I have never had a more productive summer in my life, 41 days in the studYo had really become a part of my routine that once we were finished I was suffering from post – act one- depression.
I-M-P-R-O-V-I-S-A-T-I-O-N – I have never feared anything as much as this. The thought of having to be thrown in front of a million people and to "think on your feet" – never came easy to me, but that's what I learnt from this course. 'Jump into the deep end'. Face it, go through that disgusting feeling of not knowing what you are doing on stage. Act one actually taught me one BIG lesson – don't be a coward, just get up and DO. That was one thing that was drilled into us - that actions spoke louder than words – quite literally.
I thought the way the course was structured, it never led to any gaps in my head, everything was clear. After every session the next day we would review what we did the previous day – our comments, views etc. I've never come across any place where this is done. A lot of care is taken once you're within the studYo, such that no one goes out of here in confusion. It's not only about the hours, on most days we went beyond the usual 2 hours, and that was okay with all of us. Keeping a journal was essential; it is my prized possession now. Reading my comments I know what exactly I did on a particular day and what I felt afterwards. It instills a sort of discipline in us, so we learn from our mistakes.
Yog is a brilliant teacher, not just of dramatics- anything. He really knows a lot, not just about theatre, but even cinema and other performing arts. He doesn't teach and move on, he makes sure we have thoroughly understood before moving on. Sometimes people are shy to come out of their shells, he just pushes you into the deep end and then you need to struggle it out. I think that is the best way to learn. He is very 'articulate' J while teaching so its fairly simple for anyone to follow. Even though he stresses upon discipline, it's not like "school"!. I've never been happier with homework as much as when I got it here. Every exercise is interesting, especially the techniques of mime, and group improv's which were my favorite. Another very striking characteristic was that it was NOT a classroom, we discussed with everyone, addressing to everyone present there- the atmosphere really boosts confidence – am saying this from personal experience.
I met many new people and watched transformations happen as they let the process take over. As soon as we started applying what we learnt, to our improvisations. The last day still remains in my memory, when each of us wanted to come and do an improvisation.
Every part in the course shows that a lot of work has gone in, to compile all these "basics". It's great that people want to share what they know. I've always wanted to act and be on stage. But there is a difference from just acting because I want to be on stage and acting and really knowing what I'm doing on stage. I don't mean to sound preachy here, but-I can very confidently say, act one equips us with craft, techniques that you can never read off a book, these are tools for life.
Everyone has a process or a method of teaching, this one here – 'act one' is extremely potent my friends. I'm not trying to be a drama queen, but I actually mean it. I've had days when I felt terrible about a certain improvisation or exercise, but there were good days too. And what I noticed was, the faster and sooner you let yourself go and get into the groove, the more you learn from it. Don't shy away, just go with the flow, immerse yourself and you'll feel the magic, and then you will see it.
I'd really like to thank Yog and all the other people who I've interacted with for a wonderful journey! I hope more people get to know of how super cool the course is and sign up! *trust me everybody, otherwise you can hunt me down and shoot me later!*
dear yog & mandira (and any other people in theatre Y i don't know about),
all in all, i really, really, really enjoyed your workshop. i liked it even more because it was more of a detailed course than a workshop which, i think, is how it should be...its not like even basic acting is something you learn in a day.
this is very difficult for me because i don't really know what to write as such. like writers block or something...well, i'll just keep writing...actually i had started writing this before coming to the last class on tuesday but it all sounded very foolish so i deleted it. but then, when i came to class and saw 'comments/views/testimonials' on the blackboard i felt better, because i'm full of views and comments...commenting is what i do best. or is it complaining? anyhow i better get on with it.
appeal: in the first place, the idea of an introductory session is very refreshing because there are so many workshops and courses which people are interested in and they have to pay for the whole thing without really knowing anything about what the class is about, or how classes are taught, or what you learn. so a lot of people end up getting into things they end up hating and thereby wasting a lot of money, or they get fleeced, and again, waste money, or the whole thing is fraudulent, and so they waste money.so this leaves you very pissed off altogether. this has happened to me twice this past year, by the way, so i know what i'm talking about.
