Studying Stanislavski in Ferrara. Grundtvig InService Training

I was really excited when the information on this In service training with Teatro Nucleo ( Ferrara, Italy)  on Stanislakian methods was passed on by our friends in Italy. I applied for the grant through Grundtvig which covered the whole costs of the travel, course fees & subsistence during the trip.  Opportunties like that do not come along everyday & I am hungry to learn & develop my practice. Having studied Stanislavski at University (but not in great depth & not certainly not with a view to the practice I have developed since then working with drama & performance with disadvantaged groups) I was familiar with the subject matter. I was keen to learn more about styles & techniques which will enhance my work Directing our professional theatre productions here at Headway Arts such as ‘Lives Worth Living’ – a piece to which a ‘method acting’ approach would lend itself very well.   So when the application was successful I was, of course delighted and made plans to be on the move…
To prepare we were sent a 28 page essay written by course leader on the subject & background, required reading for the course given by host. I re-read  Stanislavskian texts this was suggested by course leader but done on my own initiative I looked at travel guides of the Bologna region.  I also used I pad apps & other online language preparation/research & ipad application ‘Easy Italian’ – on my own initiative as I wanted to be able to speak basic sentences & also love the language!!
As we all would be travelling alone I thought it might be good to contacted course participants to see if we could co-ordinate/share taxis or other transport. I received replies from everyone but alas we were all arriving in different ways so we could nt share. Still we’d broken the ice & began to get to know each other.
I also researched regional art, history & geography not knowing anything about Ferrara I was delighted to discover it is a renaissance treasure & historical links with the notorious Lucretia Borgia & made plans to visit her stamping ground once there.
I also found out there had been a recent earth quake – really quite a serious one – but I wasn’t going to let that put me off the adventure. 
I had a good if long trip there needing to take taxi, 2 flights & a bus ride from Bologna airport, arriving the day before the course began so had time to acclimatise, buy from the farmers market, explore the old city & eat amazing sage buttered pumpkin cappelatchi  in the quiet beautiful piazzas.   The city is all red hues, soft yellows & sienna brickwork with heavy mists in the evenings deadening the sounds of the city.  It is full of bikes & no cars – at first the silence is eerily but pleasantly surprising.  The nice hotel was a good choice, bang in the city centre in the shadow of the castle where Lucretia lived.  I even got to walk down her secret staircase which she used to slip out into the merchant city of renaissance Ferrara.  I could almost see her .  This meant we could explore in our free moments.  The venue for the course was within walking distance, both economical & convenient. I also enjoyed taking lots of photographs of the people & places within the city which I hope to develop into an exhibition in the new year.
Once we met the group over a welcome meal  we soon began to work well together. The marvellous Ms Dora Fanelli co-ordinated  & met our every need. 
The course was led by Horacio CzertokCourse Director, President of Teatro Nucleo who proved to be a very generous educator, talented experienced practitioner & all round very interesting person.  He knew Grotowski & so had it straight from the font! He showed us the real tears of Bergman! Horacio shared his life experiences & professional knowledge & was wonderfully inspiring. It was great to spend time with someone so inspiringly committed to his work, the truth of situations  & striving for authenticity.  Sharing with us insight into his work within prisoners & other marginalised people, you could see how much he valued people from all backgrounds.  Understanding how we can make great art with  real people.  A breath of fresh air from the snobbish arts posers & elitist cliques who plague the north east scene & dont believe this is possible. The learning comprised a mix of formal lectures, practical (individual & group) exercises, morning warmups & body work (with Andrea ), voice work, and video sessions. All in we formally worked for a total of 38 hours investigating Stanislavskian methodology, in particular method acting.  We worked together as a group & in pairs creating scenes through applying the method, then acting them out to each other.  This was a great learning experience but also emotionally intense & physically exhausting as you are working with your own feelings & emotions, conjuring your own experiences to feed the role. 
The course programme also included additional evening excursions to amazing cultural venues (we were onstage at the Teatro Communal, Ferrara) , tours of theatres referencing & experiencing the work there, meetings with groups of practitioners; we were also given orientation tours of the city by a professional tour guide who was excellent & very culturally & historically informed.  We also observed the practice in action with a group run by the course tutor. A very well organised/structured/thought out useful , a rich & balanced learning programme.
We had a great group comprising of folk from Finland, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Italy & UK who all got on very well & bonded quickly into a group, through this intense unique experience, which helped each other learn.  In the evenings we laughed a lot & talked lots about our learning & shared our other work & other ideas, hoping to from future international partnerships. I was sad to leave but also pretty exhausted & in need of time to reflect, let things settle & to embed the learning in my memory & get my voice back (lost – despite excellent training – from talking too much!)
I have scheduled cascade training in my organisation  to pass on learning techniques to my team. Also with groups of learners within my organisation (these sessions were planned before I went as  an aim of the training). I will shortly be using the technques learnt to prepare actors for our next production.
The group is continuing to network & exchange practice supporting each others use of the techniques learnt. Course providers have encouraged us all to keep in touch to see how our practice grows. The tutors have made themselves available on line to support this.
We hope to develop those future partnership projects together & maintain the network both formally as organisations & privately as friends. We have shared our photos. Friendships made there may result in private visits or sightseeing holidays to each others country’s. 
One participant made a blog which I am following. We all shared ideas on our work and other techniques we knew this was an important part of the meeting – learning also from each other as all were skilled practitioners in drama or theatre or arts,  therefore the informal learning opportunities were also very good.  This kind of networking is so rare & so valuable.
Cascade training scheduled for next week within own organisation.  I am planning workshops for next year as part of an arts festival we are producing. Verbal reporting session has happened within the organisation.  Tweets have been made.  Pictures have been uploaded to Facebook as have regular updates about the course.
This was a really great opportunity & excellent interesting & useful experience both professionally & on a personal development level.   I would recommend it to anyone.  I have never seen a course available on this subject in my own country & would also struggle to fund it, so probably would never have been able to study this method at this time in this context. But also the added experience of the mobility; working internationally was exceptional, added amazing richness & a certain kind of energy to the whole experience – so very memorable – I learnt all kinds of things.  Also it was a challenge to travel alone, which I was very nervous about, but which was very rewarding, an accomplishment.  It was very interesting & educational to meet the other participants & hear about their lives & their work too. This is an important part of the learning – finding out about each others cultural frameworks.
And of course now I know the secrets of the method – I will be preparing…..
Alison Walton-Robson
Creative Director

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of all our funders which currently includes:

  • Arts Council England
  • Blyth Town Council
  • Community Foundation
  • Edward Gostling Foundation – RW Mann Trust – Shears Foundation
  • Erasmus+
  • Great Northumberland
  • Hadrian Trust – High Sheriff of Northumberland – Rothley Trust
  • Heritage Fund
  • National Lottery Community Fund
  • Northumberland County Council
  • Postcode Community Trust
  • Sir James Knott Trust
  • The 1989 Willan Trust – Wellesley Trust
  • the Coalfields Regeneration Trust