Watch Kristof Konrad
as Torbin Salvi in INTELLIGENCE
Mon. MARCH 17 at 10PM/PT on CBS
Jean-Rodrigue and Kristof Konrad specialize in the application of the Alexander Technique to acting and musical performance in Los Angeles and around the world.
…more flexibility and pleasure while moving, vocal clarity, freedom of expression, an improvement in muscle tone, increased energy and mental alertness – all elements that lead to heightened artistic quality.
Watch Kristof Konrad
as Torbin Salvi in INTELLIGENCE
Mon. MARCH 17 at 10PM/PT on CBS
Recently I was vividly reminded why I chose to pursue a career focused on acting and the Alexander Technique. The memory came to me as I was viewing an extraordinary exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) about one of my favorite film directors, Stanley Kubrick. The way Kubrick, one of the most outstanding directors of all time, described himself and the art of filmmaking is very telling of who he was: “A director is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decisions, and it’s the director’s job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible.” The exhibition showcased all of Kubrick’s major films, and when I entered the room devoted to 2001: A Space Odyssey, my mind traveled back to a major turning point in my life.
It was 1968 when I saw 2001 at Philadelphia’s Randolph Cinerama Theatre. I was 17 and didn’t pretend to completely understand the story, but the film stunned me, and I knew the course of my life had just changed. The musical prologue, Ligeti’s Atmospheres, was haunting, and the first images, startlingly beautiful and raw. The title of the first part, “The Dawn of Man,” foreshadowed a journey into the planet’s primal times, when the first man in prehistory came to life. The man-ape characters were remarkable, and I believed their life and behavior were real. They go on to develop their intelligence through contact with extra terrestrial life and learn to kill. Their engagement with the Monolith instigates the first technological leap: the formation of a tool that irreversibly alters their circumstances. It is their inquisitiveness, on all levels, that initiates the change and famous leap into the future.
Meanwhile, a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface is programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And a third artifact orbits around Jupiter waiting for man to reach the outer rim of his own solar system. When the surviving astronaut, Dave Bowman (played by Keir Dullea) reaches Jupiter, the artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. His life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward in man’s evolutionary destiny.
When the film was over and the lights came up, I suddenly had a new awareness of my life. I felt excited to be living at a time when the world was changing — socially, technologically, politically, scientifically, and artistically. The film was setting a new standard. I knew then that I whatever I did, I somehow had to be involved with acting.
More than anything else, it was Keir Dullea’s performance as astronaut Bowman that moved me so much, with its precision and strange authenticity. His interpretation of the character was so minimal and cold that I was able to feel, in contrast, the bizarre humanity of HAL 9000, the all-too-human computer that was breaking down. I wished I could meet Keir; there was so much I wanted to ask him.
At the time, I was a reporter on my high school newspaper, so it occurred to me that I might use that credential to get an interview with him. I knew he was in Philadelphia, appearing in “Star Spangled Girl” at the Playhouse in the Park, so I called his agent and, sure enough, arranged to talk with him after a matinee performance. I couldn’t believe it.
Waiting for Keir backstage in the green room, I was so nervous. The Playhouse was a permanent tent-like theatre in the round, so the backstage and dressing rooms area were very Spartan but I didn’t care. I’d never met a professional actor, especially one who had touched me so deeply. But as soon as he came in, I relaxed. He was calm, direct and friendly, and I was able to focus on the questions I’d written down in advance. Not only did he answer every one about the movie and his role; he also shared his perspective on the best acting training and how I should go about pursuing an acting career.
I asked what had inspired him to become an actor. He said he developed a love of drama while doing plays at a boarding school in Newtown, Pa. He then went to Rutgers and spent some time in San Francisco doing odd jobs, including carpentry.
It was his parents who suggested he might want to study drama instead. And that’s what he did — in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse under Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham. He got his Actors Equity card in 1957.
When I asked if he thought I should study drama at a university, he recommended instead that I find an acting teacher who inspired me or an acting studio where I felt creative. Study in New York, he said, with the likes of Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg. He advised me to build my own program in voice, speech, movement, and the Alexander Technique.
No one had ever spoken to me so passionately about acting or training in the theatre. My mind was spinning and my heart was racing. Right then I decided I would see as many plays as I could and delve into research about training as an actor.
In 1969, I started studying with Herbert Berghof at the HB Studio in New York. Two years later, William Ball awarded me a full scholarship to the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. A few years later, I trained as an Alexander Technique teacher with Frank Ottiwell and Giora Pinkas at the American Center for the Alexander Technique also in San Francisco.
Today, I am an internationally recognized acting coach and teacher of the Alexander Technique, and a pioneer in the technique’s application to film, theater, and television. My client list includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Binoche, Hilary Swank, Josh Brolin, Helena Bonham Carter, Jonathan Pryce, and Matt Bomer. I have worked for most of the major Hollywood studios, on and off Broadway, and at major performing institutions including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Cirque du Soleil, Verbier Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, National Theatre, and the Berlinale Talent Campus. Since 1988, I have been a member of the faculty at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.
