Acrobat of the Heart: The Video

Acting is not something that can be learned from a book… or from a video. It is an interactive process. This video will not be a “training” video in the way an exercise video might be. It will be an exploration of how the psychophysical approach to acting can enable actors to learn from their own blockages and hesitations, and it will be a study of how the teacher can help actors enter whatever uncharted territories they wish to explore.

A Training Video for Actors

The video will offer clear, straightforward images of the physical exercises that Jerzy Grotowski taught; and show examples of how different actors find their own ways to use the work.

An Insight Video for Teachers

The video will have a special voice-over track for teachers, which describes how one can witness the difficulties a student is encountering, listen to what a student is saying, and be most helpful in encouraging a student’s progress.

Whole-body listening

Although this psychophysical training begins with strong movement and great energy, at its core it is an invitation to the actor to listen with their whole body; it is a training in receptivity and reaction – rather than a practice of making things happen or manufacturing emotions.

Form and Freedom, Risk and Safety

Jerzy Grotowski’s exercises are not prescriptions: they are provocations aimed at stimulating the actor’s imagination and creativity. At the same time, they are also a support structure providing dependable forms that the actor can employ to build truly repeatable performances. Because this physical approach to acting stimulates actors to risk their strongest emotions and their deepest truths, it also teaches actors how to create real safety and generosity in their practice.

What’s in the video:

  • Physical training and voice exercises.
  • Real-time views of how the exercises are taught.
  • Close-ups of particular physical details in the exercises.
  • A clear progression showing how the exercises can develop from technical forms to living containers of image and emotion.
  • Examples of how the actor can progress from the exercises to work with text, scene and monologue.
  • Teacher-student interactions that illustrate the push and pull of the learning process itself.
  • Examples of the difficulties and the break-throughs that actors may encounter as they engage with this work.
  • Voice-over insights for teachers for each section which can be switched on or off.

Where this began

In 1967, I was asked to participate in a workshop led by an unknown director from Poland: Jerzy Grotowski. His physical approach to acting was unlike anything any of us in that workshop had ever experienced. The work inspired an acting vitality and an exuberance in performance that I felt viscerally… but which didn’t understand at all at the time. It was only during my twenty-five years of teaching acting at Emerson College and NYU that I came to appreciate just what it was that made this training so powerful.

Slowly, I discovered that it was not the pure, kinesthetic vitality of this work that allowed it to help actors find such freedom and joy in their acting. It was how the work enabled actors to place their entire selves into the work, converting their very fears and hesitations into creative sources.

In 2000, I wrote a book, An Acrobat of the Heart, which describes how a group of actors encounter this work. But since so much of the work begins with the actor’s body, the verbal descriptions in the book leave a gap. This video aims to bridge that gap.


Summer 2018:

Initial filming

Fall 2018:

Initial editing

Winter 2018:

Instructional voice-overs and additional filming

Spring 2019:

Early access version shared with supporters

Summer 2019:

Final release