20180202

We create stars

When you look up at the night sky do you have a friend up there? One that you feel intimately connected to. A planet, a satellite, a star, a constellation, a galaxy, anything out there. A friend.

When we first met we would go on night walks and Krista would point out Orion. Having grown up in busy, polluted Bombay, I had never noticed the night sky. But from that very first walk in Evanston I have had a friend in the sky.

I always look for Orion. Or rather Orion looks for me. When I look up at the night sky Orion's right there, twinkling at me.

When you look into the horizon do your eyes rest upon another friend--the sea, a river, mountains, valleys, woods? I was born by the Arabian Sea and the sea has always been my friend. Sometimes far away at another seashore I wonder if I can touch the sea of my childhood. And I realize that she is the one reaching out to me.

Have you taken a close look at your heart? For your heart is also your friend. The first time I really noticed my heart I felt her open to me.

If we first pay attention to our friend heart, and then up to our friend in the night sky, and then down to our earthly friend, we create a triangle.

If we create triangles at different times, in different parts of the world, together we create interlapping triangles of attention. When our triangles of attention across time and space interlap, we create stars.

Singapore
2 February 2018

20171224

Although I was born in Bombay I spent the first four years of my life in Hyderabad, the capital of a rambling ancient kingdom ruled by the Nizam until a decade and half before I was born. For those four years of my life I did as I pleased, spending my days, as the song goes, singing long before I could talk. 

Early mornings with birds and our neighbor's water buffalo, days playing with Legos brought to us by our father's friend from Vienna, nights of huge parties on our veranda with our parents' friends from all over the world. 

Music, laughter, dancing, and play. 

Freely expressing the little wild anarchist inside, and aping the Telangana revolutionaries, I even threw tiny stones at jeeps sporting corrupt cops. (A few years ago Telangana was finally recognized as a separate State within India.)

For the first four years of my life I was following life. Then for many years and many decades I tried to make things happen, opted for control over following life, only to come to the point now where I can clearly see that to live following life is the only way to really live. 

And when the holidays come along it is a gentle reminder from life to give up controlling things and to enjoy each other, our lives, and our beautiful earth. 

Wishing all my friends a wonderful Christmas, happy holidays, and a fabulous new year in which we let our little anarchist within sing and leap for joy!

20160714

I quit my teaching job at the university today. I could feel the pulse again as soon as I had turned in my resignation, packed my stuff, and left.

I realize that much of modern life, work and school, are about straying away from the pulse and following predetermined structures. Rules. Expectations. Even the so-called creative fields are industrial fields of coercion.

Life is a garden, not an industrial field. I can already smell the rose buds in my neighborhood. But when I tell people, hey guys, I just quit! they look at me all weird. Why is this guy looking happy? Shouldn't he feel miserable?

I have been laughing when that happens. That is because the contrast between what I am experiencing (unbridled joy of connection to the pulse) and what they are expecting me to experience (regret and fear) is so unfathomably great that an explosion of laughter is the only thing that can do the situation justice.

Fear not my friends, you can do it too! Just quit your job and follow the pulse.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20160401

There are times when life is hard. What do we do about it?

Let us pause a bit. Go back to the first statement. Let us erase the second statement because without the first the second is meaningless. So we are back to:

There are times when life is hard.

OK so what exactly does that mean? It could be something happening to you or your loved ones or society or Mother Earth. It could be a feeling inside of you, an emotion, that you can not pin down a cause for. In any case what does 'life is hard' mean? Stay with this awhile. Be specific. Get out of the tendency to generalize. What are you feeling right now when you say that 'life is hard'? There could be sadness for a particular reason, anger at someone or circumstances, and so on. The possibilities are endless.

While connecting to the specificity of your 'life is hard' feeling concentrate your attention on your physical body. You may close your eyes and pay close attention.

Soon you will find that there are not one but two things asking for your attention. There is of course the thing that is making you feel that 'life is hard', now getting clearer through your specificity. But there is also something else calling for your attention.

This something else is the pulse. It is a simple physical sensation in your body. It may be a heaviness in the belly, an itch in the skin of the upper arm. Now move your focus from your 'life is hard' circumstance to the pulse. Watch very carefully and see the pulse evolve.  It will eventually take you to the next moment. That is to say you will feel an inner urge, a prompting to do something in the very next moment. Follow it.

Keep following the pulse as it grows. At some point you will be free!

Friends, life is love, life is light, life is the pulse! That is the lesson of improv!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20151020

Dear friends,

Our local news source for the Indian community, Siliconeer, ran a story on me this week. 


Wishing you all well,

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay



20150825


If you are looking for a simple way to introduce improvisation into your life (not just on the stage or screen) I would suggest that you improvise life's voice.

You say something. Life says something. Back and forth over and over. I do this all day! Maybe my neighbors think I am crazy but that's OK, it is but a small price to pay to be connected to the pulse all day. 

Try it. It may change your life!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150722

Means are the end

I was thinking about the idea of improvisation the other day when my neighbor Marx walked by. You see, Marx is an actor, old-school like, and thinks all my ideas about improv-ing on the stage and through life are nonsense. He is of the no-pain-no-gain, acting-is 99%-perspiration school, whereas I don't believe in perspiration of any sort. I am not against pain mind you, if that is your thing. I am just against pain as a means to an end.

I think the means are the end.

Whereas Marx will work on a role day and night, often becoming anxious that he is not good enough, that he is never going to make it, I sleep soundly at night, take naps whenever I want and improvise through my roles and life.

So when I saw Marx the other day with the familiar frown on his face I decided to be nice to him, cheer him up, like.

"That's a great expression you've developed there Marx," I said. "Lear or Hamlet?"

"Actually it is a comic role," mumbled Marx, "Those are the damn hardest."

How can you work to be a funny character? In my book genuinely funny people are funny because they let go and follow the pulse.

"Good luck with the role!" I said as Marx walked away. Then I went home and took a nap.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150705

My life in a nutshell

Improvisational Dramatics (or what I call improv drama) teaches us life lessons. In the process of improvising, as I understand and teach it, we learn to follow the pulse. The pulse is not a conceptual thing. Nor is it an abstraction.

The pulse is a physical sensation in our body. It is a clear nudge in each moment. The pulse tells us what to do in the moment.

As human beings we have free choice. We can choose to ignore the pulse and follow the dictates instead of custom, learning, command, and rational thought.

