Working Toward the Creative State

It’s a good bet that each and every one of us has had the experience of being on stage and not feeling the magic -- and we all know just how bad that feels. Being a great actor certainly can’t rely on luck, and knowing how to manifest emotions each and every time we are on stage is essential to our craft, and fundamental to all Margolis Method exercises and improvisations. 

The Creative State is when the actor’s muscular, intellectual and emotional aspects are all in balance. Finding this balance takes conscious effort and practice as all actors tend to lean toward one side of what we call the intellectual / visceral scale. Intellectual actors can determine every aspect of their character’s history and back story and can break down a monologue into all its beats, but have a hard time actually manifesting this information into a performative moment. Visceral actors, on the other hand, can cry on a dime and find emoting easy, but can’t remember their text or repeat the same moment twice. Each of our natural abilities will most certainly serve us, but they will limit us as well if we rely exclusively on them. Practicing the balance of the Creative State allows us to own our craft and assure for a deep, honest connection to our character’s emotions each and every performance. 

You can also remember the Creative State as PIE, which was coined by Artistic Associate Kym Longhi as short for Physical, Intellectual and Emotional. Thanks Kym!

Find video discussions on concepts like the Creative State along with creative exercises, dramatic improvisation structures, actor warm-ups, and much more with Margolis Method Online. Join the Online Actor Training Revolution!

"You have to be somewhere to go somewhere."

Inter-Spatial and Inner-Corporal CARDINAL DIRECTIONS

Inter-Spatial: Forward, Back, Left and Right in reference to a fixed downstage.
Inner-Corporal: The actors orientation in space in relation to the direction of the pelvis.


A character must be somewhere to go somewhere...
Inter-Spatial and Inner-Corporal Cardinal Directions help the actor develop a deeper sense of where they are in the space, and their connection to the audience. By understanding and being able to track the relationship between Inter-Spatial and Inner-Corporal Cardinal Directions, the actor can more easily feel pattern, memorize complex stage choreography, and derive further creative inspiration by feeling the poetic story being told thru the device of direction changes.

Find video discussions on concepts like Cardinal Directions, along with creative exercises, dramatic improvisation structures, actor warm-ups, and much more with Margolis Method Online. Join the Online Actor Training Revolution!

Fundamentals of Storytelling: Beginning, Middle, and End.

DRAMATIC PACKETS

The smallest grouping of ideas that introduce, explore and resolve a dramatic conflict or situation.

Beginnings, Middles and Ends, it’s hard to imagine any story without them! Yet it is amazing how often the grammatical shaping of our ideas is lacking, and our story telling becomes a series of run-on thoughts and actions. Understanding, identifying, and practicing the creation of Dramatic Packets is an invaluable actor skill set that will assure every monologue, scene, and production will be vibrant, alive and meaningful.

Find video discussions on concepts like Dramatic Packets along with creative exercises, dramatic improvisation structures, actor warm-ups, and much more with Margolis Method Online. Join the Online Actor Training Revolution!

Milikin Professor Blog Post: Reflection

I have been particularly intrigued with the process of preparation… how that process involves both the mind and the body working together actively in order to manifest an eventual product. To prepare mentally I have to know where I want to go, why I want to go there, and when I want to go there. Then the physical preparation develops the how I’m going to get there by connecting with my core, with my breath, and with gravity. The combination of the physical with the mental requires that I am specific in my ideas and in my physical abilities. It takes practice (which can be done) to learn how to create options, and then to choose from those options intellectually. It takes practice (which can also be done) to develop a physical self that can respond to those choices. Each element of the process can be practiced and the act of combining them together can be practiced. And it takes practice to be aware that preparation is needed, literally, in the first place.
— Denise Myers

Milikin Student Blog Post: Characters and Metaphors: Not Just for the Elite

Day 6 of our 10 day workshop was when we first encountered an exercise in which we were able to use text as a narration of our stories. Although it was tempting to tell the audience everything, this exercise helped me to find specificity and purpose for everything I did and said. Although these are all important concepts that we have addressed with Kari, I would like to talk about the characters we created.

