I am seated in the front row of the ‘Stripping Acting from Acting’ class. A lady is crying as she delivers her monologue. The trainer reaches out and gently rubs her back reassuring her safety and familiarity.
For a moment, the performer closes her eyes as if she is in another world, where an audience lacks. In her world, she is alone. But quickly, the trainer guides her to breathe deeply and remain calm. “Look,” the trainer tells the actress pointing to the audience. “You are here. We are all here,” she tells the actor who, although tries to remain calm after delivering her monologue, cannot keep tears from flowing.
“You have to bear with the range of emotions,” the trainer says, now directing her speech to the entire class which seats in awe. “We have exposed your feelings which make you vulnerable. But this is a good type of vulnerability.”
The actor is finally allowed to step out of the room to get some air.
This is the work of a great art enthusiast, Kemiyondo Coutinho. Today, she is helping actors and actresses to ‘strip acting from acting’. She says actors don’t need to ‘act’. All they have to do is employ their emotions to the best of their ability.
The late afternoon session taking place on the opening day of Kampala International Theatre Festival, is preparing actors set to deliver their acts during the festival or on other stages.
Another actor takes to the stage. He appears strong. He confesses that he has never been hurt and as such, does not have emotions and feelings to tap from to deliver his emotional act. Relentlessly, pokes until the actor gives in and narrates a moving story about his personal experience.
Accessing one’s energy points can break even the strongest
As soon as he gets in an emotional mood, Kemi directs him to start his monologue. He is deep now, emotional, and hurt. He is uncontrollable. At some point, he breaks down and lies prostrate on the floor. A guy volunteers to hold him as his emotions continue to move him.
One by one, the actors have a chance to not only perform but also get to access their emotions. Just like the first performer they deliver and the performance leaves them speechless and full of emotions.
“I don’t feel like a performer,” one actor says noting that she did not ‘act’ as she had earlier planned. Instead, she accessed her emotions and delivered a smooth, composed act, something she has not done before.
According to Kemi, an actor needs to access and use energy points (chakras) to deliver a great performance. Prior to their monologue, the actors took part in an exercise to access their emotions. “Before going on the stage, actors should have their chakras open and free for access during an act.”
Chakras are energy points throughout one’s body, starting from the feet all the way to the crown of the head.
To guide the upcoming artists, Kemi demonstrates how they can tap from their energy points by stomping feet on the ground. She explains that it is the root of all energy; it passes the divine energy to and from the mother earth, making grounding powerful.
She went ahead to show the participants to draw energy from their sexuality (the area located below the navel and above the pubic bone) this energy influences creativity and also contributes to empowering an individual. If an actor wants to bring in laughter into an act, they need to tap this energy from their stomach area. When it comes to how they can improve their vocals, Kemi guided them to practice throat chakra by rubbing their throats lengthwise. By tapping at the crown of their crown, and heart, participants were able to get more connected to issues around them, and express love to self and others respectively.
“Accessing your chakra allows an actor to be less tense and to access emotions needed in a scene,” Kemi reiterated. Once an actor achieves this, they are more likely to act and be more expressive.
Kemi is good. She knows what questions to ask, and when. She knows what energy points to press or rub, and how. She encourages the trainees with the kindest of words. She is as great a trainer as she is a performer. Don’t miss her performance, Kawuna- you are It! on Thursday 24, November at Ndere Cultural Centre’s main auditorium at 5:00 pm.