The Theatremakers » Workshops

By: Theatre Makers  05/12/2011
Keywords: theatre, Actors Workshop

The Theatremakers » Workshops

Working Actors Workshop

The Actor on the Edge.

Is it possible to consider the actors’ art as a potentially stand alone phenomenon in its own right?

We certainly tend to think of the actors’ art as one which depends on prior creative initiatives by others for its activation. Most actors would prescribe to this view, assuming that they will be creatively inactive unless enlisted onto projects by others through the casting system.

Once enlisted (if enlisted) the actor often may not be viewed as a creative contributor to the process in his/her own right, but more fabric in the hands of other artists, (Director/writer etc.).

This in turn has led to a mythology in the theatre community which makes employment and income prerequisites to professional status – a state of affairs which is of little use to most actors’, given that most of them are unemployed (as actors) most of the time.

Most actor training does little to engender a sense of creative autonomy in the actor, encouraging him/her to develop as a servant to the character based script and those who take charge of its articulation.

All of this has led to a marginalisation of the actor in the workings of theatre, a situation which is farther reflected in the distribution of available funding to the sector. Funding initiatives tend to be focused on companies and venues, which in turn act as distributors of available funding to the sector as a whole. Actors tend to be the least considered in this process of distribution, often enlisted to the minimum extent and for the shortest amount of time in the workings of the average company- a very slight element in its working profile.

And yet when you go to see a piece of theatre, it is the actor that you see. The actor is the only artists without whom you can not have a piece of theatre. A situation which sees the actors’ art marginalised within the theatre making process can not but have a negative impact on the experience that is theatre for the average theatre goer.

The Working Actors’ Workshop.

The Working Actors’ Workshop was put in place by Theatre Makers Ltd. to address this situation.

It proceeds on the assumption that existing theatre making models need to be examined and new, possibly more effective models considered.

Central to this examination is an analysis of how existing theatre making collaborations work and an identification of who is empowered creatively within them. This is done with a view to developing a collaborative model in which all participants have parity of esteem and are all connected creatively to the process.

The ultimate goal is a more empowered theatre art.

The Actor as the Essential Artist of the Theatre.

The workshop acknowledges that while all creative participants have a validity, the actors’ art is the essential art of the theatre in that the actor is the only artist without whom you can not have a piece of theatre. All theatre art, regardless of how it is initiated and developed has to be mediated through the actor. There may be virtue in taking steps to empower the actor as the architect of the immediate theatre experience.

Without being dismissive of the value of collaboration, the workshop undertakes to examine the actors’ art as a phenomenon in its own right, capable of delivering art without necessarily entering into contract with writers and directors etc. The workshop undertakes to develop the idea of a studio in which an actor can proceed immediately to the making of theatre art

The workshop encourages actors’ to have a sense of creative autonomy in the work that they do and to think of themselves as having the potential to be creative initiators.

Workshop Method.

The workshop begins by putting the actors’ art in the context of art making in general and draws much from an examination of how other artists in other creative categories work.

In the broadest sense it identifies a process common to virtually all art whereby a fabric is taken and shaped in some way. In the case of the actor, the fabric that he/she uses is the stuff of him/herself. In the workshop we look at what we call the actors’ ‘manifestations’ the voice the body, the soul, the mind, the emotions, the experiences etc. Anything that can be considered to be ‘of’ the actor. Much of the workshop is concerned with getting the actor to identify these manifestations and acknowledge them for the potential that they have when it comes to making art.

The actor is then encouraged to use these manifestations to explore possible domains of content, in much the same way as a visual artist will sketch or a musician will improvise.

The workshop then creates the circumstances within which the actor can move from this initial phase of creative exploration to the development of a piece of theatre art.

This phase does not preclude more traditional methods of theatre making. The important thing is that, while the actor may enlist the participation of others in the development of a project, he/she does not cede autonomy away in the process.

The challenge inherent in this is a drive towards the idea of theatre art as a pure form in its own right, not necessarily one dependent on the narrative, the musical, the literary or the visual as prerequisites to its existence with the actor as its essential architect, being the one most immediate to its articulation.

Workshop History.

The workshop has been in existence for over a year. It takes place every Wednesday afternoon at the Firkin Crane Arts Centre in Cork. It has eleven members, seven of whom were regulars at the workshop through out the year.

Each member pays a small annual fee (€100/€75).

The workshop is an end in itself in that it is a studio environment in which participating actors’ can pursue art for its own sake. Consequently, public presentation of work made is not a condition of involvement.

The workshop did however have two public outings during the year.

2. “The Fast Theatre Events” which took place at the Triskel Arts Centre on three consecutive Sunday afternoons during the month of February 2007. The Fast Theatre Event was an exercise in public improvisation designed by the workshop and consisted in bringing the private workshop session into a public setting. It was free to the public and enjoyed a growing success over the three weeks. It is something that the workshop will pursue in the future.

2. “They Never Froze Walt Disney” by Jody O’Neill. This is a script that began in the workshop and was written by workshop member Jody O’Neill. It began with a group sound improvisation, which was then further developed mainly by Jody and fellow workshop member John McCarthy with contributions by others. It was ultimately performed by John and Jody during this year’s Cork Midsummer Festival. It was directed by workshop facilitator Jack Healy. While this presentation was reasonably formal in its mechanism of production, the process was constantly referred back to the principles with which it began.

Workshop Goals.

The Goals of the workshop are:

1. To develop a theatre which has the actors’ art at its centre.
2. To examine acting as an art in its own right


* To develop a sense of personal aesthetic as an actor, independent of casting and
production mechanisms.
* To consider performance as the essential activity of the theatre and acting as its essential art.
* To develop a sense of distinction between the two and to become proficient in both.
* To consider pursuing theatre art from a position of autonomy as an actor and to explore modes of creative collaboration with other artists accordingly.

If you are a sometimes working actor, or aspiring to that state and are interested in participating, contact

JACK HEALY AT 021-4504501
OR E-MAIL: [email protected]

The information in this article was current at 02 Dec 2011

Keywords: Actors Workshop, theatre

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