Mnemonics and The Chair are just but a few acting exercises that you can try as you progress with your acting career. These exercises help you to sharpen your acting skills and ace your auditions. The truth is, most of the work in an actor’s life happen offstage when no one is watching. Whatever you deliver to the audience reflects your preparation.
I didn’t go to acting school, so it was great to be able to rehearse for a month or two, to workshop, and be with a director who even gave me acting exercises.Charlotte Gainsbourg
In this article, we will look at fifteen training exercises that will turn you into an amazing actor. Some of these exercises require more than one party. Therefore, you can tag your friends along in some of your exercise sessions. Have in mind that a good number of these techniques are employed in reputable drama schools.
- The Chair
- Words starting with
- Painting the fence
- Stroking an animal
- The man on a bus stop
- What were they wearing?
- The “Machine” of emotions
- Role model
- The Roles
- Change of roles
The chair targets your imagination, which is a necessary part of an actor’s existence. It is one of the most straightforward exercises on our lists that guarantees fun. The chair requires more than one participant if you want a beautiful experience. You can invite your friends. You are supposed to sit around one chair and come up with forty ways to build a chair. Simple, right? After every member has contributed, you will then identify a different object and continue with the same procedure.
Keep in mind that this exercise can be hard and tedious if you choose to do it alone. All in all, it is useful in broadening your imagination, which helps you while you are on stage.
Words starting with
You probably did this as a kid. An actor needs to be keen on small details, which is why this exercise helps you build your concentration. It is simple and can be done when you are all alone in your room. You should choose any letter from the alphabets and then look around and identify any object in your room that starts with the letter. However, there is a time limit. You need to come up with not less than fifty objects in 60 seconds and if you can identify more than that, the better.
Painting the fence
Do you want to have some fun while improving your skills? Painting the fence is just the right exercise for you. An actor needs to be fit, and therefore, this exercise works on your hands. You can either practice alone or invite other members of your theatre group or even your friends. You will not paint a real fence.
On the other hand, you will use your hand as a brush as you paint an imaginary wall. (pardon the pun) While doing this, you must touch an invisible wall using your palms and fingers. If you are more than one participant, all of you should drag an invisible rope. Lastly, row a boat. You can see that these exercises help you develop calisthenics of your hands, which you need for dramatization and natural body movement.
Stroking an animal
Stroking an animal requires several participants. You can tag your friends along or get other cast members for this. Each member of the group should be given a piece of paper with the name of an animal. It can be a dog, squirrel, cat or even a cow. Everybody should then pick and animal from the lists and imagine holding and stroking them. Once one has chosen a piece of paper, the other participants will guess the animal. You will realize that this is one of the first exercises when you attend a drama school.
An actor must be good at improvising, which is where Interview comes in. Certain roles require that you come up with an idea or a move while performing on stage. Someone is likely to spot a mistake if you are not good enough. Just like in stroking an animal, you will need other members but not friends. You should then ask your colleagues to write down several personal questions that require detailed answers. Keep in mind that these questions should leave you in awe.
Your role in the game is to answer all the questions faster, clearly and in a detailed manner. You should also be confident enough. Try drawing all your emotions into your answers and use gestures where necessary. You must ask for feedback from the interviewer. Get another interviewer after a week or so and repeat the same procedure.
The man on a bus stop
This is one of the commonest exercises that you can use to sharpen your acting skills. It targets your imagination. Imagination to an actor is like water to fish. You need to imagine and believe that your character is real if you want to move an audience. Therefore, you first must visualize your character and live his life to be as authentic as possible. It does not matter whether you will only appear in one scene or the entire show. Ask yourself what you are doing, why you are doing it and why you need to do it in a particular way.
Imagination helps you to harness your acting skills and believe in yourself. You do not want to appear clueless on stage after landing your first project. You can either choose to do this exercise on your own or individually. If you choose to do it on your own, just go outside and look at random passers-by, whether in queues or at the bus stop. To improve your imagination, try to assume their profession, hobbies, marital status and things about their lives. You can deduce this from your dressing style, physique or even walking style.
This exercise is all about fantasizing. Just imagine things. If you choose to do it in a group, make assumptions about the other members. You can imagine their favourite colour, word, hobby or even side occupation if any.
What were they wearing?
Apart from imagination, an actor needs to be attentive. Being keen helps you sharpen your acting skills and improve your delivery. You need to be keen on those around you, be it what they wear, how they talk or even their walking style. You must experience and get lost in your surroundings. Specific roles require you to be emotional, which you cannot achieve if you have never experienced the said event. Attentive people find it easy to remember past events or different observations related to the needed emotion.
You can either choose to do this exercise on your own or in a group. If you decide to go the group way, first gather people and sit around in a circle. Each member of the group will then have five minutes in which they are supposed to remember a particular person and the clothes he or she was wearing.
Other details include the hairstyle, accessories and even the colour of the clothes. When the set time elapses, the host will then ask questions related to the game. The members need to identify details such as the type of shoes, the colours of the clothes and many more. If you choose to perform the exercise on your own, just get a few friends or members of your family and apply the same approach. Close your eyes and try to remember related details.
Mnemonics target your memorability. The good news is, human memory is not static, and can, therefore, be trained and developed any time. Memory is everything to an actor. You don’t want to step on stage and forget about everything you have been rehearsing. Mnemonics thrive on the idea that human memory vividly remembers pictures and images.
