Side Issue: Stream of Consciousness Term is introduced when two students are having trouble with an exercise they are presenting. “Let’s hear your stream of consciousness,” says AK, meaning let’s hear you vocalize what you are thinking, noting as the scene progresses. If you look at the floor (a response) it has to be because there is something on it (to stimulate your thinking.) Girls are trying to create an imaginary room, to respond to it. Do this responding with your senses, says AK, not your mind; do it with your muscles. When you see that real table, what does it make you want to do. (i.e.: what empathic response does it set up in you, which of the table’s characteristics or your muscles tend to copy?) Find something you like to look at and surrender to it. What are you? A person? Really an organism, a total physical being -- which responds to physical things around it. Why are you different from somebody else in class. You are all the same age, all speech students. But one’s makeup is different from another’s because his past experience is different from another’s. One is “a bunch of conditioned responses.” We are “products of our environment.” What were the actual tangible forces which led you to this room in this building? (Answer lies in the whole past lives of the students: parents, family attitudes, choices made, etc.)
Reference to a recent Bergman film with scenes in a train compartment. Three people in a specific environment; what did they do -- shut up in four feet of space in a railway carriage? What was there in the compartment to use? A book, a window, a cigarette; consider what each of these objects was like in relationship to the possible variations on the same objects. Why does the author-director give him or her these books? (To reveal who and what the people are by their attitudes toward relationships to these objects.) Where do one’s conditioned responses come from. We all do the same acts differently because we have our own conditioned responses to living, to life. (What we do and how we do it constitutes our behavior patterns; characterization is reproducing the behavior patterns of other people -- together with their motivations.)
Critique of an exercise in which a girl crosses a room onstage: An acting job you can praise to the skies. What she gives is something that has scarcely been seen in class: response to stimuli! Whom did she see in the street? To whom did she bow? She looked at someone for a long time that eyes that almost devoured him.
Another critique: Actor attempting Macbeth’s dagger speech goes into “false emotion” after seeing the dagger. His difficulty is the common one of not making transitions -- of going from this to that. Transitions are the most important part of acting: fill them in. Boy dismisses servant and then has a transition into seeing the dagger -- and is better as a result.
Student impersonates a bird he has seen at the zoo. AK points out that Voltore in Volpone is a character who is like a bird, is a vulture. But the vulture observed at the zoo did not move, did not respond. Well, if this vulture moved, how would it move. Go back at feeding time.
Girl reproduces behavior of a cat-like animal, even parries taunts from a class member with an umbrella, in a way that animals in cages who are used to people doing things like this to them would. Girl got the lurching of the shoulders, power of the paw blows, the line that goes through the whole body when the animal lunges. AK has her slowly turn into a person who has these qualities: a person who “pulls from the spine” when walking, when coming down on an enemy. Animals are bundles of energy; you can sense in an second what they are like.
New Idea: a girl imitates some sort of prancing animal and the class laughs. Why do we laugh? Analyze what makes comedy. It is incongruity of things -- here the growls of aggression vs. the abrupt backing up. Animal is a hyena. AK has girl buy a dress, wear it at a party, laugh, listen to election returns coming in -- all in the manner of the hyena. Animals don’t think; they react with their senses. There are contradictory impulses in animals just as in people. These opposites make for humorousness.
Students imitate monkeys. AK asks what they learned -- about monkeys and about their own kinesthetic senses, asks for the monkeys’ motivation, for a state of why they did what they did. Student says they are motivated by curiosity. AK says actors did not show one scrap of curiosity. Another actor says that male monkey “didn’t want to be bothered” by anything else that was going on. AK says that fact was not given to the audience. Also that why the monkeys came out in the first place was not made clear. The scene was diverting and amusing but not believable. If a creature is curious, how do we know this? How does he observe. Is there anybody in class who has curiosity? She helps them identify three or four people who have curiosity and whose eyes reveal the fact by the way they light up with “eternal wonder.” She admonishes the class not to talk or think in generalities, saying they will never be actors until they get over this. (Someone has answered the question, who is curious, with the statement, “everybody.”) As students continue to do other monkeys, AK adds first monkeys to their scenes, then a man with peanuts, etc., so that students have to respond to new stimuli spur of the moment as their animals would. AK points out that of two monkeys onstage, the lady one will get any food that is available because she’s more alert -- her senses are.
AK has one of the monkeys begin to “turn human.” A gradual process: when she begins to lose her monkey spine, AK has her go back to being more monkey again. Then she starts a business of selling candy, feeling animals, still trying to give a sense of swinging along branches; she dances a while, a Charleston, goes out for basketball, goes to a sorority after-the-game party -- all in the monkey manner.