Custom is of the past and so is inert, dead. It can not usefully inform the present moment which is alive.

Learning is a script and being pre-written can not serve the moment which did not exist even a moment ago.

Command is violent and human life at its best is completely nonviolent. Hence command is but a weak way to move through life.

Rational thought involves reasoning based on the past because we can not reason about what we do not know. Since each moment is unknown until it happens rational thought imposes past structure onto the present. This is an incorrect use of rational thought which may only be used for what has already happened.

I have practiced and taught improv drama for decades. The most important life lesson that I take away from my own improv drama practice is to always follow the pulse, moment by moment. I do not pre-judge, plan or evaluate.

I wait for each moment to come to me. I practice body meditation as taught by my meditation mentor Dan Emmons, where I focus for several hours in every day on the physical sensations in my body. These sensations I recognize as the pulse and follow them, always. I do this on the stage, in the classroom, and in my life. That in a nutshell is my life.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150611

Everything that happens is a lesson that life brings to us. What we do with each lesson, in each moment in each day determines how fully we embrace who we really are.

Every one of us is born with stupendous potential, an infinite intelligence of mind, body and spirit that we may, if we choose, inhabit during our short time on earth.

So when faced with each moment, with each gift of lesson from life in each moment, we have a fundamental choice. Do we act from a script or do we improv?

You see, life is often seen as something to prepare for, something to script in advance. Are you prepared, have you made plans for the future, have you considered all your options and made good decisions? These are the kinds of questions we think we should be asking ourselves as we live our lives.

But these are the wrong questions to ask. These questions approach life in a static way. They ask us to prepare a script and follow it as if life were a set piece.

Life is a series of lessons, opportunities to expand and embrace our real selves. Most of us tap into and express but a small fraction of who we really are. These scripts that we grow up with, taught us by our well-meaning but misguided parents, teachers and society, hinder us rather than help us.

Instead, as life provides each moment to us, as each lesson from life small or big comes our way, we can choose to discard old scripts and follow our pulse. Then we really live every moment of our lives in a fresh and new way. We have no preconceived ideas of what we must or must not do, no preconceived ideas of judgement of what others see as the good or bad that may befall us, and in that state of non-judgement we dance through life always following our pulse from moment to moment.

Life is not a set piece. Life is improv!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150605

I have found that following the pulse involves following the physical promptings that I receive from life in the moment. This is very different from having an innate sense of things and following that as my guidance. The latter is what is often known as the conscience which is both fixed and socially determined. In a sense it is the exact opposite of the pulse.

Consider the predicament that Mark Twain's wonderful character Huckleberry Finn finds himself in. He befriends the runaway slave Jim even though that act keeps on gnawing at his conscience. Huckleberry Finn finds that his conscience tells him that it is wrong to aid and befriend a runaway slave, that he should turn Jim in at once.

The conscience is not an enlightened part of ourselves as is commonly supposed. Instead it is socially created, reflects society's values and is fixed. Thus, in a slave-owning society the conscience tells every free person that it is wrong for a slave to be free. That the slave must be turned in and face punishment for seeking freedom. Conscience can not reason, can not hold shades of grey and is instead, literally in this case, black and white.

Luckily for all of us who love to read, Huckleberry Finn disregards his conscience. As the narrator of the story, Finn actually tells us, the readers, that he is going to disregard his conscience even though he 'knows', i.e. is brainwashed into believing, that to help Jim is 'wrong'.

What Huckleberry Finn does instead is follow his pulse, which tells him moment by moment to be good to Jim the runaway slave, treat him as an equal in all respects and in so doing gains a friend and ultimately lights the path to freedom.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150524

The present moment has very little to do with the past or the future. Have you ever noticed that the present moment is not sentimental? It asserts its own present constantly. It has no past so it does not hanker after it. The present moment is fresh, alive in each moment. It is not out of the past that it is born but rather out of the present. 

The past only gives birth to memory which is of the past. Past creates past. And even so the future creates the future, which is fantasy. The future is always fantasy because it is never realized. So we exist in the chasm between memory and fantasy. That is the pulse. It is the Now. It is the only place where we can breathe. That is where we are alive. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150519

"Whatever spontaneously comes

"Whatever spontaneously comes from the center of intuition, that I teach. I never prepare my lectures or speeches, for I was told by my master not to do so." 

That is how the great teacher Swami Rama ends his book Living With The Himalayan Masters

Make your pulse your master and follow your pulse, always. Then you will need no preparation, no pondering the past, no contemplating of the future, just living fully in the moment!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay


20150517

Greed is the opposite of thoughtful paying attention to the moment. Greed does not allow us to simply pay attention to the moment. That is too small for greed. Greed wants more. Much more. So greed can never pay attention to the moment.

I do not like greed. I don't miss it.

When we improvise as a way of life, a positive philosophy of life, when we live improv, we can not possibly be greedy. We let greed go and live in the moment.

That is the drama of improv. That's the philosophy of improv drama. It's about letting go of greed and really living

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay


20150516

Can we know

Can we know the future? Can we say with certainty what even the very next moment will be? 

Can we know the past? Sure we can tell stories about the past. But they are only stories. They emphasize certain things and ignore others. Every time we think of the past we recreate it. 

We can never know the future. We can never know the past. 

All we can know is the present. Are we up to the challenge of doing that? Can we really enter into the moment without trying to lead, without framing the moment as a continuation from our past or projection of the future, neither of which is knowable?

I believe we can. This is what improvisation is: following the pulse in the present moment. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay


20150502

"All time

"All time, past, present and future, are contained in the now." What do these beautiful enigmatic words of Krishnamurti, uttered in his last talks in Bombay in 1985 mean?

If we acknowledge that time is circular rather than linear, we can allow Tolstoy's Wise Hermit from The Three Questions (1903) to answer thus: "Remember then: there is only one time that is important - Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power." 

The pulse is the prompting of the Now. The pulse contains the past, present and future. Your past, present and future are contained in the pulse! It behoves you to follow it and that is what improv is. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay


20150105

In the words of the great philosopher J. Krishnamurti, "Self-knowledge is the beginning of understanding; without self-knowledge, contradiction and conflict will continue. To know the whole process, the totality of oneself, does not require any expert, any authority. The pursuit of authority only breeds fear. No expert, no specialist, can show us how to understand the process of the self. One has to study it for oneself. You and I can help each other by talking about it, but none can unfold it for us, no specialist, no teacher, can explore it for us." (The First and Last Freedom, New York: Harper, 1954, p. 75)

So self-awareness can only come out of each of us engaging in improvisational play. This is the purpose of creative improvisational performance workshops. This is what I do.

