Tuning the Actor’s Instrument
Class: THEA 276 Stage Movement II
Taught by: Andrea Moon, MFA, Ph.D., Theatre Arts (pictured above)
Course Description: In theater, Moon says, actors’ bodies are their instruments. Just as musicians practice scales and fingering and take care of their instruments, “this class is designed to do the same thing for a performer’s body.”
Want to try it yourself? Take a listen:
Before class begins, students begin stretching in their gym clothes, pushing a dust mop across the wide stage flooring overlaid on the wood court of Gray Gym. Shoes and jackets are peeled off and left on the risers. Andrea Moon walks over to the sound system and shuts off the music.
“Ohayou gozaimasu!” she calls.
“Ohayou gozaimasu!” the students repeat, seating themselves in a circle.
The Japanese phrase means “good morning” and serves as a reminder that whatever time of day the class takes place, each session is like a new day.
Moon outlines the class ahead of them — a warmup, some training, time to practice for a play they’ll perform at the end of the semester. The course is designed to help performers move past personal physical habits and translate characters’ internal thoughts, emotions and motivations into three dimensions. The point, Moon reminds the class, is, “What happens in the moment when things get difficult?”
It’s a physically intensive process.
“I only have so much time to hurt you, so don’t worry,” she says.
The class laughs, as they do at most of her jokes. She has a quick wit and never blitzes the silence after asking if anyone has questions (or philosophical aphorisms or good jokes). Her classroom is one of full focus and urgent calm, seen in the frozen poses students fall into during the beats of an Imogen Heap song. “That’s where the drama is,” she tells the class. “What could have happened if you hadn’t stopped moving?”
The course pushes students, allowing them to improve their focus, stamina, range of movement and breath efficiency, while breaking out of habits they might not even know they have. Like athletes in training, the students recognize small changes: Feeling more connected. Recovering from a mistake and feeling stronger. Realizing a gesture, like an overused word, has become meaningless, and needing to improvise.
At the end of class, everyone circles up again on the floor.
“Otsukare sama deshita,” Moon says. You must be very tired. It’s a traditional sign of respect, acknowledging her students’ effort.
“Otsukare sama deshita,” they repeat to her, returning the respect. And, after discussing
their discoveries, they head out into their