Discussion of “curiosity.” The word is a label we put on some act. Curiosity comes from: “I’ve never seen that before; what is it?” It is an open attitude. Curiosity is necessary to acting itself. What was an Elizabethan curiosity like? Some people in class with imagination can develop a whole sequence of things that come into Elizabethan England on ships from India or elsewhere -- things never before seen: amber, jade, ivory, spices, slaves, lace, animals, stories about far places. Along with curiosity, Elizabethans have pride and independence, too. You can create an Elizabethan by developing these traits with specific details. This opens up an area of creating characters through a kinesthetic approach -- looking at pictures, clothing, statues, furniture, etc. and letting them carry you into an experience of the past.
Critique of another animal study: Why did you walk across? You have to have a motive. Animals seldom go crazy but yours would turn into a neurotic. What did you observe about its spine? (Observations must start with a study of the spine.) Where are you going? Where are you? Create your environment and respond to it. Your shoulders are still not being manipulated by your spine; your neck is still not part of you. To test actor’s kinesthetic resources: telegraph to me that you want to climb; that you don’t want to climb, that you’d like to be up in that airplane flying overhead, that you want to swing on those chandeliers. A really kinesthetic person does things before he touches the actual objects involved -- he sizes up the shape and weight and location of things with his muscles, eyes, etc. Muscles lift objects, kick balls, etc. before we take the time to think. What is a kinesthetic person? Have you been watching for one? Is there a kinesthetic person in this class? A kinesthetic person is kinesthetic every moment of his life; they size everything up with their muscles; their muscles feel chairs, the floor, everything -- and won’t get stuck in an awkward position. This isn’t an intellectual thing, it’s muscular. We enjoy watching highly kinesthetic people onstage because our muscles more readily copy what theirs are doing. Kinesthetic people don’t waste movement. The whole body anticipates a step they plan to take. The whole body is behind a movement. The muscles enjoy what they do.
When an actor does something wrong onstage, out front our muscles reject, refuse to accept. (Much of what we call enjoyment at the theatre is the result of acting empathetically along with the actors.) There aren’t many kinesthetic people left. However, if football players weren’t kinesthetic, they’d get killed.
Sense memory means that one’s senses are responding more vitally than other people’s and that one is capable of storing up sense images. Without a sense memory, one will never be an actor. The class as a group did not continue its search for people who were visual or auditory people so that you could study them. There isn’t time to search out and study someone of the current type once you get into a play. It is through kinesthetic responses that we understand, and understanding is being in somebody’s body for a moment. I don’t have to tell you so-and-so was a dancer and one of our best actors; his body telegraphs this.
Elizabethan improvisations: People onstage and put in motion, walking with some objective to secure food, shelter, clothing, etc. They are told that now it’s 1600 and there’s a ship in from the Orient and they’ve money in their pockets and there’s a new play opening at the Globe . . . Hamlet . . .
More animal imitations: One girl tries a penguin. The “whys” of its behavior, its motivation discussed. She then changed into a human like a penguin. The question is raised, is a penguin as dumb as this? Why did Anatole France write a satire on penguins? They have no legs and so can’t move rapidly, otherwise they’d be thrown off balance, but are a graceful bird. . .
Monkeys are so alarming because they are so close to being human that we see ourselves. Even if these animals take a stationary position for a long time, they have a latent possibility for quick and ready movement . . . How do you know when a cat that it still has latent power? It begins with the eyes. What’s back of the eyes? Cat opens and closes lids, but its eyes are already in focus when they open, as if it has been alert all the time the lids were closed. They are awake often when they appear to be asleep. . . Five animals are put onstage as if in their natural setting and allowed to respond to one another, thunder, lightning, wind, a falling tree, fire. Then they turn human and are at a cocktail party. Back to animals. Back to party. All are advised to “preserve your instincts” as they go back and forth between animal and human states. Self-preservation! Ladies, you’ve got to have a man! Dance! What do you do at cocktail parties. Drink! Talk about plays! Make it realistic! Snub her. Etc.
Old age studied through kinesthetic sense. Nerves in lower spine usually control movements: in old people they are not responsive and the mind has to consciously direct the raising and lowering of an arm, a leg. Fatigue hits the lower spine and causes us to droop. Actors act with their spines. Watch people’s spines. Even animals in a cage have a sense of self-preservation; watch their eyes. Movement should start in the spine, travel into the shoulders, out arm . . .
Boy does snake. Excellent; all spine. Turn human now. What are “snake” qualities? It attacks; it is often a slow thing; its protective device is its fangs -- but as a last resort; quick movement is another; camouflage; could easily get lost among a group of people; frightens us because we don’t see him until there is a movement; are a part of the landscape; are close to ground and the same color; can slip among things; you meet a snake often in drama.