COMPANION

Acting

Despite Alexander’s acting and performing experience there is no discussion of acting in his books. See Stage Fright for brief references to stage fright in his writings and lectures.

The Alexander Technique was taken up by acting colleges, first in London in the 1960s, and has since been taught, either individually or in groups, at many acting colleges, predominantly in the UK and the US. Many actors use or have used the Technique. The literature is extensive.

Books

  • The Alexander Technique For Actors by Kelly McEvenue contain warm-up exercises, drama exercises; it relates the Technique to voice work; and then discusses various examples of difficult acting roles, situations and environments. Kelly McEvenue works for the acting company of the Stratford Festival of Canada [1]
  • The Actor's Secret by Betsy Polatin is an introduction to the Alexander Technique. As well as the Technique she uses Breathing Coordination and Somatic Experiencing for her exploratory exercises (which are based on her classes at the Boston University’s College of Fine Arts School of Theater faculty).[2]
  • Physical Expression on Stage and Screen by Bill Connington is an introduction to the Alexander Technique with exploratory exercises (with links to 15 online videos demonstrating these). Bill Connington has taught at the New Your University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Julliard School, the Actor Studio MFA Program, and is currently lecturing the Yale School of Drama.[3]
  • Before the Curtain Opens by Kate Kelly is an introduction to the Alexander Technique, in particular focusing on how much the Technique can contribute to the preparation for performance.[4]
  • Integrative Alexander Technique Practice for Performing Artists by Cathy Madden considers the processes for change, e.g. 1. wanting, 2. recognizing, 3. deciding, 4. asking, and 5. experimenting, always emphasizing the freedom of choice. Cathy Madden is lecturer for the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program.[5]
  • Galvanizing Performance edited by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl is a collection of papers, mainly on acting, but also for musicians, singers, and dancers. The books focus is on the practical incorporation of the Technique in performance.[6]
  • Touching Lives by Sue Laurie is her memoirs of teaching the Alexander Technique at the RSC 1983-2010 and at the National Theatre (London) from 1989 onwards.[7]
  • The Use of the Voice by Robert Macdonald is an exposition of his thesis for his Master of Arts Degree at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London. The research involved a study of three cases and investigated the role that the Alexander Technique in changing their vocal functioning and eventual performance of Shakespearean text.[8]
  • Kinesthetic Ventures by Ed Bouchard and Ben Wright, edited by Michael Protzel contains a section drawing similarities with Stanislavsky’s methods.[9]

Articles - General

  • ‘Tension and the Actor’ by Joyce Wodeman is the first article (1962) dedicated to the benefits of the Alexander Technique for the actor. Joyce Wodeman taught acting and trained as a teacher of the Technique.[10]
  • ‘The Alexander Technique and the actor’ by John Gray also examines the general benefits of the Technique for the actor.[11]
  • ‘Speaking Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ by Lawrence Bruce discusses the use of breath in speaking the sonnets.[12]
  • ‘Stanislavsky and the Alexander Technique’ by Nicolette Lee relates her experiences of how the Alexander Technique benefits Stanislavsky work.[13]
  • ‘The Alexander Technique and its relationship to voice and Shakespearean performance’ by Rob Macdonald; on his thesis, ‘Sensory appreciation, posture, vocal functioning and Shakespearean text performance’, for his Master of Arts in Voice Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[14]
  • ‘The actor and the neutral state’ by Joan Diamond argues that an actor needs to cultivate a neutral state before entering the character the actor is going to play, and that the Alexander Technique facilitates this.[15]
  • ‘The actor in you’ by John A. Baron is an article based on a lecture given to the Center for Functional Research at Olney Hall, 2003, introducing some basic Alexander Technique ideas.[16]
  • ‘The breathing costume – The breath as a vehicle for character development’ by Jessica Wolf; based on her experiences of working at the Yale Drama School and the Carl Stough method of breathing, Wolf introduces her concept of the ‘breathing costume’ for the purpose of shaping a character.[17]
  • ‘Refurbishing image-making in actors and others’ by Cathy Madden is her observations on how to use images in acting and how they affect our movements (based on teaching Suzuki Theatre training which demands the use of images).[18]
  • The use and importance of inhibition for the highly stylized Japanese Theatre Nohgaku is described in ‘Theatre Nohgaku and the aesthetics of inhibition’ by Matthew R. Dubroff.[19]

