The Williamson Technique
"Unprocessed Experience manifests in the body in the form of tension."
"The Body Keeps the Score"
Bessel Van Der Kolk
HISTORY OF THE TECHNIQUE
The actor’s body is the actor’s instrument. To own virtuosity is to be completely present, connected, open, vulnerable and honestly responsive moment-by-unanticipated-moment with total abandon & without apology.
As mind & body are not separate, the Williamson Technique is a complete integrated approach supporting the entire actor’s instrument, inside and out.
COMMON CHALLENGES & BENEFITS FOR THE ACTOR
Guiding awareness in the right direction
Life-Long Self-Discovery: hearing & rediscovering your deepest truths
Really seeing and connecting with others & the world around you
Deepening your imagination & creativity Willingness Release of judgment of self and others/acceptance of "what is" Release of fear & resistance
Not having to anticipate or expect but really trusting in the process of moment-by-unanticipated-moment
The total release of muscle tension and blocked breath so the instrument is rich, responsive and free
Physical Ease Spontaneity Permission to express feelings without apology, tension or blocking
The value of play, with the freedom & creativity of a child
Letting go of shallow Results-Oriented Work in exchange for Process-Oriented Work, setting the stage to allow great work to emerge organically & intuitively
Taking risks and/or falling in the right direction
Taking everything off the other actor(s)
Good acting is a bit like Jazz and the way in which the musicians riff, play & improvise off each other. Like a ballet dancer always does plies' and a musician always does scales, through consistent movement practice your skills will become Muscle Memory and you will be completely free to trust your Actor’s Instrument.
This is done by creating a safe space where everyone in class is free to explore & rediscover themselves, in an environment where everyone has permission to express themselves fully without fear of judgment.
Creating this community for growth and discovery takes time and commitment. Showing up is paramount for this process to work, no exceptions. Often the greatest epiphanies occur on the days we don’t want to be there.
You will not only become a better actor, but most likely you will feel like a better person too! This practice serves the actor who is just getting started as well as the seasoned professional who is looking to stay sharp.
Loyd Williamson‘s mentor as a dancer was Anna Sokolow who worked with Martha Graham for many years. He then went on to study acting with Sanford Meisner.
These two rich experiences gave Loyd the ability to see actors differently. He understood the actors' greatest physical challenges.
It was while studying with Sanford Meisner that he observed and was able to articulate the problem: blocked breath and locking the body.
The blocking of breath creates two negative conditions. It either cuts off the actor from themselves or it disconnects them from the other actor(s). Both destroy good work by either making it lifeless or worse yet, tempting the actor to push, creating superficial or “indicated” acting which feels awful to the actor and is unbearable for everyone watching.
The joy of acting comes when it flows organically, moment-by- unanticipated-moment. But if the actor is stiff as a board nothing flows in or out.
The fix seems simple, just breathe and loosen up. But it isn’t that easy. A lifetime of conditioning has to be unpacked. Many deeply ingrained mental & physical patterns require time to release. The letting go of false fears & rediscovery of oneself is necessary to bring you back to your original childlike freedom and natural talent.
Children’s bodies and breath are free. There is no tension, which leaves them totally open. They are fascinated with everything. They are completely present and connected the to world around them. They are vulnerable and expressive without inhibition. If they don’t like something they scream and in the next moment something else will have them joyfully playing. They are emotionally supple. This is one of the strongest attributes great actors posses.
Now your instrument is ready to transform and embody a character. It's as though 1st year is about clearing the canvas and 2nd year creating the painting of the part you are playing.
It was his awareness of this that inspired Loyd to create a broad range of progressive exercises and explorations done in a safe, nonjudgmental group setting, which softens and opens the breath, body and heart of the actor and ensemble, restoring & freeing them to allow their talent to emerge effortlessly, without apology.
MY JOURNEY INTO THE WILLIAMSON TECHNIQUE
I was raised in a home which made me a huge skeptic of everything. My resistance was off the charts. The power of Lloyd Williamson’s Movement sounded completely overblown, scary and weird.
I was in my first year of training at the Studio and I kept seeing the total unapologetic freedom in my classmates who were taking Movement.
One day, Theo Morin (Williamson Technique teacher) came in to work with us while we were doing our acting exercises. I was in the middle of my exercise when he began to do hands-on work by placing his hand on my diaphragm & encouraging me to soften and give up control, to totally give over. I allowed myself to trust his suggestion completely & surrendered. The moment I did, something in me arose like a volcano from the depths of the earth. Like some kind of magic I started feeling True Raw Emotion bubbling up inside. Suddenly the exercise came to life - everything was spontaneous & truthful. I was totally connected to the both the imaginary circumstances and my acting partner. Every following moment unfolded organically, it was the most free and alive I had ever felt as an actor. Bill, who typically had very little praise, said “good, that’s the right direction.”
In that instant I was sold, I knew there was something there and I wanted to find it out. I immediately enrolled in Movement, not to mention Bill Esper pretty much mandated it, as my intensity was matched with unbelievable tension. Nineteen years later I am the biggest advocate, and teach every moment of the Williamson Technique from my own grounded experience.
It changed my life and my work beyond measure.