Dale is a graduate of Actors Centre Australia (ACA), Sydney and The Actors’ Ensemble/Shakespeare Alive, New York. He has been a tutor at ACA for the past 6 years and taught at the annual International Michael Chekhov Workshop and Festival at Connecticut College (USA) in 2016. As an actor, Dale has most recently performed in the National Theatre of Britain’s Warhorse and Cyrano de Bergerac for the Sydney Theatre Company. His work in New York includes many Shakespeare productions, classic American plays and devised story works with the Actors’ Ensemble. Dale is now an Ensemble member with the State Theatre Company of South Australia for 2017 and 2018.
Currently, he teaches for Actors Centre Australia in Adelaide, Ann Peters School of Acting, Film and Television Studio International and Ink Pot Arts.
Where do you live/work?
Living in the coastal town of Maslin Beach, South Australia – just outside Adelaide.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
My wife and two girls are the centre of my life. That is a given. I watch my one year old dissolve into the observation of a leaf and if I am soft enough, by watching her, I, too, can dissolve.
The actors’ exploration of craft and the theatre space offer this same promise. The promise that we can experience the bliss of being released from our self-obsessed daily lives and enter the sphere of potential rather than be bound in scientific reality. The artist’s path is one of daring to believe in their infinite capacity and bring a little divine contact with inspiration back to the floorboards of the stage.
I am aware that this is a grand proposal and by its very nature, not something that can be consciously articulated. That is to say, the self-awareness of attempting to be in control of a process such as “inspiration”, is likely to fail. The very heart of inspiration must surely reside in the unknowable realms of unconscious surrender.
With this is mind, it goes without saying that truly inspired moments are rare for many of us. And in my experience, these moments tend to happen more often in the classroom than the theatre itself. In the classroom, free from the grasp of public critique, or family feedback, the student can (once they trust the safety of the group) allow themselves this joy of creation.
In Jersey Grotowski’s words, “the body vanishes, burns, and the spectator sees only a series of visible impulses.” This is why I continue to work in the theatre. Because I long for the gaps between “burning” to become shorter, as an artist and as a witness to the art.
Michael Chekhov talks about the actors’ desire for transformation. I feel quite certain that this is not simply an actors’ desire, but a human one. Life can so easily justify itself as a meaningless experience, something that happens to us until we die. But the actor knows through experience that they can actively guide the inner event of their own humanity. In other words, we can create our experience rather than be a casualty of circumstance.
This is a delicate field to speak about. Much self-help literature is built upon this principle; the idea that we are the creators of our reality if only we would believe that it is so. I am currently of the opinion that this proposition has sturdy validity, but I also recognise the dangers of this formula. It is a path that is wide enough for only one foot, when most of us have two. We are not god, the creator of all things and yet we can experience ourselves as the willful shepherd of our feeling life through the actors’ skills of transformation. In turn, this capacity not only transforms our experience of self, but also the quality with which our relationships then unfold. But we should not be fooled that this capacity is supreme. It is only by acknowledging both transcendent capacity and earth-bound dust that we best serve the story and our human growth.
I act because it just happens to be the most efficient way I learn to live. That may change. There was a time when painting served this purpose. There are moments when conversation does the trick, or a walk through the old quarry down to the beach. But, it is the theatre that has held this seat of growth with the most potency and longevity in my life.
When did you find Chekhov work, and how did this influence your development?
Without being aware of it, I believe I was already exposed to the fundamental principles of Michael Chekhov in primary school. In the Steiner education, one of the classes in our curriculum was a movement based art (often ensemble movement) called Eurythmy. Although there are many differences between Eurythmy and Mr. Chekhov’s exercises, the relationship with space, qualities of movement and imagination all interweave. Chekhov was of course very interested in what Steiner was exploring with movement and speech work. It wasn’t until I was 20 and invited to join The Actors’ Ensemble for their production of Kasper Hauser that I truly became conscious of Michael Chekhov’s work as a defined technique.
Talk about aspects of Chekhov Technique that resonate the most with you today.
Almost every class I teach awakens a new obsession in the work for me. When we are sufficiently available to it, every aspect of M.C’s technique reveals itself as a doorway into the limitless potential of human experience.