anyhow, since i didn't attend the introductory class (out of station as usual), i don't know what made people come and sign up; i only know what made me stay. i like that you, yog, were very upfront about how qualified you are and how you're career in the performing arts has been (i.e., you make sure people have an honest idea about everything). i don't know what happened in the intro session but your honesty and dedication to your class is unique. you give people a chance to make up their minds. and i assume everyone signed up...why wouldn't they? they know are not being bs'ed.
as you've probably guessed, coming to and joining the class was kind of a leap of faith for me. i didn't know what i was getting into or whether it would be worth it at all. i just saw an ad in the paper and thought, 'i have to do this'.but then, this has happened before, with no good results, so its not like that was the voice of providence or something.so i just 'showed up'. i knew straight off it was going to be phenomenal. first of all, i felt the class was the real deal from the first, which was a very pleasant surprise, not to mention a big relief.
i also felt some sort of electricity in the air, which comes from being in a room full of strangers, and yet; they are also your peers; each trying to get to know one another, learn together, take chances and reach out.now this is the problem with indian (and probably all) cities. no one wants to talk to random people. its dangerous. what's more, most people are stupid/desperate. but here was a platform for all of us to interact with people who we knew nothing about and probably wouldn't have looked at otherwise. people who are a wholly different person--shy, quiet, demure--are suddenly these clowns with razor sharp humour, or these soulful performers who can actually make you feel for them...its great to see the depth of fellow students which we didn't know they had.its not about looking at what they are wearing or what they look like or what accents they have, but absorbing their acts and analyzing what they are trying to communicate.another thing is--i don't know how far you've heard of this, but-- acting classes are considered to be quite an effective way to get over shyness. which is obvious, if you think of it...what with all the eye-contact and voice throwing, performing in front of people, etc. anyhow point is they have helped me and i'm guessing a lot of other students be more social. (if indeed they did have problems in the first place)
i felt that the moment i stepped into the class on the first day i'd entered a place where i belonged. i've never felt that comfortable in any class whatsoever (whether i i was good at the subject or not). especially after i moved to india for tenth grade...i was always getting into trouble for being me.in the heart of that busy markety mandaveli district lay hidden this whole other world, where we could be anyone or anything we've ever wanted to be...that person we are when we whisper and pull faces behind bolted bedroom doors, crouching in dark corners, in stuffy toilets in front of a grimy medicine cabinet...its like the wardrobe to narnia...or diagon alley...that smell of (roasted?) coffee that hits you as you begin to climb the stairs will remain fond to me always.teaching:all i gotta say is that if you change anything in your style of teaching you are making a huge mistake. probably the best classroom experience i ever had...
yog, you are a born teacher. and that is not a small thing. they are rare...very, very, very rare...and you are one of this species.your teaching has everything, you know: clarity (your favourite word...hehehe), humour, expressiveness, and the fact that you show what is correct or wrong by acting...i found it too, too cool. and although i was taking notes...i knew that i would process everything you said whether i wrote it down or not. its more like a force of habit, i guess, jotting down notes.and anyway its lucky you're such a good teacher because i lost my first notebook on the way to class some 30 hours into the workshop. worst part is i almost left it at home and ran back to get it...only to lose it on the way...thats one reason why this is so hard for me to write...i'm using memory alone.i also like that you don't sugar coat anything and tell it like it is. unless we do a really extraordinary performance which took a lot of work and preparation would you comment on it... because you know that our potential is much higher than a lot of the work we did. this drives us to strive harder at our craft.you are quick to point out our faults so we learn...also the whole thing of making us do something you know we are going to mess up, is frustrating, but works. (case in point: the 'lion and the hare' ensemble).
i like your no nonsense attitude or whatever its called (professionalism?) in class. you are very serious about teaching your subject to us in the best possible way. in turn, we take it seriously. this is no timepass class. this is serious work.
