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Aphrodite Evangelatou

Beyond Exercise: The Pedagogy of Actor Training

The Japanese theatre practitioner and director Tadashi Suzuki uses the word discipline instead of exercise when referring to the training he developed; this is because he associates exercise with the physical aspect of the work, whereas discipline is understood as a broader term that involves the physical engagement with the exercise, as well as the emotional response to it. The exploration of acting exercises, or disciplines as Suzuki calls them is undoubtedly a vital part of actor training. This is partly because—as Suzuki’s need to use a different word perhaps indicates—an exercise has the power to help the actor access the intangible (i.e. experiencing) through committing to a tangible—and often ‘humble’ as Eugenio Barba points out—task.
In addition to highlighting the importance of the exercise as a tangible point of entry to the intangible experiencing, this paper argues that there is a factor that is as—if not more—crucial than the exercises deployed to assist an actor achieve a certain desired outcome i.e. to awaken their inner life or help them approach a character: the way in which these exercises are introduced and student-actors are encouraged to engage with them. The role of the actor trainer as a pedagogue, or even a whisperer/enabler that actively helps the student achieve a certain goal will be examined in this paper, which aims to discuss what lies beyond exercise. How do we introduce exercises and why? How do we amend the exercises when borrowing from others and what might be the reasons behind such amendments? Specific examples from the presenter’s teaching practice and practice-based research on actor training will also be discussed.

Dr Aphrodite Evangelatou is an actor, actor trainer, and practitioner-researcher. She is a Senior Lecturer at Bucks New University and Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she also completed her PhD. As an actor, she trained at Drama Centre London, the Vakhtangov Institute in Moscow, and Delos Drama School (Athens, Greece). She has also travelled around Europe to attend workshops and train at places such as the Odin Teatret, the Grotowski Institute, and the Workcenter of J. Grotowski and T. Richards. Her teaching practice focuses on acting and devising while her research interests include physical theatre, acting pedagogy, and the psychophysical.