Millikin University's January Immersion courses are designed to provide great experiences for undergrads who want to develop new skills or learn about rare topics. This January, several Millikin theatre students received a semester's worth of acting techniques by learning about the Margolis Method, an approach taught by award-winning director and teacher Kari Margolis that merges all the skill sets of acting, directing and playwriting.
Margolis is the director and lead faculty at the Margolis Method Center in Highland Lake, N.Y. She has developed and oversees the Center's Summer Program, Professional Certification, University Professor Certification and Long Distance Learning Programs.
"This is Kari's fifth year of leading this immersion experience and the students spent about five hours a day studying the method," said Denise Myers, Millikin associate professor of theatre and dance. "When Kari first came to Millikin, she worked on a project that was performed on campus. This year she taught technique and developed another original show."
The course merges vocal and physical expression through daily exercises that focus on the actor as central to the creative process. Margolis has been developing this method through daily studio research over the last 30 years, and it has grown into an internationally recognized methodology.
"My goal, after the short period of time, is to have the students leave here much stronger and much more empowered," said Margolis. "The method is about taking all the mystery and the magic out of acting and to give the actors concrete skill sets."
Meghan Bryan, a sophomore theatre major from Broadlands, Va., says the method is "new and it took my initial thought of theatre and turned it around completely. When going through the class every day, you think about ways of applying this method to theatre and how to further develop your craft."
Margolis says she worked with the students on the very basics of storytelling, communication, and inspiring the audience's imagination. Throughout the residency the students used these lessons to imaginarily create a show.
"Every single day the students were creating characters and developing a play about a group of actors all showing up to an audition," said Margolis. "Each day I created structures for them and they would take the skill sets and start adding context, and at the end of the day we were working on scenes created by the students."
Peter Kattner, a senior theatre major from Chicago added, "I think this class shows the importance of learning your craft especially in terms of theatre. There is so much more than memorizing lines or saying things with a certain inflection. This class inspires actors to go beyond their limitations, it's empowering."
This year's course culminated with a public performance of the show on Millikin University's campus on Jan. 18 highlighting the students' scholarly training. The show was simply titled "The Audition."
"In the end it's about learning cause and effect, and how to absorb a cause before you express an effect," said Travis Neese, a senior theatre major from Story City, Iowa. "It's very physics-based and it can be a dynamic approach to acting. Now that I took this course the method makes so much sense and this approach can be used in so many different ways."
After five years of teaching the method to Millikin undergrads Margolis continues to be impressed with the work of the students. "I look forward to this course as one of my favorite residencies. I travel all over the world and I truly look forward to this as one of the highlights of my year. I continue to keep up-to-date on Millikin students who I've worked with over the last five years."
Denise Myers added, "We are learning technique and applying it constantly. It's interesting because some of the students might have an inkling towards playwriting or directing, and even though it is an acting class the students are also able to walk out of here as better directors or writers."