Acting Exercises for Students and Other Beginners
Here are a few acting exercises you can use to sharpen up your craft that are all designed to help your acting abilities.
Individual Exercises and Homework
Observe a complete stranger for few minutes. Describe his or her behavior. Are they sitting, standing, walking? Who do you think they are? How are they feeling? What are they doing? Reading a book, waiting for someone, having a conversation? (Note: Don’t let them notice you. It will ruin the exercise.)
Acting is behavior. Nothing more. The better you become at reading someone else’s behavior, the more keenly you will react to it.
Choose a theme song for your character. Is it classical, or contemporary? Does it have lyrics, or is it instrumental? Is it fast, or slow? If your character were a piece of music, what would they sound like?
A simple yet effective acting exercise. After you’ve chosen a piece of music, put it on your iPod and play it just before a performance.
Circle of Concentration
Immediate Circle: Choose a location and get comfortable. Imagine that there’s a circle around you, about 10 feet in diameter. Your task for the next five minutes is to concentrate only on the objects within that imaginary circle. How would they feel, or smell? How heavy are they? What color?
Intermediate Circle: The rules are the same, but the circle enlarges. This time it’s the whole room. Do another five minutes.
Distant Circle: You might want to go outside for this one. Now the circle is as large as a house. Do another five minutes.
If your attention moves outside the circle, gently move it back. Don’t feel discouraged. Not only is it unhelpful, it isn’t within the circle. So you’re not allowed to think about it.
Concentration is very important for an actor. When playing a scene, you must reject the stimuli you’re experiencing as an actor in favor of the stimuli of the character. In other words, you must see what your character sees.
Research your character’s life. Down to the last detail. How old are they? What do they do for money? Where do they live? What color fingernail polish do they wear? Are their parents alive? If not, what happened? Write everything down. Be specific.
Not so much an acting exercise, more like homework. But the more you discover about your character’s circumstances, the better you are able to answer the question: “If I were this character, how would I behave?”
Right now, vividly recall an event from your character’s past. See it play out in front of you like a movie scene. Be specific. As the scene plays out, move from third person to first person. Put yourself in the scene. Become your character.
This acting exercise will help you to “own” your character. Their experiences become your experiences. It’s also quite a workout for the imagination.
Acting exercises are a key to success for any actor. They keep your mind and body sharp during those times when you’re not working. Hopefully, you’ll use some of these and apply them to your craft.