How do you make theatre everyday?

tania Holland Williams, 19 September 2012

This question was based on the observation that dancers, musicians, and artists all engage in the discipline of daily practice (or regular practice) of technical skills, and that this supports their ability to access their full range of emotions or palette.
Also having recently watched a TED talk by Wayne McGregor about the process of choreography as a creative exchange template, and heard from a dancer friend about a dance conference in Sweden where each day there were sessions where the content was experienced/discussed through the activity of dance - I am sure that we can be doing more to promote the process of theatre practice itself.

And finally I have been perplexed for some years that so many conferences on practice based arts are so removed from the practice themselves. Even the fairly free flowing ideas process of Open Space methodology that we have experienced today is less preferable to me than trying to see how the issues might be extrapolated and explored through theatre exercise and activity - the love of which is what has drawn me here in the first place. But that is a conversation for another day.

So why do so many theatre practitioners have no daily technical discipline, when so many other art forms are clearly kept alive and fresh through the process of a regular practice regime?

The barriers are clear and at times do seem prohibitive: artists and singers can practice their technical skills at home or on their own - but much of the technical skill required of an actor (particularly in devised theatre) is the technique of dialogue/response to the audience. Improvisation and judging the timing of an aside for theatre - all need some reciprocal attention from at least one spectating person. They are the ingredient that help practitioner's judge the success or failure of the act and without them it is impossible to hone the skill of acting. Also we are used to the collaborative aspect of theatre - it is one of the things that I personally love about the art - making work happen with other people/brains and imaginations.

So we began to ask the question about what can actors do on their own and started to build the following list of possible activities to support the maintenance of courage and skills so that when you then get a part - you are fit for action. In no particular order the suggestions for possible activities included:

To practice interactive theatre skills - you might like to try starting to talk to strangers more often - this is something that we often shy away from, and yet has a lot to do with the ‘saying yes’ exercise and ensuring that you don't block other actors.
One person suggested going shopping in character and practising monologues in different accents in the car (not sure that the car was a pre-requisite, but you get the idea).

I've started the age-old improvisation game with my two-year old nephew- he points at something and I incorporate it into the current story.
Another person also suggested that some teaching can help you keep your practice alive if you approach it in a way that is also about your own stretch.

Another idea was that you can give yourself the challenge of creating stories by observing the interaction of people in public spaces.
The dialogue has galvanised me into finding a way to bring actors together to practice improvisation, character, audience play etc.
It would be great to have more ideas to add to this list - and I am now on a crusade to 
make theatre every day.

Submitted by Tania Holland Williams
I was joined in the conversation and supplied with lots of ideas outlined above by Estelle, Kathy, Katy and Phoebe.


discipline, solitary activity, exercises for the single actor, theatre practice