I study film and theater at a branch campus of Penn State University. Through my training, I have been exposed to the teachings of director Tadashi
Suzuki. He's fairly contemporary, really cementing his philosophies around 1979. Suzuki's theater has a very specific aesthetic quality which
arouses strong emotions in the audience through powerful, economic, and specific motions.
However, the powerful nature of his performances are not the reason Im bringing Suzuki into the light - it is the very meticulous training he forces
upon his actors. At Penn State, we are exposed to a very small portion of it: and we often practice it 2-3 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week, on top of
other methods of actors training.
The training is physically rigorous: I have seen many students pass out, or even sprain an ankle, etc. But from day one, the training is focused on
the loss on one's ego. This is achieved by strict, rigorous physical patterns (4 basic forms, "sitting statues," "standing statues," traveling
walks, and others) wherein the actor must assume the first shape and wait for a call (either the instructor's grunt, or more traditionally the
instructor will smack a bamboo stick against the stage floor) to assume the second, and all successive, positions, until the form repeats itself. The
actor is trained to use powerful physical imagery in order to accomplish what Suzuki himself describes as impossible forms. For example, in Basic 1,
the first call requires the actor to slide his foot along the ground, feeling its weight as it moves across the stage. The actor here might envision
his foot physically nailed to the ground so that he will not lift it.
Which bring me to the second unique aspect of Suzuki's training - he describes it as "the grammar of the feet" and the forms ask the actor to be
very firmly rooted to the stage. We are often encouraged to use the image of tree roots growing from our feet into the stage.
At face value these concepts seem elementary but when practiced for an hour or more in succession produced heightened states of awareness and the
breakdown of one's ego - which is a common goal of meditation. It's quite an interesting method of acting and I feel a definite spiritual benefit
from the training.
In addition, our instructor encourages us to "open our hearts" while training, something which Suzuki himself would not include in his training.
His training does not focus on emotions at all. Initially, we must find what it means to open one's heart, then strive to do it. Much of the
expository training is standing motionless but still "going on a journey," and conveying that journey to the audience. With an open heart, it is
common for actors to experience intense emotions, and on more than a few occasions I have been brought to tears through this practice. The journey we
go on is dictated by our personal imagery which we are strictly to keep to ourselves. Our goal is to express this journey while keeping the face
still and only through the specific forms of the training. Watching even intermediate Suzuki students shows obvious differences in each actor's
experience with no variations in physical structure
Here are a few links to better familiarize you with Tadashi Suzuki's theories. I strongly reccomed his book "The Way of Acting" to any theater
artists out there - it's very eye opening and covers all of the physical forms and incldues pictures.
Way of Acting - Google Books (limited preview)
Tadashi Suzuki - Wikipedia
Blesok Culutural Instituation - Suzuki Method
I'm also happy to answer any questions you may have about practicing this technique and the rich physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits it
[edit on 22-6-2008 by clayhasychak]