GREGORY SCOTT CUMMINS
12021 Wilshire Blvd. # 645
Los Angeles, CA. 90025
Permanent Service: (310) 285-7759
E-mail address - email@example.com
TEACHING QUALIFICATION AND PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT
As a lover of acting, the theater arts, and especially the stage, my goal and desire has always been to persistently learn and study, to grow as an actor, to perform, to make a living professionally, and then to teach. I loved being a student; the theater, the creativity, and the magic were all sources of inspiration, and despite my success at making a living for seventeen years now as a professional actor, at this time in my life, I find myself not nearly fulfilled. I am being pulled inescapably back to completing my original goal-teaching.
I have always loved to teach. As a naturally intuitive person, I have always gotten along and worked well with all types of personalities. I love training with others-guiding, helping, nurturing, and giving, and knowing who needs a gentle word, praise, or encouragement. I believe that I have always had a natural inclination towards teaching others, and I am confident that I am good at it, even going back to my successes in team sports, or further back to my childhood. Quite simply, I like people-they seem to respond to my enthusiasm, my sense of humor, my affection, my tenacity, and my love for what I am doing. I have always been an ensemble and team player focusing on helping or guiding others for the greater good, rather than for personal attention or glory. In retrospect, I realize that the influence of my best teachers has served to enliven my already strong motivation to teach, and as role models, they have set vivid examples.
Similarly, one advantage that I have as a teacher is the fact that I have studied for so many years, in a variety of institutions, and with a wide range of teachers. With each teacher and class I kept extensive journals in order to remember and articulate what I learned-to be a better actor and eventually a better teacher. Especially in all of my Masters training, I was taught to articulate the process, ask questions, analyze and critique others, give direction, and know what we were doing and why. The experience of teaching these elements to other students made us better actors. That is why I firmly believe in class participations. Students critiquing other students, discussing what works and what doesn't and why, forces students not only to learn from their own successes and mistakes, but to articulate and learn from others on a much deeper
Interaction, if guided and kept cooperative, also creates camaraderie and dissuades competition. This is how I was taught and how I teach others.
There are many, many different ways of approaching this thing called acting, and I have opened myself up to, studied, and accomplished the art of acting by learning and using just about every possible acting method. And, I must say, at one time or another, I have utilized, professionally, most or part of everyone's teaching that I have absorbed. Furthermore, I have learned a great deal from my directing experiences, which enabled me to find even more personal fulfillment and thus success. Over the years, I have also concluded that there is no one way to learn or teach acting. I will write my book someday, but there are so many methods, and as a teacher, because of my training and experience, I realize that I can approach training an actor in endless ways.
In the early years, I was exposed primarily to classical theater: high degrees of text analysis, theory, acting exercises, improvisations, character development, character history, how the character enhances the scene, the scene to the play, and performance. I was trained: just do it; don't think about it; (almost the British-Olivier style of creating a character) outside first, inside second; let the text draw out the character; use of imagination; great awareness of the body and physical presence; how to use space; give and take focus; playing the moment; listening; text as symphony and poetry, vocal highs and lows, iambic pentameter, cadence, etc; how to work on proscenium or round stage; freeing the body physically, psychologically, and emotionally from the barriers and walls we put up in life; to regain those childlike freedoms and impulses; to free the body, mind, and voice from those blocks which impede a character from developing fully and honestly within ourselves without inhibition or great self awareness; and also to learn how to work effectively with an audience.
As the years progressed and my ability heightened, I was exposed to the "method" style of acting. Through the exercises, improvisations, extensive psychological emotional, and personal exploration, organic methods of creating character through personal experiences, the physical and vocal are created organically through finding our own internal reality first. Techniques and exercises such as visualization, affective memory (exploration of personal experiences and using them as a character requires), imaginative personalization and
substitution, sense memory (recreating or creating touch, sight, smell, taste, hearing, temperature, etc.), and improvisations to release the instrument (body, mind, and voice) are all methods that I studied and utilized order to create a higher consistency, a deeper personal reality, and inner truth for the actor. This training also included doing exercises and scene work on play and character objectives, scene goals and objectives, being very specific, using moment to moment "actions" or choices to achieve those scene objectives or goals for the character which are appropriate, interesting, and original. Additionally, we learned how to create an inner character then an outer character, and a long and short term character history, the use of a physical activity to enhance a character or scene, a higher importance of listening, playing the moment, creating life and spontaneity, action and reaction. I learned heightened freedom of the body through relaxation, physical exercise and awareness, and neutralization, which gains control of the physical instrument and allow either choices or organic movement to develop, create, or enhance a character through the actor. Through relaxation and exercise, working on range, vocal placement, breath control, resonance, and articulation, I learned to free the vocal instrument. Advanced teachings included accents by using phonetics and vocal placement.
