Eric Bryant

Acting Blog

Thoughts on Teaching

I’ve now been teaching acting classes for a couple of years, and am in the middle of my fourth offering. I have to say, I really enjoy the process of watching my students latch on to concepts that we work on and begin to apply them, sometimes consciously, and sometimes unconsciously. To see the “Aha!” moment as it happens is so rewarding. I’ve also been delighted to have several people sign up for their second, third, and even fourth round of classes. I’m sure that keeping the cost low has something to do with it, as well as keeping the sessions limited to a few weeks.

This is one of the things that I appreciated about the HB model, and I found that it encouraged actors at every stage of their career to study either between gigs, or even while performing. I wanted to emulate that model as a means to help local actors stay sharp and practice their craft. One of the reasons I selected Sunday evenings was that even for people involved in a show, they would be able to come after the matinee performance.

I’ve also found that I’ve learned so much from observing and commenting on the scene work. To paraphrase a former Tae Kwon Do teacher, a teacher is just a serious student.

 

I had the opportunity to take part in a Master Class on playing Chekov with Dmitry Krymov, former professor at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts and the Head of the Experimental Theatre Project of the Union Theatre of Europe, and founder of Krymov Lab in New York. We were told that the class was going to focus on Uncle Vanya, however when we arrived Mr. Krymov, through his interpreter, told us that we could work on other things. I think this threw a few of us as we had expected something more focused, but we were all eager to learn. A couple of the students mentioned the Etudes, which confused many of us. If I’m understanding correctly, the Etudes are essentially exercises based on a scene that helps free the actor from slavish devotion to the text, and allows for behavior-based improvisation. I was having a difficult time understanding much of what Mr. Krymov was saying due to the need for an interpreter, however I found his coaching to be insightful, encouraging, and playful. He spoke at length about the need to link up all of the moments of the play, even when isolating the work of one scene. I interpreted that to mean that it is necessary to honor all of the circumstances that have been established, but also make sure that you are creating the circumstances for what is to follow.

 

I was able to do a scene from Uncle Vanya (scene 2 – the Professor and Yelena). Not being much of a Chekov scholar, I was mainly working off of my limited understanding of the play. What Mr. Krymov was able to do was help me understand the motivations of the Professor during the scene in order to make Yelena’s comments about her relationship with the professor later in the scene make sense. The scene then became about the Professor’s need for love and reassurance, fueled by his deep insecurity. I could start to see how the behavior of the characters did not necessarily reflect what they were saying, which helped make the scene more playful and unpredictable.

 

Overall, I am very glad that I went…it was great to spend an afternoon with other artists working on their craft, and to learn from someone who is so intimately knowledgeable of the subject.

Eric Bryant March 30, 2024