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Michael Chekhov's Ensemble Feeling

Chamberlain, Franc (2013) Michael Chekhov's Ensemble Feeling. In: Encountering Ensemble. Performance Books . Bloomsbury Methuen, London, UK, pp. 78-93. ISBN 978-1-4081-5200-3

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I'd suggest that Chekhov is generally thought of as paying particular attention to the individual's creative imagination rather than to the ensemble. In To the Actor, for example, there is very little discussion of ensemble. Chapter 3 is entitled 'Improvisation and Ensemble' but there is very little explicit focus on the ensemble. This explicit emphasis on the individual is there in Lessons for the Professional Actor (du Prey ed,1985), and Lessons for Teachers of his Acting Technique (du Prey, ed, 2000) -- and I think that this is also true of The Path of the Actor (2005). Recent publications on Chekhov (Petit, 2010; Ashperger, 2008) also focus on the individual actor. There is no index reference to 'ensemble' in Chekhov's work in either version of my essay in the First & Second editions of Hodge's book (1999, 2010) -- but there are in my Michael Chekhov (2004).

This explicit emphasis on the individual, I would argue, isn't made in opposition to an emphasis on ensemble, rather Chekhov's work focuses on a network of relationships which might also be termed 'ensembles'. The importance of the ensemble is a given for Chekhov and his exercises in improvisation, atmosphere, Feeling of the Whole etc are ways of developing effective ensemble practices. I don't think that is a particularly difficult point to argue and one piece of evidence would be the reviews of Chekhov's production of The Possessed on Broadway (1939). The Possessed had a poor critical reception but one thing the critics seemed to agree on was the strength of the ensemble (Chamberlain 2004 p.91) -- although some of them read it through a suspicion of ensemble work.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
School of Music, Humanities and Media > Centre for Psychophysical Research
School of Music, Humanities and Media > Drama Research Group
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Depositing User: Franc Chamberlain
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2014 13:01
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2016 11:05


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