THE SEIDENSTEIN METHOD
We are post-modern practitioners. Culturally we have experienced Robert Wilson, Robert Lepage, Butoh, Julie Taymor, Pina Bausch, Cirque Du Soleil, Batsheva Dance, Peter Stein, The Globe Theatre, Dogma Films, Arienne Mounouchkine, Marie Chouinard, Michael Clark, Marcel Marceau, The Ballet Trocodero, Taduez Kantor, Tadashi Suzuki, Katsu Ohno. We have inherited the theatrical reformulations of Beckett, Ionessco, Pirandello, Kushner.
How do we assimilate all of the rich methods we have inherited since Stanislavsky and Copeau masterminded complete systems for the training and education of actors and directors? Stanislavsky and Copeau were dedicated to beginning processes that would create theatre practitioners of the future. Both Stanislavsky and Copeau collaborated extensively and encouraged their progeny to venture further. From Stanislavsky came Michael Chekov, Vahktangov, Meyerhold and current generations. All of the methods from Strasberg, Adler, Lewis, Garfein, Hagen, even Mamet’s Practical Aesthetics and Keith Johnstone’s work follow from or are reactions to Stanislavsky trained actors and directors. From Copeau came Michel Saint-Denis, Jean Louis-Barrault and Etienne Decroux.
Grotowski considered himself directly inspired from Stanislavsky. Copeau’s daughter and son-in-law (Jean Daste) were the teachers of Lecoq. Decroux was the teacher of Lecoq’s wife Faye (Decroux’s main disciple at that time was Therese Koch who specifically taught Faye). Grotowski deeply influenced Eugenio Barba and Peter Brook. Concurrently with Stanislavsky and Copeau was the revolutionary development of Modern Dance founded by Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Denis-Shawn, Martha Graham, Mary Wigman, Rudolf Laban. This is now reframed by Marie Chouinard, Akram Khan, Sasha Waltz, Michael Clark, William Fortsythe, Mats Ek and others. Mime was being ‘formulated’ by Irene Mawer in the early 1900s.
Now what do we consider when training actors and directors?
Early in my training in theatre and circus I witnessed an antagonism of the various methods claiming a ‘resolution’. Such antagonism is true too of most of the various spiritual paths be they religions, martial arts, astrological or yogic cults.
We are all in it together. I tried, in my own way to make sense of it all. Not to resolve it all, but to find the meeting point that I term The Quantum Point where various methods, modalities, and myths can relate harmoniously.
In essence, and to be brief, I found that focusing on the anatomical basics of human movement brings illumination to the root of diverse methods for acting or even for spiritual modalities.
In 1976 I was still studying practically with my teachers at that time and fellow students (all of whom were more experienced than I) at the Dell’arte School in the USA, I also was studying theoretically and reading fervently about yoga, Meyerhold, Krishnamurti, The Empty Space, Towards A Poor Theatre, commedia, and various spiritual perspectives including the I-Ching and kabbalah. So, I summarized it all into 10 basic mechanical movements that I call “Core Mechanics”. A kata, or choreographed practice that takes ten-minutes and seems to awaken ones entire complex neurological and anatomical network.
WHY IT WORKS
“Core Mechanics” directly affected a wide ranging complex system of theatre education that I now term The Seidenstein Method. “Core Mechanics” works because it is simple, logical, observable and can thus be applied to numerous other awakenings that occur spontaneously and consciously in individual actors, teachers, directors and choreographers. This then allows for the ultra goal of classical acting, for spontaneous and subconscious feelings to manifest in palpable or observable stage action.
The Seidenstein Method has various unique aspects, but, most significantly is that it can directly assist any acting method to work better for more participants either students or professionals. The Seidenstein Method is about universals in acting and theatre and therefore has infinite applications depending on the practitioner. None-the-less even with the first step i.e. the first ten minutes of training most people wake-up and start to have epiphanies in their own understanding of acting, movement, theatre and creativity.
In the next few exercises it becomes self-evident that ones creativity is limitless yet mechanical or logical. The yin/yang and right/left brain and internal masculine/feminine or the microcosm/macrocosm becomes logically sensed within ones own body and conscious awareness.
Although there are clearly articulated physical, mechanical, directions, ones creative expression can be released in any style, way, fashion, or inclination that an individual chooses spontaneously or pre-meditated.
HOW IT FUNCTIONS
The Seidenstein Method uses a complex system “Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare” (est. 1993). The portion “Slapstick to Shakespeare” implies a reference to the ancient yin/yang of the Greek masks’ unity of comedy/tragedy. Not one without the other. It is a noted cliche that every actor (tragedian) wants to play a clown and every clown longs to be taken serious, at least as much as a classic actor.
So, via the body, anatomically correct movement one starts to re-discover the true (true to oneself) nature of drama as a natural phenomenon located in the DNA/RNA and electro-chemical reality (truth) inside the human. Symbols such as the Greek masks, the Tao’s yin/yang, Hamlet with the clown’s skull, Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the om sign, and even the obscure kabbalah image of Adam Kadmon all point to the same knowledge indicated at the clown’s gravesite when Hamlet says “There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt in your philosophy”.
ALL great actor theorists from Stanislavsky, Suzuki, Copeau, Brook, Lecoq, Barba, Grotowski have tried to stay anchored with the examination of the body. Lecoq’s method in fact was actually dependent on Moshe Feldenkrais’ method (taught by Monika Pagneaux). Feldenkrais’ deep knowledge of science and philosophy however was richer and is about deeper and total education. From a Feminist perspective, ownership of ones body is essential to any form of self-awakening.
How do I logically locate all of this so that ‘it’ works’? I seriously doubt that any method works. However when an acting method appears to ‘work’ what really has transpired is that an individual actor has understood subconsciously certain simple universal principles. It is these universal principles that I have focused on. To bring illumination to them I have created a Simplified Training called “The Four Articulations”. This can be presented in a workshop of about five days. With the end result of a linear set of exercises that are both interrelated and chronological. Those four articulations I refer to are Body, Space, Time and Space-Time Continuum. From the first exercise the whole body is used all the way through to the 4th articulations series of structured improvisations called “The Path of Honor”
My method is called “The Seidenstein Method”, my system is “Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare”, and the new simplified process is called “The Four Articulations”. My related proposal for a new curriculum for the training and education of actors, drama teachers, directors is introduced in my PhD thesis available online from The University of Queensland (under my name or the title “From the Liminal to the Visceral”).
I hope you will forgive my enthusiasm, but the method is unique, yet the beauty is that it connects to any other acting or performance method. Additionally The Seidenstein Method illuminates the relation between various and differing acting and theatre methods. In fact, I claim that my method will help any other acting (clown or performance) method to work better i.e. for more people.
All of my work starts with “Core Mechanics – Ten Anatomical Movements” found in dance, acrobatics, and martial arts. “Core Mechanics” is included in the Body section of “The Four Articulations”.
I created “Core Mechanics” in 1976. It takes ten minutes to practice “Core Mechanics”. However, it is phenomenal due to its simplicity and efficacy to touching all of the core anatomical mechanics of movement studies. “Core Mechanics” also begins the process to clearly demonstrate that clown and creativity have a natural mechanical logic. That logic can be interpreted infinite ways.