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Tadashi Suzuki: Eastern Training for Actors

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posted on Jun, 22 2008 @ 10:44 PM
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.

The 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 provides.

[edit on 22-6-2008 by clayhasychak]

posted on Jun, 22 2008 @ 10:53 PM
At first what you write reminds me of QiGong practice in the repition of forms as in Tai Chi ... which has a very definite rootedness in the earth and the drawing up into oneself and the letting down of oneself into the earth energies ... I have not put that very well in English I fear, but that is it for tonight.

Again, thank you for this interesting post and the references to his method for cultivating an actor's power and presence.

posted on Jun, 24 2008 @ 01:50 PM

Google Video Link

This is a short video of our company doing some "sitting statues" then getting into "standing statues." That's me right to the left of center at the start, wearing a tan/light brown hoodie and black pants.

Realize this is 2 minutes of a 45 minute opening-night warm up (The show was "The Learned Ladies" by Moliere). The classes leading to these dates went in excess of 2 hours - of these same movements, with a few others thrown in.


posted on Jun, 24 2008 @ 01:55 PM
Being 'mindful' helps in any task, and especially in just exisitng in a balanced way here on Earth. It seems that Mr. Suzuki's teachings stress aeseticism (sp?). as a way to gain greater control over one's body by experiencing and dealing with discomfort. Kind of like how old Sir Lancelot wore a hairshirt.

posted on Dec, 30 2008 @ 10:17 PM
Do you know of any schools other than Penn State that do this technique?

If not, anywhere where I could find this out.

Or of any workshops

I read of the Suzuki Method a while back and I find it very interesting. I would love to study this method. I already have The Way of Acting on order from Amazon, so that I can at least read it.

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