In today’s exercise, our characters were confined to a small piece of our space in a round shape. Our job was to create a story with a packet (beat, etc) of three that gave us insight to their struggle inside this space. Finally, we were to create a final fourth beat that gave the character hope. Kari discussed the importance of metaphor with a character. A character too stuck in the literal is only going to resinate with a certain number of audience members. But the character that is a metaphor, a character that represents hope, being confined by their surroundings, etc, can and will resinate with a larger audience. She challenged us to find what aspect of humanity our characters represent (in any acting piece we do, in any moment that they live). This had a huge impact on me. I can’t wait to bring this to not only my acting, but also my comedy writing.

Another day, another break through. Thank you, Kari. And thank you class!
— Katie Szajkovics

Milikin Student Blog Post: Specificity Elicits Creativity

This is my favorite concept of the Margolis Method, and in many ways the overarching purpose of what the Method means to me. Boiled down to the simplest terms, this short phrase reminds us to take all of the guesswork out of acting.

Although it may make logical sense to believe that the broader the acting choice the broader the array of audience members it can affect, this week has really made me take the time to stop and consider how much the opposite is true. While I always aim to specify each choice, I have further realized how simple it is to make an ambiguous choice and how often actors neglect to specify each action using his or her entire bodymind.

Personally, I struggle to manifest each choice in my body. While I am confident in my ability to make clear intellectual choices, these choices often lose their specificity when I am unsure of how to successfully physicalize them. Clearly connecting mind+body+emotion+movement+text by way of the Margolis technique provides me with a tangible way of acting that I can continue to develop and practice. Choices can only become clearer.

After all, as Kari says, a musician can use specific scales and exercises to practice his or her skillset as can a dancer—why not an actor? By using exercises targeted to train the actor’s body, the Margolis Method trains the actor to make clear and unambiguous choices.
— Lexi DeSollar

Milikin Student Blog Post: Bodymind

As actors in America, we have a tendency to seperate our mind from our body. Having such ideas be seperated can cause a lot of damage. Letting the mind and body be their own seperate entity can cause the audience to be confused. For example: The actor wants to send their energy down, but the body is sending energy out instead. The mind and the body aren’t connecting to one another. The mind is doing one thing while the body is doing another. In order to be a true story tellers, we need to practice connecting our bodymind.

A possible exercise is voluntarily or involuntarily sending energy:
On the vertical: Up. Down.
On the horizonal: Out. In.
— Darius Lee

Milikin Student Blog Post: Reflection

After only one week of being immersed in the Margolis Method with Kari, I have learned more acting techniques and devices than I can count. I never knew just how many facets of the “acting diamond” there were. Learning about usage of the core, emotional vulnerability, the pendulum, and some of the other concepts we have discussed in class were some that I had heard about before and more or less understood, intellectually. Actually EMBODYING them, though, especially all at the same time, was difficult to say the least. But once I started getting a couple of them down, I had a kind of “aha” moment. Why had I never thought about this or done this before? I felt so connected to body and my actions, and it seems like that should have been happening every other time before, but it did not until I brought my full attention to it. With each new lesson, I feel more and more prepared to take my new knowledge outside of the classroom and I am excited to put these devices to work in a show.

I can tell that the countless stomach crunches and leg lifts (down to go up, of course) are seriously strengthening my core. Ever since walking on my feet wrong when I was little, I have always been somewhat unbalanced, but increasing my core strength has helped me center myself and I find myself having less troubles. Then, in terms of art, focusing the energy in my core and allowing it to flow and INSPIRE my movement reduced mindless gestures, which I have also struggled with. I thought gesturing for every thought meant manifestation, but unless the energy of the core inspired it, the gestures were dishonest.

Thinking back to shows I have seen, I remember that the most touching and memorable moments were not those where a character displays great strength, but those where a character was vulnerable, going through great change in the story because of it. I did not know how the character would handle the changes that needed to occur, and from the eyes of an audience member, it seemed like they as the character did not know either. That was what made it so exciting. So when we learned in class how to catch the energy and really ALLOW it to take us places, a sort of other-worldly feeling really overtook me. An example was the head-chest-waist-pelvis exercise. I knew that the energy was going to move downward through my body, but HOW it was going to arrive at its destination could change depending on how it fell. I was steering, but my energy was the foot on the gas, and it felt surreal.