20150103

Improv Drama exercise 2015.2

Trio performances.

Find a place to sit with your pen and paper. Write down your earliest memory. Write by hand. Describe it, whatever you remember. Even if it is only a fragment. Keep writing until you are done.

Now underline 3 sentences that call out to you. There is no right and wrong. You just choose 3 sentences. Now pick 3 words from the 3 sentences. Circle the 3 words.

Memorize the 3 words.

Look around you. Find an object that calls out to you. It could be something related to your earliest memory or something that just calls out to you right now for whatever reason. If you can pick this object up do so and examine it. Or else touch it if you can. 

Now turn to 2 other people closest to you. Share your 3 words with your trio, show the others your object, and together create a 1-minute improvised performance using 9 words, 3 objects, and the use of the space in any way that you like. 

Options for trios:
a) each person says their 3 words using their object to gesture or moving with / alongside it and using the space any way they like. They do this in sequence, one at a time.
b) each person teaches the other 2 what their gesture or movement is along with their words which are memorized by all. Three pieces are done in sequence but each piece is performed by all 3 participants.
c) all 3 perform their piece simultaneously, spacing their words so that no one drowns out the others.
d) other

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Improvisation is not

Improvisation is not just making things up or doing whatever the hell you want to. Improvisation requires discipline and practice. Improvisation requires structure. 

Discipline

The act of improvisation is the act of following the pulse. You don't make anything up. You simply follow. 

Discipline means learning to tune into the pulse. Life is calling out to us at all times leading us into the most wondrous experiences. Why is that most people do not live magical lives? It is because though Life calls out to us, it does not do the living and experiencing for us. We need to learn to recognize the nudges of the pulse and follow Life. 

Practice

Practice means that we must consciously engage with a way of living life that is different from what society teaches us. We must learn to be free. To recognize the pulse (discipline) is one thing but to actually follow it, day and night, every single day and trust enough to not give up on it is practice. 

With discipline and practice we get stronger. We hear the pulse and see it. It becomes a part of us. Improvisation makes us whole.

Structure

In order to walk you need a floor. In order to do anything you need resistance in the form of structure. Improvisation exercises provide that structure against which the pulse can first be recognized and later continuously followed. These don't have to be my exercises. You can make your own ones up!

Discipline, practice, and structure make up the 3 pillars of improvisation. This applies to your art. This applies to your work. This applies to your life.

Once you start living the improvised life you never want to go back to the old life. You start living in the moment.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150102

Improv Drama exercise 2015.1

Write 2 pages of free-writing on a true story. It may be something that happened to you. Or something you heard of. But it should be a true story. It doesn't have to be the whole story. It can be a fragment. Whatever you remember.

Stop when you've filled 2 blank pages. Put your writing aside and close your eyes.

We are leaving our time now, we are leaving our time. And we are going back to the time of our story.

Imagine your self in the story. Perhaps you are not in the story but imagine that you can magically place your self in the scene where the story takes place.

Look around you with your mind's eye. Look for an object that catches your eye. You are doing all this in your imagination, not in our time but in your story. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just look for an object in your story that calls out to you.

Now look for a gesture. Look around in your story. Is there anyone, perhaps even your self, making a gesture or movement that catches your attention? See the gesture or movement clearly, so that you can repeat it later.

We are leaving your story time now, we are leaving. And we are coming back to our own time. Now open your eyes.

Look around you for an actual object in the room that
a) matches the object in you story, or
b) somehow reminds you of your object through free association, or
c) has absolutely nothing to do with the object in your story.

Pick up the object if you can and see if you can practice the gesture from your story while holding or touching this object. Practice it till it becomes a gesture that you can repeat.

Carefully put the object down somewhere close to you and return to your writing.

Reflect briefly on your writing. Now underline 3 sentences that stand out for you. There is no right and wrong. You are simply playing. Finally, pick a total of 3 words from the 3 sentences and circle them.

Memorize the 3 words.

Share your 3 words, object and gesture in any way you like with the group, one at a time, in the form of an improvised 1 minute performance.

Reflect on the experience. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20150101

Working with groups of workshop participants in four continents I came to realize that individuals in more traditional and rural societies, facing tremendous challenges, can sometimes be more whole and far less split than their modern, urban contemporaries. At other times I found urban, affluent groups that were very rooted in their cultures and in that wholeness were open to explorations of new ways of thinking.

I found that working with these groups I was learning, this was my schooling, and that as workshop leader I was engaged in a profound dialogue about wholeness.

I approach my explorations in the form of performance workshops because I am interested in people coming together in groups to explore for themselves, both as individuals and as a group, ideas of wholeness in how they live and how they work. Performance is seen and experienced as play. This allows my workshop participants to engage fully, increasingly leave their inhibitions aside and explore.

I use brief performance lectures as a preamble to my performance workshops. These create a playful and safe structure within which the performance exercises can be done. Participants can see that I am just an ordinary person like them who has many unusual ways of thinking about things and who is willing to engage others in his memories, observations, obsessions, and other distracted thoughts.

20141230

To understand

To understand our selves we must explore our selves. As a performance artist I use performance lectures and performance workshops to engage people in self-explorations and sharing. The following are further excerpts from my trip to Brazil 2014. 

Exploring with four arms

Modern-day chess derives from the Persian game chatrang which itself derives from the Sanskrit chaturanga, which means four-armed. My father's Parsi ancestors came from old Persia and I imagine that they played the game of chatrang in their free time. 

My mother's ancestors were Brahmins from the Konkan coast, spoke Sanskrit and in the long monsoon season when villages like their's facing the Arabian Sea turn into little islands to this day, it is not hard to imagine the children and grownups sitting around the ancient chessboard playing chaturanga

I am told that this ancient game in accord with its name was once four-armed and it seems to me that in the journey it took from the coast of Konkan to Persia and the Arab world and on to Europe, it lost half its dimensionality. It went from being four-armed to being a game played only by two. 

And yet there remain four sides to the game board that are almost identical reminding us that once there were four back and front movements and that once moving to the side also meant moving to the back and the front and the other side depending on whose perspective the move was seen from. 

