Directing Experience Methodology – DE
Line of Psycho-Physical Action, or LOPPA.
Main Event – or scene – ME
In attempting to create a detailed understanding of the physical and psychological life of the Scene or Main Event (ME), the untested DE theory behind the LOPPA offers that …
”The Line of Physical Actions was an early Active Analysis method where the actors traced the physical movement that the script required them to undertake in every event. With the physical life imprinted they would continue with rehearsals. The LOPPA is adapted and extended from that idea.”(Kipste, 2012).
The notion of external ACTION as foundational to an internal desire or objective can be traced back to Stanislavski who believed that “…Every physical action must be dynamic and lead to the accomplishment of some goal…”, (Toporkov,1950). In her discussion of using ACTION to build psycho-physical coordination, Bella Merlin places stronger emphasis on two key elements to map. These two elements are Logic and Coherence. Her concern is on action that is genuine and organic, (Merlin, 2007).
By examining and combining the above references in consideration that a detailed understanding of the physical and psychological life of the ME must be created, the question arises ‘for what purpose?’ In DE methodology the LOPPA is found under the category of Visuality of the scene (ME). In Merlin’s text the Psycho Physical is discussed in relation to the figure. Both require the use of Inner Monologue through the action of the scene.
Interestingly, Jean Benedetti also uses the term organic when referring to the Method of Physical Actionsdescribed in his text(Benedetti, 1998). If something is organic I would dare to suggest that the growth and development of it has a Logic. The growth of the organic is easily accounted for, with every stage of growth in place.
I would offer, then, that a LOPPA facilitates the internal and external logic of a character within a Scene or Main Event, bringing the scene to its most human and organic state. In other words, there is an ORGANIC LOGIC to the scene which can be played by actors (figure exploration) and read by an audience (Visuality).
It is the Organic Logic that began to manifest in this LOPPA for 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. As we began to step through the visualised scene with each figure conducting their own normal voice inner monologue, we found that, along with the normal mode of reporting action, the actors were announcing quite profound insights intowhy the figure was doing the action. More sub-text was uncovered in our LOPPA than was uncovered in the sub-text etude.
This shouldn’t have been surprising had we been fully cognisant that Bella Merlin links it to sub-text, in that figures justify their actions by internally agreeing or disagreeing with other figures almost 100 percent of the time. The cast were able to quickly relate inner monologue thoughts with actions that came out in the sub-text etudes. The silent, primal, inner monolog had now found a logical place in the ME.
One of the potent characteristics of the LOPPA is the way it can reinforce or negate visual choices. On two occasions we found that the inner monologue of a figure was not matching the physical placement of a flicker, or a succinct moment in time of the play. It was easy to adjust the physicality of moment once we had the LOPPA to verify it was in it’s correct place. The first occasion had to do with finding a reason to place one male figure so close behind the female. Rather than just ‘block’ as a moment for the audience to see that the female figure is vulnerable, it became obvious that the position had more to do with sex than with vulnerability.
The second occasion was a straight forward matter of the actor working out why the figure would kneel down to feed someone else’s chickens. As the actor physicalized the moment with the inner monolog a moment of illumination occurred for the actor and the figure. The figure wasn’t simply kneeling to feed a chicken – he was kneeling to ascertain the distance of his farm to his neighbor’s porch.
Self reflection and innovationAt NIDA, I found the LOPPA my most useful tool for clarifying my own directorial choices, in spite of being told that those choices were incorrect.
While the silent and verbal etudes were focused on the figures discovering their objectives, strategies and inner motivations, there seemed little opportunity to clarify why I was choosing certain visual moments over others. I simply knew that they struck a chord with me. It wasn’t until our first quiet voice Inner Monologue LOPPA that I felt completely comfortable with my choices. The choices I had made concerning the figure’s external journey through the ME were validated by the figure’s journey through their own internal landscape.
There arose one innovation that appeared during our LOPPA explorations. We decided to work backwards and take away the voices and the text, also completely removing the actors from the stage. In place of the stage was a white board with cardboard shapes on it representing a Gods eye view of the set. Each actor had a different coloured marker and they were instructed to trace their journey through each ME without speaking. The result was a visual map detailing the physical movement of each figure. Trails, if you will. I also used this ‘map’ in my graduation piece, WASP.
The actors would then step away and discuss any patterns that emerged. This led to several observations including why a certain figure kept retreating behind a chair. We hadn’t seen this on the floor during the LOPPA. But with our Whiteboard LOPPA we were able to see patterns, trails, repetitive retreat behaviours and sloppy entrances and exits.
The LOPPA is an invaluable part of my directorial toolkit. I use it now with cameras running and include some of the footage from our rehearsal of 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. Here, the actors attempted to layer their accents. I am still undecided as to whether an inner monologue with the accent is necessary, but it was great to hear.
With each actor running their inner dialogue and physical movements it can get messy and appear haphazard. But insightful drama can be drawn from the chaos.
After a year of reviewing my writings and disengaging my own directorial choices from those that were suggested by the DE methodology, I present these thoughts and video to the public.
My heartfelt thanks to the actors from ACA, Lukasz Embart, David Bruce and Anna Phillips.
References:Benedetti, J. Stanislavksi & The Actor, 1998.
Kipste, E. Directing Experience Handbook, 2012.
Merlin, B. The Complete Stanislavski Toolkit, 2007
Toporkov, V. Stanislavski in Rehearsal, 1949, Translation by Jean Benedetti, 2001.