Continuing my training, another intensive year focused on more in depth study of Shakespeare and other forms of classical theater, as well as more contemporary classics
(Checkhov, Ibsen, Shaw, Brecht, O'Neill, and many others). For example, in Shakespeare, I studied higher degrees of text analysis to enhance the acting performance-including diction, syntax, punctuation, sense, meter, rhythm, lineation, use of stage directions (explicit or implied), symbolism, images, tonal sounds of words, silence, prose, blank verse, rhymed verse, all other verse forms, song, digression, juxtaposition, interruptions, repetitions, and the many other scripted signals to delineate character or relationships, as well as the text's relation to the history and the social mannerisms and mores of the time. This relates to all other period pieces and contemporary pieces as well.
My teaching and acting abilities have also been significantly enhanced by my training as a director, just as my directing has been enhanced by my abilities as an actor and teacher. Stanislovsky said, "a director is a teacher, artist, writer, and administrator." I studied directing techniques and theories from the teachings of many of the great directors-Stanislovsky, Klurman, Strausberg, Crawford, Kazan, Meyerhold, Shaw, Brecht, Reinhardt, Gielgud, Guthrie,
and others. My Bachelors thesis compared and contrasted the directing and production techniques of John Gielgud and Tyrone Guthrie on their separate productions of "Hamlet." There is such a vast amount of material regarding what it takes to be a good director and so many different ways to approach directing; therefore, I'd like to briefly articulate some of the techniques that I incorporate and use.
Over the years, I have learned the director's responsibility to the audience, to the actors, to the playwright, and how to illuminate a play as written by the playwright for the audience. A director must trust himself and have self-confidence, a sense of security, stability, and organization. He must be a confident and inspirational leader who is willing to take risks, and have imagination, aggressiveness, and clarity. Thus, as the director, my initial task is to prepare the play, to interpret another person's material (the playwright), but not to initiate it-I must use the ingenuity to illuminate, not to cloud. The director must find the spine of the play, the core, what ties the play and the characters together form the beginning to the end, and how each character connects to the spine of the play, and also to each other (which is the conflict). The director must find the concept of what the playwright is saying by letting the play come at him, receiving its feelings without bias, manipulation or pre-conception. He must analyze the play, what it is about, how it works structurally-the builds, the valleys, and the climaxes. Then he must take the play apart, from acts to scenes, then scenes to mini scenes, then to moments, and then to beats. And, in the analysis of each character and the relationship between characters, he must decipher if they change in the course of the play and why.
Once this is done, the director must use, deal with, and integrate every theatrical element to illuminate the play-the proper use of stage space to create environment, the scenic or set design, lighting, furniture and props, costumes, make-up, and the relationship of the play and its characters to the people of the time (the historical context), as well as determining the character's history.
In conveying all of these elements to his actors, I believe that the director is responsible for directing from a third eye; he must give an actor suggestions, images, and ideas, arouse his imagination, possibly use exercises and improvisations, inspire, assist the actor in finding the spine of the role (super-objective) and aspects of the character (sub-objectives) in order to help the actor create the character the playwright wants by using the actor's abilities and experiences rather than the director's. The director must enhance and harness the actor's impulses as opposed to starting off by imposing or restricting them in the manner that he would perform. In the same way that an acting teacher must guide and illuminate the individual gifts and talents of a student actor, the director must also remain flexible to the gifts and talents of his actors. Although, in the end, the director carries the responsibility of the entire play, and has the right, and sometimes must, use line readings or impose his will as a last resort.
The director also has the responsibility to create and show the actors the set and the acting spaces, explain furniture, or possibly block in advance. However, I prefer to let the actors explore moments and scenes and then mold them and incorporate these into my vision of what the playwright wants. Within a given framework, exploring then blocking or blocking then exploring can both be done with validity. Here, the length of the rehearsal period can be a factor.
