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Fay Guiffo

Acting and Music, Body and Soul (Part 3)

June 24, 2020

Creating together


  • Collaborative performances


     In most of the performances I have seen that involved musicians and actors, I noticed a repetitive scheme: musicians mostly assume the function of ornament in the final product (the play).  That was the case in the performance Peter Pan directed by Hugh Hodgart at RCS: for few seconds, a guitarist (a ‘Lost Boy’) played a soft tune to accompany the actors in their performance. Thus, in general, musicians have a minor role in plays. They assume the same function most of the time, not questioning how and what we can create with the actors, in order to produce a piece of art that reflects this collaborative research. However, I had the pleasure to assist to the show The Dark Carnival performed by the Vanishing Point: some of the musicians were also actors and music contributed to dramaturgic line of the story. The strong connection between music and drama created a powerful performance. This show is the evidence of what musicians and actors are capable of when they work together, in a cohesive way. As a spectator, I can say it was a bliss to assist to this form of unity. And as an artist, it gave me another perspective on how performers from different background can work differently from what has been made before. Therefore, I think that Art Education has an important role to play so that musicians and actors can learn how to collaborate with each other.


  • From a learning perspective


     According to Helen Storey and Mathilda Marie Joubert (2004), cross-disciplinary curiosity can be intimidating, but also lead to unexpected discoveries. By learning from another art form, we step out of our comfort zone and learn to see our own discipline from another perspective. That’s exactly the learning outcome I retain from my collaboration with a Contemporary Performer. These lasts months, we worked on the basis of Devising Theatre, and prepared a performance called Pihlaja with texts, music, movement, and acting. The confrontations and obstacles I encountered during this creative journey helped me to grow as an artist and as a person. I had to adapt my music to the movements (playing the violin as I walk/move). I developed also new perspectives on the emotional connections I could build with an actor/movement practitioner. Moreover, as I realized that we had different work approach, I developed my adaptability, and learnt more about compromising and taking into account my partner’s point of view. From the actor’s perspective, I would argue that this kind of collaboration could have a similar impact on his/her practice. As John Walton says ‘everyone works differently’ in a context of devising theatre (Walton, 2014) Thus, actors also need to make the effort to connect with the musicians’ work approach and develop their adaptability in order to ease the process of creation. Thus, devising theatre could create a space so that musicians and actors can learn from each other.

     The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland proposes this type of course, but from my experience, I can say that this opportunity should be more developed in schools/conservatoires. By having the support of the institution, students would find valuable to step out of their confined world and to explore what other artists make. It would help them to develop their own art form, confidence, creativity and adaptability.





     By critically evaluating a wide range of literature and research resources, I have explained the connections between music and acting training and argued for the development of collaboration between musicians and actors. They both tend to connect with emotions and share them with their audience. Moreover, despite the difference in terms of language, music and drama are mainly structured by a dramatic narrative. In order to deliver an authentic and expressive performance, Musicians and Actors need to develop their physical sensations and freedom of movement. For both, the body is their first instrument and they have to work on it (awareness of physical sensations, balance between tension and relaxation, muscular tone, breath...) in order to feel free to express emotions they want. Thus, the melody can transcend the air, the monologue of an actor can emerge out of his gut. Finally, the mission of connecting with the audience through emotion seems to be achieved. The acting teacher Lee Strasberg would argue that this method is not enough in order to convey a truthful interpretation. From his perspective, actors should ‘prepare for a role by immersing themselves as much as possible in the circumstances of their characters’. (Simon, 2018). Thus, it would be interesting to see what this statement means when applied to music practice and I am willing to explore this question. I have also critically analysed the cultural issues at the forefront of my art practice, by arguing that education systems often underrate the benefit of supporting cross-disciplinary learning between actors and musicians.

From the perspective of a collaborative learning and performance, musicians and actors could learn a lot from each other: improving our performer’s skills, developing qualities such as confidence, creativity, problem-solving, trust, adaptability… I Nowadays, Devising Theatre proposes a space for collaboration between artists from different backgrounds. However, it seems that most of art education systems tend to minimize the benefits that musicians and actors could get from training together: during my studies at the conservatoire in France, I have never worked with the other students from the ‘Art dramatique’ course. I didn’t know any of them, and the music program barely encouraged this kind of crossover experiment. We can imagine that in our future daily practice, we will tend toward more communication between both performing arts.


By doing this research, I critically evaluated the development of my knowledge, skills practices and thinking in the context of a cross-disciplinary learning. Thus, I followed one of my objectives underlined in my Initial Research Proposal. As I learnt more about Shakespeare acting, I was able to put into practice drama exercises to improve my own music practice. I was more focused on the impact of my body tension over my sound, the structure and meaning of the musical discourse, and my presence on stage has evolved. I also learnt from my collaboration with a contemporary performer (actor/movement practitioner) as I developed my adaptability and my creativity. Ultimately, I decided to engage more into collaborative projects with actors, in order to keep on growing as an artist and human being.





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Pizzetti, I. (1931). Music and Drama. The Musical Quarterly, [Online]. 17 (4), p.426.
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Simon, A. (2018). Acting Styles: Lee Strasberg's Method. On location education,
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Storey, H., Joubert, M.M. (2004). Chapter 4: The emotional dance of creative
collaboration, in: Miell, D., Littleton, K. (Eds.), Collaborative Creativity:
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