Exercise: Brazil 2014 performance workshops

Imagine that you have four arms. Using your real and imaginary arms start miming things that you do every day and how you would do them now that you have four arms. Try to do many different everyday tasks one after another. Remember the task that was most memorable: the most fun to do, the hardest, the weirdest, the coolest, whatever! (TASK) 

Now as you do your tasks notice that you've been making up and using imaginary objects that you needed to do your tasks. Pay attention to these imaginary objects as you do your everyday tasks and ask yourself these questions: 

1. How many objects do you use for each task? Perhaps you use only one, but perhaps more since you do have four arms!
2. How would you describe the objects?
3. How much does each object weigh?
4. What colors are they?
5. What textures do they have?
6. What are their volumes?
7. Are they new or old? Or are some new and some old?
8. Do you like them? Or do you like some of them and not the others? Which ones?
9. Find something odd about each object. Can you let their oddness grow?
10. How have the objects changed?

Remember the object and its attributes that you found most memorable. (OBJECT)

Now using your four arms start miming fantastic tasks that you can't actually do in your everyday life but that using your imagination and play acting you can now do in this performance space. Do many different fantastic tasks one after another. Remember the fantastic task that was most memorable to you. (FANTASTIC TASK)

Now as you do the fantastic tasks pay attention to the imaginary fantastic objects that you've been using and ask yourself the questions above. Remember the fantastic object and its attributes that you found most memorable. (FANTASTIC OBJECT)

Using the four elements, Task, Object, Fantastic Task and Fantastic Object create a silent one-minute performance. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20141229

Conducted Story One Word at a Time

Roles: A conductor in the middle and participants arranged in a circle around the conductor.

The conductor asks for a story title, picks one, announces it and then proceeds to point at one person in the circle at a time in a random order. When the conductor points at a you, you are allowed to say just one word. The group thus builds a story, one word at a time.

The conductor can point in various ways to evoke more or less intense emotions and can vary the speed at which the story proceeds.

The conductor decides when the story ends and announces, "The End".

20141228

Small performances

Small performances in everyday life.

Your life is a performance space. Every day every moment you have the opportunity to perform. These small performances of the moment constitute what you call your life.

If you improvise in every moment you call upon a great power of the universe that understands and is in harmony with your intention. Then you sing. Your life sings in each moment.

Your small performances of daily life develop a sacred quality of magical improvisation. Your small performances speak to you. Speak to others. Give you the will to live. They power you.

And that's when you start living. 

Exercise: Brazil 2014 performance workshop

Who are you? Answer this question in 2 pages of hand-written free-writing where you start writing and then don't stop until you have filled 2 blank pages with your answer. Don't worry about spelling, or grammar, or punctuation. In fact don't worry about anything, just write. Stop when you have 2 pages written down. 

Reflect briefly on your writing. Now underline 3 sentences that stand out for you. There is no right and wrong. You are simply exploring your self. Finally, pick a total of 3 words from the 3 sentences and circle them. 

Now pick an object, any object that you are drawn to. Using your object in any way you like you will share your 3 words with the group, one at a time in the form of an improvised 1 minute performance. 

Reflect on the experience. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140708

Day 1 improv Public Speaking

Day 1 improv Public Speaking

Timed Writing:

What do you like to talk about? Write for a minute.

Now imagine that you are famous! What are you famous for? Write for a minute.

If you were to give a speech (as the famous person that you are) what would you talk about? Write for a minute.

Speech:

Now give the speech that you said you would talk about above. Max time one minute.

Homework: rework your speech and come prepared with it for the next class.

20140702

I want to


I want to tell you a story about my school in old Bombay. We had six houses. Ours was Indira Gandhi house and it was the best house. My brother's house was Akbar house and it was middling. On the very bottom, the very worst house, was Mahatma Gandhi house. Since my house was the best, our house teachers were very strict and had very high standards. They would spend hours deciding how I should pronounce a single word like liberty. I did not get better under the watchful eye and training of the house teachers. I got worse. In 4th standard when I recited Into The Valley of Death I came second last. It is a very stupid poem with values that I could not possibly relate to at that age or even now. I did not pick it, my house teachers picked it for me.

Over the years I took part in most speaking competitions but sounded pretty bad, artificial, and lacking in any real, honest feeling. There was no sign of being Indian either: Abraham Lincoln, Kaiser Wilhelm, etc. were the speeches that were picked for me. I hated it and hated myself for being so bad at speaking in public. 

One day during house period the house teacher of Mahatma Gandhi house sent a peon over to fetch me. She asked me to recite my speech, whatever I was working on then, I think she even let me read it if I wanted to. So I delivered a speech to the worst house in school. The entire classroom looked at me in amazement, like they would never be able to do what I was doing. When I began I surprised myself by speaking exactly like I was really talking to them rather than reciting lines. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly and when I was done I received a wonderful spontaneous round of clapping. The house teacher looked at me kindly and said that I had shown her house that I could be myself and deliver a speech with precision and feeling. I was very happy with the experience and starting thinking about it:

When I spoke under great pressure and high exacting standards I was terrible.

When I spoke under no pressure and no standards or expectations I was a wonderful speaker.

From that moment onwards I was never again afraid of speaking in public. I understood what I needed to do it well. I compiled a list of how I was to approach public speaking.

1. Prepare and present under kindness like for the Mahatma Gandhi house teacher.

2. Talk to the audience, really talk to them for real.

3. Do not talk in a sing song way, do not recite or orate, just talk like you normally do, only a little louder and slower. 

4. Say what you have to say directly and kindly.

5. Prepare your talk by brainstorming yourself, then with others, and only then look for sources.

6. There are no rules for speaking in public.

7. Tell stories from your own life to illustrate a point. 

8. Enjoy your self.

9. Notice things, try them out.

10. Improv the talk, always! 

I still use this list today. 

20140504

The improvised hour

The point is not who you 'are' but what you do

Each moment that we breathe is an opportunity. Either you can do something new or replay the same old broken record. We get a chance over and over again all our lives to change our lives. All we have to do is improvise in the moment instead of acting from habit. 

Now this is actually where it gets interesting. In each moment if you can choose creation i.e. improvisation then you will have a string of improvised moments. Can you imagine how freeing that is?

In the beginning as creatures of habit we may be overwhelmed with the freedom of finding each moment fresh and improvised. So I suggest you start with an hour a day. Set aside an hour where you don't plan anything. You don't control anything. Set the timer and then just go!

