Integrating Chekhov’s acting technique with Steiner’s Creative Speech
Heartfire Centre for Speech and Drama is dedicated to research, training and performance in the Langman technique which integrates Michael Chekhov’s acting methodology with Rudolf Steiner’s arts of speech and eurythmy. It offers a contemporary, spiritually-enlivened process in which the combined insights of Steiner and Chekhov lead to new possibilities for actors, teachers and those seeking an embodied artistic path of self-development. In addition to a training based in Adelaide and Brisbane, we offer workshops and performances throughout Australia.
Michael Chekhov(1891–1955), was a Russian actor, director, theatre practitioner and author, referred to by Konstantin Stanislavski as his most brilliant student. Nevertheless, he was tormented in his early years by his inability to find a pathway that would enable him to understand and healthily manage his own artistic genius. Only when he met Rudolf Steiner and became a pupil of his esoteric training, did Chekhov find the tools that allowed him to penetrate and articulate the paths of consciousness that gave rise to his own genius in a way that not only healed his pathologies but created an acting methodology for others.
For Chekhov the essence of artistry in the discipline of acting was transformation. He wrote extensively about ‘the hallmark of talent and the divine spark within the actor’ — the ‘ability to transform oneself totally’ — and provided an abundant range of tools that would facilitate this transformation. His association of artistry with divinity was not merely a turn of phrase but arose from the recognition and conscious cultivation of the divine creative power at work within our human creativity. Although it did not lie in Chekhov’s destiny to himself master the new artforms being developed by Rudolf and Marie Steiner of Creative Speech and Eurythmy, he acknowledged the importance of their practice for the actor of the future, especially as a means of consciously connecting to the creative forces flowing through the universe.
It is not necessary for actors to acknowledge the spiritual basis of his work in order to benefit from the health-giving power of his methodology and its effective cultivation of professional technique. However, The Heartfire Centre appeals to those who seek this spiritual dimension consciously.
Born at the end of the nineteenth century, when civilisation in the west denied reality to anything except material phenomena, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) laid the foundation for cultural renewal in almost every sphere of human striving. This renewal was grounded in the scientific rigour with which he investigated the spiritual realities that underlie material appearances and which from his earliest years had been accessible to his direct perception. From these investigations sprang a precise understanding of the constitution of the human being as an entity composed of body, soul and spirit, out of which new impulses for all the arts and sciences could spring. The fruits of these, in the century that followed, have been most widely recognised around the world in education, medicine and agriculture. Less well known are his insights into how the cosmic source of speech and language can generate an evolutionary leap in the art of speech, inspiring teachers in the classroom, and new dimensions in therapeutic speech and the art of acting. This aspect of his work, based on research into how the spiritual realities of consonants and vowels connect us to the divine creative beings in the universe also manifested in the new art of movement called Eurythmy. Both Eurythmy and Creative Speech were pioneered with Steiner’s guidance by his wife Marie at the Goetheanum, Switzerland: the world centre of his work. Since then, the seeds they planted in the German language have been sowed and nurtured around the world, and here in Australia continue to evolve in the English language at the Heartfire Centre.
The Langman Technique
In recent years a number of people have seen the potential of the integration of Steiner’s creative speech with Chekhov’s psycho physical acting technique. The methodology in the Heartfire Centre is based on the integrated pathway developed by Dawn Langman. This pathway makes accessible an experience of the formative forces that lie hidden within the sounds of speech themselves. The student is led to a relationship with these forces through Chekhov’s full-bodied gestural work in a way that is guided and grounded in the veracity of their own experience. A comprehensive set of imaginative tools and exercises creates a bridge to the challenging spiritual realities of Steiner’s work which in turn brings a new dimension to the art of acting. Step by step, the practice organically evolves the student’s capacities to recognise and participate in the greater lawfulness that exists within the genius of language and the psycho physical instrument of the actor. This lawfulness is inherent in all great works of art. By expanding their own capacities through this approach, the student can become a true co-creator, freely joining their creative forces with the creative powers of the cosmos. In doing so they unlock the beauty and depth hidden within the great works of poetry, storytelling and drama, and plant the seed for newly devised works born out of the growing edge of our present times. Without a relationship to these creative powers, an artist’s work can lack the life-renewing substance that the arts can bring to humanity. This methodology offers a conscious cultivation of these forces, that can be transformative not only for actors and audience, but for teachers and those seeking an embodied artistic path of self-development.
“Dawn Langman creates a pathway into Michael Chekhov’s most profound intensions regarding the theatre of the future and the actor as an instrument of body, soul and spirit”.
Dr Diane Caracciolo: Associate Professor of Educational Theatre, Adelphi University
“Langman’s inspired methods, fed by some 45 years of teaching and practice, ensure the highest outcomes for the integration of voice, speech and language as a central ingredient of the actor’s craft. She is the most unique and brilliant master teacher in this area I have ever encountered...
…Dawn is an exceptional actress. Her power in performance comes from her incredible command of language that is able to reveal the very heart of the spoken word and emotional subtext. Mistress to her unique methodology, which demands nothing less than a total integration of language with every other aspect of the actor’s craft, makes Dawn one of the most outstanding artists I have known”.
Rosalba Clemente: Artistic Director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia and currently Head of Acting at the Drama Centre, Flinders University, South Australia”
“As actors and actresses, we must rejoice in the possession of our physical faculties. We must experience joy in the use of our hands, arms, body etc. Without this appreciation and realization of the body and its many possibilities, we cannot perform as artists
You should feel a flow of joy because you are alive. Your body will feel full of life. That is what you must give from the stage. Your life. No less. That is art: to give all you have. And what have you? Your life-nothing more. And to give life means to feel life throughout your whole being.”
“In giving speech artistic shape and form the healthy cooperation and harmonisation of body, soul and spirit becomes manifest. The body shows whether it is able to incorporate the spirit correctly; the soul reveals whether the spirit lives in it truly; and the spirit is vividly present working directly into the physical.”
“All true artists, bear within themselves a deeply rooted and often unconscious desire for transformation.”
The Langman TechniqueDawn Langman