i like also that you are extremely punctual. though a teacher technically needn't be punctual, it shows the dedication of a teacher and commands respect from a student for the time, space, subject and teacher they have been given with which to learn the art.
and need i mention: complete lack of any partiality whatsoever? your dedication to teaching us the basics for all its worth, whether we actually care about the subject or not is really something. it is your desire to really teach us, make us understand...evolve; that is what makes us keep coming back to class... its not that we want to finish what we started, now that we signed up or something. who cares. if the class sucks; disgusts me, makes me want to beat myself to death with my own legs, i'm out. the fact that you guys care enough to make sure we keep up the basics we learnt after the workshop is over as opposed to forgetting us altogether is unique to this class.
the only thing i had a problem with is that you give us full creative freedom in homework, when you actually want us to do something specific... like the lion and the hare thing. you told us to 'tell it in the best way possible' so when i was on the train and in bangalore i was sitting and writing rhyming verses...to do a musical...sort of. that's what i think i can do best: humour.
but you actually wanted us to use our body, which was the point of the exercise. i thought you could have said that in the first place. anyhow i chickened out then...i guess some other time i'll do it.another example was the whole lottery ticket exercise which we had to plan in 5-7 minutes...if you remember, you went through the whole story that we had to do in detail, trigger by trigger and we took it down...but then the next day you said that we should have merged the acts...problem with me is that i do whatever i'm told to the t and do not, as far as possible, deviate at all from any instructions given...i don't know how far others have this problem, but in my opinion, instructions are given to be followed...and so i even if the merging part crossed my mind, i wouldn't have done it, because i was following the list of triggers exactly, whether it actually was a natural thing to do or not.
it has been said that all great teachers are in fact, actors, and their students are their audience. and as you have said, an actor must move and audience from point a to point b. so in other words, a great teacher must inspire his/her students and inculcate in them a fascination for the subject and a desire to learn it.you are the finest example of such a teacher.
the first ten hours itself went into detail about this...how a mere 2 1/2 hour movie can cause people to question their most ingrained beliefs; how an actor is able to transform themselves into a character so as to do a story justice; how difficult it is to act and how much an actor must work at their craft to come off as even the slightest bit credible.i was randomly flipping channels yesterday and settled upon a disney show called 'that's so raven'...and i was analyzing how these mere teenagers (ok i know i'm no old lady, but still...) are so good at their acts that i truly believed that the boy (eddie) is not some random kid acting, but, is heartbroken because his parents are divorced and that he blames himself for their split. i was thinking, 'what is he doing? how is he able to say his line in such a way that i feel so sorry for him right now that my face has fallen and i feel sad?'...leave alone the background music. even take so many child actors. people think its so easy, but actually it really is not.i think everyone, even the most skeptical of students began to view the performing arts in awe as the classes went on. and who wouldn't want to be involved in something they are in awe of?
i really like that the syllabus is simple and easy to comprehend. its not just a list of nonsense which is above our head, in some pretentious language, which actually means nothing. it goes in a logical order. first mime, then mime and sound, then story telling, then solo acting...etc, etc.also i like that the classes were packed with information. what we learned about basic acting could fill a huge book. there was no lagging of any sort. total value of time.i did a useless theatre workshop in college which was around 30 hours for 500 rupees. i learned in 30 hours what i would have learned in your class in three hours. even 500 was a pure waste. (luckily i didn't pay it...)
i also like the emphasis made on the responsibility of a performer not to insult the sentiments of people for things they can't help. it's an ideal thats very dear to me, but unfortunately this is so rampant in indian cinema... (that's why i hardly watch commercial indian movies) when i speak my mind about, for example, 3 feet tall actors being involved in offensive,tasteless jokes, people say 'you think in a weird way' or 'anyway they won in the end' or 'you have some self esteem problem thats why you care so much (???) or some such crap.
