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Create Michael Chekhov Psychological Gesture

Michael Chekhov Psychological Gestures

Most of the acting technique taught today is psychological, but Michael Checkhov believed that acting is all about the connection between the body and psychology. So Michael Chekhov developed psychological gestures or PG.

In this article, we will look at all the things that are to know about Michael Chekhov psychological gesture, and also we will look at how to put the technique into practice. 

What Is Michael Chekhov’s Psychological Gesture Technique?

In simple words, the technique helps you express the character’s emotions, feelings, and will through gestures or movement.

Let’s take an example to understand the technique’s principle. 

Imagine a character you are playing is strong and dominating but carries anger and hatred in his heart. 

To express these qualities, you will have to find that one gesture that expresses all of them. 

The gestures have to be precise. The hand position, knees, head inclination, eyes, etc., should be proper. 

Once you find a suitable gesture and repeat it several times, it will evoke these qualities in your body, which is the result we require to play the part. 

Every time you are ready to play the character on stage or in front of the camera, you have to perform the gesture to get into the character and then play the scene. 

How To Create PG?

You must keep an open mind to using Michael Chekhov psychological gesture. In his book To The Actor: On The Technique of Acting, Michael says you should avoid using a reasoning mind because it is not imaginative enough.  

So to understand this acting technique, just put aside everything that you have learned in the past from Stanislavsky, Uta Hagen, Stella Adler, or any other type of acting. 

With an open mind, let’s what are the steps involved in PG:

1. Read The Script

Michael Chekhov suggests reading the script at least once. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about the character.  

When you are reading for the 1st time, let the imaginative part of the brain work. Allow it to give you a 1st glimpse of the psychological gesture of the character. 

You don’t have to question it logically. Trust your intuition and artistic vision. 

Michael Chekhov gives many exercises to help you evoke the first image by reading the script. You should learn and practice that regularly. 

2. Find The Desire of The Character

Now to get a clearer image of the gesture, ask yourself, “what does the character desire?”

You might not get the perfect answer from your intuition but work from whatever hint or glimpse you see. 

3. Start With Hand And Arm Only

Initially, work with hand and arm. 

If the character desires greed, you can thrust your hand as if grasping.
If the desire is to be cautious, you can stretch your arms slowly and keep your palms pointing outwards.  

Just try to move your hands according to your desire. 

Remember, it is not right or wrong. You have to follow your intuition. 

Once you find the right gesture with your hand, you can put your whole body behind it and create one gesture that defines the desire. 

4. Start Adding Qualities

Apart from desire, there might be other qualities the character has. So start adding those qualities to your gesture. 

Start improving and correcting the gestures as you go along. Get the help of the director and writer to see if the final version of the gesture describes the character or not. 

The steps are the gist of how you create gestures. There are several exercises you will have to do to be good at creating gestures. 

To know more, you can get Micheal Chekhov’s book on acting. 

Psychological Gesture List

There are a total of eleven Archetypal gestures used to create psychological gestures:

  1. Open 
  2. Close 
  3. Push
  4. Pull
  5. Embrace
  6. Lift
  7. Penetrate
  8. Wring
  9. Tear
  10. Smash
  11. Throw 

These gestures are self-explanatory, and you have to add qualities to these gestures to create the GP for the character. 

Actors Who Use The Technique

Over the years, many actors have trained and successfully built careers using the Michael Chekhov technique. There are actors like Ingrid Bergman, Clint Eastwood, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Quinn, and many more who were students of Michael Chekhov’s acting technique.

 In the modern era, actors including Johnny Depp, Anthony Hopkins, James Spader, Jack Nicholson, and many more use the technique. 

Want To Learn Other Types Of Acting Techniques? – Read This Post

Final Talk

When you are exploring acting techniques, you should consider Michael Chekhov psychological gesture. In my experience, it is handy for introverted and shy actors. This technique helps them open up more easily compared to the technique that uses a lot of thinking and imagination.