Virginia Commonwealth University
Josh DOES accept private students. Contact him for more information
Josh is an Assistant Professor of Acting at New Mexico State University and former Head of Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University where he taught acting and directing. An Associate Teacher candidate of Fitzmaurice Voicework®, Josh is also a certified instructor of the Michael Chekhov Technique. Josh works privately with clients ranging from television and film actors to lawyers and news anchors specializing in performance technique and presence.
Josh was granted his Chekhov certification through the National Michael Chekhov Association by the late Mala Powers, acknowledged world wide as the foremost authority on Mr. Chekhov’s technique. Versed in a variety of techniques and styles, Josh trained extensively with Ms. Powers, as well as with Master Michael Chekhov teacher Lisa Dalton, one of the great mime artists of the 20th century, Tony Montanaro, international film actress Emmanuelle Chaulet, and vocal practitioners Frankie Armstrong, Patsy Rodenburg, and Catherine Fitzmaurice.
A popular teacher and acting coach on both coasts, Josh has led workshops and classes throughout the country including in Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Baltimore. Josh continues to coach privately, working with actors appearing on stage, network television, and feature films
As an actor, Josh has worked in Educational, Regional, and Professional Theatre including at Acadia Repertory Theatre in Bar Harbor, Maine, the AYTB Theatre Company in Boston, Massachusetts, and at the University of Southern Maine where he garnered two Irene Ryan nominations and appeared in the American Premiere of Xavier Durringer’s A Taste of the Killing on the Tip of the Tongue. Other performances include roles in Frankenstein, Ten Little Indians, Crimes of the Heart, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, What the Rabbi Saw, Rumors, The Flies, As Is, and Clay McLeod Chapman’s Junta High. As a director, Josh has worked in variety of schools and theaters recently directing Animal Farm at the Shafer Street Playhouse and Moliere’s Les Precieuses Ridicules at Virginia Commonwealth University. Other directing credits include David Hirson’s La Bete, The Crucible, Prelude to a Kiss, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, and Blithe Spirit. Josh is directing the Virginia Premiere of Lord of the Flies at the Henley Street Theatre Company in 2012. Josh earned his BA from the University of Southern Maine, his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, is a member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference and a respondent for the American College Theatre Festival.
Article by Josh Chenard
MICHAEL CHEKHOV: BACK TO BASICS
Currently directing the Virginia Premiere of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for the Henley Street Theatre Company has been a challenging and transformative experience for me; but I will return to this in a moment.
I have had the pleasure of exploring Michael Chekhov’s physical and powerful approach to acting for almost twenty years. As my understanding of, and experience with the technique evolves, so does my sense of invention. For instance, I have been teaching workshops entitled Acting with Archetypes in which participants go on a guided, active journey exploring the movement qualities, sound, breath, and feelings of a variety of mythological archetypes including the Warrior, the Child, or the Trixter. Though the work did not begin with Chekhov specifically in mind, I have successfully weaved in Imaginary Body and Leading Center to deepen the work. I am teaching a workshop in March entitled: Performance Polygraph: Utilizing FBI Tactics to Inform and Clarify Your Acting Choices. Though the workshop is based in discussions of the limbic brain, autonomic nervous system and nonverbal intelligence, it is also a marvelous opportunity to discuss Chekhov’s approach to Emotion: Qualities, Sensations, and Feelings. From re-defining Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as an acting guide, to presenting the elements of the Periodic Table as an approach to character, I love exploring a variety of unusual texts through the lens of performance technique. The common denominator in all of this exploratory play is the dynamic, flexible, imaginative techniques of Michael Chekhov. His work invites play, experimentation, and adventure.
So, there I was about to start rehearsals for Lord of the Flies. After casting the show, my creative brain kicked into high gear plotting how I can use Chekhov to illuminate themes of social and moral collapse, injustice, religion, and the darkness contained in the souls of man. I began to read or re-read Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, the Jungle Book, National Geographic, and the Bible looking for links between these texts, my themes, and Michael Chekhov. Oh, the possibilities! I could weave together Palaces, Imaginary Animal Bodies, Native American Chanting, Expansion, Mantras, Chakras, Totems! Then I went to my first read through. As I began to wax poetic about all of my ideas and concepts, I was met with blank stares from a room of young actors ranging in age from twelve to twenty one.
Clearly my enthusiasm was not infectious. Was I not describing my ideas effectively? Were my ideas bad? Were the actors simply too young to understand? Then it occurred to me; I was in concept overload. What should be homage to Golding’s tale of innocence lost, I was turning into a Julie Taymor spectacular. After the read through that night, I went home and took out my binder of Michael Chekhov notes and journals I had been keeping since I was first introduced to the work in 1996. It was time to get back to basics.
After pairing the themes down to innocence, power, fear, and loss, I paired down what and how I used the Chekhov work. Suddenly, playing with nothing but Contraction and Expansion provided us an entire afternoon of exploring power and fear. We spent an afternoon playing in an atmosphere of Jungle; another in an atmosphere of plane wreckage. The work had become moving, simple…authentic. The actors could barely contain their excitement from day to day and were clearly sad to be moving from workshop based rehearsals into the technicalities of blocking and choreography. Alas, I look forward to blending it all together in January.