The pendulum concept is one of many parts to the equation of creating vulnerability. How strong an acting beat is and how long it lasts is within my control. The effect is INvoluntary, but I can set up circumstances that can possibly create the outcome that I desire. For example, if I create an acting beat that inspires little movement, like flicking the pendulum, there will most likely be little change. But, if I inspire great change in an acting beat, like shoving the pendulum, the momentum will create drastic movement. The chair exercise was the perfect example of this. I should not have been focused on how I intended to say my number (my acting beat) but instead on how I could inspire change among the other characters/actors. What effect would yelling create versus whispering, or a quick start compared to an elongated start? We as actors do not want to give an audience everything they expect, but if we do not follow the momentum of the acting beats, we lose the audience entirely. This was one of the most helpful and important lessons for me to learn, personally.

Performing in front of people when I could see them staring at me used to be something I dreaded. But the more I learn about and practice these devices and tactics, the more prepared I am to manifest my creations and lead audiences on a journey. That, in and of itself, has made this class completely worthwhile, and I cannot wait to complete the second half of it.
— Marielle Tepe

Milikin Student Blog Post: Neutral is Not "Zero"

On the first day of class, Kari talked about the concept of a character being in a ‘neutral’ state. We talked about how each beat must inspire the next beat. I think it took me until the most recent day of our workshop - day 5 - to realize what this meant.
In each of my acting beats, phrases, and moments, I was returning to zero. I failed to see how each could inspire the other. Even at the end of a packet of moments, the next packet needs to inspire the next. On Friday (our Day 5) Kari said that a neutral body or transition moment is when the character is not at zero. This “neutral” idea is where the character is in a neutral state, ready to move to the next moment.
This does not move them to a state of nothingness. They must keep their past alive, as well as inspire the next moment. Essentially, they must always be alive. “Waiting for the next moment” is bringing the character to zero, like waiting for your character’s cue line or the moment in which you move, not keeping the moment alive.
In the individual work we did on Day 5, it was clear to me that my characters all returned to zero and were not inspiring the next moment in a packet, phrase, beat, what have you.
I can’t wait to see what else I find in this workshop! So much work, so many new ideas, and so much fun! Thank you to Kari and the class! Here’s to a great second week!
— Katie Szajkovics

Milikin Blog Student Post: "Physical Change"

Student from Kari's Milikin University Residency

Student from Kari's Milikin University Residency

An important realization I had was that you have to show a physical change, so the audience knows where you are going. Usually I make a mental change and expect the audience to follow along with me. With one of the exercised done in class, I witness how important the physical change is. The physical change can also help the actor. Once you transition, you’re preparing your body for the next beat, therefore knowing where you’re going to go with the character.
— Darius Lee

Milikin Student Blog Post: "Down to Go Up"

Milikin University Students

Milikin University Students

This January, Kari taught an intensive two week residency at Milikin University. Kari has taught there several years and has developed a strong relationship with many of the amazing young artists she has had the pleasure of working with. We are happy to know they can continue to work all year with the brilliant Denise Myers, a professor at Milikin, who is a Level III Certifying Margolis Method Professor. This year, the students put together a blog as a tool to track their thoughts and growth as individuals as well as a group. Over the next few months, we'll be cross posting their writing here. The sharing of thoughts, ideas, and personal processing can truly help training sink in, and these students have set a phenomenal example of how to approach one's personal growth.

Thank you for the contributions:
Alex Blair
Lexi DeSollar
Brandon Januska
Darius Lee
Kirby Lorig
Denise Myers
Katie Szajkovics

Marielle Tepe

Enjoy!

Up until this past week, I had been exposed to the idea of dividing the actor’s energy in two directions, and I could physically see on another actor how it created a better scene, but I had not yet made the connection as to WHY it made for better theatre.

This week, especially during the workout portions of the workshop, the “why” began to unfurl for me.

In our workouts, if the objective was to lift our leg off of the ground, we would not simply fling it up into the air. We would push down on our navels so that our leg would naturally have no choice but to rise. This plays with the concept of voluntary and involuntary acting beats. Pushing down on my belly button was the voluntary action that involuntarily sent my leg up into the air.

