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Method Acting - Practical Excercises for the Actor

     Method Acting Tips

The Method has become synonymous with many great actors such as Daniel Day Lewis, Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Marlon Brando to name but a few. But what is the Method? And what has made it so successful?

Below are practical exercises from the technique that clarify some of the tools used by Method actors.

1. Develop Your Concentration

A high level of concentration is essential to enable top quality acting. Concentration triggers your belief, impulses and imagination.

Concentration is not abstract. Often you will hear teachers or directors telling actors to concentrate and focus, but what on? You have to concentrate on something real and something specific this evokes real thought. Not phony or pretend thinking, but real thought.

The first exercise we tackle in the Method to build concentration and belief in what we are doing on stage, is the Sense Memory exercise.

2. Sense Memory Exercise

It is understood that we perceive the world through our senses. We see, we hear, we smell, we touch, we taste. This is what stimulates us as human beings. It's also understood that the memory of these senses can affect us. We have all felt hungry and thought of our favorite food and started to salivate, or heard a song that has reminded us of a relationship we once had. Our memories are strongly linked to our senses.

To develop your concentration and sense memory, begin with a simple exercise.

The Breakfast Drink - Recall what you drink first thing in the morning in intricate detail. Close your eyes and recreate in your mind's eye the room that you have the drink in - really see it, smell it, touch it, hear it. Then bring your attention to the drink and slowly start to drink, really concentrating on the senses. Try this for 15-20 minutes. Then choose a monologue you have learned by heart and start to say the lines whilst thinking about the drink. The drink is the main focus of concentration the lines are secondary.

You must ensure that you are truly focused on the drink. Test this by continually asking sense questions internally to yourself, such as ‘How hot or cold is it? What is the cup made of? How does it taste?', whilst saying the lines at the same time. Tricky I know, but it will have a significant effect on the believability of the lines. The reason for this is that the experience of the drink is real to you - you believe in the drink. This belief starts to transcend into the words of the character.

3. Overall Sensation Exercise

In the same way as the breakfast drink, try an overall sensation sense memory. Ok, this part can be a bit uncomfortable, but take a cold shower….for real. Then later try and recreate in your mind's eye that event. Use all your senses to relive the cold shower. Once you have done this for 15-20 mins, try saying the lines from a monologue whilst recreating the experience of the cold shower. This will have quite an impact on your senses and will impact the way that you say the lines significantly.

4. Personal Object Exercise

Ok, you are probably getting the hang of this concept by now. This time, identify a personal object from your own life that has significant meaning to you. Take the object and really focus on it. Investigate it from a sense point of view. How does it look, smell, taste, feel and sound? Whilst doing this, start to say the lines from a monologue. Do nothing more other than investigate the object in intricate detail and say the lines. The memory of the object will impact the way that you say the lines of the character.

5. The Animal Exercise

This exercise is relatively famous within the technique. It requires you to humanise an animal's physicality to recreate a new physicality for a character. If you look at Marlon Brando's performance in the ‘Godfather', he plays a bulldog or in ‘A Street Car Named Desire' you can see that he plays an ape.

Pick a wild animal that you think could have similarities to your character. Go to the zoo and study the animal physically. Study how they move, eat and sleep, in detail. Then at home, physically recreate to the best of your ability, the animal. Once you have done this for awhile, stand up and humanise the animal. How would it walk and move if it were human?

Article Source:

Author: Brian Timoney Brian is an experienced actor, director and teacher of the Method. He established The Method Centre in London, an actors studio in the UK focused on the Method.

Posted on 2007-03-25, By: *

* Click on the author's name to view their profile and articles!!!

Note: The content of this article solely conveys the opinion of its author,

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