The High Falls Theater Ensemble

A Chekhov Studio for Speech and Drama


The High Falls Theater Ensemble has been developed by John McManus. The likely pilot cohort will begin in 2021/2022.

The aim of the High Falls Theater Ensemble is to provide a training ground for actors and to create ensemble theater productions where dramatic sketches, improvisations and significant plays old and new may be prepared and sent on tour. The tour will provide the necessary experience of working with and for the audience. The training ground will provide a home where the actors may return and deepen their work.

The method of training is based on the Michael Chekhov approach to acting. Fundamental to the training is the integration of the Chekhov acting method with the creative voice and speech techniques of Rudolf Steiner, Kristin Linklater, Patsy Rodenburg and others. The aim is to create a fusion of mind, body, breath, and voice as a basis for the actor’s own inner creativeness.

Some Important Aspects of the Training


* Imagination is an important guiding principle throughout the training and for the ensuing life of an actor/artist. The role, the character, the circumstances, the relationships and every inner and outer movement, thought and feeling must be imagined and incorporated physically by the actor.

* Emotional honesty is at the heart of authenticity. It requires a willingness to be open, empty and vulnerable in order to listen, receive and radiate present moment awareness and a truthful embodied response.

* Impulse is cultivated through the generating of will power. Following an impulse is essential to dramatic encounter and gives the courage to act. The use of Psychological Gesture will be employed throughout the training and rehearsal periods to discover objectives, intentions, justification and obstacles in order to play the actions.

* Voice and Speech is the integral, creative medium of the actor's art. Vocal freedom and articulate skill are achieved by uncovering of the voice and discovering and deepening the experience of speech.

* Movement prepares the whole body as an instrument for creative impulses.

* Puppetry

* Greek Gymnastics form a basis for many aspects of dramatic expression.

* Rehearsal and Performance intensifies the technique and bring into focus the creative process. Students are encouraged to develop their artistic sensibility and to work together as an ensemble. Performances will provide a opportunity for practical experience in makeup and in the preparation for costumes, scenery and lighting.

* Lecture/demonstrations will be given on Theater History, evolution of the drama and past and present trends.


Who is the course for?

  1. The aspiring actor who wishes to have a successful, professional career.

  2. The actor activist who will be interested in developing a firm foundation for his or her creative activity and self-confidence in order to create new works of art that addresses social and political issues.

  3. The serious student of acting who would like to advance his or her technique in order to increase their chances of getting into one of the top training programs in the world.

  4. The student/artist who is drawn to a psycho-physical approach to acting and to a creative, whole body approach to voice and speech that arises out of the insights of Michael Chekhov and Rudolf Steiner.

  5. The aspiring theater artist interested in all aspect of theater, particularly ensemble building and presentations, experimental theater, performance and touring.

  6. The seeker of practical self-knowledge who is interested in engaging in a transformative process through empathetic character building and immersion in the art of acting.

  7. The undecided student who is looking for a challenging and fulfilling gap year; the perfect gift for a person searching for their true vocation.

  8. The movers and shakers of the future who want to express themselves freely and powerfully through word and action, whether they be actors, teacher, lawyers, politicians, activists, poets, journalists, writers and so forth.

  9. The professional actor who want to deepen his/her technique and reawaken creativity.

Giving form, ease, grace, and presence to the body and voice is both a creative act and a healing process. As Ted Andrews said “The more we learn to link the use of breath, mind, and voice, the greater our power in life.” Once a student has experienced the unity of mind, body, breath, and voice he or she will begin to sense its application to all walks of life.


Awakening to self-consciousness through the creative process unfolding in the world

8:45 - 10:00 | Theater History and Movement
10:05 - 11:45 | Voice and Speech
12:00 - 1:50 | Acting Technique
3:15 - 5:00 | Special Activities - Puppetry, Stage Craft, and Technique
6:30 - 9:30 | Rehearsal


The Door to the Creative Process

The Michael Chekhov Acting Method

Michael Chekhov was a Russian-American actor, director, and teacher. He was a student of Stanislavski, who referred to him as his most brilliant student. He later became one of the directors of The Moscow Art Theater before establishing his own school, The Chekhov Theater Studio, in the UK and then later in the USA. Chekhov speaks directly to the actor. He directs his students to walk through the door of technique in order to fan the spark of inspiration into a flame. The journey is psycho-physical i.e. physical, mental, and emotional. It begins by enlivening the body and unlocking the imagination in order to invite and stimulate sensations and feelings. The creative process developed at High Falls Theater is a living, breathing process. Emphasis is placed on the development of a center whereby the actor is able to embrace the periphery through an expansion of his or her capacities. In this process, every movement and gesture has an inner resonance. “The ideal center” as Chekhov calls it, is the heart center where impulses are transformed through imaginative power into effective acting or character choices. Through centering and breathing, heart work begins and the whole body becomes an instrument of the creative individuality.

The Voice and Speech

The voice and speech taught at the High Falls Theater is eclectic—deriving it ideas and method from a broad range of sources. These include a deepening of the experience of speech based on studies of Rudolf Steiner's speech formation and eurythmy, as well as the inspiration of Kristin Linklater, Patsy Rodenburgh, Catherine Fitsmaurice, and Louis Colaianni. The aim of this course in voice and speech is to develop the capacity to sense and form living substance when we speak. As actors and orators, we need to breathe the “breath of life” into the words in order to bring the text alive. This requires a clear progression of understanding, development, and practice based on the integration of the speech organism with the whole body and its connection to the world. The instruction has two goals: 1. Uncovering the voice and 2. Discovering the experience of speech. In order to meet these goals, the breath must be grounded, released, supported, and freed.