Film Education


Discussing Acting Techniques with Actors Rasa Boxes with Vikas Garg

 

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discovering the child within

Vikas has been my student for the Michael(Mikhael) Chekhov Acting Technique and he discovers acting techniques with the curiosity and innocence of a child so I am happy to share his experience with yet another technique that adds to his vocabulary as an actor

Vikas Garg a practicing theatre actor speaks to Oorvazi Irani about his experience with Rasa Boxes

 

  1. Share with us your unique experience while performing the rasa boxes. How did you experience emotions in a new way as an actor/ artist. Can you compare how it was different and unique as  process and outcome compared to accessing emotions in other acting techniques.

    To me, Rasa box is a science that scans all of one’s emotions in a particular order. Rasa box is instrumental when it comes to preparing for a role.Our bodies and minds have individual memories and every day, we perceive something or the other. Sometimes, it is subconscious and we don’t know it overtly. Rasa box helps us to identify this hidden information. It helps us to tap into the associated emotions.

    When we write names and associated words in the Rasa box, it uncovers certain emotions and functions as a psychological trigger.

    At the same time, many variants are formed of a single emotion. This is also one of Rasa box’s functions. Emotions are displayed in varying degrees, given the circumstances. Rasa box helps one to find such nuances in one’s emotions and resultant physicality.

    All these different elements help an actor to develop his/her craft.

    I have always believed that all techniques help in one way or the other. All these different techniques share some common factor, directly or indirectly. It depends on the actor as to which one he/she chooses to practice, given his comfort and relatability with the technique.

    I believe that Rasa box can unearth an actor’s hidden emotions and that any actor can relate to its technique with ease.

    Can you share a personal experience with any emotion that surprised you as an artist and was a new discovery with this technique

    I had a moment when I was practicing Rasa box. I clearly felt a transformation in myself, when I was switching from one character to an entirely different character.

    I saw a place that was more than fifty years old, a time before I was even born. I could see props that were not supposed to be there, it was a singular experience.

    I saw a room and I saw things in it that were not really there. I saw a man sitting there and I talked with him. I could perceive him as clearly as I would perceive any other. This experience overwhelmed me to such a degree that is just indescribable in words. I cried like I never cried before. The thing to notice is that I only knew that room for three days.

    3. What was the biggest challenge this technique placed before you which other techniques do not pose

    Nothing

    4. So is emotion the central core of this technique and why and is characterization etc secondary or how does it work can you elaborate on this point for our readers

    I believe emotion is the central core of a human being. But there are also other things attached to it. We are like books. There can be a central theme but there are layers to it. One has to peal it one by one, read between the lines to get to the core. I think Rasa box is also like that. There is emotion at its core but to get to it involves a complicated, non-linear process, just like reading a book.

    How it works for me
    Every word has a corresponding image. This image triggers a certain emotion in us. Emotions affect our physical appearance, and voice. To develop our craft, we can choose some words in the script that is given to us. These words must have a strong corresponding image in relation to us.

    We have to write all these words in the Rasa box and then, we have to move from one box to another. This is followed by noticing our behavior in each box. It is important to observe our body language changing with each respective box.

    We can practice the Rasa box in more than one way. We can do it with a partner, more than one partner, with music, breathing, movements, or any other way that strikes your fancy. There is flexibility. It is this flexibility that allows one to really unearth his/her emotions with the Rasa box.

    As an actor, it is upon you to choose and discard elements within the Rasa box. You are the master of its design, you can customize it accordingly. Everything useful that you have learned with it, you must repeat it so that your mind and body can get used to it.

    Now, you are ready to perform.

 

The Rasa Boxes Acting Technique

Personal Experience Shared by Vikas Garg

I want to thank ‘Janice Orlandi’ who coached me personally in her studio, while I was in New York City this year. She didn’t leave any stone unturned in the process and I am indebted to her for the invaluable sessions I had with her.

Janice Orlandi is a certified master teacher and teacher trainer of ‘Williamson Physical Technique’ for actors, including period style movement and dance. She is also a certified teacher of Michael Chekhov Technique, trained in viewpoints and composition with Anne Bogart, Tina Landau and SITI Company, trained in Rasaboxes with founder Richard Schechner NYU Performance Studies.

In this article, I am going to describe ‘Rasaboxes’. Rasaboxes is an exercise, technique and process, all at the same time. Rasaboxes is an acting technique and has proved to be a very useful technique that is taught in the field of theatre and film all over the world. It involves unlocking, discovering and controlling the nine major emotions that a human being is capable of.

