Week 10 | Artist 10 of Created to Create 2017 : Liz Shipman, Director/Choreographer & Psychophysical
I am inspired to share a practical and effective psycho-physical approach to both students and professional actor/artists through classes at MCITStudio and Workshops here and abroad.
Liz is a specialist in psychophysical actor training. Her work integrates the theories and practices of Michael Chekhov, Rudolph Laban and Arthur Lessac voice work. Liz was Co-Founder/Artistic Director for the Kings County Shakespeare Company (KCSC) in NYC from 1983-2001, where she was involved in over 50 productions. She has directed and/or choreographed for New Avenue Theatre Project (NYC), Utah Shakespearean Festival, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Old Globe Theatre, Playwrights Project, New Village Arts, OUT ON A LIMB New Plays Festival and lots of little loft-type theatres throughout NYC. She has directed, choreographed and taught movement and acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Technique for the Whole Actor Studio, T. Schreiber Studio, Manhattan Marymount College, The Atlantic Theatre Company, Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts, USD’s Theatre Arts Program and The Old Globe/USD Graduate Acting Program. Favorite projects include Genet/Hamlet, Winter’s Tale, Rough Crossing, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Taming of the Shrew, Midsommer Night’s Dreame, Aphra Behn's The Rover, Blood Wedding, On The Verge, Lysistrata, Fifth of July, On Air and The Creation Project.
Where were you born?
Where do you live/work?
Greater San Diego Area and I travel to work and play whenever possible.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
Life. The Planet. Human Beings. Spirit. The Art that's everywhere. An Inner Drive that seems always to be there…
Tell us about your connection to Michael Chekhov’s work.
MEETING CHEKHOV THROUGH LABAN; A JOURNEY OF EXPLORATION AND INTEGRATION; I have always loved to move, to play, to act, to make things. Through dance, I experienced the connection of movement to emotion and meaning and when I worked as a choreographer at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, I began to notice and realize that good acting was being engaged through the body and when an actor was physically disconnected, his or her performance was less effective and truthful. This recognition planted the seed of what is my life-long journey of discovery into the realm of movement, acting and approaching the art of acting through the body and the imagination.
When I moved to New York in 1982, I began in earnest what has become my life work—studying, exploring and developing movement-based, psycho-physical techniques for training and working with actors in production. I had been exposed to the work of Rudolf Laban in Graduate School and soon found myself immersed in Laban as I pursued Certification through the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies. I received my Certification in 1985. My focused application of LMA (Laban Movement Analysis) was in the development of Laban-based exercises and techniques for actors. In 1983, I co-founded the Kings County Shakespeare Company and during my time with KCSC, I was both Co-Artistic Director and Movement Specialist. We often used Laban-based approaches in rehearsals and the classes we offered.
Around 1987, I met the father of an actor who, after questioning me about my movement-based approach, introduced me to Michael Chekhov’s TO THE ACTOR. I was thrilled and amazed and during the ensuing years began studying and integrating the Chekhov work (as I understood it from his writings) into my teaching and directing. However, it was not until 2004 that I actually pursued training in the technique. Since then, the Chekhov work has become a most invaluable aspect of my teaching, coaching and directing work. Through the Michael Chekhov Association, I began my more formal instruction in the technique and joined the international Chekhov Community where I met, Joanna Merlin, Lenard Petit, Ted Pugh, Fern Sloan, David Zinder, Enrica Dal Zio and Marjolein Baars among many extraordinary individual Chekhov practitioners from all over the world.
Over the years, I have made the Chekhov Work my own. It is now indispensable to all my work, whether as director, choreographer, teacher or acting coach. Having studied Laban, Chekhov and more in my pursuit of understanding, the actor as artist, and after teaching and directing using a psycho-physical approach for many years, I am now considered a Master Teacher of Psycho-physical Acting Techniques.
In 2013, I co-founded the Meisner/ Chekhov Integrated Training Studio in San Diego, CA. We specialize in both approaches to the acting process and their integration.
How do you work with overcoming fear/doubt?
I am not a very fearful person, but I guess that I am determined and cannot accept that I can’t do what I want to do. When I do create obstacles—and I do—I manage to push through and just do what needs to be done. Sometimes I’m like a dog with a bone.
What is your greatest obstacle in working with self?
I once did some work with a hypnotherapist and discovered in a session that the walls that I perceived before me were ALL self-created. Knowing this about myself actually helps me self-direct away from the trap.
How do you heal from rejection?
It hurts, but spending time worrying about it is a waste. I sit with it a bit, but continue to move forward, because there is not another choice.
What are you inspired by NOW?
I am excited about sharing my work with actors at my Studio and wherever I have the opportunity to work. I love to direct and feel the most “ME" when I am collaborating with actors on a play—new or old, Shakespeare or a brand new work. I find that I am inspired by new work and have been blessed in the last few years to have worked on several original plays.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Never give up. Follow your dreams. Go out and get what you want. Don't wait around for others to discover you and your genius. Don't ever take no or wait for an answer.
Who has had a powerful influence on your work?
Rudolf Laban, Michael Chekhov, Arthur Lessac, Rudolf Steiner, Joanna Merlin and all the Michael Chekhov Association teacher/mentors in addition to my Chekhovian peers and Enrica Dal Zio & Bonnie Johnston (best friends and sounding boards).
What is your next project or a recent project?
Always on the horizon are the new and ongoing classes, events and performances at MCITStudio. My most recent directory project was an original play, ON AIR, by an amazing playwright, Lisa Kirasian that was presented as part of Out on a Limb New Plays Festival in San Diego. I’ve been doing some directorial consulting this year up in LA for a Puppetry/Object Theatre piece as well. I’m waiting for Lisa Kirasian’s next play project. I truly loved our collaboration!
How do you reward yourself for a job well done?
In the days that I was working for Colleges and Universities, I rewarded myself with some token or gift. I might also decide to give myself an experience to celebrate. Now that I am again living the life of a starving artist, I simply reflect and enjoy and search for what’s next.
What are your hopes and dreams?
Oh…there are so many… I hope for a more peaceful and just world. I hope for creative opportunities. I hope that my garden will continue to grow. I dream of travel and artistic possibilities.
What is your advice to self in pursuing the business side of work? Do you have advice for making/producing your own work?
I have always been involved in creating work, whether founding a a Theatre/Dance company or an Actor Training Studio. I am a big believer in generating your own work. If I don't do it for myself, who will? My advice to myself is…see it, want it, make it happen. Also, visualization and impulsive repetition is key.
What advice do you have for auditioning?
As a director and as Co-Artistic Director of MCITStudio, I am mostly on the other side of the table. Here is what I look for: authenticity, connection to self, full-body presence in-the-moment and truth. My main advice is: 1) know who you are auditioning for (research); 2) connect with the “room”; 3) select material that best shows you and maximize your strengths and know it backwards & forwards; 4) make a connection and don’t be afraid to show yourself; 5) know and believe that the people you are sharing your work with want you to succeed.
10 things that make you happy are…
4. New & Stimulating Ideas
5. Beauty (an extended definition)
8. Creating/Making Art
In 2017, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project. What CREATED TO CREATE INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2017. When Beginning, January, 1st, 2017 Who ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order. Goal Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.