Articles – Teaching actors

  • ‘The Alexander Technique in the training of actors’ by Steven Hallmark argues for the importance of basic chair and table work for providing the acting student with the essential fundamentals for all forms of acting. Hallmark also describes some of the exercises he used for acting students in Stockholm in 1993–99.[20]
  • ‘Working with actors’ by Lee Warren describes how he teaches the Alexander Technique in group classes at drama schools.[21] (See also his ‘Working with groups’.[22])
  • ‘What is presence on stage?’ by Penny O’Connor relates some of the processes she use to help young actors to discover their stage presence.[23]
  • ‘Alexander directed for actors’ by Janet Madelle Feindel covers four explorations for teaching actors in groups some of Alexander’s principles in motion: 1. explorations to develop awareness of direction, head and back, 2. Russian doll kinesphere exploration, 3. spilling, constricting and containment, 4. ‘coma exercise’.[24]
  • ‘The actor’s consciousness and the character’s consciousness’ by Phyllis G. Richmond argues – based on her experiences of teaching in a Stanislavski-based actor training program at Southern Methodist University – that the Technique supports a Stanislavski-based approach to acting.[25]
  • ‘Integrated actor training’ by Cathy Madden contain stories and experiences from an alumni survey, from graduates of the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program where Cathy Madden teaches full-time.[26]
  • ‘A coach for all seasons’ Kelly McEvenue interviewed by Jean-Louis Rodrigue; Kelly McEvenue has been the resident Alexander Technique teacher and movement coach for the Stratford Festival of Canada for 21 seasons.[27]
  • ‘Working with actors’ by Sue Laurie; on working at the Royal Shakespeare Company (since 1982) and the Royal National Theatre in London (since 1990), individually, in groups, in rehearsals.[28]
  • ‘The Alexander Technique as the core of actor training – An interview with Jed Diamond’; Jed Diamond talks about his experiences with the Alexander Technique, the importance of the Technique for actor training, and the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) actor-training program he, as Head of Acting, directs at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.[29]
  • ‘Dangerous corner’ by Kathleen Baum argues for the importance of the Alexander Technique for the training of actors.[30]
  • ‘Full embodiment’ by Sarah Barker illustrates her coaching method with attention to the self-use and acting process, arguing it is consistent with Stanislavski’s teaching.[31]
  • ‘A mirror, a mask and an actor’ by Julianne Eveleigh, Paul Hampton; on using a neutral mask and/or with a mirror, to act using only the movement of the body.[32]
  • ‘Mindful bananas and the Alexander Technique by Kathleen Juhl on creating a playful environment, using ‘Core Practice’, improvisation techniques and mindful performance practices.[33]
  • ‘Report on a five-day introductory class for the University of Washington School of Drama’ by Cathy Madden relates the author’s introductory class for 15 students, three hours a day, her syllabus, her daily structure, and feedback examples of three students reporting on their chosen project.[34]
  • ‘Glimpsing the collaboratives’ by Cathy Madden; on collaborating with teachers of other disciplines (e.g. voice, movement, Suzuki training, stage combat), with feedback from teachers and students.[35]
  • ‘F. M. Alexander and J. Grotowski in dialogue’ by Gabriella Minnes Brandes; on paralles between the Alexander Technique and the acting coach and theatre director Jerzy Grotowski (1933–99).[36]
  • ‘The actor’s network of stimuli’ by Joan Schirle reflects on the many aspects of acting – on-stage and off-stage, auditioning, the ups and downs of a career, etc. – and how the Technique helps the actor to have a playful attitude and to play with ease.[37]
  • ‘The actor inside and out’ by Jennifer Schulz, Sarah Barker describes a workshop where the first part consisted of exploring space and partner work, and the second part consisted of two professional actors with training in the AT who then rehearsed a prepared scene in front of the group.[38]
  • ‘Getting ready to perform’ by Maret Mursa Tormis describes her experiences of teaching the Technique at the Drama School of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, and her use of biofeedback and of her ‘tail-navel’ exercise.[39]
  • ‘Intention, not tension’ by Melissa Freilich relates how the author teaches the Alexander Technique to stage combat students in a workshop.[40]

Case histories

  • In ‘Preparing a role’ Joan Schirle relates how she used the Technique playing a woman in a wheelchair.[41]
  • ‘Buried alive: Finding movement in immobility’ by Jessica Wolf relates coaching Dianne Wiest for the role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, where the character has limited mobility, being buried to her waist in the first act, and buried to her neck in the second act.[42]
  • ‘The naked truth’ by Jean-Louis Rodrigue is the case story of how an actor, Ann Stocking who has kiopho-scoliosis with paraplegia, uses the Technique to feel comfortable on stage.[43]
  • ‘Thinking, not doing’ by Lilach Josephson; on applying inhibition in a variety of situations.[44]
  • ‘Exploring our responses in personal interactions’ by Catherine Madden describes how she teaches the Alexander Technique in acting classes.[45]
  • ‘What is presence on stage?’ by Penny O’Connor explores games and exercises for developing presence on stage.[46]
  • ‘Transformation and the higher creative self’ by Penny O’Connor. The ‘higher creative self’ is a state of consciousness when we are not creatures of habit but in a state of potential readiness. Here the author describes an activity she uses for actors where they enter the ‘transformational vortex’ for the purpose of entering the ‘higher creative self’.[47]
  • ‘Alexander Technique with actors’ by Gabriella Minnes Brandes illustrates how she teaches Alexander Technique principles to enhance actors’ work with quotations from a journal from two trainee actors on how the Technique influences their work.[48]

