I recently found a picture of me that is from a key experience for me with the Alexander Technique—a story I often tell when introducing the Technique to performers. The moment occurred several months after I played Cordelia in King Lear at Washington University in St. Louis. Morris Carnovsky was King Lear. (Carnovsky was one of the original members of the Group Theatre, had played Lear all over the world, including with Peter Brook.) Given this amazing opportunity, I worked diligently to prepare myself for the role. Performing with Carnovsky was as powerful an experience as I had imagined, and I was proud of my work and grateful to have played the role. A few months after the show closed, Marjorie Barstow, my Alexander Technique teacher, came to Washington University to do a workshop. I asked her to help me use the AT for one of Cordelia’s monologues. When I began the monologue in the play, I moved my hand towards Carnovsky who, as Lear, was sleeping in front of me. I had always wanted my hand to move towards his face in a way that carried all of Cordelia’s love with it. I could never quite get my hand to do what I wanted—no matter what I said to myself, my hand looked stiff. As Marjorie Barstow helped me to use the Alexander Technique, my hand did what I had wanted it to do! Then I began to speak, and suddenly my voice was responding to my ideas about the text and its expression. I had done OK with this in performing the role, but now my voice was working for me more than OK. And then I suddenly realized that some of the words meant something more, something different from what I had thought. I understood the text better. At that point I was so overwhelmed that I could not continue the monologue. I had had strong acting moments before, but how they happened was always a bit of a mystery. This was no mystery—I had consciously used the Alexander Technique and all of the work I had done on the role and this monologue was not only working, it was also expanding my understanding and expression.
Director, Alexander Technique Training and Performance Studio