At the Heartfire Centre a thorough grounding is provided both in Chekhov’s psycho-physical technique as well as Steiner’s creative speech and eurythmy. However, at each stage of the process the integration of the three will be explored and developed through the Langman methodology: demonstrating how the three streams support and fructify each other and eventually flow into a single river. Whether in short courses or the more intensive training this river will be a source of inspiration for those seeking self-development, for performers and for teachers who work in every level of the classroom from primary and secondary through to adults.
Chekhov Acting Methodology
At the core of what Michael Chekhov called his ‘psycho-physical’ technique for actors is the intimate connection between our inner life and its expression in our body. Since he coined the term it’s premise is now widely recognised in many streams of modern theatre practice. What makes Chekhov’s methodology unique is that the precise and very practical processes he developed for cultivating psycho-physical awareness are rooted in the comprehensive understanding of the human being, based on Steiner’s research. This recognises that the human body has been woven out of cosmic forces by divine creative powers to be an instrument for human consciousness: enabling it to be aware of itself as an evolving body, soul and spirit: a microcosm created by the macrocosm to consciously participate in its creative process.
At the core of Rudolf Steiner’s research into speech and language is the rediscovery that the sounds of speech – consonants and vowels – are not mere vocal noises to which we have assigned an abstract meaning, but are dynamic forces that can accurately chart and recreate our outer and our inner worlds.
The power great language has to move us springs precisely out of this reality. Therefore, language itself becomes our teacher, inspiring us to stretch our souls and spirits beyond the poverty to which our everyday exchange of words can limit us, into our highest, deepest, broadest possibilities of consciousness. This approach invites us to explore a healthier method than the desperate one propounded by Artaud, for transforming the condition he described in his influential manifesto The Theatre and its Double: ‘that the throats of modern human beings have ‘shrivelled’ into ‘monstrous talking abstractions’, and that language as we know it is dead.
To have this new experience of consonants and vowels we must transform the way we use our breath and heal the dissociation, which has caused us to forget that the movements taking place within our mouths when we are speaking, are no less expressive gestures than the movements of our arms and legs can be. We could think of them as micro-gestures which are most alive when they are integrated and embedded in the macro-gestures of our total instrument. These macro gestures, which Chekhov called ‘full-bodied’, grant access to the intensities of human soul experience and make the bridge on which the soul can feel its way towards the spirit. Chekhov’s full-bodied methodology prepares us to experience Eurythmy which can lead us to the cosmic beings who bestow on us the greater archetypes that weave within our soul experience and find expression as the consonants and vowels of human language.
This approach to speech, first developed in the German language, was called by Steiner and his wife Marie, Sprachgestaltung: a name that acknowledges the power of speech to be shaped and formed by and in turn to also shape and form, not just our soul experience but the very energies of life itself. Earlier English renderings of this term, such as ‘speech formation’ or ‘formative speech’ have been replaced more recently by ‘creative speech’.
Eurythmy is a movement art that was brought into the world through Rudolf Steiner and further developed by his wife, Marie Steiner von Sivers. It is thereby a relatively new art form, still in its infancy, yet ever-evolving through subsequent generations of practitioners, who work with eurythmy in artistic, social, pedagogical and therapeutic spheres of life.
Eurythmy is sometimes referred to as ‘visible speech’ and ‘visible music’, as the eurythmist strives to transform their body into an instrument that reveals the formative forces within language and music. Steiner discerned gestures for each vowel and consonant, musical tone and soul state, as well as for the planets and zodiacal constellations. These eurythmical gestures are based on the formative flows and qualities of energy that each of these phenomena manifest in the sensory world.
Experiencing the objective, gestural quality and mood of the sounds of speech in this way provides speakers with a profound experience of the formative activity of language and of the potent power of the Creative Word.
Chekhov recognised what possibilities the practice of eurythmy gave to actors. The gestures “show us endless variations of each of the sounds, thus making our artistic speech into the finest possible membrane of endless subtleties and variations of our psychology…We cannot invent new Eurythmical gestures for the sounds of human language…they exist objectively. But we can vary and colour them freely according to our artistic impulses and tastes.” He saw his own discovery of the Psychological Gesture and Eurythmy as two of the fundamental keys for unlocking the door to the actor’s Creative Individuality. Chekhov’s recognition of this allows us to build a bridge towards the indications that Steiner gave for using the sounds of speech as an essential basis for building a character. The Langman methodology extends this foundation into detailed intuitive work with the planetary and zodiacal gestures as a basis for exploring a character’s psychological and spiritual trajectory.