But before we start with Rasaboxes, we need to prepare ourselves with the following few warmup exercises. These exercises help us achieve the appropriate mindset to carry on the steps involved in Rasaboxes, in terms of psychological and physical states. They help us get more focused and responsive to emotional and physical stimuli. They also help us to follow the lead of our own bodies, to form a connection that we otherwise ignore; something skin to what ‘Steven Randazzo’ once said, one of the greatest Meisner teacher during one of my classroom sessions with him, “Good listening is a good piece of work.”

Warm up exercises

Moving in six directions

Stand straight and gather your senses. Now, start making the movements, one at a time. The six directions in which one has to move are – Left, right, forward, backward, upward, downward. One can start anywhere while moving, there is no particular order to it. Extend one hand in the direction you want to move in and move.

There are several kinds of movements such as homogenous movement, polarized movement, sequential movement etc.

In homogenous movement, one moves in an organic manner, by moving the entire body in a particular direction instead of just an extremity.

In sequential movement, one movement in a certain direction will be succeeded by another one, that looks seamlessly continuous. One can also move in different directions, but by making sure that the combination of movements, two or more, makes a comprehensive sequence.

In polarized movement, one moves with one extremity in one direction, while the other in the opposite direction. This is a very interesting exercise given the psychoanalytic finding that adults, in general, mostly move in a forward direction while children move in both forward and backward direction. This has to do with a subliminal grounding in adults rendered through experience, of moving forward, and not backward, in order to avoid an inopportune incident or accident. Children, given a relative lack of experience, do not have a developed sense of self-preservation, and hence move as they desire.

In every kind of movement, one must add several advanced steps such as flying, floating, radiating, flowing, in order to bring out the maximum effect of the exercises. A good way of extending these exercises is by learning to find the variants of the movements. For instance, one can move forward in a straight line or in an arch. These movements help us understand our bodies and give way to a resultant intimacy that contributes to a more intricately elaborate portrayal of a given character.

The Rasaboxes

Make nine boxes. Usually, it is made with white tape and its made in the following grid.

 

After this is done, nine pages, on which the following emotions are written, are pasted to the ground, one in each box.

  • Shringara (Love)
  • Hasya (Joy)
  • Adbuta (Wonder)
  • Shanta (Peace)
  • Raudra (Anger)
  • Veera (Courage)
  • Karuna (Sadness)
  • Bhayanaka (Fear)
  • Vibhatsa (Disgust)

 

The next step is to write the corresponding thoughts that the nine words invoke in you.

For instance: With the emotion ‘Shringara’, which translates roughly into love, one has to write on the same piece of paper, all the feelings, images, thoughts that the emotion brings out in you. One can choose to even draw, write a quote, a personal idea etc.

Each box has to have two or more participants. Props can be added to the boxes post writing the corresponding thoughts.

After the same process is followed with all the nine emotions, we can move to the next step, which is called ‘Shaping’.

Shaping/Molding – Shaping involves one person in the box molding or shaping his/her body corresponding to the designated emotion, while the other(s) in the box mirror his/her movements. It is important that the others mirror every facet of the movement, including body movements and breathing. After this, they will switch. At one time, only one person will shape and the other(s) will mirror. This process has to be repeated 4-5 times.

This exercise can also be extended by adding environment/substance to the box which will then supplement the position accordingly. For instance, one can add in the box of ‘Shringar’, something fragrant or odorous and then mold oneself, keeping in mind the additions.

Another thing to keep in mind while performing all these exercises is to make sure that all the senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, are receptive to everything around one.

After this, each participant will choose 3-4 positions/stances/sculptures in which they shaped themselves.

This will be followed with the participant stepping out of the grid and embodying the thoughts and sensations of each one of the sculpture that he has chosen and enacting it, one sculpture at a time, in the given space, including the props. He has to make sure that he has kept the corresponding mental status and sensations intact. He will walk out of the grid normally and then proceed to enact the sculpture.

Breathing is a very crucial part of these exercises since breathing contributes heavily to the enactment of an emotion or ‘Rasa’. Moving from one sculpture to another must incorporate a corresponding change in breathing as well.

This whole process, from start to end, has to be done with all the nine emotions.

These nine emotions make an ocean of different possibilities. These permutations and combinations of enactment of emotions help us prepare for a role in either film or theatre, since mastery over the enactment of these emotions will help one understand the nuances of acting out a character in its minutest detail.

Another extension to this exercise is: The participant chooses a corner of the room and imagines a window in front of him. He opens it and imagines a person in front of him, it can be anybody. The participant hugs them, talks to them, cull all information about them.

Then, he will close the window, open his eyes, he will walk away and transform into that person.

 

 

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