From my Stagecraft Series, these themes are available as WORKSHOPS and PRIVATE STUDY:
Our journey through life is the classroom as we become the artists we were born to be.
We are born singing. First we cry, then we sing. That’s the simple truth of it. If you can speak, you can sing.
Singing is surrendering, opening, channeling and sharing. In every performance, there’s a yearning for connection and union within ourselves, our audience and our highest purpose. I use singing liberally here, because the same applies to acting, recitation, public speaking, presentation.
To make performance artful, we learn to step into and out of ourselves, and to journey in such a way that everything—every experience, moment, encounter, person, setback, success—becomes of service to our life and free creative expression. Now singing is art, the art of interpretation. A context for experiencing self and life. This is STAGECRAFT.
If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. ~ Charlie Parker
Stagecraft training is experiential. I combine traditional theater techniques (role-play, improv, movement, etc.) and writing techniques (active writing, journaling, etc.) with storytelling and staging. Stagecraft is synthesized from a blending of teachings with my own direct lived experience. My fondness for a range of songs and genres influence my sense of playfulness in melody, rhythm and storytelling. Besides diseuse Yvette Guilbert, I’ve learned immensely from the singers Connee Boswell, Jo Stafford, Nina Simone, the great fadistas of Portugal like Amalia Rodrigues and contemporaries like Rhiannon Giddens and the late Eva Cassidy. Uta Hagen and Yoshi Oida have been key early influencers on the actor’s path.
Learning to master Stagecraft is in itself a path to freedom. It’s a continuous weaving of awareness and as the craft is refined, the artist experiences greater and greater freedom on-stage and greater creative possibilities both on-stage and off.
I invite you, Artist of the Stage, into my world and classroom.
IS THIS CLASS FOR YOU?
Are you ready to take risks to really trust your voice and instincts?
Do you see yourself on stage with confidence and in full possession of your talents?
Is the thing you want most to tell your story authentically and connect deeply to your material and your audience?
Come to my class, we can make that happen.
Karen is keenly insightful in her teaching. Her perceptions go to the core. Her feedback has hit the mark with me in a global way that is transforming the way I sing, think and make a connection with my audience.
Karen is an amazing coach for the stage. You go to her for stage coaching and come away with life coaching. She has the ability to completely detach from the “staged” element of performance and plumb motivation, psyche, spirit and temperament, at times even a little mercilessly. There’s one trick Karen used repeatedly that has subtly transformed every single song in my show – it may even have positively effected my personal empathy.
Ms. Kohler was able to effectively communicate her ideas via explanation and well selected experimentation to help identify and work on my shortcomings during our short time together, and at the end of the day helped me boost my confidence to perform at my best on stage.
I learned how to make a song my own.
The Key to Crafting Performances That Connect
In this 2-part master class, Karen coaches stage artists and speakers in exploring the essential, non-technical aspects of stagecraft that make a performer unique and a performance memorable.
Karen’s methodology includes practices in breathing, movement and meditation to foster awareness, prepare the body, free intuition, and open the emotional, mental and spiritual centers for the fullest, most artful expression.
PART 1 – COLLECT
In Part I of this workshop you’ll step inward, bringing your awareness to your body and the interior space in which your passion, intention and breath reside. You’ll use your own life experience to begin weaving your understanding of how authenticity arises as your ability to reveal your truth increases. Core concepts of the KOHLER METHOD include: Atmosphere, Life Drawing, the Palette of Selves, Characterization and Subtext, the Faculties of Observation & Empathy, Taking Risks, Playing Opposites, the Drama of Silence, and Tapping the Universals. You’ll experiment with accessing the breadth and depth of your voice and senses to connect more deeply with your song and script.
PART 2 – CONNECT
In Part II of this workshop, you’ll turn outward with trust as you manage your doubts, take risks and use your nerves to fuel your auditions and performances. As you experience inner alignment, you’ll begin to trust your voice and the natural grace of your body to command the stage, tame the inner critique, and unite your faculties in service to your art. Core concepts of the KOHLER METHOD include: Carriage and the Silhouette, Gesture and the Plastic, Coloring Words, the Four Walls of Theater, Mic Technique, Audience Rapport, Fear as Fuel, Self Direction, and the Art of Transparency & Surrender. You’ll learn techniques to more effectively inhabit your body both in stillness and in motion and how to forget them. Finally, you’ll access the power of connection to bring your audience to you and to themselves.
You’ll leave with…
Tips on how to find inspiration for your message in the people and world around you.
A deeper awareness of the many facets of your body and mask (Plastik) that create interest and mystery, and command your audience’s attention.
