Joe Orrach teaches acting and movement for actors and for nonprofessionals. He has taught at universities throughout the US, at theatre and community workshops, for high schools and athletic teams, and privately in the US and Europe. Joe also teaches stage combat as well as textual interpretation for actors. He began as an instructor of tap dance and a boxing trainer. He has developed a program for working through the telling of personal stories to dramatic performance.
Joe Orrach's philosophy of teaching is based on coaxing the authentic self to emerge. We know the wisdom that one needs not to "act" but just to "be." That "being" is not so simple; it takes discipline, tools and self-awareness through practice, focus and openness to possibilities. Orrach's belief is that when one is truly oneself, through study, discipline and awareness, then an actor can be "found." The result of the work is a person with a renewed sense of self and an expanded sense of personal capacity; that is the best kind of actor. No role is off limits; anything is attainable. The result is empowering, not just in the theatre, but in other, less rarified worlds.
T e a c h i n g
Obviously, Orrach's personal history informs his philosophy of teaching. Personally, after years of performing, in many venues worldwide, he decided to pursue a degree at a graduate school of theatre (USC M.F.A.). Even after a period of active engagement in the profession, Orrach wanted to become more conscious of the process that enables artistic freedom and skill. As a performer, he started on the streets of NYC, a vaudevillian and tap dancer with no formal training other than boxing and then ballet. His performance was steeped in the tradition of improvising, much like the jazz musicians with whom he often worked. He learned from sharing technique and adapting what worked to his own communication.
Orrach now uses the tools he knows in different ways. Initially, Joe "followed his instincts" to keep stories and performances alive, imaginative, and developing. But, the instincts need the nourishment that comes from stepping outside of one's self and into the different worlds of many others. The kind of performance that allows for the creation of character, being oneself in another, requires more than instinct and intuition, however attuned one's instincts and intuition may be. It needs interpretive intelligence and a mastery of the physical, psychological and emotional awareness in performance. That is "craft," not "intuition."
The freest use of the most intelligent body." This phrase of Isadora Duncan has come to give shape to Joe's philosophy of teaching and growth. Joe learned first-hand that the training of the body – which includes the mind and emotions – frees it to approach new potentials. "Having my body to support me, to remember for me what to do next, to take my risks for me; this is what I depend on."
Thus, Orrach's approach to teaching is very much influenced by teachers with whom he worked in an integrated physical approach – Graciela Daniele, Bill Irwin, Andy Robinson, David Shiner, Robert Woodruff. Although we express and communicate through voice, the body (or, rather, the voice em-bodied) communicates far more. The underlying multi-faceted truth of what one is saying can be found rooted in the physical.
The goal of this approach is for the student to reclaim his/her primary acting "instrument," the body with its wisdom and experience. The effort is to unify the body, mind and emotions into a harmonious working unit in order to access the creative imagination and the range of possibilities it offers. This is about choices and recognizing that one is making choices in every "non-involuntary" movement. For example, one's walk, however much one may think of that almost automatic movement as a given, is a chosen habitual behavior. Actors are already playing a character as they walk; they are playing themselves.
Orrach's unique way of "coaxing" the authentic self from his students is rooted in his passion for the art form. This is a feature of Orrach as an acting instructor. Being in his class, one is encouraged and transported by Orrach's love for the craft.