Maria Schirmer and I facilitated a workshop entitled: Bringing Student Writing to Life Using the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique. This felt like a career defining moment for me, having spent the last 13 years, learning, teaching and acting Michael Chekhov. At Face to Face 2014 I was given the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with peers, which is what this conference is all about.
We took the participants through a whirlwind of activities and concepts. This was a culmination of all the little tricks, twists and turns that I’ve learned through the years on how best to teach acting to non-actors, actors and students alike. The goal was not just for them to learn the skill or concept but also learn how they can teach it to their students. The prize at the end of this was a one page document, a blueprint that, in all honesty, provides everything you need to create theater with students.
Next was the group’s leap of faith as we explored ways to use these exercises, games and concepts inspiration towards creative writing. I handed the metaphorical ball off to Maria and she guided us through two physical exercises that led to us writing about and creating a character, as well as responding to an historic event as living characters. One memorable moment was a tableau of Nixon leaving the Presidency for the final time. After posing and embodying these characters, the group went back and, on the spot, wrote a brief scene that they acted out. “It’s not my fault that I sweat!”, opined Nixon (played wonderfully and earnestly by a female participant). “Everybody sweats!” “I trusted you, I believed in you.” A Whitehouse aide adding angrily, “I want you to get on that helicopter and never come back! You hear me?”
The response to the workshop was favorable. Participants enjoyed the quick pace, the positive energy and the game-like qualities of the exercises. I have relived many moments over and over with pleasure, recalling the spontaneity and risk-taking of the group.
It was a great honor and privilege to co-lead a workshop of my own design at this year’s Face to Face Arts-in-Education conference. The fact that I did it under the auspices of Community-Word Project is an even greater honor. Community-Word Project serves as a shining example of a non-for-profit arts organization that remains true to its mission and believes in the power of partnership and the purity of purpose.
Blog post by T. Scott Lilly, CWP Teaching Artist