My Teaching Philosophy
My teaching philosophy is rooted in the ideas of Play, Transformation, Performance and the Empowerment of the performer. These ideas run like veins through my work right from the beginning of a workshop.
Play - There are, of course, some theatre games that are played in workshops, but all aspects of the workshops are influenced by the lessons learnt from playing. Warm ups become a moving, flowing game - warming up body, voice and the imagination at the same time. Playing not only makes the workshops ‘fun’ for the participants, but begins to teach them an important aspect of Commedia and Masks work - at the most fundamental levels of the forms, they are about play.
Transformation - theatre at it’s heart is about transformation, and masks in particular demand that the performer transforms their physicality and energy to activate the mask. From the first warm up in the first session, I encourage students to express themselves through their physicality, to activate and connect with their bodies and voices, and to find new means of expression.
Performance - Commedia, ultimately is about performance. It is driven by a need to communicate and connect to the audience. In it’s earliest forms, as street performance, this need to connect had a direct impact on whether performers would eat that night or not. There is a hunger about performing under those conditions. Throughout my workshops, students show their work to their fellow students on a regular basis. Over time, this builds towards showings outside of the class room. By the time students get to this final showing, they are becoming used to audiences laughter, and are learning about timing and what it takes to make an audience laugh.
This focus on performance is helped by my experience as a director. I bring my directorial eye into my teaching work, by giving specific feedback on students work, which is designed to teach them how to look at their work themselves in a similar way. This feed back is then put immediately into the work, and pieces are re-shown. This way students begin to get an inherent understanding of what works. Eventually, this speeds up their ability to create work, as they begin to think in a more Commedia way.
Empowerment of the Performer - Commedia is a form which is often performed without a set, lights, sound effects and often not even in a theatre space. The actor is tasked with both creating material and being able to capture and keep an audiences attention. As students rise to meet that challenge, they gain in confidence. My role is to empower their creative processes. I believe that this empowerment of the actor has a positive effect on students in their approach to other theatre forms.
Although I encourage students to ‘work-on-their-feet’ and to not over discuss ideas before trying them, I do believe that discussion of ideas and experiences is important and this is encouraged at the end of each session.
My aim is to inspire students, so that they experience theatre as magical, exciting, challenging and powerful. I encourage the empowerment of the actor - as creator of their own material, and as an actor who can work with confidence with directors. Through the work, they will develop a greater awareness of their bodies as a tool in their acting trade. They will learn to work cooperatively, and quickly, with their fellow actors. Some students may be inspired to work with masks, others will simply have their understanding of themselves and the power of theatre transformed.