In a Travis International Film Institute webinar, Mark W. Travis both demonstrates and explains his director-centered approach designed to efficiently generate organic and authentic performances from actors. The Travis Technique utilizes an interrogation process that peppers characters with a series of questions that shift from curiosity, to criticism, to support at the whim of the interrogator.
At the core of your story are your characters. At the core of your characters are their hopes, dreams, fears, sorrows, shames, etc. that drive them to action and, in turn, drive your story.
It’s 1995, early in my teaching career, and my parents are visiting me in Los Angeles. Because I am always looking for something to impress my father with, something that would make him proud of me, I show him a brochure of a seminar that I will be teaching. It’s a very detailed brochure with bullet points of all the aspects of directing that I promised to cover. I am watching as he reads every line of the brochure, making those little ‘hmm’ sounds as he absorbs the information.
In the world of theater, rehearsal is all we have before we perform for the public. The rehearsal process is where all the trial and error happens, where we discover what will work and what won’t. The rehearsal process is where final decisions are made, where the characters and scenes are shaped and honed, where the pacing and rhythm of the production is determined. Or as Robert Altman, says, “The rehearsal process in theater is like the editing process in film.” It is where the final product is discovered.
We’ve all been there. In the room. Any room. And we’re keenly aware of the elephant … in the corner … on the couch … behind the desk … wherever. We know we don’t want to talk about it (otherwise the elephant wouldn’t be there) and we’re hoping nobody else does either. Or perhaps we’re hoping that someone else will bring it up to get us off the hook. That way we won’t be blamed for mentioning it and we can claim we had no idea it was even there.
I’m looking into the eyes of a very talented, very famous, very angry actress. I am her director and we are at a crossroad. It’s only a few days until the opening of the play that we’ve been rehearsing for weeks and my Emmy-winning actress is having a meltdown. She’s looking to me to make everything right. The problem is, I’m not sure what’s wrong. Of course we’ve had our differences during the rehearsal process, that’s normal. But at this moment the only thing I see panic is in her eyes, I see rebellion, I see fear.