Loyd Williamson

 

 I was talking about my training as a performer and I started to talk about the man to the left here, Loyd Williamson.  Loyd is the founder and artistic director of the Actor's Movement Studio (AMS) as well as having been the head of the Movement program at Mason Gross School of the Arts (where I got my MFA).

The Williamson Technique is a movement methodology to free up  the actor's physical instrument so that she may fully process and live through the emotional experiences required of a text.  His technique incorporates yoga, meditation, Martha Graham, Anna Sokolov and physical improvisation.  And it is designed to completely support the Meisner technique, a very popular approach to actor training.  No other movement technique is so custom-fitted to a particular acting approach as is Loyd's.

Studying with Loyd was at once inspiring and thrilling and frustrating.  Not a very gifted teacher, Loyd was a brilliant visionary with a sense for bringing out the deep essence of experience and expression - on a physical plane.  I've likened studying with Loyd to studying with Sanford Meisner, or even Constantin Stanislavski.  Here, I was not studying with the protege of the master, I was studying with the master himself - the originator.  And to that end, he could be very frustrating - changing his process, his technique, mid-stream because of a new insight he had about it.  It was fantastic to witness him make his approach stronger, more effective, right before my eyes.  But it was frustrating, at times, to follow where he was going.  He sometimes would wend these  unending metaphors to explain his technique.  And sometimes the only response was to nod and smile.  That's just the way it was.

Loyd was also very kind to me, particularly.  I mean, I have no evidence of him being unkind to any of my peers and colleagues, but I know he was especially kind to me.  

He was teaching us about how important it was to follow our hearts as artists.  And in the midst of this, I blurted out, "I am sick to death of being told to use my heart!  What about my mind?  I happen to have a very strong mind and I want to use it!  What is so terrible about using my fucking intellect?"  Loyd rocked back and forth for a moment.  Clasped his hands in front of him.  And softly, gently said to me, "You can always use your intellect - you must use it - but in service to what the heart wants."  

First of all, it was amazing that he didn't even bother to admonish me for being so rude and interrupting him and cursing, etc.  That he recognized how frustrated I was and didn't even speak to that.  But just responded to my question as though I'd asked it in the most respectful way possible.  His kindness to me that day - not to mention the message and lesson he taught me, have stuck with me to this day.  I was changed that day.  And I will forever be indebted to Loyd for handling an indignant, frustrated, disrespectful student in such a kind and mature way.  

Around 1998 Loyd applied for tenure at MGSA/Rutgers and was denied.  The committee determined that his work didn't hold national merit.  Didn't matter that it's the most effective movement technique for Meisner actors.  (From my point of view, the movement work is what makes the Meisner acting technique stand out.)  Didn't matter that he'd worked on Broadway with major stars and directors.  The committee didn't see the significance of Loyd's work.  And soon after being denied, neither did Loyd.  He fell into a deep depression and went into seclusion, last I heard.  I've written him two letters to tell him how important he has been to my growth as a human being and an artist.

To Loyd Williamson: brilliant genius, visionary, artist, and mentor.  Wherever you are, sir, I salute you.  

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