Moment by moment discover what the next moment wants. Follow that impulse. The moment may say: go out now. Follow that. Get on the bus. Follow that. Get off. Follow that. Walk to the tree. Follow that. Look at the trunk. Look at all the details you can find. Feel the tree with your fingers. Glide your fingers across the surface of the tree trunk. Feel the energy of the tree. Follow all that. Hug the tree. Follow that. 

You can do this for an hour every single day. Make a journal entry after your improvised hour. Welcome to the improv life. It will never be the same!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140428

Effort is a false idea that causes grief. I am X. I need to be Y. To get from X to Y takes effort. 

But no creation happens through effort! Effort is a concept of the collective ego. It creates psychological time--Now and Then.

It takes the form if If effort Now,

Then gain Then (in the future). 

But that is not how life works! Life is creative! Either we inhabit the moment or we don't. 

When we are trying, when we are using effort, when we are subjecting ourselves to all the rules and institutions of society: school, college, marriage, family, and so on, we are using a tremendous amount of effort in order to be successful. We are rewarded for that in social terms. But we are not living the creative life. We are living in psychological time.

Psychological time separating the Now and the Future creates effort. And effort destroys the beauty of the moment. 

There is this moment--now. Can we accept this moment? That accepting can be incredibly painful. We must learn to accept the present, accept the painfulness of being in present time. And wait patiently for its beauty to be revealed to us. 

That is improv. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay


20140415

Following

When you create something spontaneously you are not leading but are being led. You follow. As you follow you make discoveries. 

The trouble is only in getting started. That is the hard part. I think that is because we are socialized not to trust in hunches, invisible nods, pointers that ask us to follow certain pathways that are not always clear. 

When we learn to trust the pulse we simply follow. And in that process of following we make theater. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140408

Writing exercise

MATERIALS LIST
Timer
Pen
Paper

Set your timer for 7 minutes. Make sure it is a timer that goes off when time's up, not a stop-watch. Once the timer is set and turned on you should forget about the time.

Write with pen on paper. Write without stopping. Without thinking. Just write on and on and on. Do not think of what to say and do not reflect on what you've just said. Do not judge. 

The creator must be free to create. There is too much discernment, too much evaluating, judging, that goes on in our minds constantly. That is fine if you may be eaten by a wild animal in the jungle but for most of us this worry is unfounded. 

So just write, write, and keep writing. Let your hand do the thinking for you. See what letters it makes. See and feel the weight of the pen, the friction of the tip of the pen on paper. Feel and sense that you are connected to the foundation of the universe: the pulse. 

What we are doing is not transforming your writing. What we are doing is transforming you. Writing is the tool. 

Improv is a way, a series of carefully modulated environments that allow connection with the pulse and for play to happen. 

The pulse is free. The pulse is playful. The pulse has a great sense of humor and timing. We are simply creating, through this and other exercises, the environment for connection with it. 

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140405

Improv and the art of right action

When we improvise, to say we have options is not right. The only way to improvise that I know of is to follow the pulse. You don't choose to do this or that. So you don't really have options.

Krishnamurti said, "When the mind is clear there is only right action. Choice comes in only in the unclear mind."

This is true. As improvisers we strive to clear our minds. And wait for the pulse.

Then we follow the pulse.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140318

Come to a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes. I am going to count from 0 to 10 and with each number I want you to relax further and listen with an increasingly open mind to the sounds that you hear and the sensations of light and dark, of heat or coolness on your skin.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

You are an empty vessel floating on a gently moving stream of water. The water is blue. The sky is blue. You are floating.

Now listen to all the sounds far and near..... [pause]

Now see through your closed eyes light and dark, brightness and shade..... Notice where in your mind's eye there is light and where it is dark..... [pause]

Now feel the skin of your entire body. Where do you feel coolness? Where do you feel heat?..... [pause]

Now sense all these together:

Listen to sounds far and close

See with eyes closed light and dark

Feel the skin cool and hot..... [pause]

I am going to be counting backwards from 10 to 0. With each number bring a little more attention to the present, to your chair, to where you are. When I get to 0 you'll have your eyes open.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140223

Mark Making

As we live our daily improv life in a new way without planning anticipation or preparation, our improv journal is our best friend. We communicate daily with our journals, perhaps many times a day. That is how we keep the pulse alive.

I think the improv journal is a process of mark making. But just what is mark making?

It includes

writing

making dots and lines and scratches and blobs

doodles

words drawn

and images written,

all without purpose form or intention.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140218

Improv Life

I don't want to pretend that everything is about improvisation. But I don't want to pretend that I don't try to live like it is. So if we approach life like a very big improvisation we find the following:

We don't worry about our age because all we care about is the moment.

We don't plan ahead because what we need in the moment starts appearing in the moment. This is the development of intuition.

We don't think back to the past because if you think about it you will have to admit that the past is entirely scripted from the point of view of the present!

These three things are life-changing. As a result of this improv way of life I have friends of every age, work with students of every age, find opportunities coming to me in the moment to express myself, to teach, to consult, to reflect, to write. I have nothing to gain from thinking of my past as fixed or given (script) so I am continuously reinventing my past moment by moment.

I love my improv life and would never go back to normal life. How do you live the improv life?

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20140216

Singing

When you are creating a piece in space you are using your body. Even stillness is a very sophisticated and specific use of the body. Gestures, movement, and presence are read by the audience. Now what can we add to that?

Last week I suggested silence as a good option. In that case your body is your only instrument along with presence which incidentally transcends the body. Presence involves a solid and clear connection with the pulse. Silence, however, is not your only option. You can add singing to the body and presence.

This can be quite magical and surprising. You are not singing songs you know. You are making up songs. You are improvising words and tunes and emotions and feelings and phrasing and pauses and they do not have to be in any particular genre. They don't have to make sense. They have to emerge quite effortlessly and when the words and tunes do come from your pulse they are just right. They are perfect! You feel the thrill of connecting to the pulse when you sing without knowing from moment to moment what is going to come out of your mouth and in what form, what tune, what phrasing!

Exercise: Set timer for a minute. Enter your performance space (remember the two books from last week?) feeling your body connect with your pulse and start singing and moving through space as you are moved to. You may have a friend watch and then take turns doing this for each other.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: The amazing Shelley Duvall's singing in Robert Altman's Popeye is improv singing at its best. Image from Slant Magazine

20140209

Silence

I want to talk about silence as a mode of performance or creative constraint.

