Tuesday, December 7, 2010
A Few Thoughts About Suzuki Movement Training by Shanga Parker
I first encountered this some time ago—over 20 years. The initial thought was of a physical method that I could attack fully. Acting is so subjective and requires so much inside insight that I felt there was nothing to push up against. Finally I saw something I could work hard at, improve in objective ways, and possibly (how exactly unknown to me at the time) become a better actor.
I did get better at the form. The improvement felt good. I was truly heading somewhere until I heard that the point of the training was the “inner sensibility”. This, it was explained to us, was the ability to focus over a long period of time—that one can exercise one’s will as one does a muscle—and that increased concentration was a primary emotion that an actor should feel.
In one moment, I was back in the land of internal thinking. But, this time it was different. The feedback of a lack of concentration, a lag in focus and a weak will was immediate and palpable. I fell over if my mind wandered and I got tired if my thoughts wavered. All of what I wanted in actor-objectivity was present. I knew if I was wrong.
It also became clear to me that this type of study is life long. I could do the form well and still, until my mind was trained, not be doing Suzuki well.
This is much like work on stage. It can look good, feel fine while doing it, and still not be moving to the audience. Or, one moment might be terrific followed by a weaker moment.
Suzuki works on making all of the moments clear, strong, and consistent.
The physical work is great. You will have stamina in Act V of Hamlet. More important than that, your mind will be clear and your intentions strong.
This training also translates to work on camera. The ability to deliver an alive and vibrant performance while working in a smaller size is possible with Suzuki training. Being able to hit your mark without looking down is the direct result of knowing exactly where your feet are. This is worked extensively in Suzuki training.
One experience I had in which this work helped save (perhaps) another person's life. I was in a play that had a big combat scene. Most of the actors were fine, but one actor had a hard time being where he was supposed to be. During one performance, I went to “hit” my next victim and the wayward actor had stepped in my path. My arm was coming down when I realized the wrong person was going to be struck. In a moment, my body remembered how to drop my center, sink into the floor and stop in an instant. I did this, arrested my attack mode, and was able to spare this actor a bloody nose/head/eye.
Everyone experiences something slightly different in pursuing this work. My experiences are laid out above.
Come try it out and add your own stories…
Shanga Parker will be teaching a Suzuki Workshop beginning January 13 at Freehold. More information on class dates and times: Suzuki Workshop. Shanga is an Associate Professor in the School of Drama at the University of Washington and has worked professionally in theatre, television and film. He performed GRAVITY at the Connelly Theatre in New York. He has been seen at Regional Theatres: A Contemporary Theatre in WINE IN THE WILDERNESS, Intiman Theatre in HOMEBODY, KABUL and RAISIN IN THE SUN, the Tacoma Actor’s Guild in PANTOMIME. For his full bio, go here.