Seeing Keir Dullea perform and then meeting him changed my life, and started me on an adventure that has lasted to this day. I’m thankful to Keir for igniting that passion within me, and to his agent for helping a boy’s dream come true.
During the past five years, Jean-Louis Rodrigue and Kristof Konrad have been invited to teach intensive workshops in Berlin and in Milan during the summer months. This is an extraordinary experience because they work with the most talented young actors in Europe, as well as established, recognizable stars.
This year, Jean-Louis and Kristof accepted an invitation from the Generation Campus, an intensive film training program with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The major labs included a Script Lab, Music Lab, Animation Studio, Documentary Lab, and the production of a short film.
The workshops in Berlin and Moscow were called Acting in Film and the Alexander Technique, with the main focus on the “close-up.” The actors explored the skills and the tools that are required for the creation of believable characters and performances specifically geared for the camera.
In Milan, acting teacher and long time friend Michael Rodgers invited Jean-Louis and Kristof to teach a workshop at his studio for a talented group of actors. This particular program called Embodying The Character was geared toward exploring ways of developing the character through the body using the Alexander Technique, animal studies, rhythm, and other methods.
Many of the actors participating in Berlin have been working with Jean-Louis and Kristof for many years. The beauty of having a long-working relationship with the actors is the artistic growth that comes from developing a common vocabulary of learning, allowing the work to propel forward. Jean-Louis and Kristof were thrilled with their workshop in Berlin, agreeing:
The experience was remarkable, probably the best workshop we have ever taught.
Matt Bomer, who stars in White Collar (USA), will be playing the character of Felix Turner in the film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart. Originally penned in the early 1980’s, Kramer’s play had its premiere performances in New York in 1985. It is an intense, deeply personal chronicle of and response to the AIDS epidemic’s initial outbreak. As a longtime rabble-rousing author and gay activist, Kramer served as the driving force behind the in-your-face ACT UP movement, and has been a controversial figure in the gay community for seemingly forever. The Normal Heart charts his own dramatic journey through those early, terrifying days of the AIDS epidemic in New York City as he tried to focus the city and the nation on an insidious plague that stalked the gay community with—at least initially—no known cause or origin.
Matt Bomer’s character, Felix, contracts AIDS in the early 80’s and slowly succumbs to the devastation of the HIV virus. In order to prepare for the very challenging physical transformation, Matt is currently preparing with Jean-Louis Rodrigue to embody the character, and to map out the physical transformation. Jean-Louis is using the Alexander Technique as a way for Matt to connect with his body and prepare for the intense physical requirements of the role. Stephen Spinella, who played Prior Walter in the original cast of Angels in America, also used the Alexander Technique as a way to prepare for and release the accumulated tension built up as a result of playing a dying AIDS patient.
In 2011, the Broadway production of The Normal Heart won a Tony Award for Best Broadway Revival. Emmy-winner Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) will direct The Normal Heart film, which Kramer adapted into a screenplay from his landmark play. Other members of the cast include Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Joe Mantello, Taylor Kitsch, and Jim Parsons. Production is slated to start in New York this summer, with a 2014 premiere planned on HBO.
Belcim Bilgin, born in Ankara, discovered the Alexander Technique while training with Kristof Konrad and Jean-Louis Rodrigue at the Talent Actors Stage, a program at the Berlinale Talent Campus last February. The experience was so profound that she decided to pursue further training with Kristof in Los Angeles. Bilgin comes back regularly between work to prepare for her roles.
While working on her first film Kilometer Zero in Paris, she also received instruction in the French language at the Sorbonne School of Languages. In 2005, Kilometer Zero was released and entered in the 2005 Cannes Film Festival to great success.
Bilgin took the leading role in Rezan Yeşilbaş’s short film Silent (Be Deng), which received the Palm d’Or for Best Short Film at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. Most recently she has been working on her upcoming film, The Dream of a Butterfly (Kelebeğin Rüyası), which was set in 1940s Turkey, recounting the lives of Zonguldak-based authors, Rüştü Onur and Muzaffer Tayyip Uslu. The film screened in competition at the last Cannes Film Festival.
Watch the The Dream of a Butterfly trailer here.
Watch Bilgin working with Jean-Louis Rodrigue & Kristof Konrad at Berlinale Talent Campus #11 here.
Movement and physicality is essential to action/adventure films, especially when the project is based on Alexandre Dumas‘ The Three Musketeers. English-Chilean actor, Santiago Cabrera, has been studying the Alexander Technique with Jean-Louis Rodrigue for the past year. Santiago knew that Jean-Louis was an expert in period movement and a movement specialist and sought his help with the role of Aramis in The Musketeers, a BBC series based on the novel.
