Movement for the Actor with Merry Conway
We will explore areas of the actor as instrument, drawing from my current work on perceptual training and physical awareness, gestural status work, character analysis, and Trish Arnold’s “basic movement” work of swings.
Fundamentally, actors must have a command of their instrument — their own body/mind — not unlike the command a musician needs with their instrument — a cello, for instance. This includes an ability to release as well as shape their body’s energy, to fill the space, and to have their imagination, intellect, emotions and psyche reflected through their body — all so that both the subtlest and most broad of impulses can be realized. The groundwork for my movement practice is the pure movement work that I experienced first as a student and then going through an apprenticeship with Trish Arnold in the early 1970s. This work develops a sense of impulse and connection to breath and directly enlivens the actor’s imagination and physical impulse to breath and physical expression. The most essential aspect of the work is the swing. There is both a down impulse and an up impulse with a swing — towards gravity and a rebound. And then, there is a delicious moment of suspension at the top. This liminal moment is the one of inspiration — both in the sense of a breath coming in, and the moment of impulse; after which there is the exhale and rebounded movement, which reveals the world within.
“If the actor is an artist…his creation is himself, both as subject and as object, beginning and end, matter and instrument. Therein lies the mystery: that a human being can think of himself and treat himself as artistic matter, play on himself like an instrument with which he must identify while never ceasing to be distinct from it, simultaneously active as a person and impersonating that activity…”
–Jacques Copeau: The Problem of the Actor