It is easier to picture something that happened in your mind than a particular conversation that you overheard. Most of the information our brain stores are converted in image form for easier decoding. Luckily, this exercise does not require much. You can either do it on your own or with a group of friends and cast members. If you choose to perform it alone, just write done 20 or 30 unrelated words. If you are in the company of other members, each participant should name and write a few words.
The words should then be read several times, at a different pace. When reading for the first time, the reader should be a little slow and have one picture that is associated with the words. The words or images that follow should have a connection with each other. In short, the words or images should tell a story so that you have a complete film by the time you are finishing.
The “Machine” of emotions
Being a beginner actor comes with several challenges. Most beginners have problems with showing their emotions while on stage. This technique, therefore, targets parts of your imagination that are necessary for evoking a range of emotions. It is not as difficult as you are probably thinking. Just take a piece of paper and write down situations that might evoke certain emotions on you. It can be anger, jealousy or resentment. Your list also needs to be exhaustive. If possible, write down everything that you can remember.
After noting down these situations, create an image in your mind. Try to picture them happening. You can then link all these images to the piece of paper to get a machine of the emotion. It would be better if you applied this to all the feelings that you feel or you are required to feel in your cast.
This technique will help you anytime you need to act out the said emotions. Remember the images that make you jealous, angry or contented. It is the best way of evoking emotions if you are shy on camera.
Who is your role model? People usually have role models in their fields of expertise. Therefore, you need somebody that you look up to in the acting area. This technique requires that you learn from your movie or acting idol. Identify a particular scene that features your favourite actor. You can either google the scenes or open a scene from their movies. YouTube would also be a good idea. Try to imitate his or her speech, gestures, expressions or voice.
However, do not lose your originality. You need to come off as authentic while on stage. Pick what you can and blend it with your style. This might be challenging at the start, but the more you do it, the more you will get better at it. You also need to be attentive while doing this since it involves identifying the behaviours that attract you to the actor.
This exercise is related to the man on a bus stop. Instead of imagining the profession or hobby of a random person, this technique requires more. You are going to guess the current state of the stranger, which involves the emotions, words or gestures. If you spot a sad person, try to imagine what makes him or her sad. Is his family member sick? Did he lose his job? Is she undergoing a divorce? Did he get fired early today? These are some of the reasons why a random stranger would be sad.
Just like the man on a bus stop, this technique helps you work on your imagination, which is everything to an actor. Try to visualize yourself undergoing the same situation and some of the reasons that can make you look that way. Some of the reasons that can make a random stranger happy is winning a lottery, getting good news, getting a promotion, winning a scholarship or even passing exams.
Change of roles
Do you want to decorate your acting and look different? Try changing roles. You will realize that each part is diverse. You will need different intonation, gestures, emotions and even energy. This exercise helps you get used to acting different roles. Once you succeed, you can quickly transform depending on the cast. You will not have a rough time changing your speech or assuming different gestures and positions.
You are required to act in five totally different roles. The list then expands as you go on. You can act as a lively bartender, a selfish leader, an angry teacher, a jealous girlfriend and a wealthy older adult. Keep in mind that this will take time. You will pick one role and then act it for about one minute and then instantly switch to another. Do this until you have tried all the characters. This exercise is keen on how you change and stay in roles.
We failed to mention that you need a partner. Once you are done with your roles, your partner should rate you and comment on your acting style. He or she should also grade you from one to ten points. You will then discuss how you can better your performance. Do not switch to other roles before you score ten points in each of them.
Mirror is quite like Role Model, just that it does not tie you to a specific role model. It dwells on repetition, which is one of the best ways of learning. It helps you improve your performance by incorporating different diverse styles and sharpen your skills. Mirroring what someone does is simple. All you need to do is to identify a particular speech in a movie that appeals to you and has a style that you are willing to adopt. Emulate the speaker until you fall in love with the way you speak.
You should then switch styles and try a different approach. You need around fifteen minutes to emulate and perfect a technique before moving to the other. Remember, you must create your own identity. Do not, therefore, dwell only on one speaker. Try three or more. Ensure that you only pick the best scene from each speaker. Also, use your own style when emulating the scenes. It would be quite unfortunate if you lacked authenticity while on stage.
This technique requires commitment. You will present a monologue on a particular topic without preparing yourself beforehand or stopping midway. This should take three to five minutes. Try to be as natural as possible and avoid breaks. A hack that you can use to ace your performance is settling for familiar subjects at the beginning. You can later progress to relatively harder topics or those that you know nothing about. Non-stop is a useful technique if you want to improve on your improvisation.
Games are essential for a powerful delivery. They help actors to mime and skillfully use their bodies while on stage to move the audience. Some of the games that you can employ are Alias and Activity, which are used all over the world. You will know how to describe people, objects or phrases using your body and move your audience.
Acting exercises play an important role in sharpening acting skills. Luckily, there are several activities that you can employ to achieve this. Feel free to try out any one of our recommendations for a fantastic acting career.
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HOW DO ACTORS ACT? HOW ACTORS CREATE EMOTIONS
ACTING CLASSES – TYPES OF ACTING CLASSES (AND WHAT YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT THEM)
HOW TO ACT EMOTIONS – ACT OUT AN EMOTIONAL SCENE
ACTING LESSONS – HOW CAN I LEARN ACTING?
MICHAEL CHEKHOV TECHNIQUE – AN INTRODUCTION
ACTING FOR THE CAMERA EXERCISES – TIPS FOR ACTING ON CAMERA
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