Silence is the most powerful way to create a performance. When we don't talk our bodies can say so much! The subtleties of experiencing being in the performance space are captured most powerfully without words. While words limit the performance to a particular expression of a particular state being experienced, silence covers the entire gamut of the experience of performing.

The great silent movie genius Charlie Chaplin thought that real art was in the silent film. The talkies were fine but could not rival the silent film as an art form. Even after the invention of sound in cinema, Charlie Chaplin continued making silent movies. Just because you can do something does not mean that you should do it!

Silence makes performance a language that is universal.

Exercise

Tools: Timer and two books; a friend to watch you (optional).

Preparation: Place the two books flat on the floor. How far apart is up to you and how large your performance space or your bedroom / living room is. The books mark the edges of your stage. Anytime you are physically between the books you are on stage. Set timer for one minute.

Now step into your stage and stay in this stage doing anything you want in silence. Your friend watches (optional). When the timer goes off find an excuse to leave the stage.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Mel Brooks (a genius) made Silent Movie in 1976. It really is a silent movie and is very very funny. Image from Leaning Forward blog. 

20140127

Whenever there is a question in improv the answer is always the pulse. It is our resistance that keeps us from being constantly in touch with the pulse. We don't forget to breathe--we know we'd die if we did so. But we allow for our own creative deaths daily by losing touch of our pulse and following directions passed down to us by society, workplace, school, parents, spouses, friends, authority figures and institutions that depend completely on stifling our own pulse to gain and keep control of us.

We must find our own pulse and follow our own pulse, always. That is the only answer in improv.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay.

Image: Harold Lloyd in Safety Last! a brilliant silent movie. Photo credit.

20140120

Improv Journal

To learn to improvise is a whole-life matter. Everything you do must be turned to the moment. How do you relate to the moment? There are many ways. Today I will talk about the improv journal.

A journal is a blank book that you keep as a reflection of your life. Every day you enter in the date and then:

You allow you hand to pick up a pencil or pen or anything at all and make marks on the page. You don't control your hand. You do not limit it to a page. Neither do you force it to make a many-page journal entry. There is no forcing. There is no directing. What ever happens whether you jot notes, doodle, make ink spots or rip the page to shreds is exactly what needs to happen. That is the improv way.

Improv is a very serious matter. You really need to do this every day if you want to improvise.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Poster for brilliant improviser and artist Lynda Barry's writing / picture making / creativity class from her tumblr

20140116

Improv Means Being Free

What does improv mean to you? Can you stand living in a way where everything is orchestrated for you and you simply move along a circuit already prepared for you? Do you like to follow rules and eagerly await compliments of a teacher or boss: job well done, you've followed the rules of our exercise exactly?

But that is not really improv! Improv means being free. Being free to create in the moment. Do you stop and think in the moment how momentous the moment is? How awesome you are in this very moment? What does that awesome you do in this momentous moment, letting go of all expectations, conditioning, praise, rules, and dogma?

That is improv.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20131231

A new year's message to the world:

We have been slaves of our own circumstances. We have thus far arranged our lives in predictable patterns, planned for life and even perhaps planned for death. We have lived measly, limited lives fulfilling roles expected of us: old roles that required little imagination and allowed no play. We have been stuck and society has had us trapped in its webs of relationships and artificial responsibilities.

Awaken to the possibilities of 2014! We can be free! We can live our lives as improv men and improv women, making no plans, fulfilling no roles, and staying true only to our own beating pulse. Letting go of the shackles of our dreary, predictable worldly roles we engage with the deep philosophy of improv: connect with the pulse, live your life moment by moment, take things as they come, become fearless.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20131229

Improv is

As far as we know we have one life. Why limit our selves?

Planning for things, preparing is nothing less than limiting our selves. We say we want to be free and yet we read out prepared speeches, plan our futures, act predictably. That is all so soul-destroying! Let us wake up to the possibilities of improv.

Improv is:

never having to think ahead
never preparing anything
never reading out a prepared speech
never knowing what one is going to do the very next moment

Improv is a way of living our lives. It is the more daring way. It is also far more rewarding than the common life lived by millions in societies dominated by collective egos controlling, conspiring to limit, and smothering creation in the moment.

I have decided that I am free. Only by improvising my whole life can I live up to the idea. That has been my lifework in a nutshell.

May the pulse be with you,

Abhay

20130726

Improv Is Play

Improv is fun. Of course there is that. But they way in which it is fun is not just that we laugh a lot or that it lets us be goofy, letting go of inhibitions. That is all very important but above all else what improv is, is play.

Play is the most natural thing in the whole world. Not just humans but animals also love play and engage in it without any premeditation or thinking. Do you remember being a kid and asking your friend: Do you want to come over and play?

Well you are never too old to ask that question. Go ahead, try it! You could say to your friend: Do you want to come over and play improv?

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20130725

It is time to create a native modern improv theater of India. We have a long tradition of improvisation in music and theater. Somehow those native traditions have not created fresh ways to inform modern improv theater as a theater of 'roots' in India as far as I know. I could be wrong.

However this is what I would want to see develop in the land of my birth: a movement-based improv theater with the following characteristics:

1. Circular rather than linear logic

We can create much more layered, much more complex theatrical threads that can be woven together than is done in the western tradition.

2. Use of multiple languages

We all have the unusual gift of being fluent in more than two, often three or four languages. What happens when all the different languages are used in the same set of constraints or scenes? I have seen this happen most memorably when I taught an improv workshop in a small Rajasthani village and the results were spectacular.

3. The use of Indian humor

We all know what that means. There is a particular sense of humor shared across the subcontinent. Yet when we improvise very often we use the humor of English. This is much more than the language used. Even when using English, can we connect with our intrinsic Indian humor and bring it into the play? When we play characters can we bring in the amazing range of characters we meet every day of our lives? Can we we sharp and make a mental note each time we notice a very Indian situation or character and bring that into our play?

This is just me speculating. But I think when that happens something very fresh and new will emerge. Perhaps it already is. If so, please let me know.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Peter Sellers with director Blake Edwards during the filming of The Party. With a largely improvised script, Peter Sellers brought out Indian humor beautifully. Photo credit

20130723

Do something each day that is unplanned. One moment you are doing something ordinary, something that you normally do. The next moment surprise your self. Do it every day, however small, and write down what you did in a diary.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20130721

Improv Is Momentary, Magical, Magnificent!

