Lesson 2: Psychological Acting: Emotional/Sense Memory
Objective: Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of psychological acting, specifically sense and emotional memory, by playing the improve game Emotional Quadrants.
TH:Cr3.1.II.b. Use research and script analysis to revise physical, vocal, and physiological choices impacting the believability and relevance of a drama/ theatre work
TH:Pr5.1.II.a. Refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/theatre performance.
Materials: 40 sugar and salt packages, index cards for exit cards, 30 pieces of paper, string
Preparation: Cut the pieces of string before class. Each quadrant should be at least 3-4 feet around.
Starter: Have the students write down their answer to, “Who is your favorite actor and why?”
Instruction (5 minutes)
Purpose: To help the students identify what psychological acting looks like.
Yesterday we started discussing and practicing psychological acting techniques. It is important to note that most psychological methods are the basis of most of the acting that you see today in films, tv, and broadway theatre. It is an acting method that is trying to represent reality. This acting method has only been popular for the last 50ish years.
Psychological acting relies on the actor’s ability to put their mind (and thus body) into the experience of the character. Let’s practice some ways of putting our minds into the situation of a character. We are going to start by practicing what is called “sense memory” or “sensory recall.”
Activity 1: Sensory Recall Practice (20 minutes)
We are going to practice doing some Sensory Recall Activities. Just a note, if it feels like you cannot put your memory of your reactions into your body in a believable way, try just focusing on one thing. For example, if you are trying to act out stretching after you wake up, focus a specific place you are try to stretch.
Step 1: Being Cold
Get the class up on the stage, with everyone having a small individual place in the room. Have them think of a time when they were really cold. Encourage them to identify the specific places on their body that were cold. Was it their bear arms? Was it their toes? How did this effect their movement? Once they have thought of something, have them walk around as if they were cold.
Step 2: Practice being hot
Now, do the same thing but with heat.
Step 3: Practice feeling the wind in your hair.
Step 4: Tasting Salt
Hand out a packet of sugar and a packet of salt. Explain that all at once, we are going to eat the packet of salt (or eat as much as you can without throwing up, even if that is only the smallest taste.)
Now, we are going to pantomime this exact experience. Before we start, take a moment to think about how your muscles tightened, how it felt on your tongue, how it tasted, and all of the other sensations you felt when you ate it. Now on the count of three, we are going to recreate what happened. 1-2-3.
Step 5: Tasting Sugar
Now do the exact same thing with the sugar packets.
Discussion (10 minutes)
Transition/Safety Discussion (10 minutes)
We are going to take this memory recall to the next step. The next technique we are going to try is emotional recall. This is when you recall more emotional memories and use them as a substitute. This is a challenging technique, so we are going to try to start small. It is also one that we must be very careful with. This requires us to use emotional experiences from our own lives, which means we must be stewards over our own selves. Don’t dip into anything too emotional for these activities. Recalling emotional experiences can result in pulling out unresolved issues that may trigger your emotions in a way that you didn’t plan or want. In fact, the more resolved the memory, the better it is to pull from it.
Let me give you an example. When I was in college, I was assigned to a scene from the play, “Proof.” I was playing Catherine, a young woman who has just lost her father. At the time, I had just lost my own father only a month before. The first rehearsal I had with my scene partner, I tried to apply Emotional Recall from my recent memories of grieving. I wasn’t able to do it in a safe way because I was still going through that emotion. Recalling those emotions only made it so my memories and feelings were taking over my ability to become the character. I had to find another way to act out the scene, and other things to recall.
Activity 2: Emotional Recall Practice (20 Minutes)
Have the students take a deep breath before you start.
Step 1: Let’s start by working on laughing. Think of a time when you laughed really hard at something. What did that feel like emotionally? What did it feel like in terms of sensory experience? Now, let’s try laughing.
Step 2: Now let’s think of a different type of laughing, one that isn’t as hard and intense. Can you think about a time when you felt that? What did it feel like emotionally? What did it feel like in terms of sensory experience? Let’s try that laugh.
Step 3: Now let’s think about abstract experiences. Do the same activity, but this time, have the students think of a time when they felt the following words:
Informal Assessment: Emotional Quadrants
We are now going to try playing around with sense and emotional memory in acting.
Step 1: Divide the class into groups of 8, and assign them to certain parts of the space. Give them each 4 pieces of paper and string. Explain that each of the groups will be doing the same improv activity.
Step 2: Have the students divide the scene in 4 quadrants, and allocate 4 different emotions to each quadrant. Demonstrate what their playing space should look like. Let them decide what emotions they want, but they have to remain appropriate. Here are some suggestions on possible emotional quadrants you could have: Sad, lonely, joyful, excited, surprised, terrified, grateful, etc. Explain that the players improvise a discussion between parent and child, but need to take on the emotion of the quadrant they are in. Each player will have 1-2 minutes in the activity.
Only two players will be able to go at a time, so the rest of the group should be a good audience for them. While the students are doing this activity, the teacher should be taking some brief feedback on how well students are accessing emotion. Also take notes on how well the class seems to be taking on the emotions of each quadrant.
Have the students clean up the quadrants 5 minutes before the class is over.
Conclusion: Exit Card
Before students exit the room, have them quickly answer the following question on a small piece of paper.
Assessment: Students will receive 20 participation points for the day. They will get another 5 points for the exit card, and 5 points for the starter. Students will get informally graded on the exit card assessment.
Adaptations: Students who have difficulty speaking in the discussions can write down responses on a piece of paper. Extended time to answer verbally will be provided by the teacher.