Polina Klimovitskaya is the Artistic Director of Terra Incognita Theater and teaches acting at Yale University and Michael Howard Studios, among other places in the USA and abroad. She has taught acting for more than 30 years. I began studying with her in 2004 and started working with Terra Incognita the following year. I have had the extreme privilege of serving as her assistant in the intervening time. A large part of my job has been working with her to attempt to determine the best means for sharing with the world the body of knowledge she has amassed and is already passing on to her students and colleagues. From my perspective, this is a difficult task, largely because it both consists of and concerns the relationships of the rational and conscious mind to the irrational and unconscious and how these relationships factor into the way we make performance, the way we act, the way we live. Can the rational explain the irrational? Can one speak about the ineffable? Can the non-linear be described linearly?
These questions and more come into play here, even in deciding how to parcel out the segments of the interview Raul Zbengheci and I conducted with Polina this past winter. As Polina explains at one point in the interview, because her mind works associatively – and because she teaches that way as well -- it can be hard for people new to her to follow the ever moving – but never lost – thought. In short, in going from A to B, she may dance whirligigs through C, D, L, 4, and green but she will reach B, and the ‘detours’ prove not distractions but discoveries that open possibilities of understanding along the way, working on our minds on several levels, whether conscious or not.
Because of that, I’ve tried to edit this interview into topical segments, but I think the most beneficial way to learn from these is to watch them all and try to absorb something from the whole, something of the essence. As Polina says, she is not delivering recipes for great acting; such things can’t work; and, anyway, if an actor acts a little better or a little worse, who cares?