ACTIONS ACTING LESSON : LISTEN TO YOUR TRUTH BAROMETER
Today’s actions acting lesson will help you use ACTIONS, or verbs, to quickly and authentically express your character’s journey. In acting we say, “Listen to your truth barometer.” This refers to that feeling you get in your heart or your gut that tells you if you’re being authentic and honest, or if you’re over acting or not giving enough passion in your performance. The truth barometer normally comes in the form of a feeling or a thought to your brain that says, “Woof, that wasn’t very good.” It’s easy to ignore that and say, oh well, I’ll do better next time, but as actors we must listen to this little voice and instead say, ok, let’s fix this NOW. Incorporating Actions into your acting work is a great way to develop authentic performance impulses that will help you own and refine your truthe barometer.
Check out this 1.5 minute SIZZLE REEL for a preview of today’s lesson!
An . In the case of today’s actions acting lesson, we’ll use , meaning something you can do TO another person. Going one step further, we want our action to motivate CHANGE in our scene partner. We want to change the person’s state of being, or their mental state. We have something we need to accomplish. It’s not always easy to emote, or to dig up a personal experience from way back when. But
Brainstorming Action Categories helps us identify a collection of actions to use in our acting homework. There are 3 Action Categories that we’ll work with today
Examples: to kick, to kiss, to squeeze, to push, to pull, to carress, to punch, to shake, to flick, to poke, to tickle, etc.
Examples: to mock, to uplift, to celebrate, to intimidate, to manipulate, to berate, to admonish, to encourage
Examples: to show you who’s boxx, to pull the wool over your eyes, to sweep you off your feet
There are some acting lessons that will include non-transitive verbs (verbs that do not have to be done TO someone), Sonya Cooke’s method teaches that transitive verbs are stronger, and I have to agree. Though they sometimes take some more thought and homework to refine, they will specify your acting choices, which make them stronger and more expressive.
An example Sonya uses of a non-transitive verb is “to dance”. I CAN dance, it IS a verb, but can I “dance you?” No, I can’t. I can dance WITH you, but I can’t dance YOU. When I encounter an action like this, I ask, What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the goal? Am I trying to loosen you up? Then I might use the action “to tickle.” Am I trying to get you close to me? I might use the action “to pull”. Get more specific! If I am trying to get you close to me, and I use the verb/action “to pull”, I may want to add an object to make my imagery and my task more organic. I may “pull you by the neck tie,” which will add different colors to the acting than simply, “to pull.” I may want to use “to pinch”, but “to pinch you by the cute little cheeks” is MUCH more specific and invokes a different mood and emotional response.
ACTIONS ACTING LESSON ASSIGNMENT: Starting with the lists above, brainstorm and add 20 more verbs/actions to each list. It’s fun, and you’ll have a great tool to use in your acting work!
Comment below if you have a question about an action and I will give you some feedback!
The next part of today’s acting lesson is about applying the actions to the text. Print out your lyrics or your monologue and start writing actions on top of the words. You can start with a whole sentence or a phrase, but you’ll eventually want to apply many actions to one sentence, if appropriate. In my example in the video, I use one action per each “line” or phrase of the song. Your impulse may be to try something obvious, but I encourage you to try actions that are random–you might be surprised to find that an action that has nothing to do with your scene may evoke an expression that works!
This actions acting lesson exercise is meant to be used together WITH other acting lessons and homework, such as embodying the character, or using “sense memory” work from personal experience. This lesson is not to say that you should not do this other work. It’s simply an additional tool to help you connect to physicality or emotions that you may be having trouble with.
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