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Meet our Tutors | Michael Eriera: The Michael Chekhov Technique

Meet our Tutors | Michael Eriera: The Michael Chekhov Technique

15 February 2020

In the latest in our Meet our Tutors series, Michael Eriera writes about Michael Chekhov’s Five Guiding Principles and how an actor can use them to enhance their performance. Michael will lead The Michael Chekhov Technique workshop at The Actors Centre on 25 February where members will have the opportunity to create and perform a scene using Chekhov’s world-renowned methodology.

Michael Chekhov has given us what he calls the Five Guiding Principles. This cohesive and holistic training has a resonance in film, TV, and theatre. These principles are a method of inspired acting to aid actors in classic and contemporary performance.

Michael Chekhov states, “I would like to offer these guiding principles to enable actors to understand the ideas of the technique, the purpose and the way of integrating them into performance.”

The below road map I am following will introduce students to Chekhov’s dynamic principles. Through a series of psycho-physical exercises, students will be encouraged to link body-mind and are introduced to imagination, atmosphere, concentration, radiating, inspiration and impulse.

I am defining the Five Guiding Principles as:

  1. The Body and its Psychology
    To exam the disjuncture between mind and body. The actor searches for the connection between the inner feeling and the outer expression. The body is developed and trained so that it becomes sensitive to this connection. Chekhov developed a series of exercises to explain the psycho-physical and assist the actor in attaining harmony of body and psychology.
  2. Intangible means of Expression
    Making the invisible visible, to add to the body-mind connection the intangible elements which include imagination, atmosphere, radiation, space and inner movement.  The actor can learn how to the use the energy of performance to radiate between him/herself to your acting partners and to the audience.
  3. The Higher Self and the Creative Spirit
    Chekhov discusses the spiritual element to the work. He talks of creating one thing out of a multitude of things. This can be achieved by using the creative spirit and intellect to unify aspects of the performance. The actor can be empowered to find their moment of inspiration.
  4. Awakening the Creative State
    Chekhov teaches that there are a number of elements in the technique. The actor learns to connect these elements to work on the self and to work on the performance. Each component opens the door to inspiration. Inspiration leads to the energy of performance.
  5. Artistic Freedom
    Chekhov posed the question, does the technique free me as an actor. For Chekhov the source of all acting was imagination, not personal experience, which he felt limited actor’s choices. The purpose of learning the technique is to free oneself from one’s personality and to allow each actor’s creative individuality to develop with the use of imagination.

The One Day Workshop
Of course it’s impossible in a one -day workshop to attain the complete understanding of the Michael Chekhov technique. This class is an introduction to his methodology. A starting point, if you like, into the journey that begins at the simplest place — the physical presence of the actor standing before the audience. That actor is occupying space either filling with energy or not, and in the profound words of Michael Chekhov, the moment you are not alive on stage you are dead.

Those wise words of Chekhov are the starting point for my workshop. I have a body, and it is energetic and active.

In the first half of the workshop we will be exploring a series of psycho-physical exercises that are the cornerstone of the Chekhov methodology. Including Psychological gesture, the Three Centres (thinking, feeling and willing), Six Planes of Movement, Staccato and Legato, Archetype and Quality of Movement. In addition to the above we include Imagination, Radiation, Atmosphere, Impulse and Energy.

The second half of the day will be devoted to working on a scene using the Chekhov methodology. I will provide the text and the actors will be encouraged to create a physical duologue working through the body into the text.

The Michael Chekhov Technique takes place at The Actors Centre on 25 February. For more information including how to book, please click here.

About Michael Eriera
Michael is a Mountview graduate and has worked extensively in Theatre and TV, as an actor and director for over 25 years. He has an MA in actor training and coaching from RCSSD and currently teaches the Chekhov technique and classical text at numerous drama schools.


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