ACTION THEATRE with Ruth Zaporah


This is, a log, a journal, basically a simple summary of my notes from the workshop I took with Ruth Zaporah in the end of October 2011. A wonderful and inspirational lady in her 70s who founded the physical theatre improv technique “Action Theatre”, and is known all over Europe and US for being a great performer, teacher and source of excellent creativity.


“Life is an improvisation. How you improvise reveals how you live your life”



  • Investigate a body part
    • Isolate the body part from the rest of the body and explore its movement
    • How can the movement in that body part transfer to the rest of the body?
    • Let the body part be in charge of  the rest of your body
    • How can that body part make you move to new places far away in the room?


  • Sound initiates the movement – embody the quality of the sound into your body
    • Go into pairs. A. makes varied sound and B. embodies the sound in movement.
      • Listen carefully to the sound and let its quality take shape in your body.
      • Don’t make effort to be creative. Let the sound move you. Never make up in beforehand what you want to happen. Then it is forced and not truthful. Embrace the blank paper (look at “More thoughts on improv. on page 6).
      • Remember stillness and silence – When we stop and are still, do we actually stop? No, the life always continues inside you.
      • The smaller the action is, the more is radiating and living inside of you.


  • Movement initiates the sound – embody their movement in the sound of your voice
    • A starts moving and B lets their movement take place in his/her voice.
    • It is a circle of energy. As a mover dance together with the voice not against it. Allow their sound impact what is happening to you as well – allow it to unconsciously go into something new.
    • As the mover, don’t forget stillness to let your partner breathe and to create interesting rhythms and pauses.
      • Energy, a force that fills you up from the inside and radiates. This is what you have to fill your body with. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let the force get complete control over you so it runs away without you following it.


  • There are three different ways of putting you focus and gaze in relation to yourself and your audience:
  1. Gaze down (internal awareness, is not inviting as the artist is only in their little bubble, the energy does not the audience)
  2. Gaze in and out.
  3. Hard gaze (only external, it pushes the audience away, it is very aggressive).

Number 2. is the one we are searching for.



  • Speak in narrative and let the movement of the person affect the sound of your words
    • Go into pairs. One person starts to speak in narrative from an image and one person moves (If you don’t know what to speak about ask the mover about an image. The image brings you into a story).
      • The narrative and the movements are not consciously connected. The story shall make sense.
      • Let the word take place within the sound. Let your partner affect you. Let the sound of the words be affected by the quality of the movement and vice versa.


  • Tell a narrative story by yourself at the same time as you move – still in pairs
    • As before but now by yourself. Speak in narrative starting from an image (if that helps you) while moving at the same time. Let your movement affect the sound of your words and let the voice affect the quality of your movement.
    • Interrrupt the person you are observing when you feel it is approptiate.


DAY TWO – The Experience of Our Own Body


Before we can go into talking about the content about what we are saying we have to experience the content of our own body. Our voice can say one thing and our body revealing a contrasting subtext, or our body can strengthen the content of the voice by moving in line with what we are saying.  Different physical states will create different contents.


  • Freely isolate and explore movement in different body parts
    • Explore the movement of your body again – let different body parts be in charge and make the rest of your body move


  • Emotions, moods, state of mind – nothing we can express verbally in the beginning. We should just let the emotions come to us, just feel and let them exist within our body. It should not have any story, no meaning, just let the emotions be impacted by the movement. Don’t force it, just let it be.
  • Everything is a sensory, there is no neutral. You will always have an opinion about everything, your mind and body will always react to what you experience.
  • In life we try to hide that we have an opinion about things. It is like when we are walking in the adaptive society everything we taste has vanilla flavor, but when we go up on stage we realize that the experiences has both strawberry, chocolate, and orange flavor.
  • Let the movement affect you emotionally. Let every movement fill you up from the inside without any predetermination of how to feel. Express your opinion about what you are doing.


  • The use of EYES.
    • When isolating a body part, for example an arm/hand or a leg/foot let the eyes follow the pathway of the body part, to create a relationship.
    • Let your eyes go in the contrasting direction of the body part.


  • Rhythmical patterns – timing and clapping
    • Walk in the room, as the leader is clapping follow her rhythm in your steps
    • Stand in a circle. The leader claps one rhythm, you copy that rhythm and then you add another contrasting rhythm. Walk around to everyone and give them the same rhythm to add on to.
    • Still in a circle, the leader starts a rhythm, the person to her right copies it and adds another rhythm. The person on their right copies their rhythm and then adds another one.


  • Timing and movement
    • In pairs. A. claps a rhythm, B. makes the rhythmical pattern in movements.
    • A. makes a movement phrase with a distinct rhythmical pattern, B. makes a new movement phrase in the same rhythmical pattern – vice versa. (AA-AB-BB-BA-AA…)
    • A. makes a movement phrase in a certain rhythmical pattern, B. makes a movement phrase in a clear contrasting rhythmical pattern.
      • Let yourself be affected and respond to their movement, like a conversation.
      • As it goes on you can choose to follow their pattern, or to copy their movement phrase, as well as doing a contrasting phrase.
  • You make three phrases in three contrasting rhythms, your partner copies your third one and then adds two.


  • Fixation on content is what keeps us from ourselves, what keeps us from being honest to ourselves and the world.
  • The way you live your life is revealed through improvisation.