Executive producer Adrian Hodges (My Week With Marilyn) created and wrote the TV drama, which the BBC described as “a fresh and contemporary take on the classic characters.” Production starts in August 2013, and the hour-long show is set to air next year. The show will be set in 17th century Paris “where law and order is more an idea than reality,” and will feature a new story each week. The musketeers are “far more than King Louis XIII’s personal bodyguards, but ultimately stand resolutely for social justice — for honor, for valor, for love and for the thrill of it,” the show description says.
Luke Pasqualino (Skins, The Borgias) will star as D’Artagnan alongside The Musketeers: Tom Burke (Great Expectations, The Hour) as Athos, Santiago Cabrera (Merlin, Heroes) as Aramis, and Howard Charles (Royal Shakespeare Company) as Porthos. Together they are a crack-team of highly trained soldiers.
Said Hodges: “I’m thrilled to be working with such a dynamic, talented, and attractive ensemble cast on our new version of The Musketeers. This series is all about passion, romance, heroism, and action, and I can’t think of a better group of actors to embody those diverse qualities.”
Megan Boone is set as the female lead, opposite James Spader, in NBC’s drama series The Black List. Written by Jon Bokenkamp, the project centers on Red, the world’s most wanted criminal who mysteriously turns himself in and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with. His only condition is he will only work with a newly minted FBI agent, Elizabeth Keen (Boone), with whom he seemingly has no connection.
Megan has been studying the Alexander Technique with Jean-Louis for many years, and will continue regular lessons while shooting the series to deal with the demands of this very physical role. James Spader plays Red, a former government agent. Megan said working with Spader is: ” . . . unbelievable. He’s just the most generous, kind person you can imagine. It’s really rare to run across such a class act in the entertainment industry and he’s so talented.”
Michael Welch is best known for his popular role of Mike Newton in The Twilight Saga film series (2008-2012). Since 2011, he’s been working with Kristof Konrad on finding the physicality for very different characters in his two new indie movies: The Boys of Abu Ghraib and Boy Meets Girl.
The Boys of Abu Ghraib is the fascinating story of an American soldier deployed at Abu Ghraib who finds himself behind the walls of the infamous Hard Site, where he develops a secret friendship with an Iraqi detainee. Michael Welch plays Pits, a young soldier who is getting his first experience of war.
In Boy Meets Girl, Michael embodies the lead character of Robby. This funny, tender, sex positive romantic comedy explores what it means to be a real man or woman, and how important it is to live a courageous life not letting fear stand in the way of going after your dreams.
Working with Kristof has been tremendously helpful. Through body awareness and proper physical alignment, he helps open up channels of energy that enable full presence of being. He focuses on the details of a character that most fully connect to a visceral core – a character’s animal, their element, their core image or symbol. He helps actors build their characters through a process of fluidity, not rigidity, always working through the body. The bottom line is Kristof will help you bring LIFE to every moment of a performance – simple, unforced, bold, and electric!”
Matthijs Wouter Knol, the Program Director of The Berlinale Talent Campus, is on constant lookout for talented young filmmakers to participate in its high profile training program. The focus of the program is to connect a new generation of international filmmakers with established professionals, and to ensure they find ways to collaborate and support each other.
The Berlinale Talent Campus is an annual academy program inviting the most promising new filmmakers from all over the world to attend a master class and training program that parallel the Berlin International Film Festival. The emerging filmmakers invited are coached and mentored by renowned and multiple award-winning industry experts. During the last edition, over one hundred international professionals included Jean-Louis Rodrigue, Kristof Konrad, Jane Campion, James D. Bissell, Anita Ekberg, David Gordon Green, Holly Hunter, Matthew Libatique, Ken Loach, James Manos Jr., Lucrecia Martel, John Cameron Mitchell, Walter Murch, Ulrich Seidl, and Paul Verhoeven.
Since 2008, Jean-Louis Rodrigue and Kristof Konrad have conducted several high profile workshops within the program of the Berlinale Talent Campus. Jean-Louis was directly involved in the development of a new hands-on training program for emerging actors, the Talent Actors Stage, for which fifteen to twenty international actors have been selected annually since 2010. His workshops include Embodying the Character and Camera Close-up Acting, both of which have become classics and are highly appreciated by the participants every year. Matthijs Wouter Knol, the Program Manager of the Talent Campus, recommended Jean-Louis Rodrigue and Kristof Konrad to colleagues at various Talent Campus initiatives they co-host in five other vibrant cities in the world: Guadalajara, Buenos Aires, Durban, Sarajevo and Tokyo. The Guadalajara Talent Campus workshop Embodying the Character was a huge success and took place March 1-3, 2013.