Research

  • ‘To learn or to un-learn’ by Julia Guichara, Harvey Thurmer reports on an informal research project where 20 students (out of 59) – 11 theatre majors and 9 music majors – who attended AT classes 2010–14 were asked to what extend they were able to apply the AT process as they returned to a traditional academic environment or entered professional work.[49]
  • ‘The use of conscious inhibition in the work of a performing artist’ by Maret Mursa Tormis reports on a study in which three musicians and three actors were tested three times over a period of two years (2006–08), before and after 20 Alexander Technique lessons, and then after a further period of six months. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to measure changes, and all measurements showed an improvement in performance.[50]

Video

The Alexander Technique – Solutions for back trouble (DVD) contain an interview with William Hurt on the benefits of the Alexander Technique.[51]

See also Voice, Delsarte, Stage Fright.

References

[1] The Alexander Technique For Actors by Kelly McEvenue (Methuen, 2001). [Also published as The Actor and the Alexander Technique.]
[2] The Actor's Secret by Betsy Polatin (North Atlantic Books, 2013).
[3] Physical Expression on Stage and Screen by Bill Connington (Bloomsbury Methuen, 2014).
[4] Before the Curtain Opens - Alexander Technique in the Actor’s Life by Kate Kelly (Triarchy Press, 2018).
[5] Integrative Alexander Technique Practice for Performing Artists by Cathy Madden (Intellect, 2014).
[6] Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017).
[7] Touching Lives by Sue Laurie (HITE, 2016).
[8] The Use of the Voice by Robert Macdonald (Macdonald Media, 1997).
[9] Kinesthetic Ventures by Ed Bouchard and Ben Wright, edited by Michael Protzel (MESA, 1997).
[10] ‘Tension and the Actor’ by Joyce Wodeman in The Alexander Journal no. 1 edited by Edward H. Owen, (STAT, 1962), pp. 16-19. Also in More Talk of Alexander edited by Dr Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2005 [1978]), pp. 216-19.
[11] ‘The Alexander Technique and the actor’ by John Gray in More Talk of Alexander edited by Dr Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2005 [1978]), pp. 220-28.
[12] ‘Speaking Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ by Lawrence Bruce in The Congress Papers 2004, Exploring the Principles edited by Anna Oppenheimer (STATBooks, 2005), pp. 48-50.
[13] ‘Stanislavsky and the Alexander Technique’ by Nicolette Lee in The Alexander Journal no. 9 edited by Adam Nott (STAT, 1988) pp. 16-20.
[14] ‘The Alexander Technique and its relationship to voice and Shakespearean performance’ by Rob Macdonald in The Congress Papers 1996, Back to Basics edited by Shmuel Nelken (Shmuel Nelken, 1999), pp. 179–88.
[15] ‘The actor and the neutral state’ by Joan Diamond in Direction vol. 1, no. 10 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1993), pp. 387-88.
[16] ‘The actor in you’ by John A. Baron in AmSAT News issue no. 72 (Winter 2006), pp. 22–25.
[17] ‘The breathing costume – The breath as a vehicle for character development’ by Jessica Wolf Direction vol. 3, no. 2 edited by Paul Cook (Direction Journal, 2003), pp. 16–20.
[18] ‘Refurbishing image-making in actors and others’ by Cathy Madden in Direction vol. 3, no. 4 edited by Paul Cook (Direction Journal, 2005), pp. 9–12.
[19] ‘Theatre Nohgaku and the aesthetics of inhibition’ by Matthew R. Dubroff in AmSAT Journal issue no. 11, Spring 2017, pp. 23-25.
[20] ‘The Alexander Technique in the training of actors’ by Steven Hallmark in Conscious Control vol. 1 no. 1, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2007), pp. 5–37.
[21] ‘Working with actors’ by Lee Warren in The Alexander Journal no. 21 edited by Francsca Greenoak (STAT, 2006), pp. 15-17.
[22] ‘Working with groups’ by Lee Warren in The Alexander Journal no. 20 edited by Francsca Greenoak (STAT, 2003), pp. 10-12.
[23] ‘What is presence on stage?’ by Penny O’Connor in The Congress Papers 2004, Exploring the Principles edited by Anna Oppenheimer (STATBooks, 2005), pp. 287-92.
[24] ‘Alexander directed for actors’ by Janet Madelle Feindel in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 1 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 151–58.
