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Michael Chekhov School News, November 2015
Atmosphere | Auditioning

* Images from our Fall Session

We are grateful for having completed our final session this year, which concluded the school's inaugural season! Joanna Merlin - colleague, dear friend and supporter of the school, joined us this fall and graciously offered an extensive Auditioning for the Camera class, applying Michael Chekhov's technique. Joanna (see video is the last living student of Michael Chekhov's who is still teaching, president of the Michael Chekhov Association (MICHA) and author of "Auditioning, An Actor-Friendly Guide".
In one of Ragnar's classes (see video) we worked with meeting the performer's inner artistic process in front of the camera; and working with Atmosphere was introduced into our exploration, which is one aspect unique to the Michael Chekhov technique. Michael Chekhov calls it the soul of the theater and goes on to say: 'The arts and the theater in particular, will slowly approach death if the atmospheres cease to radiate through their creations. The great mission of the actor as well as the director and the playwright is to save the soul of the theater and with it the future of our profession.'

* Summer 2016 - School's last week at MICHA

For the upcoming year, we are extremely pleased to announce that the Michael Chekhov School's Summer Session's last week will be in residence at MICHA during the 2016 International Workshop and Conference in New London, CT. We are excited that our participating actors will have the opportunity to work with other MICHA teachers as well as participate at MICHA's Theater of the Future Open Space. We are thrilled at this collaboration with our friends and colleagues at MICHA and are looking forward to a unique and artistic summer!

* Why and what is psycho-physical?

'Why is working with the physical organism, looking for the result of emotion or sensation or feeling every bit as viable as working solely with our emotions and memories? The method people say: you must use yourself, the Chekhov work is too external. But finding expanding and contracting in myself, is myself, not an external trick of technique. But I look for and find how I expanded when joy visited me that day in autumn, how I contracted when I was approached with someone's anger. We focus not on our mother's death, but on our human capacity to expand and contract - and with it follows joy and sadness. This is the essence and purpose of psycho-physical'. Ted Pugh (see video)

* Now accepting Applications

We are now accepting applications for the upcoming year at the Michael Chekhov School for an immersive exploration of Michael Chekhov's legacy. Application Deadline: December 31st, 2015. Inquiries welcome year round.
Photos: Ragnar Freidank and Martin D. Anderson. 

[VIDEO] Gabriel Rodriguez working in Ragnar's class 

[VIDEO] Joanna Merlin: Working with M. Chekhov as a young actress in LA

To Make this Work Your Own

[VIDEO] Ted Pugh on the necessity to transform the actor's instrument.

Letter from Valorie Kissel, Travis Clark-Morris and Gabriel Rodriguez about beginning work on their new project, the devised piece 'fire':  Dear all, We wanted to tell you all a story from the start of our work on ‘fire’.  We finished the whole year of the Michael Chekhov School, finished the last session, and suddenly found out that the three of us had said that we—Travis, Gabriel, and Val—were going to make something in November. It was now November. 
We got together round the fire pit. We built a fire. We didn’t really pay much attention to the question at hand: where do we start? It’s interesting, there’s something about fire that cleans away the stuff knocking around in your head. Once the fire starts going everybody sinks into it a little bit. Your attention is just drawn to it. We were there with the fire, there with each other.  
We talked of our intentions, our fears, our burdens.  We wanted to continue with the work but now found that we were the ones taking up the reins. This was the point of making that choice to step in to the next place, which was a less guided place. A place where that which is guiding you is no longer these venerable teachers that you trust with your life. Now it was ourselves that we had to trust. 
An idea came to Travis. “You want to try something?” he asked. 
“Is it going to be scary?” Val countered. “Potentially.” He responded. 
The idea was that we stand up, turn our backs to the fire and let our eyes adjust to the starlight and the glow emanating from the fire on the surrounding woods. Then to walk out into the woods before us as far as the light reached. We would walk ahead away from the fire to where the flickering light touched the darkness. 
We all decided that was a great idea, though parts of us protested. We stood, turned our backs to the fire, and saw that the firelight was casting our shadows out into the woods around us. The trees nearby still had clutches of the burnt umber leaves of autumn. Three big, long figures stood tall on the trees.  They were the figures of people we didn’t know. All these questions about who will we find, what will we create, and how will these bodies do it…and we saw this enormous image in front of us: they were akin to our form, but altered and moving. We stepped toward them.
We moved out looking for the place where the light met the dark. How far out does the light actually reach? It was astounding and a little upsetting that it reached so far.  We clutched at the others and walked forward holding on to one another. The fire cracked behind us and we realized that we’d be going out much farther into the woods than we thought. We were surprised when we found there was a definite, objective line where the light and the darkness bordered on each other. 
At that point Travis discovered the next thing. He said, “ And now we step over it.” 
As we crossed over into the darkness the air changed, the sound changed. It was getting colder, not just because we were away from the fire. The air felt different, especially because it was dark. Things were shifting and moving and the wind rustled the leaves. There was a very distinct shift as we stepped into the wooded area. A very distinct threshold we had crossed from one space into another space. We were occupying the same physical space but the atmospheric space was objectively different for us. What is that? What actually changed? 

We turned around and spotted the fire a surprisingly long way away. The fire seemed to pull us to it, something of it was drawing us in toward it. There was a feeling of euphoria at seeing it there! We walked back toward it, much faster than we had away from it. A quicker tempo inhabited us from this perspective. We got closer and closer. We could see the light play on each other’s faces again. We could see each other. There you are. And there you are. 
There was another atmospheric shift between the area of light surrounding the campfire and the campfire itself. The part that felt like our camp, whatever that means, our little area didn’t seem to occupy the entire circle of glow. There was our little place that had that hearth-like feeling: Ah, here we are, let’s have a seat together. Just outside of that was a layer, sort of an in-between. It’s not the hearth and it’s not the darkness. It has, there is a feeling of anticipation to it. That place, the “whoa…!” place. That place we face in the in between, that thrill and that fear.
That was our first experiment. 
With love, Val, Travis, Gabriel

Val, Travis and Gabriel's piece 'fire' will be performed November 27, 28, 29 at Solaris, 360 Warren St., Hudson, NY

Copyright © 2015 Michael Chekhov School, an initiative of The Actors' Ensemble, Inc.
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