FRANTIC ASSEMBLY TEACHES GUEST CLASS AT ATLANTIC ACTING SCHOOL
by Wyatt Welles, School Administrative Intern (Fall 2015)
You may not know their name, but you’re likely to know their breath-taking work. They created a surge of Broadway buzz when they developed original movement for the National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which moved to Broadway in October of last year. The production not only went on to the win to the Tony Award for Best Play, but it also received five other nominations, including one for Frantic Assembly’s movement work, making Curious Incident the first play in 23 years to receive a Tony Nomination for Best Choreography. Although they are only now gaining widespread attention amongst American theater-goers, they have been an influential force for British theater since the company’s conception 21 years ago.
Artistic Director Scott Graham formed the Frantic Assembly in 1994 in an effort to create movement-based-theater out of collaborations with like-minded artists, including his two co-founders, Vicki Middleton and Olivier Award winner and three-time Tony Nominee Steven Hoggett. Beyond their ground-breaking productions, Frantic Assembly spent the past two decades developing educational opportunities for young theater makers. While the majority of these training programs are exclusive to London, providing those of us on this side of the pond with little opportunities to see their process, members of Frantic Assembly made the trek to New York City to do a full day workshop with Atlantic’s second-year conservatory students this October.
Students at Atlantic Acting School are no strangers to brilliant minds in the rehearsal room. Atlantic NYU and Conservatory students alike have had the opportunity to learn from theater and film legends such as Kate Winslet, F. Murray Abraham, David Mamet, and Glenn Close. What was unique about Frantic Assembly’s time spent with the students is rather than discussing their artistic process, they got the students on their feet and experiencing it for themselves. Early in the master class, Associate Director Neil Bettles and Frantic Assembly educator Krista Vuori had the class form a circle and began to introduce the warm up exercise.
All you have to do is move from one side of the circle to the other. Do it as fast as you can, but don’t panic. You have all the resources you need, said Neil, as he watched the students quickly discover how challenging a simple task is when they are given limited time to complete it. As the warmups continued, Krista and Neil provided kernels of advice that quickly moved the class from eager students to focused and determined performers.
Every time we see you starting to get the hang of it, we add something new, explained Krista. This turned out to be no exaggeration. Once the class got the essential rhythm of what they were learning, Neil and Krista had them devising work in pairs. Using principles from their own training with Suzuki and Viewpoints and direction from Neil and Krista, the students created short pieces adapted from a series of simple gestures. They then had each student perform with the audience placed in several different specific locations, experimenting with the ways in which proximity and sight-lines affect our interpretation of movement. To complete the day, the students learned simple lifts and choreography bits used in various Frantic Assembly productions.
In just the course of an afternoon, Frantic Assembly had given the students not only invaluable insight and advice, but also a vocabulary of new movement to use in their own work. And while Frantic Assembly may have 21 more years of practice, it was clear that they had inspired each eager student to re-think the ways they use their body in space and proved how physical awareness can be a story of its own.