This same concept can be applied to scenes in theatre. Sure, it is interesting to watch an actor fall to the ground, but that is not theatre. In order for there to be a moment of theatre, there needs to be vulnerability in the actor. That vulnerability is expressed in the resistance the actor has to falling to the ground.

“I want to stay up, but the weight of gravity is too strong, and I fall to the ground.”

The actor’s deep need to stay up and gravity’s extensive strength that denies this for the actor is what creates a moment of theatre.

Up to go down.
Down to go up.
Forward to go back.
Back to go forward.

Needless to say, this is easier said than done, but I am already making new connections to this concept that I can steal and utilize when it comes to presenting a monologue the next time that opportunity comes to me, and I cannot wait to give it a whirl.
— Kirby Lorig, Student at Milikin University

Engaging the Audience

Theater that speaks to an audience on a deeper, more metaphorical level, engages the audience in a creative living ritual experience. It is here that we can communicate in the universal language of all humanity; a language that goes beyond culturally specific gesture to speak to the souls of the spectators and stimulate their imaginations. It is this interpretive “underbelly” that makes theater a living communal art form -- and not simply a literary one. 

A Creative Oasis in the Midst of a Blizzard

A Creative Oasis in the Midst of a Blizzard

Millikin University Immersion 2014 / Residency

After five harrowing days of battling a blizzard and icy road conditions we made it to Decatur, Illinois, the home of Millikin University and our beloved host Professor Denise Myers (Denise is completing part 2 if her Level III Margolis Method Professor Certification). Each January Millikin University holds a series of Immersion Courses where students can earn up to 3 credits during their winter break. This year is the fifth time I have been lucky enough to be invited to lead a Margolis Method Immersion. Residencies like these are magical mini universes, where nothing else exists outside the four walls of the studio. In this case our universe was the "Old Gym," an ancient indoor running track that today is supposedly haunted. I love this old space, perhaps because it holds so many wonderful...

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The Universal Language

CYLOPEDIA /I an Bivins, Szilard Varnai 

The laws of physics are the fundamental building blocks of all communication, intrinsically connected to everything we do. The laws of physics are universal not idiosyncratic, tangible not esoteric. By giving weight, force, and time to emotions, an actor can embody the laws of physics.  We can look at an object and assess if it is too heavy for us to lift, moving too fast for us to reach, or leaning too far for us to keep from falling.  In the same way, we can assess people’s moods. Perhaps they seem too stuck in their ways to be open to a new idea, too vulnerable to hear bad news, or too far gone  to receive any help. By learning to embody the laws of physics, the actor will develop a more sensitive instrument with which to communicate emotions and psychological states without having to gesticulate or indicate.

Making the Invisible Visible

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE / Montclair State University
 

By developing a hypersensitive instrument, we can track the growth of an emotion and control its path through a character’s body. By doing so, we will include the audience in a character’s emotional/psychological journey and actions will no longer be just gestures that indicate, but become poetic public manifestations of internal desires. 

Building the Actor Body

In the Studio / Kym Longhi

Instead of thinking that we can teach acting, what we need to do is build actors. When built to do its job, an actor will innately know how to act. Consider a sponge. We don’t have to teach a sponge to absorb up water -- it is built for the job. At the fundamental core, actors are storytellers; storytellers that can manifest the metaphysical in the physical realm, giving tangible life to thought and emotion. Therefore, actors must be able to muscularly embody emotions, physically express the seed of ideas, suggest multiple options and give meaning to a character’s ultimate choices. Actors must have complete control over the specificity of their physical choices or they may inadvertently communicate unwanted information or even a completely different, unintended story.

Thoughts on the Montclair State University Residency

Thoughts on the Montclair State University Residency

Like the fractured reflection of a broken mirror we are many things, and life becomes complicated when our illusory selves are revealed.  The tight quarters of the Kowalski’s steamy apartment with its bare light bulbs and lack of privacy becomes the battlefield on which each of the characters fight to hold onto their own version of reality.  While it is Blanche who publicly descends into madness, the sparring matches, manipulations and deep seeded needs of Stanley, Stella and Mitch, reveal how they, and ultimately all of us, walk a fine line between fantasy and reality.  It’s a precarious high wire act, and when jostled... 

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