from the National Alliance of Acting Teachers
Welcome to the second issue of Parodos, the peer-reviewed journal of the National Alliance of Acting Teachers!
Three of this issue’s articles have been adapted from presentations made at last year’s Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Center for International Education Colloquium, “Evolutions and Revolutions in Actor Training: Michel Saint-Denis in Contemporary Context.” Organized by National Alliance of Acting Teachers co-executive director Hugh O’Gorman and held on the idyllic grounds of the Chateau de la Bretesche in Brittany, France, the 2018 Colloquium brought together ten theatre artists and educators from across the United States, Italy, Great Britain & Ireland for three days of fervent discussion about the 20th century origins of our current acting conservatory curricula, and what adjustments might be made to best prepare our students for the 21st century world that awaits them. From the Colloquium, Jane Baldwin provides us with a reminder of the outsized influence of Michel Saint-Denis on conservatory training; Amy Herzberg advocates for the value of musical theatre training for non-musical actors; and David Bridel looks beyond his school’s changing curriculum to ask, “What is it, exactly, that we do?” And we think you’ll find that our fourth piece, though not from the colloquium, dovetails nicely with the previous three: in it, John Freeman examines the shifting theatrical landscape in the European Union and suggests that conservatory training — and theatres themselves — must shift along with it.
Before we go, we’d like to welcome our new Managing Director, Jane McPherson, to the masthead and thank Alex Birnie, Executive Director of the Actors Center, for all his assistance and guidance. We’d also like to remind you that we’re always searching for material for the next issue; please don’t hesitate to contact Parodos Editor Brandt Reiter if you feel you have something valuable to add to the conversation.
As always, we hope that in these pages you will find ideas that assist you, excite you, provoke and challenge you. We hope most of all that you will engage with them — and with us — as we continue this journey together.
Issue No. 2
Brandt Reiter, Editor
Abigail Killeen, Assistant Editor
Jenny Mercein, Patrick Mulryan, Copy Editors
Amy Herzberg, Hugh O’Gorman, National Alliance Co-Executive Directors
Jane McPherson, Managing Director
By Jane Baldwin
Co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, Konstantin Stanislavski is often credited with inventing modern acting training as we know it; his work, whether taught directly or through the lens of Strasberg, Meisner, Adler, et al., is often at the center of conservatory acting curricula. Yet the shape of the curriculum itself owes as much to another, often unacknowledged man: the French actor, director and educator Michel Saint-Denis, whose pioneering ideas have helped shape the landscape of Western acting and conservatory training for the last eighty-three years.
By Amy Herzberg
A seminal moment in my development as an acting teacher happened just before my fifth birthday. I had wanted to take piano lessons. My mother was against the idea, thinking I was too young, so I set out to prove her wrong by “practicing” two hours a day. I had no music. Instead I would just play, experimenting with the keys. I told stories in my head to match the notes. My left hand was the dad, and he’d say in his low-notes voice, “I’m home from work.” Mom was the right hand. She’d say, in her lilting high notes, “I’m so happy you’re home.” (This was the sixties.)
By David Bridel
It has become a truism: traditional performance-based venues for actors, including regional theatre, network television, even the good old-fashioned commercial, have been rudely disrupted. Modern technologies, digital media, new platforms, and other rapidly evolving networks have transformed aesthetics, economics, assumptions, and, above all, opportunity for tomorrow’s actors. In the academy, we witness the speed of change in our profession and we debate our responsibilities. Traditionalists cling to the classics; radicals espouse revolution. How do we negotiate a new vision for actor training in this ever-fracturing landscape?
By John Freeman
At a time when much of Europe is in financial crisis and Britain is stumbling toward the end of its 40-year membership of the EU, theatre is crying out for original, inventive and collaborative theatre artists, actors with the skills to give the new both meaning and resonance. A focus on the now and the new is therefore a necessary part of a contemporary actor’s vocabulary, and needs to be included in conservatory training if actors are to shape the industry into which they are moving at the same time as reimagining the theatre in which they move.