Luke Ford writes: Robert Rickover talks with Belinda Mello, an Alexander Technique teacher in New York City. Belinda discusses ways in which the Technique can help an actor prepare and perform, as well as why the Alexander Technique is a taught at the world’s leading acting schools.
Belinda: “When training, an actor is training his whole self. They’re not just training their body and their voice separately.”
“Relaxation for an actor does not mean lying on the sofa and watching TV. It means being present, alive in all of themselves, but not rushing. That presence means learning to let go of all that unnecessary tension. While letting go of that tension, they become more aware and more open. Alexander Technique gives an actor of process of learning how to be.”
“Alexander Technique is about stimulus and response. The actor wants to embody a whole set of feelings in a situation of conflict. We don’t have theater and film about somebody having a good day. We tend to be under a lot of pressure.
“The actor has to face what most people would rather avoid in their day. So the actor has to learn not to react in that ‘I want to hide’ way. They have to show in their embodiment of the moment a willingness to go for it. Alexander Technique helps an actor not to bring habit on to the set and the stage.
“There’s a performance of a Shakespeare play on the stage in New York. It’s a beautiful production but one of the actors who’s playing the romantic lead, is able to embody the dark troubled aspect of the character in the first half of the play. And we see it in his physicality. His shoulders round forward. His chest sink down.
“The problem is that this is also his way of being so that he is not breathing fully. Later in the play, when his character experiences love and joy, he’s not able to open his heart. So he not only got a bad review but the play got a bad review for not elevating to another place. Alexander Technique would help him embody this extended range.”
Robert: “There’s this old  movie called The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton who played the hunchback. That was a role that required him to contort himself during the performance. He even had to wear a special outfit to do that. He injured himself badly doing that role.”
“Being an actor may require you to take on some unpleasant postural sets. To be able to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt you and doesn’t become habitual for you.”
“A good actor is able to get energy from the audience.”
Belinda: “The audience reinforces that I am in the present, rather than what should I be doing next? When the audience is with you, it’s like having a wonderful partner.”