Short, Joe

Advisor Department





The word Physics comes from the Greek word “phusika”, which means “the natural things”. Even the simplest principles of physics can be used to explain just about everything in nature, and I propose these same principles can be used to express acting. The project explored the movement techniques of Meyerhold, Late Stanislavski, Rudolf von Laban, Overlie’s Viewpoints and the Margolis Method. This was not a study on physics primarily, but an exploration of how the basic principles, such as gravity, momentum, and velocity, that explain nature can be used on stage to mirror nature for an audience, in order to make the action on stage more relatable and interesting for the observer. Subgoals included how to productively execute research, knowledge of specific muscles and actors can use to create a more dynamic character, economy of movement and emotion on stage, and how to compare and contrast multiple theories of the same topic. Physics can be utilized to create more effective and expressive physical lives on stage, and a more specific set of tangible and practicable skills for actors.

Studio time, roughly 8 hours for 14 weeks, was spent working through the different movement exercises of each individual technique. The books The Mastery of Movement by Rudolf von Laban, Standing in Space by Mary Overlie, Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain, and Movement for Actors by Nicole Potter were used to physicalize these exercises and principles of physics into the body. Other readings include The Use of the Self by Matthias Alexander, Meyerhold on Theatre by Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold, and Meyerhold, Eisenstein, and Biomechanics by Alma Law and Mel Gordon. The Major principles of physics that applied to acting include gravity, momentum, effort and work, time, space, expansion and contraction, and opposite and equal forces.


Training for actors is a multi-disciplinary practice with study in three main categories: the actor’s voice, the actor’s body, and text studies. Unlike ballet dancing or learning a musical instrument, actor training is a culmination of various different techniques for each of these areas of study. The study of the actor’s body, through movement, is the most intricate area to decipher because it incorporates more varying techniques than voice and text studies.

With the mentorship of Joe Short, the theatre department’s professor of voice and movement at the University of Rhode Island, I investigated and compared the movement techniques of Laban, Meyerhold, Alexander, and Margolis. After delving into each technique through studio work, I then applied basic principles of physics. The root of physics is the Greek word “phusika”, meaning “the natural things”. Because theatre is considered a mirror of nature, physics joined with movement work for the actor’s body in many different ways including gravity, absorption, effort and work, space and time. These findings were transformed into workable exercises through a workshop for actors meant to expose how physics can be used to create more expression and less effort on stage.

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