Work Your Acting Muscles

    The following acting games do not require extensive, if any, preparation or props.  So, whether you want to grow in focus, spontaneity, improve your improvisation skills or just to think of acting exercises on the spot, here is a number of acting games and exercises that will not only be helpful, but also make your stomach hurt from laughing.

    What if?

    This is a great game to warm up and ‘get into the flow’ for rehearsal. It sparks the creativity and requires your imagination to live out fictional life. It makes you more aware of your body, how it works, how you express your mood physically etc. This can be done to music, but is not essential.

    Here’s how:

    Have the actors walk around the room. The group leader/narrator will call out different “what if’s” which the actors will have to respond to.

    E.g. Narrator: “You are walking as if you’re late for a meeting.”

    “Walk as if you have just heard bad news.”

    “You are walking as if your arms are numb.”

    What if you had no bones, and your body was made of Jelly.”

    “Walk as if you are discovering your legs for the first time.”

    “You are moving as if you’re flying.”

    Same scene – Different circumstances

    One can definitely see how different circumstances alter a performance drastically through this exercise. This exercise will require spontaneity, good reaction and creativity.

    Here’s how:

    The title says it all. Actors are given either a scene they have to act out. The same scene will be acted out several different times, but every time they are given a different set of circumstances.

    E.g. Scene: A newly-wed couple is going shopping for their new apartment.

    First time: Performed with ‘normal’ circumstances.

    Second time: The husband desperately needs to go to the bathroom.

    Third time: The husband and wife are spies who think they are being followed.

    Mirror

    This exercise is great for practicing focus and exercise.

    Here’s how:

    This is to be done to (preferably slow) music. Have two actors face each other. They are to keep eye contact at all times. One actor will start with movements which their partner will have to copy as if they were looking at a mirror.

    The aim is for the movement to look as smooth as possible in accordance with the music. After a while, the other actor needs to initiate the movements without verbally communicating it. The audience should not be able to tell who the leader is at the moment due to the smooth transition. The intense eye contact might be uncomfortable for some towards the beginning and might trigger some giggles, but that will pass.

    E.g. Two actors stand across from each other and they stare into each other’s eyes. The first actor slowly reaches out his right hand, while the other actor reaches out his left hand in the same manner. After a while, the second actor will slowly move to tap his head and the first actor will follow at the same time.

    If you’re really good, you won’t even know which one of you is leading because you’re so in sync. Make me proud!

    Freeze – A classic

    Freeze is an improvisation game that can easily be used as an ice-breaker or a time-filler, and of course, it is a lot of fun.

    Here’s how:

    Two actors are given a scenario to which they start acting. After they have established their story and played a while, any participant can shout “Freeze!” at any given time. The actors will have to freeze in their positions, and the third actor will swap places with one of the two, take on exactly the same position the previous actor froze in and introduce a completely new scenario through his actions. The second actor has to go along with it and react until the next “Freeze!” is called out.

    Variations:

    If only the same few people seem to initiate, the leader can call out “Freeze!” and choose the next actor who has to jump in. In this way, everyone gets involved, and the shy/less confident actors will have to step out of their comfort zone.

    Objectives – Exercise

    One thing you learn as actors is you have to know what your character is going for at every moment: what his needs, wants and goals are, namely – his/her objectives.

    This requires you to prepare a list with objectives to choose from.

    Actors are given a scenario and they will have to start improvising. Throughout the performance, the leader will give each of the actors different objectives at different points in time. These are written on pieces of paper so the other actor in the scene will not know the objective of their partner and in order for the audience to know what objectives they were given.

    The actors will have to incorporate the objectives into their scene subtly so that the flow of the scene will not stop. The objectives should never just be read out.

    E.g. Scenario: Two tourists meet in a foreign country and decide to go to lunch together.

    One actor will be given “Convince him/her they’re your long lost sibling” as the objective, while the other actor might get “Encourage them to stop smoking” as their objective.

    As the scene goes on, more objectives will be introduced. It is especially funny when the scene partners have competing objectives.

    I hope these few games and exercises helped you! They are also not confined to acting, but can generally be a good source of fun when you get together in a group.

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    • Annette is part of the acting team with The Initiative Production Company. She is a German South-African, loves the smell of freshly baked bread and constantly has a list in her head of countries to visit and more languages to learn.

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