By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama
Three weeks into the new term and three phenomenal Wednesday Workshops have already been delivered. We have been so lucky with the wealth of experience that has been shared in these workshops and the generosity of professionals in the industry to share their time and their insight with our students has been invaluable.
Kate Winslet returned to deliver another workshop on characterisation, sharing her scripts and her own character notes alongside photographs from set. The students were enthralled by the schedules and script edits they saw and could truly appreciate the graft of acting and the research and exploration an actor should and must do to truly inhabit a role. Kate then delivered a separate more intimate session on American dialect for a student directed group and the difference in accents used by the actors at the end was astonishing. I know they will continue to practise using the crib sheets and techniques taught – and I will too!
Ben Press delivered his second session in person, and it was lovely to welcome him to Bedales and for him to share his experience and expertise in the Meisner method. Students were intrigued by this different way of working and the simplicity of responding and reacting to create truth on stage. I look forward to learning every Wednesday with the students and gaining these industry insights in the most memorable way.
Read a selection of students’ perspectives on the workshops below.
Poppy Brough, 6.2
Kate Winslet, a world-renowned actor, came to Bedales and delivered a second acting workshop for all students interested in Drama. She answered many questions from the students about her career delivering full and interesting answers, while also giving us funny anecdotes about being on set. She also showed us some photographs taken on different film sets. I particularly liked the picture of a massive sink in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.
Kate was very open and didn’t judge anyone’s questions, creating a warm open atmosphere that was comfortable for everyone.
She talked enthusiastically about her new series Mare of Easttown, set in Pennsylvania, where she plays a grieving detective. She spoke about the intensity of the role and gave us valuable acting tips for filming out of chronological order, which is necessary to avoid time wastage.
We would really like to thank her for the precious time she gave to us, and we hope that she comes again soon.
Kit Mayhook-Walker, 6.1
To assist 6.2 student August Janklow with his student led adaptation of Sam Shepherd’s True West, Kate Winslet kindly agreed to come in to give the cast a workshop on dialect. The two-hour workshop focused on everything from pronunciation, articulation and how accent informs character. She gave each member of the cast a dialect pronunciation sheet which actors use to better understand the sounds common in specific regional accents, southern Californian being the one in question. she also sat in on a scene reading and offered her advice and opinions on vocal characterisation and specific things for each actor to focus on and remember while acting. The workshop was extremely helpful and useful in the development of the play and we are extremely grateful she took the time to come in and assist all involved.
Zeb Murphy, Block 3
I attended a workshop given by Ben Press, an actor who studied in New York. He spoke to us about the Meisner technique. It is an acting method developed by Sanford Meisner, under the influence of Stanislavski, Lee Strasburg and Stella Adler.
The first activity Ben introduced to us was the ‘Repetition Game’, as he called it. Two people had to sit face-to-face, side-to-side, or back-to-back. Then we had to simply follow three instructions; Don’t say anything until something causes you to speak, Don’t try to be interesting, The other person is the most important being in the entire world.
The general idea of the game was quite simple. Whatever the other one says about you, you just repeat but change it to ‘I’ instead of ‘You’. For example, this is a possible round:
Person 1: “You are looking at my feet”
Person 2: “I am looking at your feet”
And so on…
What is noticeable, is that even though we are trying not to act, the tone in which the phrase is said will continually change, and the partner must always react to how you said the phrase. It was incredible and hilarious to watch. It was mind blowing that this simple activity, of not even trying to act, was more enjoyable to watch than half the acting scenes I have seen in theatre.
Ben then made the exercise even more challenging by requesting that one member of the pair, had to be attempting a near impossible task, such as stacking three golf balls on top of one another. The person assigned the task began their challenge, whilst the other person had to walk into the room and do as follows:
· Walk into the room as if it was the most important thing to do
· Say nothing
· Observe what is occurring in the room
· Still say absolutely nothing
· Only speak when something in the room causes you to speak.
The Repetition Game would continue with the same earlier rules. This time, when the moment felt right, you were allowed to break the repeated phrase and change it to something else you needed to express. It was incredible to both watch and perform this challenging activity.
Overall, the workshop taught me that not trying to be interesting when acting can bizarrely be the most interesting thing to do. Good acting is about the way you say something rather than what you say, noticing and reacting is just as important as acting out your rehearsed part. I absolutely adored this workshop and I hope Ben will return to Bedales for another lesson”.