Zero Zone Praxis

by Tamur Tohver

Theatre can affect the actors’ and spectators’ consciousness not only indirectly, through the expressed levels of consciousness, but also directly on the level of pure consciousness. If the means of acting thus allow the actor to perform while maintaining the experience of pure consciousness, the resulting mode of acting will directly impact on the level of pure consciousness of the spectators (Meyer-Dinkgräfe, 2005: 195).

Zero Zone praxis is a self-cultivation praxis that helps tackle ego-based conflicts during the rehearsal period in Performing Arts and avoid stage fright manifestations in the actor-director dyad. By practising ZZ praxis, a performer achieves a profound uninterrupted performing flow and moves to a higher level of consciousness in their performance. This creates a powerful contact with the spectator, and both receive an unforgettable experience from the show. Alongside the training, in the case of the production, an actor-director dyad employs here cultivating directing mode. In repeating rehearsal cycles, the director supports the actor to achieve extra strong concentration and helps them to create personal conviction of artistic truth. This makes their performance effectively intimate, talkative, robust and profound. Zero Zone praxis is an idiosyncratic practice which fuses Stanislavskian actor training and directing craft with the perceptual exercises from Yogic techniques and philosophical principles (Abhyasa and Vairagya, Yamas and Niyamas). 

The essence of the praxis is the system of new techniques, designed according to practical performing knowledge and delivered with self-cultivation coaching skills. Praxis moves beyond the closed conservative teaching and practising performing arts, increasing anxiety and stage fright. Instead of considering fear as an encouraging tool (a common viewpoint among the older generation of practitioners), the praxis concentrates on preventing or releasing existing unnecessary fear from the actor-director relationship by creating a horizontal, equal and supportive dyad (an amplified holistic approach, especially among the younger generation). As a result, the praxis creates trust and builds an open and sincere relationship between the ensemble members by distilling out personal egoistic motives from the process.

Zero Zone praxis is a practical application of a theory based on theatrical directing, acting, coaching, and Yogic practices. They were designed according to their effect and efficiency.

ZZ self-cultivation exercises are designed to increase the practitioners’ introverted kinaesthetic bodymind awareness and heighten one’s perceptual tools for guiding emotion and focus. Thus, all three ZZ praxis levels together provide a uniquely complete set for conscious training, elevating the practitioner’s distinction and attention skills to a higher level of perception. This, in turn, brings a personal qualitative change and allows one to perform on a higher level of consciousness.

Besides, ZZ praxis creates an agreement between the ensemble members for a more subtle, intimate, caring and appreciative approach to co-operation in the rehearsal process: precision and appreciation for one another. This method alleviates the actor’s and director’s creative hesitations and fears relating to the final artistic product (the performance), improves their personality, and reduces tension in the studio. Practising ZZ praxis together in the studio and individually within the rehearsing period decreases confrontation between creative persons and dissolves unneeded defence dynamics: a self-protective attitude.

The purpose of the coaching session […] is to help you learn how to self-assess. It is truly intended to be an assessment by yourself of yourself. The coach is not here to analyse or diagnose you like a medical or psychological assessment might be done. It is your personal exploration of your own current state of life and being. The coach has done this before and is here to facilitate your own introspection and observation. […] ‘Master’ is a master not because of the title or position but because of his ability and experience: the one who is able to master himself or has already done this.

(About self-cultivation practices, anonymous)

The 1st Stage: The Stairs

External, psychophysical

This is a preparing level and can be used as a warm-up for rehearsal, in which a shared space will be created. It provides an embodied understanding over psychophysical insight: what are the tools for improving self-confidence and connection with a partner, how it works. It also introduces the playground (the performer is a doer, in every meaning) and the aim of our study/training: better focusing, the distinguishing skill, why these are needed and what is the path to achieve it. At the same time, it builds connections in the team: performers as equal partners, director as a partner and a coach, a trustee.
The Stairs includes psychophysical acting-performing exercises, which improve kinematic bodily understanding and teach how to use intuitive perception for guiding one’s attention. This way, one avoids rational thinking in process and will be not distracted by misleading thoughts, awakened by emotions, later.
This level builds secure ground with an open dialogue and a strong partnership between all participants. At the level of the interrelationship between actor and director, this stage synchronizes the principles/understanding of performance-making in a team. The exercises remind about fundamentals, but also indicate the aspiration for a more in-depth approach. This is a kind of agreement, which states the starting point.

The Second Stage: The Entrance

Introverted kinaesthetic awareness in use

This level is turning external focus (from physical doing) inward, tuning one to be more intimate, peaceful and thereby more precise, present and aware of the inner processes for differentiation and sharpening of perception. The additional benefit of this task is physical relaxation and mindfulness. This process allows us to create strong self-confidence, change habitual reactions and build up a new pattern of mind, which are the primary tools in liberation from anxiety. The knowledge: I can do that; I have prepared for that. This is the doorway for guiding all disturbing thoughts and negative emotions. In addition to that, one learns the relativity of time via the bodymind.
One is going to study more in-depth what is psychophysical focus and how to shift it. This allows them to make choices before every micro-action. We are going to use modifications from different meditative yogic practices and techniques developed by Tamur Tohver.
At the level of the interrelationship between actor and director, this stage has vast importance in deepening the trust, ethics and respect through the intimacy of the task. The facilitator (director) gives the basic principles and rehearses with the participants this adapted practice. However, it stays impersonal, as one is powerfully guided to connect to oneself. This level aims to lead the practitioner to daily practice by giving practical experience of how we can master attention and willpower.