I hope all of us continue pushing the boundaries of Chekhov’s work, keeping it fresh, inventive, and new. The very spirit in which the technique was created lends itself to constant and imaginative re-envisioning. I also hope as we explore, play and discover, that we remind ourselves and each other to revisit the basics as I was reminded of in my current rehearsal process. Though Chekhov’s work is pliable and able to supplement, accent, and reinvent, the real power exists in the brilliant standards, exercises, and concepts as originally conceived and designed by Mr. Chekhov himself, who asks for nothing more from us than our ease, passion, and joy.
Lord of the Flies runs January 26th through February 25th at the Henley Street
Theatre in Richmond, Virginia. (804)340-0115.
Interview with Josh Chenard, 2002 Certified Teacher
In preparation for the article written by Josh Chenard later in t his issue, we interviewed Josh about his use of Michael Chekhov in his work as a theater professor and director.
NMCA: What was it that drew you to Chekhov training at first? When did you take your first training and what did you get from that training that drove you to seek more?
I was first introduced to the techniques of Mr. Chekhov when I was an undergraduate
at the University of Southern Maine in 1996. I took the summer intensive with
Wil Kilroy, Lisa Dalton, and Mala Powers, and it changed my life. I was only
twenty years old, and for the first time in my life, the creative process I
was being led through and the language in which we were communicating coincided
with my feelings and thinking. We were allowed to use words like passion, joy,
and love….and the technique worked! Even at twenty years old, I felt like I
was being let in on a major artistic secret. For me, there was no going back.
I returned to several of the Summer intensives and worked privately with both
Lisa and Mala at any opportunity I could.
NMCA: When did you get your certification? What created your interest in teaching it?
I was certified in 2002. My certification coincided with that time in my life in which I was moving away from acting and more towards teaching, which is a strange but important transition for me. It was difficult to move from my ego (I want to be an actor!) into spirit (I am meant to be a teacher!). Mala said to me once, "Josh, I am a fantastic actress, but I have a teacher's heart. I think you you are also a fantastic actor, but have a teacher's heart." She was able to see in me what I was slowly discovering about myself. In any event, it was around that time I received my certification and have been teaching workshops all over the country and at a variety of schools and conferences ever since. I love teaching it. It is always exciting, always vibrant, always effective.
NMCA: How do you incorporate Michael Chekhov into other acting disciplines you've learned and teach?
I find Chekhov pairs beautifully with other facets of acting I teach. I am responsible for year long acting courses at Virginia Commonwealth University where I often begin with a Stanislavsky base. I find Stanislavsky provides a fantastic groundwork for analysis and discussion, but that students often struggle with synthesizing their ideas and discoveries into doing and playable action; they are able to come up with a description, but not a prescription. I find Chekhov is the perfect remedy for this. They can take their character's objective of I want to unnerve you, and make it playable by weaving together molding, a veiled push or an expansion with a personal atmosphere of chaos. Suddenly, they can bring their decisions to live in a visceral and powerful way. I weave Chekhov into my teaching of Mythical Archetypes, pair it with Meisner's Repetition Work, utilize it with Anne Bogart's Viewpoints, and am now developing it as a companion piece with Fitzmaurice Voicework®. I guess Chekhov is like a good pinot noir; it pairs well with most meals and often enhances the flavor.
NMCA: How has the Chekhov work impacted your own work in theater productions, either directing or acting?
The Chekhov work finds it's way into all of my work. I just directed a production of Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer for a theatre company in Richmond as part of the Tennessee Williams Centennial Celebration. I was working with a variety of professional actors most of whom had not been exposed to Michael Chekhov but we did a lot of work with Contraction/Expansion and Atmospheres. I could see them questioning the work, then slowly buying into and then fully utilizing it! I loved as they discovered characterization or fully expressed acting moments that they were able to attribute it to the Chekhov work. It was a polarizing production; it was so visceral and evocative that I think some audience members struggled with it...which pleased me. I want to present challenging work that is deeply felt by an audience (for better or worse) whether it be in my acting or my directing. So, the Chekhov work has impacted my work in the theater by both demanding from me fully expressive, powerful, and visceral theatrical experiences and providing me the tools in which to construct them.
NMCA: Do you teach any students outside the college? During plays you direct? Separately as private coaching students?
I am teaching an undergraduate and graduate level of the Techniques of Michael Chekhov at VCU in the Spring. Outside of academia, I have taught workshops and classes all over the country including in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Birmingham, Baltimore, Lexington. I have taught student actors, professional actors, teachers, directors, lawyers, doctors. One of my favorite experiences came when teaching lawyers how to present information with a sense of ease in the courtroom! Five grown men in suits, swinging chairs above their heads and rolling on the floor. I loved it; they loved it! I also coach actors on film and television sets and find Chekhov to be the perfect anecdote in an industry in which actors are often in need of a quick, effective fix. So, clearly I believe in the work and am an advocate for putting it in the hands of anybody who can be served by it.