  • Timing and sound
    • Be in pairs. Make a certain sound pattern, the partner responds with a sound in opposite rhythm and quality.
    • Respond to each other by doing the same sound as they do.
    • Play with reacting to the sound genuinely – repeat/respond/react.


  • Story initiated by the sound
    • One person stand against a wall and starts to tell a narrative story, the partner stands behind and makes different sounds. The narrator embodies the sound of the partner into the way they express their words.
      • Open vowel sounds will be easier for your partner to embody as no words are only created by consonants. Vowels are what carry emotion and character the most.


DAY THREE – Body, voice and narration.

  • Sound and movement phrases
    • In pairs – A. makes a movement phrase with voice, B. responds with a contrasting moving and sounding phrase.
    • A. makes up 3 different phrases which all contrasts each other, B. copies the 3rd phrase and then adds 2 phrases, next time A copies Bs 3rdphrase and adds 2 more.
      • Don’t let there be any time to think, let it be fluent.


  • Walk in the space – narration by one word or syllable on every step
    • Everyone is walking in the same beat. One person starts a narrative story. The person taps the next person on the shoulder when they should take over the narration. When you have said your part of the story you walk out of the space.


  • Walk in the same beat as the leader is clapping – as the leader says change, change the way you are walking.


  • Three people tell a story with movement and words.
    • One person speaks at a time. Walk differently depending on what the person says and depending on the sound of their voice. You change narrator by either interrupting or tapping the person on their shoulder – it’s up to the group how you change.
    • Part two: When the narrator changes you can now choose to start a second story or continue on the first one. Next time the narrator changes you can choose to continue on the first or the second story.


  • Break up movement and narration – in pairs.
    • Tell a narrating story verbally. When you stop speaking you let your body physicalize in any way that comes to you, but clear and distinct. As you stop speaking you move very distinct and clear. As you stop moving you continue the story. Interrupt each other to take turns.
      • Break up the rhythm of your speech.


  • Movement and narration happening at the same time
    • Let the sound of your voice, the words and your movement go in line with each other.
    • Let the movement contrast the sound of your voice.
      • Time and relation between the vocal gestures and the physical gestures – be very clear and distinct in what you are expressing through your movement.



  • Do not close the door on yourself – “Easy word and image access”
    • In pairs. Say an image with an open end – that creates further questions. Take turns. “I see a big green perfectly cut lawn. The sun is shining very bright and in the middle a girl with torn clothes are sitting alone and crying”
      • Always know what you are talking about and know as much details as possible.
  • Part Two: Ask questions about the image and always give an open answer
    • Tease the audience or partner with the answer so they want to know more . “I see a big green perfectly cut lawn. The sun is shining very bright and in the middle a girl with torn clothes are sitting alone and crying” – “Why is she crying?”


  • Talking about “5”
    • A talks about an image, when B hears a word that he finds particularly interesting he starts a new narration and embodies the words in his character and voice – vice versa.



More thoughts on improvisation

Let your emotions fill you from the inside and radiance out, let it be a fuel that fills you from top to toe. The energy and feeling is like a horse – don’t hold it too tight because that will restrict where it will take you, however don’t let it go amok by itself without having any control of it. Keep the energy inside you and reveal it without throwing it away.


  • How do we proceed in an improvisation?
    • 1. Change abruptly/contrasting. 2. Change gradually. 3. Stay with what you are in.
    • Tools – vocal, pitching, actions, timing, space – how does different external tools affect the meaning of what we are doing?
    • Spontaneity – just let things happen, get carried away by what you are doing
    • Imaginative vocal and physical narration


  • Do not talk about your partner or about the audience – never say “you”.
    • Only speak in 1st or 3rd person.
    • Never be in charge of your partner. Do not direct them or try to change them.
    • Do not be beholden by your partner. They are then narrowing down your choices.


  • Narrating about your true life or from imagination?
    • Imagination is more interesting than true life. You have already experienced your real situations but you have never experienced your spontaneous imagination before.
    • We don’t invite reality but everything you say and think will always be a true story about yourself.
    • You cannot have secrets about yourself that you don’t want to be revealed on stage because everything you do is always a part of you.


  • Your partner is always perfect.
    • Your partner does always right therefore you shall always be able to react to what your partner gives you.
    • You have to be so open and responsive that you get affected by your partner even though they are not open.
    • “Take what you get – not what you want”


  • The blank paper – imagination can never peer out.
    • When the blank paper shows up in your mind – embrace it. A blank paper you can fill with anything, it has more opportunities than you can ever imagine. If you fill it with “not knowing” that is when you have fallen into a trap. Fill it with the first thing that comes into your mind.
    • We need to find calmness and stillness in our creation, which the blank paper allows. What prevents us from getting in contact with our imagination is when we get in contact with our anxiety; with our concern about the content.


  • Never think in negatives – never tell yourself “not”
    • If you have an image do not tell yourself not to have that image even though it is not perfect – just go with it.


  • Practice the way you want to be. Do not go slower or different in order to succeed and build it up slowly. Practice what you want and fail over and over again until you have it.


  • There is no point to be an artist if you cannot laugh at yourself when you fail.


  • It is about making yourself available to your creativity – you are a vast of resources and images which you just have to allow to show up.


  • You cannot live in a cave without looking out , experience life, everything you experience is to your advantage.

Thank you

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