By Mark Westbrook
Back in the Eighties, award winning director and playwright David Mamet teamed up with old friend, the now famous actor William H Macy and did something a little bit different.
Mamet and Macy got together with a group of drama students from New York University and held what they described as ‘Practical Aesthetics’ workshop. So exciting was what they explored, that a book was subsequently published; ‘A Practical Handbook for The Actor’, and the Atlantic Theatre Company was formed with Practical Aesthetics at its foundation. Atlantic has since become one of the most successful and critically acclaimed theatre companies in New York.
So what’s Practical Aesthetics all about then? Well, the most important thing to say about it is that it’s a modern and pragmatic approach to actor training. It doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater though, since it is founded on the work of key theatre practitioners such as Stanislavski and Meisner, and moves dynamically forward.
Practical Aesthetics avoids the trap of the Method Actor; self absorption and self analysis. By taking the attention away from you and onto the other, you truly become liberated to act and live in the moment.
A Practical Aesthetics Acting Class focuses on what the Actor is actually doing or trying to do within the scene and in the moment. Acting is about action, and as such it’s the actor’s actions that construct the dynamics of ‘character’ as perceived by the audience.
In a Practical Aesthetics Acting Class you’ll discover how best to tune your voice and body, be able to carry out precise and practicable scene analysis and learn exciting approaches to scenes in performance. Your study will enable you to efficiently and effectively apply your new learning to any role and any script.
As any good Practical Aesthetics teacher will tell you, great acting skills are about hard work and application – it’s not a question of simply talent or being ‘gifted’. A Practical Aesthetics Acting Class helps the actor find key goals to pursue within each and every scene, with the complete freedom to be natural and truthful every time.
A Practical Aesthetics Acting Class give the acting student the tools and techniques required to gather information from the script, apply some key criteria that means something to them and carry out specific actions and tactics in a scene in a free-flowing, un-rehearsed manner.
When the most wonderfully electric scenes are carried out by fine actors on the stage and screen, they are fresh, alive and full of energy. That’s usually because the actor’s are reacting off of each other. The Practical Aesthetics approach avoids the notion ‘deadly theatre’ where a play is exhaustingly rehearsed in the same manner and tone, the actors becoming automatons and leaving the audience bored and unengaged.
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