One Night in Miami is the world premiere of a play by Kent Powers opening June 8, 2013 at the Rogue Machine Theatre, and playing through July 28, 2013. The play chronicles the night following 22-year-old Cassius Clay’s heavyweight championship win on February 25, 1964. After the astonishing victory, Cassius and his three friends – Malcom X, singer Sam Cooke, and football player Jim Brown – found themselves in Malcom’s hotel room in Overtown, the black ghetto of Miami. The next morning, Cassius would make yet another shocking announcement to the world, but an entire story of its own would take place before that occurred. “One Night in Miami … imagines what might have transpired on that very real, very fateful night in Malcolm’s motel room in 1964. The civil rights struggle was ready to boil over. And in less than a year, two of these friends would be dead. But on this night, the possibilities seemed endless” (Rogue Machine Theatre).
The play features an incredibly talented ensemble and stars Matt Jones, a longtime student of Jean-Louis Rodrigue’s since his days studying in the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. Matt worked extensively with Jean-Louis to cultivate the physicality and energy of Muhammad Ali, who later became known for his high level of coordination, lightness, and specific boxing style. He had the ability to judge distance and control the space between an opponent. Ali could appear to be in range for his opponent to strike, but when the attack was executed he wasn’t there to be hit. Muhammad Ali created a mental and physical illusion through his quick footwork; he was leaning but he was constantly moving, and using angles.
Regionally, Matt Jones has appeared three times with the AlterTheater Ensemble (Intimate Apparel, Two Sisters and a Piano, References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot), twice with the African-American Shakespeare Company (Twelfth Night, Cinderella), and once with TheatreWorks (in the world-premier production of Clementine in the Lower 9), for which he was nominated for a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award. Mr. Jones is a recent recipient of the 2011-2012 Princess Grace Award in Theater, and can be seen as Orsino in the upcoming film adaptation of As You Like It.
To purchase tickets for One Night in Miami, visit: http://www.roguemachinetheatre.com/ or call the theater directly at (855) 585-5185.
King Kong, Live on Stage opened last June in Melbourne to understandably mixed reviews because of its history and it’s still a work in progress. Gavin Robins as the Aerial/Circus Director, Peter Wilson as Puppetry Director, and Sonny Tilders as the Creature Designer are breaking new grounds in theater technology as well as in physical theater movement. The actual 13 puppeteers have been trained by Gavin and are called the King’s Men.
Working hand-in-hand with Tilders and Wilson is Aerial/Circus Director Gavin Robins, a former member of the aerialist group Legs On The Wall and now a worldwide specialist in circus and physical theatre. Most recently, a Churchill Fellowship has taken him through the US investigating the latest technologies in animating the body for stage and screen. Among the experts he trained with in the U.S., movement specialist Jean-Louis Rodrigue was one of the most important and useful. Says Robins:
The training Jean-Louis gave me has empowered me with new approaches to develop signature gestures for character, a detailed knowledge of period movement and manner, principles and application of Alexander Technique, analysis of animal behavior, and image work. When I heard about KONG, I thought: this is exactly how I would love to be working – with new technologies and physicality.
Robins will be working across the production, however with Kong, his brief is focused on The King’s Men – 13 highly skilled, extremely strong, physically virtuosic young men who are versatile enough to embrace puppetry skills as well. Says Robins: “We are championing this notion of a brute strength emanating from Kong. The King’s Men are representing the persona, the aura and the real male energy of Kong.”
At a higher level, Wilson aims to understand the “breath” of Kong, as all good puppeteers do. “It’s most important that our audience sees that he is breathing: that he’s got a brain or an intelligence and that he is capable of making decisions.” The challenge for Wilson, the performers, and the technicians who will manipulate Kong is to maintain that emotional engagement for every second he is on stage, so the audience will suspend their disbelief throughout his entire journey.
The real star of the show, however, is Kong himself. The 6m-tall ape towers over his co-stars, with a combination of marionette puppet and animatronic robot technologies making him alarmingly lifelike . . . when Kong emerges though, his carefully synced footsteps thundering impressively through the theatre. His 13 puppeteers are a sight to behold as they scramble up the beast’s back and fly from his shoulders to operate his limbs.
~ Channel 3 News
. . . when you’re watching Kong on stage; this astonishing puppet, eyebrows that could put Gromit to shame, strings and operators fully on show in a way that only makes him more incredible. And he is undoubtedly a remarkable theatrical achievement.
~ The Guardian, UK
Even his on-stage and off-stage operators get rousing applause for their feats of athletic puppetry and animatronic operation.
~ Herald Sun
Oh King Kong! You gorgeous, sexy, magnificent beast. Your entrance may be the most spectacular thing ever seen on a live stage. Every time you’re on, the audience is yours for the taking, as all around you pale to dull, despite all manner of shiny costume. You are glorious and unforgettable.
~ Anne-Marie Peard, Aussie Theatre