Intimacy training with a partner inside a group of supportive co-creators.
An expanded awareness of the techniques available to you to reach into the heart of you, a character or a role and address yourself to at least one audience member.
Techniques on how to harness your fear, gather yourself up and surrender yourself to the power of a message.
IS THIS CLASS FOR YOU?
Do you get tongue-tied, fidgety, sweaty, and self-conscious when addressing a crowd?
Does the idea of speaking in public make you nauseous or even short of breath?
Does the mere thought of making an embarrassing mistake, forgetting something, being unclear or simply making a bad impression make you anxious?
Would you believe that your stage fright is a necessary ally to your stage might?
Come to my class, let’s illuminate and transform this fear.
Thank you Karen for such an insightful and heartfelt workshop. My first step of harnessing my demon of public speaking has been made. Thank you for your gentle guidance. This workshop gave me the confidence of overcoming my fears and finally becoming the person that I am meant to be in this life.
I found Karen delightful to work with. Her “Stage Might” workshop provided a framework of thinking for public speaking that I anticipate referencing for years to come. Karen’s subsequent coaching afforded me the opportunity to convert the conceptual to tangible. Through a series of fun exercises she helped me “level up” and refine my unique speaking style.
An environment of trust was built beautifully. I love the way you started the session with everybody working on self body consciousness, the moves and postures. With each of the participants I could see you working so closely that at times some broke into tears or burst into laughter. You helped us draw closer to each other.
Harnessing Your Fear of Public Speaking
We all speak in public and yet public speaking is something most of us have never been taught. The reality is that many of us have a mortal fear of standing before others and telling the truth.
According to the Wall Street Journal, most Americans fear public speaking more than they fear death. And yet at some point in everybody’s life, we’re faced with getting up in front of an audience and expressing ourselves—to make a toast, give a presentation, defend a case, a cause or simply a passion. Learning to surrender and get out of the way of the message is what makes for artful presentations. It’s not how big your talent is, it’s how persuasively you use it.
THE KOHLER METHOD
In this workshop, you’ll explore the techniques that will help you identify what’s beneath the discomfort, help relax you on stage as you expand your confidence and identify where your voice resonates with your deepest truth. You’ll explore Core concepts of the KOHLER METHOD such as: Intention, Fear as Fuel, Tapping the Universals, The Faculty of Observation, The Faculty of Empathy, Self-Collection, Self-Direction, Mic Technique, and Audience Rapport.
This class is open to anyone who wishes to access a deeper level of comfort and connection with their audience by harnessing self-doubt, self-criticism and other kinds of self-sabotage when speaking and presenting. You’ll examine the power you possess to befriend your inner critic and illuminate the role the audience plays in being your greatest ally, ready to connect with you and with themselves. This class combines group exercises with direct coaching. Whether you’ve never gotten up in front of an audience or have been performing for years, you’ll experience turning your stage fright into stage might in a safe and supportive setting. (Length: 2-hr or half-day.)
You’ll leave with…
Life-long exercises you can use to access a deeper level of truth-telling in your presentations and story-telling.
Techniques to harness your fear, befriend it and convert it into fuel.
Tips for better posture that will facilitate relaxed breathing.
Vocal awareness, dynamics and pacing that will enhance your presentation.
Body language and gesture that will compliment your message rather than draw attention away from it.
Greater confidence and enthusiasm.
IS THIS CLASS FOR YOU?
As a dancer, have you wondered how you can express greater dramatic intention and range within your choreography and gesture?
Do you seek a deeper connection within your performances and with your audience?
Are you prepared to take greater risks in your performance art?
Come to my class, let’s unearth these universals together.
Student after student displayed their wares to their appreciative peers who saw before their very eyes the transformation which Karen brought on through poignant observations and advise. Her passion for performance and education really came to the fore as she touched these young performers and left all gathered richer for having shared the afternoon with her.
I received an in-depth approach to the method of performance through the use of space, time, movement and storytelling. Whether singer, dancer or actor, I would highly recommend that everyone take this workshop as it would indeed be beneficial to every performer’s goal to achieve their full potential of delivering a real, honest and truthful performance.
The impact of Ms. Kohler’s tremendous skill was evident in the performances that followed her guidance. I have to concur with the gentleman who thanked her for helping him to understand himself as an artist. She truly did offer a great deal of insight into craft and into self. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anyone receive our culture with so much affection and energy.
TAP THE UNIVERSALS
Storytelling for Movement Artists & Non-Vocalists
From the time we were small, when we lacked the vocabulary to give voice to our feelings and thoughts, we moved, and we danced. We danced a language many of us have forgotten how to use.
