Cameron Knight
Professional Career | Assistant Professor of Acting | Contact
Course Materials Resume & CV Professional Statement Projects & Achievements

Professional Statement
My work as a professional actor is one of my greatest assets as a professor of acting. Staying immersed in the rapidly changing theatrical world as well as staying active in the world of voice over (including video games, animation and audio books) allows me to keep the students connected to the current trends in the industry.

My work as an actor includes work in classical and contemporary plays, new works, devised pieces, comedy and drama. By continuing to work as an actor in my summer schedule and occasionally during the academic year, I have the capacity to relate to and articulate how to navigate similar experiences the students may encounter.

This year, I have shifted my focus to directing. Through a staged reading initiative (Horizons) that I created, to the direction of the first main stage production for the School of Drama in the 2014-2015 season (Seven Guitars) I have the opportunity to train the actors how to develop, identify and put into practice their own acting process.

I am very proud of my work as a mentor and professional example to the students of color in the School of Drama as well as to students throughout the university. (I have led lectures on culture and identity through the organizations SPIRIT and CMARC at Carnegie Mellon) I believe it is important for the underrepresented population in the School of Drama to see “themselves” in their faculty. I provide an outlet, a sounding board and a common understanding to the students as they develop as artists.

My work as an actor enriches my teaching at Carnegie Mellon University. Going forward, I see possibilities to provide support in the students’ senior showcase, recruitment and auditioning of future classes and deepening the students understanding of the professional market.

 

Teaching Philosophy
I believe it is important for actors to be aware of what role their character plays in an overall production - not being merely honest to their character, but rather being honest to the play, responsible for the play, which I believe expands the options for the actor.

Actors, in my opinion, perform their best when they have a strong connection to the text they are speaking and to their body in space. In my experience actors achieve access to this by developing disciplined practices that show them how to look at text, breaking down that which is essential, gaining an awareness of their body in space and having a strong body to execute any role, from King Lear to Messenger 1. For me this work begins, regardless of the course, in getting the actors out of their heads and into their bodies: reacting, not thinking. I use loose improvisation, music, the students’ writing and reflections and course discussions to achieve this. We begin by removing outside influence, the notion of right and wrong.

I am well versed in the many methods and philosophies of the craft of acting. I believe that an actor, above all, must be present to the play as it is unfolding, prepared to execute the direction of the production and be confident in his or her capacities to execute. In Acting One, the beginning acting practices for freshman BFA candidates I use Laban, Michael Chekov and the Meisner technique to increase the student’s awareness of their partner’s actions and behavior. This work allows them to distinguish between their own thought and plans for a scene or onstage relationship and what is actually happening: to react to real stimuli instead of project what they believe is the correct behavior. This work allows the students to become aware of their habits as an actor and gives them a course to expand beyond those habits.

Students learn in different ways; therefore, I employ various methods in order to maintain my commitment that each actor realizes his or her potential. I believe it less important that they execute a specific method of training but that their performances are honest, expressive, entertaining and most importantly repeatable. By widening the actor’s palate with options, they are free to move seamlessly between styles of plays and the various aesthetics of directors. I use elements of Laban, Meisner, Michael Chekov, Shurtleff, Stanislavski, mime and improvisation.

In my sophomore-acting course in contemporary scene study, I work to empower the actors to make strong choices that are generated from their understanding and imagination. They identify areas in their acting that they want to address and I assist them in selecting material that will challenge them to achieve it. We then remove the restrictions of age, gender, race etc. and begin to work on physical centers: thinking, power and feeling. I expand their awareness in these physical centers and then work for their actions on stage to come from physical inspiration, not pre-planned thought. This work allows for the student’s confidence to grow and for them to relax and trust their own decision-making.

In my Shakespeare Course, I work to help the student develop a strong relationship to the text of plays, dissecting each word for its authentic meaning and developing performances that are honest, reliable, truthful and text driven. We work tirelessly on the rhetoric and grammatical structure of classic texts. I find that working in this way allows the students to gain a strong connection and command of material, which has a profound impact on their work in contemporary acting as well.

In every course I teach, I attend to developing the actors’ awareness; of their body in space, what it is they are doing and getting their focus and actions out in the space with people, as opposed to an interpretation or version in their head. I achieve this by getting them to let the play get out ahead of them - out of their heads. We begin by dissecting what they understand to be the action of the play, scene or moment, identifying what they intend to execute and making them aware of what is actually occurring. As we do this I work to help them identify how to bring the play to life by deciding and creating repeatable actions that they can authentically live into. The implications of this level of specificity have profound benefits in all of their courses of study. Early in our work we discuss and work in long form: I want them to discuss, defend and journal about their process of creating an audition, developing a scene, playing a role. As we work they cultivate their own short hand that will deepen their process of acting in which we as an audience see only the results, but they as the artist have thought through and worked out every detail from how they use language to their bodies on stage.

I find teaching students effective audition technique to be very rewarding. This is exciting to me because I find it important to help the students bridge the gap between their great work in the classroom and having it “show up” in their auditions without appearing as though they are executing notes but rather as actors present to the room and the story they are telling. Additionally, I see it increasingly important for students to be educated in the business of this profession, not only how to give a great audition but how to represent themselves in the professional community.

I believe actors perform their best work when they are empowered and confident. I pursue this distinction for the students by having them approach their work as young professionals, identifying and fine-tuning their technique, as opposed to a studentthinking once they acquire these skills, they will then become an actor. Allowing them to find their voice in a subjective art form is crucial to developing actors that are risk takers, leaders and dynamic in whatever medium they decide to pursue.

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