stress during Constructive RestThey all practiced Constructive Rest which is a floor exercise that allows the muscles of the torso to release into length and width.

I led everyone through an awareness exercise that demonstrated that  breath moved them from the inside.  They did not have to force breath in and out.  This can profoundly center and calm your nervous system before auditions and performances.

Our second workshop is this week.  I am eager to share the “tools” of Alexander Technique while they perform their monologues.  The spaciousness in the body, which allows for free and easy breath, supports the difficult circumstances of seeking revenge, proclaiming your love, or plotting the demise of you forsaken lover.

 

You have a Gift. Give It!


Two days ago, I was with a client who asked me “What do you do right before you go on stage?”  From years of working on stage in dance, theater, and public speaking, I know that a thorough warm-up gets my energy flowing and my voice sparkling clear.  But, what I really do the moment right before I walk on stage is remember that I am giving the audience a beautiful gift!

When you give a great gift to a loved one, you feel eager and excited to give it to them.  There is a warmth in your heart that opens you to the other person.  There is no tension in your shoulders or strain in your voice.  You don’t need anything from the recipient and their smile and joy is what gives you satisfaction.

When you walk into an audition, pitch meeting, or interview, you have a great opportunity to GIVE YOUR GIFT.  Your words, your energy, your time, your dedication, and your passion are a gift you give to your audience.  When you are giving the gift of wisdom, your body is grounded, open, and confident.  Your voice is warm and it fills the room.  Your audience is engaged and curious because who doesn’t want a really great gift?!

In an audition, pitch meeting, or interview, people make the mistake of believing that their audience is judging them.  Many auditioners will have the body language of a scared and hurt victim.  When you remember that you are giving a gift that they have never received,

You no longer need to protect yourself

You don’t need to be pushy.

You don’t have to seek their approval by leaning in towards them.

You are more open to what they need to hear from you.

The warmth in your heart will carry your message into the room through an empowered and resonant voice.

Giving the gift of YOUR message removes any nervousness or worry that you may mess up or they won’t like you.

Giving the gift of your passion sets an example for everyone around you who also has a vital message to share with this world.  Give your gift and inspire your audience to take action, motivate your viewers to change, and impact the lives of thousands of people around the world through film, television, or public speaking.

When I share the gift of Alexander Technique freely and generously, I see dramatic changes in my clients.  I empower my clients to boldly enter any high-stakes situations with pleasure, confidence, and composure.  They feel at home in their own skin and their voices communicate professionalism and power.

Ivana Shein, an actor and writer here in Los Angeles, schedules a session with me just a few hours before she steps on stage.  Now, she is giving her gifts BIG TIME!  This is what she said about her sessions before her one woman show:
“It was an absolute pleasure to be on stage (after my session with you).  I was able to let go of the stress of producing my show and switch into my true creative mind that is in my body.  It was grounded.  I felt more available and free to have fun!  Constructive Rest and Alexander Technique have become a important part of my pre-performance ritual.  Sharon’s ability to make a performer to feel totally present, vibrant, and grounded is truly beyond comparison.”

Ivana Shein brings her one woman show “Faking It” from the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal to Los Angeles.

Faking It is a raucous look at what it takes to belong. Legally. To a country. It’s about how Ivana got her Visa. And also how she lived before her Visa. It’s about Hollywood. Living in it, living outside of it, and sneaking into it by accident.   (Dates, location, time, and to purchase tickets are on the flyer to your right)

 

If you are looking to give your gifts and talents freely, vibrantly, and openly, it’s time to train in the Alexander Technique.  Next workshop starts August 27.  Sign up at  https://alexandertechniquela.com/workshops/actors/

Cast on ‘True Blood’ after Alexander Technique

Self-Sabotage Solutions: Sharon Jakubecy and the Alexander Technique
by: Michelle Luchese www.MichelleLuchese.com

 


  “Just wanted to let you know, that my first audition back I was thinking about everything you taught me and     walked in with confidence and just innately took a breath before beginning and I booked it!! It’s a Co-Star on   True Blood and I’m so excited, thank you so much!! What an awesome way to start off 2011. I just had to tell   you!”
-Michelle Luchese www.MichelleLuchese.com who played the role of young woman who is an anti-vampire       campaigner in the fourth season of True Blood

 

 

So often we walk into an audition room and clench up only to have inhibited the very gifts they have asked us to show them! What do you do to stop this constant innate self-sabotage? Well I found a lady with some answers, people, and here is what Sharon Jakubecy’s expertise taught me today!

Sharon first approached me about checking out one of her private Alexander Technique classes for my blog and I was more than happy to stop by and see exactly what this technique I’d always heard of, was actually all about. Now I can officially say, Sharon has taught me the art of allowing my body to tell me how to relax.

We started by learning how to relax the head into it’s natural upright position, trying to get away from this thing that had somehow become habitual. Checking out my normal everyday walk in her mirror, we noticed that my head was darting forward in some sort of attack mode! Once I understood not where specifically I needed to move my head to fix this, but how to relax into the correct position, we talked about the differences between what my body naturally wants to do and that of which I could do with all the extra space in my lungs if I just freed up and allowed my body to be centered, grounded, and full of breath. It seems that starts with just allowing your head to find it’s proper place, all through relaxation, as opposed to forcing it into some unfamiliar territory.

It’s amazing how resilient the body is. I was afraid the slump in which I had allowed myself to hangout had become my new posture, but not so. With Sharon’s adjustments through light touching to some tension points, I found a healthy, strong, centered stride and was on my way. She has this amazing bullshit-detecting mirror in her studio and she had me going back to my previous slump position as we worked, so as to see the progress. It was fascinating! Not only did I feel so much more in my power, I looked it too!

Sharon asked where and when my clenching usually occurs and I said that first few minutes in the room at auditions. So we did a couple mock auditions, coming in centered, then again coming in flustered from being late but taking just a second to catch my breathe and center myself just before opening the door. And what I walked out of her door with, was a whole new idea of what confident and grounded means. It’s not just a state of mind people-oh no-it’s an actual thing you can practice and ask your body to keep reinforcing. I’m so excited to use it next time I audition!!

(And she did it!)  If you have a big audition, pitch meeting, or interview, call TODAY to set up your Introductory Alexander Technique session.  CALL (310) 383-1796 for information and to schedule your first session.