A renowned Broadway actress of the 1920's would arrive at the theatre early, before every performance, to walk through the house and make sure nothing was left in the aisles or under the seats. She wanted to be confident that the audience was walking into a clean space when they came to see the play. It stuns me how disinterested many acting students are in the quality of space. I begin with the physical space as it is the most obvious. As a student, how much care do you take in making the room ready to be worked in and clearing it for those who will work next? Or do you leave the "pile of dishes" for others to scrub? Wasn't it you who just enjoyed the meal?
Just as essential is the more subtle, unseen "space" that the student walks into. Is it "clean"? Has there been a deep caring invested by the teacher in making a space founded on respect, compassion, clarity of purpose, honesty, deep listening, simplicity and a loving sincerity? These are some of the qualities necessary to offer a place where students will gain the courage to take leaps into the unknown and into the space of creation itself. I do believe that this kind of class, this kind of teacher, is in the great majority.
But for years, and again today, actors have shared their experience of teachers encouraging violence in their classrooms, teachers manipulating students to be mean spirited, hostile, sexual without true desire, physically and emotionally explosive without an honest impulse, hitting each other, spitting in each others faces and more... What do the rest of the students learn? They learn collectively that they too must fake their way into explosive states of being, they too must ramp up their meanness, they too must masturbate emotionally for the teacher's approval and so win entrance into "the club". Of course, none of this has any relationship to the craft of acting, but it is too late as the students have become chained to the teacher, artistically crippled. If it is not yet clear, the tip for the day? Be on the lookout for a clean space.