Blocking must enhance the story by creating visual images with bodies. The director must know the strong and weak stage positions, establish focus through the use of other actors, understand contrasting or contrary movement, the use of levels and the use of space between actors, costumes, triangulation, and lighting, etc. Therefore, a director must have a strong visual sense, thinking scenically, conceptually, and symbolically with color and lighting. I was taught and have always found that creating a thorough production book is absolutely essential for everything mentioned to this point.
Casting, of course, is most crucial after I have analyzed the text and it's characters. In an actor, I look for adaptation, flexibility, and honesty; vocal, physical, and mental attributes or problems; energy; the ability to project; dependability, concentration, insight, intelligence, preparation, attitude, punctuality, unselfishness, and balance and chemistry between cast members as well as myself-sometimes it just takes good intuition.
Finally, as a director, I am the general bringing out the best in my men and women, always in control, willing to take and allow risk taking, adaptable to change, but always staying true to the through line of the play. Like a football or baseball coach, I make it my goal to enhance and encourage individual abilities and achievement, but never at the expense of the team goals, which is another area where I have had extensive experience, ability, and success. The experience of directing, studying theories, learning the many different techniques and implementing them has given me not only the most remarkable personal fulfillment, but it has made me a much more knowledgeable and competent actor as well. More importantly, in numerous areas of theater, and on so many different levels, my experiences prepared me to be
an even more effective teacher.
Additionally, although my acting and director training and teaching for the first twelve years was solely for the stage, due to my 20 years of acting experience in film and television, there are many things that I can teach to others in dealing with the camera. While most things stay the same, because of the different use of physical space, where the audience is replaced by the camera lens, concentration and complete honesty are critical. Similarly, because there is no need to project the voice or enlarge body movements for an audience, many physical, blocking, and vocal choices must be simplified, creating a complete honesty with the other actors and completely real moments, with only the slightest third eye are needed for the camera. Method training, here, was incredibly valuable for me and is for any student.
My experience also extends to audition techniques for stage and theater, as well as for the film and television industry, which differ in many ways. I am highly familiar with how to present prepared audition monologues, as well as cold readings, personal appearance, resumes for stage and screen, and accepted and unaccepted interplay between the actor and auditioners. Furthermore, my recent classes from U.C.L.A.'s Extension program, Directing for Film, Cinematography, and Independent Film Production, have expanded my knowledge of the camera, and the director's role in film. Some examples include: composition, focus, lighting, editing, blocking, colors, angles, types of film stock, lenses-all types of shooting choices and styles-all of which enhance the director vision. These things have fine-tuned and added to everything I've learned in front of the camera as a professional actor.
Undeniably, there are innumerable elements to teach as part of an ongoing process. Personally, I always begin with basic honesty and truth, working for emotional, psychological, physical, and vocal freedom, and build from there. Through learning so many different techniques, exercises, and lessons, I found that as I acted professionally and taught that there is no role that cannot be performed by any actor, who is exposed to, and masters, a wide variety of acting techniques. Therefore, by teaching as many techniques as possible, an endless versatility is forged, by which I, or anyone, have the tools to create, enhance and perform any role that has been or will be written.
My wide range of training and experience would enable me to teach any pre-determined curriculum, or if allowed, I could design my own curriculum depending on the needs and abilities of my students.
In closing, as an actor, director, and as a teacher, I have a strong knowledge of classical and contemporary dramatic literature, as well as the relationship of the text to the history of any era. Meanwhile, I have an even stronger ability to take what is on the page and bring it to life-for it was written to be performed, and the actor's job, which is to find the author's intention for that play or script and then for his character, must then develop the ability to become the instrument with which it is brought to life. In order to develop, create, and illuminate the human experience with originality and truth, my ultimate teaching goal is to assist the student actor in discovering his/her own inner truth and personal honesty. I place faith in the belief that it is crucial for the actor to understand himself-what makes him "the way he is" and why. Extensive self analysis and exploration grants the actor greater knowledge and control of self, which, in the end, makes him more capable of applying himself to all of the psychological, emotional, physical, and vocal dynamics of a given character. My greatest personal desire and inspiration as an instructor of acting is to succeed in my job of inspiring, guiding, nurturing, and igniting a spark within all of my students in order to help them achieve personal growth not only as actors, but more importantly, as human beings; and, I take that responsibility very seriously, with sincere appreciation, honor, and respect.