Accessing Suzuki and Building Ensemble Unity


Students will be able to analyze Suzuki compared to other acting methods and apply his method to building ensemble unity by creating comparison charts and writing a reflection on his ideas of ensemble unity.


Materials Needed

Four large pieces of paper & tape to hang them up.
The Art of Stillness by Paul Allain


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook
Have all the students sit on the ground, legs crossed. Conduct a few slow breathing exercises, encouraging the students to inhale, through their nose, their day so far and all the stress and everything that has gone wrong, and then exhale it through the mouth. Encourage them to focus on this class at this time, and to feel the energy of their peers. (5 minutes)



Transition: Now that we’re a bit more focused, I’d like to start by creating a framework for understanding the Suzuki method in relation to the other acting methods you have studied.


Discussion/Group Practice: Hang up four large pieces of paper. On the top of each write either Stanislavski Method, Meisner Method, Indian Rasa Box Theory, or Suzuki Method. Divide each paper into the following sections: Who (person who is associated with the method), When, Main Ideas, Exercises, and Vocabulary. The Main Ideas section should probably be the largest. Through instruction, explain what each of the five sections mean. Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group a Method/Theory (other than the Suzuki Method). Have them fill out the paper. Give the groups 10-15 minutes. When they are done, have each group take 5 minutes to present their paper. Ask the class if they have any suggestions for things that could be clarified or that need to be added to the paper.


Transition: Now that we’re thinking in terms of acting methods, let’s begin to understand how the Suzuki Method works.


Instruction: Relay the following information and fill in the Suzuki chart where needed: Tadashi Suzuki’s writings in the given text demonstrate that he chose not to provide a manual for acting training but rather to present his philosophical approach to the stage, the nature of acting and the place of purpose of performance in contemporary society. Suzuki’s ideas, profoundly influenced by Eastern spiritual thought but also informed by his theatre work in the U.S., particularly engaged theatre practitioners of the 70’s and 80’s, who sought a deeper meaning in their theatre practice and found it in the metaphysical and ritualistic dimensions of Suzuki’s method. The Suzuki Method of Actor training requires rigorous discipline and constant practice. His method is strongly related to the traditional training of Japanese Noh and Kabuki actors. Creativity cannot begin until mastery of the skills is accomplished.
Suzuki holds that an actor’s basic sense of physicality “begins and ends with the feet.” We are part of the ground and will return to it when we die. A performance begins when the actor first has the sensation that he/she is putting down roots.


Transition/Instruction: Now that we know a bit about the fundamentals of the Suzuki Method, let’s start with his first main idea, which is ensemble unity. He talks about creating a home, both through place and with your fellow actors. Unity can be found through a common training program. A family grows from this familiarity, as kinship and community are established by shared experience, systems, principles and vocabulary. Psychological research has shown that groups establish strong interpersonal ties through tackling difficult tasks like the training, which demands intense emotional input. Training is almost always done as a group.


Group Practice: This exercise, Hah!, promotes focus and a sense of collectivity. It is an introduction to Suzuki’s technique and needs much practice.

Form a silent circle and on a given signal vocalize a Hah! from the diaphragm. The Hah! is expelled at the moment of landing from a jump. The landing position is an open one, with bent knees and arms, and the emphasis on connecting with the earth. After perfecting this, focus on the centre of the circle marked by someone’s fist. The fist is removed, all close their eyes , lower their heads and visualize the fist. The fist nominates a member of the circle with a tap on the shoulder. In their own time the selected student will do the action and sound of the Hah!. The others must simultaneously synchronize a Hah! with them. Do this several times until everyone has had a chance to be the fist. Encourage intense concentration and focus.



Closure/Assessment: Read to the students page 48-49 in the book The Art of Stillness. Ask them to spend a few minutes writing down their thoughts about this in relation to all that we have talked about and done that day. If there is time, have them share some of their thoughts. Have them turn it in at the end of class.