My belief is that improv is not only a performance art, it is a way of life. For many years I was not able to live this belief fully. When invited to give talks at the Performance Studies International or the Art Institute of Chicago or other major events, I meticulously prepared notes, wrote out many drafts of my talks, and then finalized a version which I would then read out aloud and publish. I prided myself on the fact that I was known to perform my talks, engaging the audience rather than talking down to them.

In my daily life, in my teaching at the University, my theater classes, I improvised. I never prepared anything. So this was the way things stood: in the little things in life, the daily affairs I lived my belief that life is one big improvisation. But in the big things, I scripted, rehearsed, memorized.

This split became unbearable in this last year after many months of traveling in India as a Fulbright scholar. I could see that there could be only one truth. Either life was planning, preparation, predetermined or momentary, magical, magnificent. It came to me on a long trek in the deserts of Rajasthan that My truths were the Ms: momentary, magical, magnificent!

So I returned to California with the idea that improv must be the way I live my life entirely. A few weeks later I was invited to Atlanta to give two talks. I decided, for the first time in my life for such an important occasion, not to have any idea beforehand what I was going to say. The night before the talk I meditated as I do every day. Then I wrote down 5 things that were important to me about the subject I was going to talk about the next day. 2 minutes later I was done, I put my notebook away and never again looked at what I had written down. The next day I gave two hour-long talks that were entirely different from each other, entirely improv-ed, and entirely satisfying. I received a standing ovation after each of them.

A few weeks after that I was invited to speak at a commencement ceremony. Once again I wrote down what I thought was important, then put it away. As I walked up to the podium a voice inside my head said, Abhay let go of what you wrote down last night, let go of everything. And I did. For a moment everything went blank. I felt nervous like I have never felt before. I just stood there for a very long time. Then I looked at the people around me, proud parents, friends, students and loved ones and I saw the sun shining and I found myself saying, sincerely, "Isn't this a beautiful day?" and then it just flowed simply, honestly, straightforwardly. I connected with the pulse and went with it. To this day I have no recollection of what else I said that day. I only know that many hands patted my back, many hands were thrust in my direction, all of which I gave a hearty shake. I felt like I had graduated.

May we all graduate to becoming improv women and improv men!

 May the pulse be with you: momentary, magical, magnificent!

Abhay

20130720

Improvisation is

Improvisation is the act of watching the moment and listening to it while being in it wholly. That is why it is such a rush. It is a moment when you are fully alive!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

20130715

Performance Research Article and performance exercise

 My article has been published in Performance Research vol. 18, issue 1. There is a performance exercise at the end that you may use in your work (Please provide citation/back-link).

"Abhay Ghiara's text is a series of fragments, like a necklace of beads, perhaps worry beads (kombolói), and as in the Greek practice we are invited to turn each one and reflect for a moment. In Thirteen fragments of life and death Abhay Ghiara weaves autobiographical memories of fire - from Parsi ancestors, temple rites, travels across India and ultimately the teenage challenge to jump through a hoop of fire. These fragments are interlayered with short interjections on economics, Adam Smith and Gandhiji and residing behind all of the fragments is the question as to whether fire itself can be defiled or whether it only ever cleanses and purifies (a fundamental difference in Parsi and Hindu beliefs and practices)." -- The Editor.

You can read the article by clicking on the link below:
Thirteen fragments of life and death: Gandhian economics and a hoop of fire

20121027

Improv is the art of the pulse



Concepts do not matter. You can't teach improv. All you can do is get together and play.

May the pulse be with you!
Abhay

20120928

20120512

Fulbright


Friends I will be visiting India as a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar in performance (art) 2012-13...see you all there!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Images: Senator Fulbright (and LBJ) look at art. Sat Paul Sahni's brilliant portrait of Pandit Nehru. Thanks to them Krista and I get to go to India!




20111103

Improv class

Just today I got a note from my friend Bethany who was once my improv student. She had a dream and my wife and I were in it and were living in her neighborhood and it got her thinking about the great time we all had in my improv class.

Just the other day I was thinking about what happens when a person takes improv to be a philosophy of life. You suddenly let go of all your worries. All you think of is the now, the moment. And when you really allow yourself to do that you see that within each moment is a choice. What do we think, what do we do not later, not tomorrow, not next year, but right now in this red hot moment.

When you sense that there is an amazing opening up of the world of unlimited horizons. That my friends is improv, a philosophy of theater and life, both of which when you come to think of it are one and the same thing.



May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Philosopher J. Krishnamurti who in his last Bombay talk told the massive crowd gathered to her him for the last time: "All time, past present and future is contained in the now."

20110626

Yes!

We stand in a circle. I start the game off by pointing to A somewhere in my line of vision. As soon as I point at A, she says YES! and I start moving towards her. She has just given me permission to take her spot. And I intend to take her spot! So as soon as she says yes! to me she finds someone, say B to point to. B says yes! And A starts moving towards B's spot to take it. B must point to C and get a yes! before A gets to B's spot. Now two things: You can't take a single step unless you've asked for permission (by pointing) and received permission (a yes!). Once you have these two things you swiftly move to your new spot. If the person whose spot you are going to has not managed to point and get a yes! and start moving, you have full permission to tickle the hell out of them!

Yes! is an amazing improv game to train the subconscious to accept. In improv theater teachers are always saying accept, accept, accept! Instead of talking about accepting why not play a game? Let the subconscious do the job of learning!

'Accept' does not mean you should do what you are being told to in a scene. All it means is that you acknowledge what the other player is saying and doing. If A says to B, pick that chair up, B does not have to pick up the chair! That does not make the scene interesting. But B must acknowledge that that's what A wants of B. B may or may not do it.

That's what creates dramatic tension. Simplistic following of the 'accept' and other improv 'rules' leads to insipid, forgettable, characters doing insipid, forgettable things.

Let us free ourselves of rules and create. Say YES!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Yoko Ono's masterpiece. There is a light. Under it is a ladder. You look up and see a magnifying glass hanging by the light. You are curious. You climb all the way to the top of the ladder. You see a squiggle but can't make out what it is with the naked eye. You take the magnifying lens in your hand and look through it. The squiggle comes into focus. It says, 'yes!'. 