A TEACHING-ARTIST COLLABORATION
In this workshop, we employ Core concepts of the KOHLER METHOD to bring our emotions into the creative frame and build an unvoiced resonance using: the Palette of Selves, the Mask and the Plastik, Taking Risks, Self-Collection, The Faculty of Observation, The Faculty of Empathy, Tapping the Universals and more. This class is open to any non-vocalists who wish to access a deeper level of storytelling in their stage expression, as well as to singers and speakers who are ready to bring their free-flowing bodies into their presentations.
Karen invites a guest teaching artist in as collaborator to guide you in exploring your storytelling gifts through movement. This is a particularly rich collaboration when that guest teacher is from another culture, offering us all the chance to see how we are alike as human beings moving through our stories and how we are culturally distinct and therefore teachers for each other.
You’ll leave with…
A deeper sense of what constitutes stage presence and how to achieve it.
A greater confidence in your origin voice, aka your intuitive voice.
Knowing how to bring silence and stillness into your performance art to achieve greater dramatic depth.
The knowledge that there are infinite ways to voice a story, and that our impact grows as our ability to reveal our truth increases.
IS THIS CLASS FOR YOU?
Are you drawn to intimate performance art?
Do you have material in mind to bring to a cabaret, a poetic, comedic or storytelling open-mic?
Do you find the technical aspects of performing in a club daunting?
Has your performance art been experimental and hard to categorize?
Would you say that even your pop songs are art songs?
Come to my practicum, let’s explore the art of the intimate.
Karen has a fantastic eye for theatre and detail. Working with her on my New York debut taught me so much about intimate theatre, and about my own strengths and instincts as a singer and actor.
Karen Kohler is a cabaret singer’s dream director. She directed me from the outside in. She’s got a great eye for the vision of the stage as a whole, knows the fine art of building a dynamic and delicious evening of music and story-telling, and has excellent taste in song selection, patter, costumes, and stage movement. More than all this Karen helped guide me towards what is most true in myself.
I had the honor of accompanying Karen in India, and though I was supposed to be an accompanist, I consider myself a fortunate student. The first thing that struck me about her abilities is her complete command of the stage and her audience. She is a fabulous musician, additionally. Watching her perform and observing her body language, expressions and conversations taught me a lot and have given me a toolset to guide young musicians on the importance of stagecraft as a skill for all performing artists.
It is your skill as a director that has given us the confidence to be ourselves in this new, intimidating and high-stakes environment. You have served us hugely and so well, and we look forward to a continuing relationship.
The Great Big Art of the Small*
If you’ve answered yes to any of these “Is This Class For You?” questions, chances are good you’re a Room singer and Room is your genre.
In this workshop, we focus on the detailed elements of performance, staging and audience rapport that are requisite for delivering great big messages in small intimate spaces.
PART 1 – STORY
First we focus on the main ingredient of your act (your song, script, spoken word, poem, dance, pantomime) and survey its content. Participants arrive with a piece (5 min or less) that they are prepared to present for receptivity and critique. Core concepts of the KOHLER METHOD that we’ll use to advantage your offering include: the Palette of Selves, Carriage and Silhouette, Gesture, Self-Collection, Taking Risks, Playing Opposites, the Drama of Silence, The Faculty of Observation, The Faculty of Empathy, and Tapping the Universals. You’ll learn techniques to more effectively inhabit your body both in stillness and in motion and how to forget them. You’ll access the power of connection to bring your audience to you and to themselves.
PART 2 – STAGE & SETTING
Next we turn our attention to what surrounds the offering and how to place it in the most evocative and transportive frame possible. Core concepts of the KOHLER METHOD that we’ll use to adapt your offering to the ROOM context include: The Four Walls of Theater, Self Direction, Mic Technique, and Audience Rapport. We’ll discuss critical elements of staging (including lighting, sound, costume, props, furniture, mics), as well as how to communicate before, during and after the program with your on-stage and off-stage collaborators (audience, management, wait staff, press, etc.).
* Since 2006, taught internationally as “Karen Kohler’s Cabaret Colloquia”.
You’ll leave with…
A deeper awareness of the role that space plays in your artistry.
Tools of how to embody a great big message in a small intimate setting.
Tips on how to command a Room and its audience.
A deeper awareness of the Room setting (including lobby, audience, stage space and backstage) that play for and against your intentions.
The experience of having made yourself vulnerable with a partner in a group of supportive co-creators.
An understanding of how sound, light and generosity as well as silence, darkness and economy work together to serve an unforgettable performance.