At present I am consumed by the questions that arise out of our relationship with directions in space. Why is it that an inner movement upwards is so different to downward? Do we really have a hidden universal soul-comprehension of weight verses levity? What are the evolutionary biological triggers that make the forward space so much more enthusiastic and willing compared to the reticence and caution of the backspace?
And yet, through simple adjustments to the imagination we can transform any of these directional experiences into surprising contradictions. The backspace can easily become a force of presence and power; a movement up into levity can be taking us away from everything we hold dear and thus create tremendous anxiety rather than buoyancy.
Regardless of how readily my obsession with a particular aspect of the technique may change, beneath it all is always the fundamental preoccupation with belief.
Human beings are make-believers. We often, if not always, have insufficient data to unequivocally come to the conclusions and attitudes we embrace about other people and circumstances. Yet, with these scanty “facts”, our story telling instinct leaps into action to fill in the blanks to justify our conclusions and judgments.
Though this can be a troublesome mechanism for the healthy journey of a human being, it is of paramount value to the actor. We embrace this reality of our human makeup with open arms. We know that the ability to unlock our story telling physiology through imaginative data is our greatest gift and joy.
This joy lies in our ability to engage 100% with our imaginative choices and trust that the very nature of our (trained) being will be drawn into the slip stream of that magnetic concentration. We then discover countless surprises of behaviour and inner life arising to bolster the character’s reality with everything we need to stand in the conviction of the story.
Who are your strongest influences in Chekhov work, and how does their work transform/influence yours?
Ted Pugh, Fern Sloan and Ragnar Freidank have been my teachers, colleagues and friends for over 15 years. This would be a very long post indeed if I attempted to give full justice to their influence on my life and art.
It is impossible to truly separate what I have learned from each of these artist-teachers and assign them their true individual contributions. But somehow, I believe this is as it should be. There is something that unites us when we step into the realm of Michael Chekhov’s influence that releases us from the grasping ego of identity.
Together, these three humans have taught me that it is enough to be wholeheartedly “attempting” the work. Even when we do not feel that we are really getting it, our engagement in the search is valid for our development and even valid for the benefit of an audience. This surrender to attempting requires faith. The faith that our capacity in the work will grow through persistence and that searching is always more interesting than arrival or mastery. Indeed, mastery may just be “surrender to the unceasing search.”
They have taught me courage and kindness. (And now I might just take a few moments to cry for gratitude…thanks, I’m back.) They have shown me the potential for transcendence/bliss/belonging/joy though art; for ourselves and the audience. The art of life and acting is to reach into the slippery space of quantum time. It is there that we are released from the confines of our rigid perception of life as linear and definable by purely physical laws. It is there that we can leave the theatre with the thought, “I had no idea that 3 hours just passed. It could have been 1 minute. It could have been my entire life!”
They facilitated the development of my trust in the gold which every moment holds for us. So often we feel that we are in an inappropriate energetic or mental state for the task at hand. These teachers opened the door for me to embrace everything as fodder which can be fed to the unfolding moment of our art.
Even before I “met” Michael Chekhov, there was one teacher in particular who had cultivated my availability to his technique. John McManus directed me when I was 11 years old. This was the beginning of a long and fulfilling collaboration that ultimately lead me to New York, Chekhov, and The Actors’ Ensemble. But that, as they say, is another story…
Are there any strategies/rituals you created to help self in times when working feels difficult, when you feel stuck?
Every time I become stuck, it feels like a unique experience. But having gone through dark ravines of doubt enough times now, I have a bit more objectivity about the nature of a creative journey. More often than not I am able to remember that the most radiant insights for growth are lurking in the scariest misgivings. When grappling with those truly distressing creative and human struggles, it is of most consolation to remember that I am not alone. Not only have countless others been through this and far worse, but if I am able to navigate a conscious path through this darkness, then just maybe my discoveries will be of benefit to others at some point along the way.
It is often said that the quality of our lives is the direct result of the quality of questions we ask. This principle has served me well in times of challenge. I do my best to apply this idea when the creative roadblocks raise their walls.
That our pain and struggle are the bridge to compassion and connection rings true for me. Only through our willingness to deeply feel our terrors do we strengthen ourselves for the task of inhabiting great roles and truly moving an audience.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2016
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.
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.