20110503

Leading the Blind

I still remember it like it was just yesterday. I am walking out of Second City's stone steps into Chicago's Old Town. I feel the cool air of a Chicago evening rushing against my body. I hear a continuous shuffle of passersby as if they are one and I am apart from them. Except that as they brush past me I feel them, feel their impatience. I see nothing. I feel the firm hand of my partner between my shoulder blades guiding me through an experience that will use all my senses. All except one: I am to keep my eyes shut for the entire duration of the exercise.

We walk down the street, cross the busy intersection, walk into a flower shop, smell and touch flowers until we are thrown out, go to a cafe, order coffee with a slice of lemon on the side, sit down, sip coffee, sniff lemon, sigh. It has been fifteen minutes and I have not opened my eyes! Meanwhile my partner has taken me on a guided sensory tour encouraging me to smell things, touch them, taste them, listen deeply for sounds far and near.

We overuse our sense of sight. Giving that one sense a rest allows us to use the other senses and experience the world in its fullness.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Mahatma Gandhi being led by a young boy.

20110419

Hot Seat

Three performers are seated roughly in a row, facing the audience. A is in the middle. Although B and C also face the audience, each is angled towards A.

A's task is very simple: to have a conversation with both B and C simultaneously! Now remember, it's a group exercise. B and C are sensing the rhythms of A's conversation and allowing A to actually talk to each of them. But each is also challenging A to listen while talking and talk while listening.

Hot Seat can be played with B and C being given a different topic. What I find particularly satisfying is to ask the rest of the class, our 'audience,' to give B and C not only different topics but also different subtexts. I have talked about subtext in a previous post on this blog.

It is quite a trip for A who looks at B, says a few things while listening to not only B but also C (who is free to talk to the back of A's head, slipping in important details of the conversation) and then turns to face C and does the same! Back and forth, having a conversation with two people at the same time.

Now note: B and C never acknowledge each other! This is not a 3-way conversation. It is strictly two separate conversations between A and B and A and C. They are just happening at the same time! Very soon one conversation may bleed into the other with hilarious effects.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: An old head shot from my archives. 

20110416

Trust

We are an ensemble. We are to work together, not as individuals. We are not special, wannabe stars, but a theater group. The business of improvising is very serious. At the bottom of it lies a profound trust. Each of us completely trusts the other. Without trust there's no improv theater.

Trust as any other concept in improv must be developed through the physical rather than the mental. Lecturing you about trust does you absolutely no good. We must allow our bodies to learn to trust.

Catch Me Falling is a wonderful trust building exercise. We visit it often and physically partake of it's wisdom. Each time we do it a little more trust is built. By the time the workshop is over we'll trust each other with our lives. Well, at least we'll trust each other enough not to let anyone fall!

The group stands in a circle. One performer let's call her A stands in the middle of this circle. The circle closes in so that 1. Each person in the circle is very close to A, 2. Each person in the circle has one leg behind them for stability and support, knees slightly bent and hands up, palms facing A. Now A closes her eyes and keeping her knees straight, arms loosely held by her sides, starts falling! Whoever is closest to the direction of her fall works together to catch her and gently pushes her in a different direction. The group standing in a circle work together. When A starts falling towards you, you and your neighbors on either side spring into action to gently and together catch A and just as gently then to push A in another direction. A is simply enjoying the sensation of being gently tossed around like a rag doll trusting that whatever happens the group is not going to let her fall.

Feeling the complete and unconditional support of group in a real, physical way creates the groundwork for creativity and play. By the way, don't be afraid to laugh when playing this game. Just make damn sure whatever happens you never let A fall.

Adjust the size of the circle. Try out various diameters. If A is big and heavy let the circle move in. If A is small and light let the circle expand a bit. Experiment!

The best place to 'catch' A is the back, shoulders, shoulder blades, and upper chest. No grabbing (unless you are saving A from really falling) just soft, caring, open palms.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Stonehenge. 

20110411

Subtext

A constraint that brings any performance alive is subtext. A performer is given some information about the character being played that influences how the performer acts. We are creating layers of invisible life events, personality traits, or physical/bodily needs in the moment that are never mentioned but influence everything that the character does. So we are not providing the text, which is after all completely improvised in the moment but rather the subtext, what lies just below the surface.

When I teach I never give the performer the subtext. Instead I ask for a subtext from the audience which consists of the rest of the class. Give us a subtext for Mike, I say, something that he is experiencing in the moment or something from his life or something about him. Mike's never going to talk about this  subtext but it will inform everything that he does. How it informs what he does is not something planned but something that will 'just happen.' Hands shoot up: He has to pee really badly; he was dropped in a vat of magic potion as a child; He and his wife are breaking up after 20 years; He is still in love with his 4th grade school teacher, and so on. I pick one and ask for a subtext for any other actors who will be performing as well. Then we sit back and watch.

Subtext then becomes a powerful tool in freeing the subconscious mind and allows for powerful, original interpretations of how that subtext would shape the character being played. Often what comes through is effortless and surprising, even to the performer!

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Freud explores the unconscious mind by One From RM

20110408

You can't learn how to be a good actor.


You are born an actor and die an actor. You can't be taught to become a good actor. I think everyone is born being able to act. However in the mysterious alchemy of becoming a social being we lose that memory of being natural-born actors and develop inhibitions, bad habits, and are not ourselves. We lose ourselves.

Our work then is to rediscover our natural inner actors. We start with a very simple exercise called The Chair. A chair is set up across from the audience, facing the audience. A book is placed about ten paces on each side of the chair marking 'the stage.' A performer starts at one end of the stage, standing by one of the books on the floor, gathers herself, then simply walks across 'the stage' and sits down. She faces the audience. Looks at them naturally, then gets up, stands behind the chair, looks once again at the audience, then walks away aware of being on stage until the second book on the floor is passed. I encourage the class to clap when the student leaves the stage.

A very simple exercise but not easy. You are to be your self. Not the you that you project in your daily life but just you with no frills added. If you must laugh while doing it well let it come out, laugh. Don't hold back, don't edit. Just focus on walking across, sitting, looking at the audience, standing, looking at the audience again, leaving.

You can't learn how to be a good actor. But you can unlearn what stops you from being a great one.

May the pulse be with you!

Abhay

Image: Jennilee Marigomen is a photographer living in Vancouver, Canada.