Friday, 30 November 2012

Strindberg's directing tips

Strindberg was never a theatre director in the modern sense of the word but he was very keen to help his actress wives and his last protégé, Fanny Falkner, to achieve the best results on the stage. He was perceptive and had an intuitive approach to acting. He first spotted Fanny when she was appearing in a non-speaking part at Intiman in one of his plays. He looked at her without saying anything but he went straight to August Falck, the artistic director of the theatre and told him: ‘There is our Easter girl, alive and well. She must play the girl in Easter.’ Falck was appalled and thought Strindberg was mad to think of casting a completely inexperienced and untrained girl in a leading part. Falck already had another actress in mind for that part but without consulting Falck Strindberg invited Fanny and a young actor called Alrik Kjellgren to his apartment at Karlavägen and there he rehearsed the young couple privately. After a few rehearsals Strindberg was moved to tears. He turned to Kjellgren and said:’What do you think, she is a born artist. Her expressions, her eyes, her hair - her hair!’
He drew up a list of the basic principles of speaking on stage. In a letter that he wrote to Fanny on 30 May 1908 he gave her the following advice:
‘1. Speak slowly, legato, all words in the sentence strung together; the commas and full stops must not produce a staccato, but glide across with a little extra sound which I shall teach you.
2. Speak naturally, but do not ‘talk’.
3. A broad register in the beginning, a little affected; imagine making a speech or preaching but without shouting.
4. Begin to speak grammatically correctly, and get used to a slightly pedantic speech on a daily basis, as if you were reading aloud or giving a lecture. Stop talking or chatting when you are speaking normally. In other words: don’t be careless, but speak slowly.
5. Watch your consonants, especially your R’s. The vowels are easier to hear.
6. If you make a habit of speaking carefully every day you won’t need to read so much.
7. Speak, articulate, ‘phrase’ like a singer. Listen to your own voice and enjoy it when it sounds good.
8. Flygare speaks carefully as a rule, listen to her, imitate her. It should sound a little exaggerated, important!
And the whole secret about speech is : slowly, drawn out, legato. Beginners prattle but do not speak. They deliver in staccato, which is the worst of all.
Walk in nature; speak to yourself there, read poetry; that strengthens your voice.
And learn to breathe through the nose, when you speak, then you get the best delivery...
I am determined to make you into a great actress; but take it seriously and work at it because it is not child’s play.’
Did he succeed? Well, Fanny became a member of the original company at Intiman and took part in many plays during the next two years until the theatre had to close due to financial problems.She played Bertha in The Father and she took over the role of Eleonora in Easter when Flygare went on tour with the play. She was also the first actress to play the leading role in Swanwhite, the play Strindberg had written specifically for Harriet Bosse. Her youth and innocence and not least her beauty seduced the critics and audiences alike. 
Strindberg akso asked her to design the cover for his play Abu Casem’s Slippers and after Strindberg’s death she returned to painting and became a well-known miniature portrait artist.