i really like the whole ambience of the classroom very much. a lot of work has gone into it and it makes one proud to be able to be a part of the room, almost. also, how we get to sit on the floor. its great that the students get to interact with each other in a lot of the exercises and end up revealing a lot about themselves. it is due to this that we've made friends with and come to appreciate our classmates, as opposed to ignoring them as much as possible in any other classroom setting.you've taken many years of experience and condensed it into a highly entertaining exercises that are somehow educational as well. its quite marvelous.
learning by doing, as was written in the newspaper, is the only way to go. i've learnt a lot. i believe that i've learnt everything one needs to know about basics and it feels extremely satisfying to actually have learned something properly.the fact that i've learnt anything is entirely due to your foresight and talent as a teacher.when you asked us to tell you about anything we felt about the class or expected to learn but maybe did not want share with the rest of the class, i had wanted to say that it is my main aim to be a stand up comedian. even theatre acting is secondary to this (though i wanted to go on stage my entire life). it is my first and foremost aim...but i never told you because i thought i'd tell you later and then the workshop got over.
nevertheless i felt i learned everything that ought to be in a basic acting class. i'm totally satisfied. come to think of it, the fact that we learn so much about expressing emotion and what it does to our body, helps us express it better in words. (my other aim is to be an author).
i got a very slight glimpse of just how valuable the class was, when i went to the auditions for another theatre group. everything i had learned was flitting through my head back and forth as they asked me to perform.
a student cannot only learn basic acting, but can also have hours of fun and mental stimulation, use his/her creativity, get over shyness, showcase hidden talents, make new friends...etc etc etc...dunno what else to say...
i truly feel that this is the only satisfying and worthwhile thing i've done since june 2007. the class is the complete, utter opposite of: 'a waste', 'useless', 'boring', 'profit oriented', 'lacking in vision'.
we also...along with everything else, learn to be patient with others and respect their views, and appreciate people for who they are...and not be so obsessed with first impressions... because...whoa...here they definitely weren't the last impression.
i feel that in our society...especially here south india, people tend dismiss and stamp out any sign of comedic or acting skill in children (or anyone). people always say, 'keep quiet, everyone is staring', or 'stop making funny faces and weird voices, people will think you're crazy'... luckily my friends, growing up, thought i was funny...[someone even used to call me 'genie' (from disney's alladin) which i take as a huge compliment]...as my friends do now...although they do tell me to cut out the antics in 'public'. i found it strange that in life i'm so animated but in class i clam up as if i'll die if i move my hands a little away from my body...it surprised me. leave alone stage fright. its more like, we think its inappropriate to exaggerate anything. that's just how it is. though you said that we should let go of the whole 'caring how what we do will look in front of others'...its very hard, because its ingrained in us to walk around like robots.you told us to get outside our 'comfort zone' which is exactly what all this brainwashing of society is. you told us to experiment and create characters. but how many of us have done it? in the last 2-3 hours did we even scratch the surface of characterization, or using body. leave alone the fact that most people don't have time. we didn't really give it much importance...because it was too hard and required many hours of work. i used to give up after ten minutes.which is why i think that when you go over the 3 voices, walk and laugh homework you should make it an assignment to have mastered at least 3 different characters of their choice by the end of the workshop. this gives them almost a month to work at it when they are free. its really hard to get put on a character. so i think it should be emphasized. another thing is emotions. they are extremely important, but again, since its outside our comfort zone, we don't put enough work into it. i think that should be emphasized too... like there should be a class where the homework is to laugh (like you told us to do once) and to try our best to cry. or something, because, as i say, our homework acts are put together too fast at home...we don't experiment like that.
it's my opinion that i'm weak in story telling, especially improvised story telling, and my gibberish needs more work. and i think you said my improvisations need work? i'll come for anything you say.also could you guys please send us the list of voice exercises i'm very confused with the order since we didn't take it down the day it was taught...and also if possible the physical exercises just in case.
i've sent you whatever photos we took in class in another email.
i've had a marvelous time and i can't thank you guys enough. if you ever need me for anything i'll be there (unless i'm out of station).
kanchi kamatchi thangadurai