Brianna Packen teaches movement classes for actors at the Maggie Flanigan Studio in New York. In this video Briana discusses how tension in the body affects an actor’s stage presence.
A lot of us come to acting with a notion of our body as an enemy. We see it as something to fight against or deal with when we’re working. We begin to equate this tension with a sense of intensity or the sign of a passionate experience. We get overwhelmed by the impossibility of one existing without the other. So we worry. We freeze. We shut down in the middle of an audition or scene. We lose spontaneity and watch our self flail from somewhere inside our own head. We’re not in our body at this point, and from where we’re standing- it is dreadful.
This perspective of our own body creates a feeling of being confined or trapped inside it instead of owning it as our creative genius! Our body and our voice: this is what we’ve got as actors. And I’ll tell you one thing, there’s no way a full expressive voice is squeezing out through a locked body.
In the Williamson Technique, we start by exploring a sense of release. What does it mean to be released? To have a sense of effortlessness in our body? It’s a very foreign idea at first. To do this, we have to re-pattern how we respond in our bodies. Especially in moments of intensity when so-called “freeze, fight or fly” responses take over. Each one of these cause us to respond with immense tension. We need to retrain ourselves to soften and find ease in moments of intensity where tension is so prevalent. But How?
In Level One of the Williamson Technique, we begin to first bring awareness to our body. It is the only body we’ve got and what we can do with it is amazing! It is not possible to show up and solve or fix all of our physical “problems.” Because they’re NOT problems! We forget, tension serves us in life. Very simply: our body is our human. We’ve got to love it and thank it! It has kept us a safe, functioning, accepted member of society for as long as we’ve been alive- decades (some more than others)! And we can’t try to re-pattern ourselves by beating our physical habits into submission. That takes effort and tension. We need ease, kindness and compassion. Once we look at that, then we can appreciate our body and begin to foster a sense of appreciation instead of frustration for it.
In Level One, we learn how to value the body for what it is and let go of old protective habits that don’t serve us on stage or set. We change the way we talk to ourselves, and acknowledge that our tension and habits exist. We use awareness, permission, and physical exercises to practice letting go of physical habits while in contact with other actors. When we provide a safe place to practice letting go of our individual patterns of tension, we begin to see the possibility for ease in intense moments. Something begins to shift and release starts to become a welcome part of our experience.
When we begin to uncover how to let the body effortlessly express, we can become the owner of our own body instead of the victim of it. The funny thing is, once we start to do that, and really trust that our body is our ally, we begin to see it for the wild playground that it is and a brand new world opens up. We then access our body as our must vital tool: the only thing that sets us each apart from any other actor. It’s where all of our brilliant impulses live and what makes our performance our art.
Learn More About Movement Classes for Actors
For more information about the movement classes that Briana teaches at the Maggie Flanigan Studio in New York, visit the studio online or call 917-789-1599.