MICHAEL CHEKHOV PSYCHOLOGICAL GESTURES COMPARED TO GESTALT THERAPY ESSENCES. In this video I compare what MIchael Chekhov means when he describes the "essence" of a "psychological gesture" with what gestalt therapists means when they use the same term "essence" to describe one of the sides of the personality that emerges during work on awareness or a dream or on a personal relationship. In both cases the language points to some psychological source below or spiritual source above, which generates our everyday behavior. Here is what Chekhov says in his Master Class lecture series, which you can find on the net. "Everything like development of our imagination or using the psychological gesture, all such means make our physical exercises psychophysical. I want to emphasize this psycho side of our exercises. Then anyone who wants to use these body exercises will never be led astray. He will always know what is the gist, the essence of each exercise, the psychological side of it. We have to imagine our body as a kind of sponge which eagerly absorbs all that is given to it in the form of psychological values." So far this sound very much like how the word "essence" is used in psychology. In fact, Chekhov also uses the words "archetype" and "prototype" in the manner of psychologists. But when it comes to the practical techniques he gives to you as a performer to discover these sources for your own art, Chekhov merely skims on the surface. And without a solid theoretical foundation Chekhov acting studios turn into physical theater or dance classes, with an emphasis on the creative use of body and imagination. For example, "open yourself" and "close yourself", in the manner of an accordion. Certainly this accordion shtick can be done just as well by a five year old as by an adult actor. Something is missing here. Chekhov refers to our "higher intellect" as the dwelling place of these essences, each of which must have a certain "quality". Says Chekhov: "What is this quality? These are thoughts and ideas which are absolutely deprived of any feelings. The real intellect, the really great ideas and thoughts must be born and can be born within our heart. We should find within ourselves our thinking heart." Chekhov's jargon keeps getting more and more poetic, and at the same time it becomes less and less precise. An actor has no idea what his thinking heart is, and goes back to doing the same five year old accordion shtick. Chekhov's critics are right here when they dismiss much of his system as merely mystical mumbo jumbo. For preaching is no substitute for teaching. Chekhov does not spell out for performers how you are actually to do what he says he wants you to do. Of course, the 41 exercises which are on the net under the heading "Chekhov exercises" are very useful tools, for those of you who already have discovered your own "essences", "qualities", "thinking heart", etc. What Chekhov does excel at is providing you with the bridge techniques you need to shuttle back and forth between your roots and your branches, between your essences or archetypes and your bag of performing arts techniques. But the gestalt techniques that easily could supply your missing essences and archetypes are only vaguely hinted at by Michael Chekhov. In this video I describe theory and practice aspects of gestalt therapy which you can use in order to make sense of Chekhov's fuzzy terminology. Gestalt therapy is not difficult to understand and to do. Buy Fritz Perls' "Gestalt Therapy Verbatim", read it, and do it. No Ph.d. or license required. Stop running around frantically like a mouse trapped in a maze, and instead use your intelligence to grasp a few ideas. Be a guided muscle, instead of just a twitching muscle. Chekhov himself points you in that direction, before he gets lost in metaphors. He says, "our way of developing our body is a way to develop it from inside by means of our psychology, and not only by outer means which might develop our bodies physically perfectly well but not quite suitable for acting".