The Upstage “Outside-In” Technique

Many parents are now asking about how we get such great performances from the kids, so I thought I would give you all a very basic outline.

It all started when I was at college back in England and realized that after 6 weeks of studying Textile Management, I just wanted to be an actor. I ran to the local bookshop and bought my first acting technique book and it was “To the Actor” by Michael Chekhov. It was a brilliant and lucky choice.

“To the Actor” talks about “Psychological Gesture” a strong movement that expresses the psychology of the character. Chekhov defines the psychology to consist of the thoughts, feelings and will of a human being. You can liken it to a moving logo, like the Nike logo, which captures the essence of Nike in one image.

To put it simply, by creating very strong archetypal physical shapes, the actor will experience a different emotional and physiological state. A performer will think, feel and act like the character. When this happens, your walk, your expressive mannerisms, your voice and line delivery are all inspired by one moving image.

At Upstage we call it “assuming the position.” We spend a lot of rehearsal time putting the kids into strong shapes and giving them strong emotional choices. Every moment in the life of the actor onstage must be physicalized. We try to avoid at any cost the dreaded “talking head.”

And we don’t ask them to figure it out themselves. We give them the answers, the height and shape of the bar they’re encouraged to reach up to and grab. The excellence we aspire to in all our programs can be summed up as “this is how it goes, now go ahead and do it”

And because this “shaping” can have so many positive effects in everyday life, our tag “theatre skills for life” really does come true. Kids who stay with us for at least 2 programs speak more clearly, act more naturally, move more easily and become more self-aware.

“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.”
—Michael Chekhov