What I Learned in Manhattan (bottom to top)

My brain felt active in every cell of my body. After that first day, and with daily practice, my mind became as sharp as a needle’s point.

It is the first step to accessing emotional memories and imagining deeply. Relaxation is the key to genuine expression. Be very definite and precise, not general. Strasberg encourages permitting the brain to become aware of what muscles and nerves are involved when you make the movement. 

“Both! are essential for creative work. This is how you’ll increase your focus on stage and your ability to practice sense memory exercises. Cry, laugh, scream, yawn. Connect with your body every day for an hour!”

This meant I constantly ahhhhhhhhhhhed for almost an hour. I slowly flopped my limbs around the chair and released a long and thunderous ahhhhhhhhhhh every time I felt tension or sensation move through my body.

“This is how you’ll train your body to relax and stay in the present moment. When tension is present, release it by using any range of ahhhhhh sounds connected to that feeling.”

It was essential to freeing the instrument of our bodies and minds. The exercise, he said, must be done in the privacy of our living spaces every day for the rest of our lives.

“Slowly move your limbs, testing for tension. Down to your toes! Become present. Pay attention!”

He advised us to memorize the steps and details of this hour-long exercise immediately. He wouldn’t repeat himself.

“Now scan from the tip of your head down through every cell of your body.”

His voice conveyed an intimate connection with his body. We repeated, but no student’s sound matched the depth and resonance of Robert’s.

Then he scaled up to his peak pitch with, “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!,” and came down on the same weakening breath with “Ooooooooooooooooh,” until utterly deflated.


His resonance hit the walls and and pierced through my flesh. “WhhoooooooooooooooooAaaaaaaaahhh!”

Robert inhaled, then flexed his lower torso inward, pulling his belly button closer to his back. “Each on one long breath. Listen! and repeat these strings of sound.”

My stomach relaxed into a semi deflated basketball.

“This will help you feel sensation and emotion when they arise. Now relax your stomach outward like a baby’s belly, or Buddha.”

My body started to release tension. I imagined rows of students melting into puddles on folding chairs under the black box theater’s heavy stage lights – hot and sweaty, relieved we didn’t have to face each other. My mind was limited to darkness and everything that surfaced through my thoughts and body. I couldn’t compare myself to others. With my eyes closed I couldn’t judge anyone.

“Let your head fall forward like a rag doll. Close your eyes and let your arms hang at your side.”

“Grab a metal folding chair. Place it on stage and sit,” Robert Said.

Problems of expression arise form inhibited muscles and tension, says Strasberg in recorded lectures.

Robert Castle had studied with Lee Strasberg and now taught Strasberg’s Method Acting.

Talk story

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