How To Play Big and Reach Your Audience

Marcel Marceau

Photo by Gregg Goldston

I used to cry often watching my own performance videos. “Why do I look so small and shy on stage?” “How can I look bigger and more confident? “How do I gain charisma?” “How can I reach my audience?”…

If anything above is a familiar monologue in your head, this post is just for you.

The bigger I tried to move around, the smaller I looked. I froze my body at the end of actions, peeled my eyelids and stared with my frozen eyeballs at the air above my audience. “Did you see what I did?” “Are you following me?” “Am I clear now?” Yes, I was clear. I looked like a “clear” crystal doll. My body was not breathing or changing the colors. I was not “coiling.”

Marcel Marceau called this “Suspension.” And If you are unaware of what I am speaking about in this blog, go look at photos of him in performance and see how his body is so “larger than life” and how his projection goes out so far into the theater.

Many mimes, including Gregg, had a difficult time learning this very physical technique, since Mr. Marceau would show it, but never broke down the method to attain it.

Gregg and an associate named Rick Wamer spent some two years diagramming it, and even longer to develop a method of teaching it. We now teach this during our program and it has an amazing effect not only on the projection of our students, but also improves their acting and “musicianship”.

Below I will explain many of our methods we use while teaching it.

“Coil” is a squeezed and elongated muscle texture, like when you knead bread, created “between” rotated and/or inclined body parts.

Imagine a metal spring. You have taken both hands and pushed the spring together so that it is tighter, then see how the spring is pushing from the middle outward in both directions.

This is how we coil. When you are standing, your hips are the center of the spring, and from the hips we push upwards to your head, and downwards to your feet at the same time. This kind of springs (coils) can exist throughout your body, while you rotate and/or incline body parts.

There are two primary purposes of coiling.

First: reaching your audience with its energy flows from the angles of body parts you create by coiling.

Second: creating “off-the-clock” musicality in your movement and acting quality by tightening and releasing them in different rhythms.

Here is a simple example of coiling process:

1. Sit on the floor with straight legs forward, facing your audience, then walk with your hips backward while you stay sitting as tall as possible and keep your chest facing front and slightly pushed forward.

2. Notice that you naturally rotate your pelvis by doing it. And most likely you are forced to coil your waist area between your pelvis and chest.

That is one long coil you can create instantly.

If your pelvis is rotating right, your waist is coiling (elongated and squeezed) between your chest (facing front) and pelvis (facing right).

Make sure that your waist area looks longer than how it looked before.

3. Then, rotate your head to the direction of your pelvis (right), so your neck area is now coiling (elongated and squeezed) between head (facing right) and chest (facing front).

4. Try to elongate your neck as much as possible and push it slightly toward your audience as if you are saying “Kiss my neck” to them.

5. Now here, you have two different coils, one in your neck area and the other in your waist area. Notice how much closer you got to your audience while your pelvis and head are no longer directly facing your audience. It is done by making coils effectively.

6. Now, stand up and make a mime 4th position (balance point is on your back leg) and try to search for other rotations and inclinations around your waist, chest, neck, head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, heels, ball of feet, toes, … they are all available parts to train for effective coiling.

**Please be extra careful not to rotate your knees. I will write about specific exercise on heels, feet, toes and pelvis in order to avoid knee injury at another time. In short for now, pelvis rotation must be securely connected with your knee direction so that knee does not independently rotate, never.

There is no need to enter scientific precision in coiling study. That is a black hole if you do. The purpose of coiling is still our lovable audience to stay with, and we do not want to ignore or lose our audience by enjoying the coils too much like scientists in their laboratory.

“Coils” are used and adjusted “undecipherablly” to reach your audience.

If your body looks like a piece of artwork in a spot light isolated from the house, you are not properly coiling, you are simply rotating and/or inclining your body parts and there is your audience left behind in cold air.

In other words, do not curl up and stay in a place, where you cannot see, listen to or feel your audience closely. If you have to turn your back to the audience due to a specific scene, use your maximum coils throughout your body to reach your audience with energy flows beaming from your pelvis, fingers, elbows, heels, ball of feet, toes, whatever available that moment. Light them up and touch your audience with those beams.

By training to coil your body parts in different textures of rhythms such as slow burning speed, floating light-weight sleepy bouncy movements or fast cubic “square” movements, etc., you can generate the rich musicality called “musicianship” by just doing that coiling and uncoiling, i.e., releasing the coil.

Acting rhythm, which could be sung with your face and eye expressions, with gestures of hands, arms, etc. must super-cede the body coils. For example, acting rhythm may sound like a violin melody playing on top of other instruments in a symphony.

Some common transformation turns are done by coiling pelvis. You can tighten and loosen the coils on irregular rhythms. That creates a breathing expanding quality of your whole body. The beauty of coiling is that, after certain amount of practice, your trained body will do the effective work on stage “effortlessly” following its own intuition, instead of your brain controlling it consciously. You will be free, and only living your emotions on stage.

Ideally, you want to be thinking only about your thoughts and your “Universal Audience” on stage. And you keep internally singing its emotional rhythms/ melodies, and continuously sending the volcanic vibrations of emotions from your eyes to your “Universal Audience”. I will write about this “internally singing” part, which is also called “musicianship” at another time.

**For more information on The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our 3-week summer program in Italy, please contact: /

Haruka Moriyama, The GMI

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Caden Manson is a director, media artist, and teacher. He is co-founder of the media ensemble and network, blog, and publisher, He has co-created, directed, video- and set designed 18 Big Art Group productions. Manson has shown video installations in Austria, Germany, NYC, and Portland; performed PAIN KILLER in Berlin, Singapore and Vietnam; Taught in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Montreal, NYC, and Bern; the ensemble has been co-produced by the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Hebbel Am Ufer, Rome’s La Vie de Festival, PS122, and Wexner Center for The Arts. Caden is a 2001 Foundation For Contemporary Art Fellow, is a 2002 Pew Fellow and a 2011 MacDowell Fellow. Writing has been published in PAJ, Theater Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. Caden is currently an associate professor and graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama.

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