The Radiant Actor with Connie Rotunda

In Actors by MaryBeth Smith

Connie Rotunda

Connie Rotunda is a professional actor and theatre professor, as well as a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm. In her ongoing research and exploration she discovered the acting technique formulated by Michael Chekhov, and bells of recognition began to go off in her brain.

Michael Chekhov (1891 – 1955) was considered to be one of the most original actors of his generation. He was a nephew of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, and he was nominated for an Oscar in 1945 for his role as the Freudian analyst in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound.  His roster of students included Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Quinn, Clint Eastwood, Dorothy Dandridge, Yul Brynner, Patricia Neal, Jack Palance, Elia Kazan, and many others.

While studying under Stanislavsky, the founder of Method Acting, Chekhov diverged from his mentor to start his own school. In his search for an entrance into the creative state, he developed an approach to acting that would release inhibitions and self-imposed limitations.  Chekhov’s approach works through principles and practices of whole-body movement and the use of the imagination to enlarge the image of the self. The Chekhov Technique seeks a connection between how making an outer physical action evokes an inner response. The sensitivity needed to respond to this unfolding process requires training the body to be a fine instrument– developed, expressive, and available.   

Connie immediately recognized parallel ideas and generosity of spirit, as both Moshe Feldenkrais and Michael Chekhov found their own ways of expanding one’s self image and fulfilling human potential. She found “a synergy — a seamless shifting of our internal choreography — dancing between Dr. Feldenkrais’s scientifically human approach and Chekhov’s spiritually artistic approach.”

Her research and curiosity was guided, she says, by imagining Feldenkrais and Chekhov sitting down together for a friendly chat. “Feldenkrais and Chekhov walk into a bar. . .” she quotes the classic set-up line. She found that both held a deep appreciation for breath, openness, wholeness, and the potency of the individual. She felt a profound resonance, each with the other, in their approach to ease in one’s body, a flourishing creativity and imagination, and a free emotional life.

At the 2019 Feldenkrais® Conference in Boulder, Connie will present a workshop in which participants can experience how the work of these two thought-leaders flows seamlessly together. Having taught many actors with the two methods in confluence, she says, “I have been surprised. . .by the way Chekhov’s work flows into an Awareness Through Movement® lesson, and how discoveries in the ATM® flow back into the Chekhov work.” As past participants have experienced this dialog, they encountered new ease and a deepening in their work. Most importantly, she observes, “They developed a more nuanced shift between the outer and inner worlds an actor must sustain in performance.”

Don’t think this workshop is only for actors! For Michael Chekhov, the actors’ Ideal Artistic Center is located in the region of the heart. Anyone who is interested in expanding their capacity for perception, empathy, and creativity will find a unique way to make these abstract concepts concrete and experiential, on-stage or off. Previous participants have discovered how to be more present in the moment and sense more freedom in action and in life. Connie’s long experience with the work of both Feldenkrais and Chekhov will deepen your understanding of what it means to be a whole person.

screen shot of Connie Rotunda and Elinor Silverstein on YouTube

Learn more about Connie’s 2019 Conference presentation in this interview with Elinor Silverstein

 

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