Acting Exercises for the Body
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The Actor's Body - Expressing Freely. Power Connection Acting Exercises for Physical Expression
This free online acting class, copyright, by N J Howell
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The Acting Guide
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Creating Award-Winning Performances
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Expressing with the body for the actor is part of the Power Connection Online Acting Class. These acting exercises go with acting lesson 2 - the actor's body, part one so you may wish to read that first. It may also be helpful to start at the beginning of this free online acting class and to complete the intro before exploring this information on the actor and the body.
The audience takes in every nuance of movement and reaction when an actor is in front of them. During traumatic or emotional scenes, truth in the body is vital for helping the audience suspend their disbelief. These exercises can help you begin to understand where you may have restriction of expression in the body.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BODY AS AN ACTOR
Because the body reacts to trauma and other life-altering experiences, most people have restriction in movement that has resulted directly from some experience of being repressed. Where there is physical restriction for an actor, there is emotional restriction. For example, shyness as a child is commonly manifested physically in the adult, by shoulders that are stooped and drawn in.
By relentless observation of the ways you use, (or fail to use) your body, you can begin to identify your own creative blocks and, simply by moving a different way (simple, not always easy), you will begin to open your creativity and emotional accessibility. Until this is done, there is no way the body can function freely.
a. ACTING EXERCISE ON OBSERVATION:
Stand in front of a mirror, and notice your body. Look for excess tension, imbalance on one side or the other, etc.
See if any particular area draws your eye and focus your attention there - what feelings come to you?
Touch any area that seems vulnerable. What happens?
Begin to move, focusing your attention on different parts of your body. Do they work well together? Does one area move more freely than another? Why?
Ask your body, mentally, what is being stored in those areas that resist free movement (When did it originate?) and listen with inner ears, for an answer. If your mind suddenly flashes on your sixth birthday party, trust the significance of that memory, with regard to the question.
If your stomach is vulnerable and tense, was there a moment when you decided to hold in those muscles, to appear thinner? Perhaps, you were in need of a good cry one day, but couldn t let go because you were at work, so you tensed up and stayed that way.
EMOTIONS NEEDING EXPRESSION AND NOT FULLY EXPRESSED, ARE HELD IN THE BODY
After you have gotten some idea of why the restriction is there, begin to work gently with the area to increase the base of movement and the flow. This may take time, so be patient with yourself. Getting to know your body and making sure that it is open and accessible to your impulses, is the first step toward developing the flexibility and emotional accessibility you need to be an actor. No teacher can do this work for you. It must be done by you, and you alone, and it must be approached with integrity and a willingness to work through fear or discomfort. Try to schedule a full-body massage afterwards, or take a nice, long bath!
b. ACTING EXERCISE FOR ALLOWING EMOTION:
Choose a time when you are not likely to be disturbed, take a few moments to settle yourself and relax. Perhaps, listening to soothing music or doing a progressive relaxation by tensing and releasing major muscle groups.
When you feel fairly calm and quiet within, look at the following words with the intention of letting the body interpret them, totally without interference or preconception from your mind or any particular memory.
You should avoid doing anything or forcing any movement ... Don't rush the process.
If nothing happens, be patient and avoid trying to make your body respond in any particular way. Just look at each word and ask your body to react to it:
~ Loneliness ~
To evaluate what you've learned from lesson two, journal the following:
Which words were easy to do and elicited the most spontaneous reaction from your body, and which more difficult? If you don't remember, which can happen, do the exercise again and take notes.
What part of your body responded most - hands, breath, neck and shoulders, head, eyes? Again, you may not remember the first time. If you don't, do the exercises again and notice what your body does.
Were there any words to which your body would not respond with some sort of change you could feel or sense? If there were, do those exercises again for the purpose of further honing in on what the change indicates.
Do this exercise often, especially as a warm-up before rehearsals or performances. It conditions the physical body for emotional fluidity, much as athletic exercise will condition one for strenuous physical exertion.
Continue with the class.......Acting Lesson Three - The Actor's Voice
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