How can anyone practice acting in their home? Much of Stanislavski’s work was dedicated to “an actor’s work on himself.” It’s important that you understand yourself so you can add your uniqueness to the parts you play. As a teacher and a director, I am interested in what make you, you.
You are interesting, even if you don’t see it. For the next couple weeks, I will be offering you some acting exercises that you can practice from your home which should help you grow as an actor. These are great ways to learn acting at home.
First off you must create a space that feels creative. (See my “Make your home a Stage” article.)
ACTING PRACTICE 1: SENSE MEMORY -FILL IN THE SENSES USING SOUND EFFECT
I want you to take the most interesting sound effects that you know. You can find these on Spotify or any music app. Pick compelling ones. Here are some of my favorites: Thunder and rain, a train pulling up, a train pulling away, a jet taking off, birds chirping, a lion growling, a campfire, an owl, a winter storm, the waves of an ocean.
Once you have the list chosen. I want you to find a place to sit. Sit in a straight back chair, highly relaxed but wide awake and alert. Take your time to get yourself into a focused creative state. Make sure there are no pets in your room and you aren’t going to be interrupted. Remember we are exploring and working as scientists discovering what might be useful for our acting.
Take one sound and listen to it with your eyes closed. Allow this sound to replay over and over for each exercise. Does it remind you of a time from your life? If so, where is that place? Once that is specific, create the other senses with your imagination. For example, if you are listening to ocean waves, it may remind you of a vacation you took to Hawaii. Can you recall the breeze, whether it was warm or cold outside? What time of day? Where was the sun? See if you can feel the sand or the ocean waves around you. Allow yourself to get up and pretend the waves are crashing on you. Go bonkers. Can you let the imaginary be the truth? If you want to scream out as the waves hit you, great. If your Mom comes into your room asking what you are doing, don’t break character but say, “I’m swimming in the ocean. Come join me!” Hopefully she will understand and leave you to your practicing.
Next, go to the campfire sound. Does that remind you of anytime? See if you can fill in the other senses around that sound. For example, smell the smoky smell, hear the crackle of the wood. See the starry night. Imagine the fiery sparks flying up into the dark black sky. Once you start to believe the event, make an imaginary Smores sandwich. Watch the chocolate melt in between the graham crackers. Explore the weight, the smell, the touch and then take a bite. Imagine it in your mouth. Literally start to chew and recall the taste before you swallow it. Allow the chocolate to drip and maneuver it so you can get it all. Don’t judge your practicing. It’s a memory and you want to simply try and recall the sensations and then relax and allow them to be there at the level that they are.
Try this with each sound effect. Remember this not a performance it’s an experiment on creating reality. Acting is the ability to live truthfully in the imaginary circumstances. So, if you are playing the sound effect of a snowstorm, you may need to first re-call what the wind feels like. By recalling this you may have the impulse to put on a jacket. This is great! Do that!. Next, try and see the snow drifts. How tall are they. Feel the snow falling. Taste a snowflake as it lands on your tongue. This may then trigger the impulse to build a snow man. Then, build a snow man! And sing “Frosty the Snowman,” if you want to! Remember this exercise is about what you want to do. No two people will experience it in the same way. And this is the very reason why I’ve been teaching acting for 30 years and still have the same passion as when I first started. Because each actor is different. And that brings an amazing array of variance.
Remember, don’t worry about getting it right. When you are in doubt go back to a small sensory detail. If you want to find god, look for the tiniest detail. Then relax, ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” And then do it!
Stay healthy and safe and create with all the joy within!