[25] ‘The actor’s consciousness and the character’s consciousness’ by Phyllis G. Richmond in Curiosity Recaptured edited by Jerry Sontag (Mornum Time Press, 1996), pp. 105–19.
[26] ‘Integrated actor training’ by Cathy Madden in Direction vol. 3, no. 2 edited by Paul Cook (Direction Journal, 2003), pp. 7–10.
[27] ‘A coach for all seasons’ Kelly McEvenue interviewed by Jean-Louis Rodrigue in Direction vol. 3, no. 2 edited by Paul Cook (Direction Journal, 2003), pp. 11–15.
[28] ‘Working with actors’ by Sue Laurie Direction vol. 3, no. 2 edited by Paul Cook (Direction Journal, 2003), pp. 24–26.
[29] ‘The Alexander Technique as the core of actor training – An interview with Jed Diamond’ by Marsha Becker in AmSAT Journal no. 7, Spring 2015, pp. 34–38.
[30] ‘Dangerous corner’ by Kathleen Baum in AmSAT Journal issue no. 1, Spring 2012, pp. 25–28.
[31] ‘Full embodiment’ by Sarah Barker in Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017), pp. 52–75.
[32] ‘A mirror, a mask and an actor’ by Julianne Eveleigh, Paul Hampton in Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017), pp. 123–49.
[33] ‘Mindful bananas and the Alexander Technique by Kathleen Juhl in Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017), pp. 202–19.
[34] ‘Report on a five-day introductory class for the University of Washington School of Drama’ by Cathy Madden in Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017), pp. 220–61.
[35] ‘Glimpsing the collaboratives’ by Cathy Madden in Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017), pp. 262–76.
[36] ‘F. M. Alexander and J. Grotowski in dialogue’ by Gabriella Minnes Brandes in STATNews vol. 9, no. 7 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, May 2017), pp. 21–23.
[37] ‘The actor’s network of stimuli’ by Joan Schirle in The Congress Papers 2018, Advancing Global Perspectives edited by Paul Marsh (STAT Books, 2019), pp. 161–67.
[38] ‘The actor inside and out’ by Jennifer Schulz, Sarah Barker in The Congress Papers 2018, Advancing Global Perspectives edited by Paul Marsh (STAT Books, 2019), pp. 168–73.
[39] ‘Getting ready to perform’ by Maret Mursa Tormis in The Congress Papers 2018, Advancing Global Perspectives edited by Paul Marsh (STAT Books, 2019), pp. 173–77.
[40] ‘Intention, not tension’ by Melissa Freilich in AmSAT Journal issue no. 15 (Summer 2019), pp. 23–24.
[41] ‘Preparing a role’ by Joan Schirle in NASTAT News issue no. 23, Winter 1994  (NASTAT, 1994), pp. 13-14.
[42] ‘Buried alive: Finding movement in immobility’ by Jessica Wolf in AmSAT Journal Journal no. 10, (Fall 2016) pp. 14-15. Also published in American Theatre magazine.
Also published in STATNews vol. 9, no. 5 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, September 2016), pp. 22–23.
[43] ‘The naked truth’ by Jean-Louis Rodrigue, Ann Stocking Direction vol. 3, no. 2 edited by Paul Cook (Direction Journal, 2003), pp. 27–10.
[44] ‘Thinking, not doing’ by Lilach Josephson in STATNews vol. 8, no. 7 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, September 2014), pp. 21–22.
[45] ‘Exploring our responses in personal interactions’ by Catherine Madden in The Congress Papers 1991, A Spirit of Learning Together edited by Jeremy Chance (Direction, 1992), pp. 127–35.
[46] ‘What is presence on stage?’ by Penny O’Connor in The Congress Papers 2004, Exploring the Principles edited by Anne Oppenheimer (STATBooks, 2005), pp. 287–92.
[47] ‘Transformation and the higher creative self’ by Penny O’Connor in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 2 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 194–200.
[48] ‘Alexander Technique with actors’ by Gabriella Minnes Brandes in The Congress Papers 2011, Learning from Each Other edited by Siriol Jones, (STAT Books, 2012), pp. 278–88.
[49] ‘To learn or to un-learn’ by Julia Guichara, Harvey Thurmer in Galvanizing Performance by Cathy Madden, Kathleen Juhl (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017), pp. 150–78.
[50] ‘The use of conscious inhibition in the work of a performing artist’ by Maret Mursa Tormis in The Alexander Journal no. 25 edited by Paul Marsh and Jamie McDowell (STAT, 2015), pp. 41-50.
[51] The Alexander Technique – Solutions for back trouble (Wellspring Media, 2000 [1998]) by Deborah Caplan and Jane Kosminsky.
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