Drew Cortese on surviving Richard III and training actors

photo-31Both as an actor and one involved in the training of actors, I’m obsessed with the notion that our bodies are our instruments. And like instruments, they require constant attention and fine tuning to be able to play at their optimal levels, which obviously vary from song to song.

Unlike musicians that can pack up their instruments and put them in protective cases, we actors are forced to use what we’ve got all of the time. And if we’re not careful, we develop habits and patterns than can profoundly affect our tuning and prevent us from being as transformative as possible.

Working with Marcia made me painfully aware of how little I understood about my own instrument—one that I felt I had been using rather well professionally for over a decade—and how important increasing my body awareness would be should I find myself in a role presenting significant physical challenges.

There is no question in my mind that the work we did together not only allowed me to rehearse eight hours a day for a month and then perform Richard III for eight shows a week for a month and a half, but it saved my body from being permanently damaged by the demands of the play, and allowed me to reverse the patterns that the role had created to get me back to neutral again.

What’s shocking to me is that this type of work is not being done more often, either professionally or at the M.F.A./B.F.A. level, to help actors better understand the only instrument they’ll ever get to play.

—Drew Cortese

[Photo by Drew as Richard III by Carol Rosegg.]