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The Alexander Technique For Actors: Review by Christine Stevens.

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Alexander Technique
Article, essay
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Article Text: 
Kelly McEvenue is an Alexander teacher with the Stratford Festival Theatre in Stratford, Canada. For the past eighteen years she has been part of a coaching team that provides ongoing classes to the actors in the company. Trained by Marjorie Barstow and Frank Ottiwell, McEvenue has credentials ranging from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to the Interlochen School for Performing Arts to a long running production of The Lion King.

Written for both the actor and the Alexander Technique teacher, The Actor and the Alexander Technique offers exercises, anecdotes from actors and examples of how she teaches actors to integrate the Technique into their craft. From the very practical side of things – dealing with the physical demands of performance, voice work, injuries, etc. – to the more intangible but very useful and powerful aspects of character development, McEvenue offers a thorough look at how the Alexander Technique benefits the actor. She takes great pains to make it clear that one cannot learn the Technique from a book and should seek out a certified teacher. For this reason, I think her book will be more useful to teachers who are interested in working with actors than to the general public. While a teacher will be thoroughly familiar with her descriptions of the history and principles of the Alexander Technique, her exercises, examples of the actors’ challenges and anecdotes make up the majority of the book.

It is these anecdotes from the actors themselves that are the most compelling evidence of the importance of the Alexander Technique to the actor. While McEvenue mostly concentrates on the application of the work to the physical realm of acting, she leaves it to the actors to describe how the Alexander Technique influences the art of acting. As one actor discovers, “. . . when I free myself from tension and anxiety, I am able to connect with the subtext more easily so that when I start the rehearsal process I have a whole bunch of stuff there. I have not locked myself into a concept which does not allow something to happen or something to change in the work.”

Teaching the principles of non-doing challenges the actor to have, as McEvenue writes, “a willingness to explore the unfamiliar and let go of preconceived notions of how the experience should manifest itself.” Or, as another actor puts it, “By taking my time and not forgetting to breathe, the emotions came, as opposed to trying to put the emotions on; they were coming out on the breath. Alexander helps me to get out of my way.”

The Actor and the Alexander Technique should prove useful to any teacher interested in learning more about using the Technique to improve and enhance the acting process.

© Christine Stevens. Reproduced with permission.

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