The Third Stage: The Zero Zone Dynamics

The intellectual knowledge, given in lecture-discussion mode

As given, the path of praxis should be facilitated in the correct order of stages. While the first two levels are carried by curiosity and gradually progressing awareness, supported by personal insights private to every participant, the third level frames everything together: the reasons, the destination, the path and the result. By practising Zero Zone Praxis, one's performing craft will be revitalised with new quality, which emerges mainly from releasing unneeded anxiety and stage fright (based on fear) in most of its manifestations during the preparation of the artistic product. Even today, fear is considered an encouraging element in the creative process; my experience shows that this is deeply personal and dependent on the performer's sensitivity, while excitement, emerging from positive curiosity toward an unknown future challenge, empowers most creative artists. Shortly- ZZ praxis prevents blockages while fear creates them. The Third Stage contains three (the ZZ, the Playback and the Reduction) techniques, which form a set as the crown: it is about using all acquired or improved skills all together on needed moment using them as somatic, behavioural reactions.
By reaching this point in the praxis (the Third Stage), a new attitude is achieved: coherence between exercises produces consistent, systematic enhancement; the desire to explore more, the supporting results and progress, mindful relationships, new insights and thinking mode cultivate strong motivation to keep and develop the mindful and precise-profound approach further.

Tamur's extended experience from radio drama work encourages him to transfer non-descriptive storytelling to the stage. He begins to look for the chance to create the mise-en-scenes which transfer the subtext (message) instead of being an illustration. Surprisingly, it appears that for first they have to overcome stage fright.
Polygon Theatre Company acknowledges different forms of stage fright in their search for new creative solutions in several rehearsal process. This underlines the need of fresh methodology for studio work.
Tamur's PhD research is established at Manchester Metropolitan University: Why Be Afraid of Fear? Zero Zone Praxis as a Cultivation Practice for the Actor and Director. Pilot Study with Auroville Theatre Group (IND). Case studies with Polygon Theatre and Theatre School (EST)
Zero Zone Praxis is proven, outlined and used also on area of personal self-cultivation training outside of Performing Arts. First full-length show is produced with using ZZ Praxis
Zero Zone Praxis is introduced at The Australian Actor Training Conference 2020 and at the Conference of International Federation of Theatre Research 2021. Both conferences are happy to facilitate the full workshops of ZZ Praxis.
University of Central Florida. First articles of ZZ Praxis' different benefits of will be published at Ecumenica and Stanislavski Studies.

It would be nice and much easier if every rehearsal starts with a concentration exercise and this is agreed, common behaviour.

Ann, 28 / Actress for film, spoken word and physical theatre, choreographer and dancer

I had a weird stage fright expression. Namely, I never dared to express my thoughts in the rehearsal, fearing the judgments of others or going against the director. It is no more!

Kimberly, 41 / Actress and Acting Coach

… this helps to get familiar and already into more dedicated connection with new further partners and avoid also stage fright!

Robin, 43 / Professional Actor for thirty years

The absorption is so strong. I practice it every evening, from the need

Ann, 28 / Actress

Actors usually love games. This made it easy to start with the process, I actually found myself supported by them and this, in turn, reignited myself.

Erin, 69 / Director with outstanding career

This was challenging for me for first – how will the ensemble follow the idea of additional training. Fortunately, they took the extra training as something refreshing, with joy!

Tim, 52 / Experienced Director for Stage, TV and Radio

I immediately felt a decisive confrontation as the director started from the wrong end. I used the Shift instead of starting to argue with her to defend my solution. This saved the situation and brought personal relief!

Laura, 29 / Renown film and stage actress

Extraordinary absorption... profound, deep focusing and uninterrupted performing flow

Nick, 36 / Film and Stage Actor, TV Host

When my attention will trace my mistake in performing, I execute the shifting and this brings me immediately back. I apply the technique to continue where I left off.

Simon, 32 / Actor and Director

If it [the performing] starts to slide away from the track, I always take this moment to concentrate back [into the flow], to abandon the surrounding noise to step back to the agreed path what I came here to walk

Simon, 40 / Actor and Director

The Jump is really effective […] … even with a partner with whom you have been a colleague for a long time. You will discover the eyes and go in a somewhere intense connection.

Alice, 36 / Multilingual Actress

I would like to use the ZZ techniques at the time of make-up, sitting in the chair, this is the preparing and kind-of tuning-on moment.

Christy, 45 / Renown actress and Director

The directors come and go, they do not care about an actor’s condition.

Nick, 36 / Film and Stage Actor, TV Host

…it is much more helpful for the actor to do his job when such training comes. In the repertoire theatre no-one does joint preparation anymore.

Nick, 36 / Film and Stage Actor, TV Host

It would be nice and much easier if every rehearsal starts with a concentration exercise and this is agreed, common behaviour.

Ann, 28 / Actress

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