As students enter the room, have music softly playing and show the first slide on the PowerPoint (Pp) projected on the wall so that students can follow the instructions without any verbal direction.
After all the students are in place, guide them through the following relaxation exercises:
Relaxation on the floor: SA p. 174
Consciously tense and relax each set of muscles: feet, calves, knees, thighs, buttocks, whole leg (release with “Ahhh”), stomach, chest, torso (release with “Ahhh”), upper arms, lower arms, fists, whole arm (release with “Ahhh”), neck, face, whole scalp (release with “Ahhh”)
X Stretch first on floor then standing: SA 109
Create an ‘x’ with your body stretching out and then contract into a ball (3 times)
Stand High Stretch: SA p.174
Reach for the sky as high as you can and then release from hands down
Students can relax and sit on the floor in a circle: Why would we do relaxation exercises in an acting class? What does relaxing your body do to your acting? (have someone scribe answers on board: answers could include freeing up our body by releasing tension, keeping us in tune with our bodies to better use them; relaxation allows us to focus our minds on our character, etc.)
Pp Slide: Relaxation for the actor is when unnecessary tensions have been removed and the remaining energy is purposefully focused and the awareness is acute – a state in which you are most ready to react. It is restful alertness.
Pp Slide: “The most insignificant tension anywhere can paralyze the whole creative process.”
“Make muscle control part of your physical being.”
Have students grab their actor’s journal for taking notes:
Pp Slide: Introduce Stanislavsky and his desire to learn a craft (not just play a role)
*This an incredibly condensed peek into his system; highlighting key points rather than going extensively into him and his work; just enough to pique the students’ interest. We will be focusing in on a few of his system’s foundational elements: Relaxation, Imagination/Concentration, Given Circumstances, Justifying Actions, Paraphrasing/Subtext*
Stanislavsky saw his system as offering advice to actors of different temperaments who wished to speak through different aesthetic styles. Not everyone learns and executes acting the same way. So he wanted to create a system that anyone could draw on and use what worked for them to get to the character they wanted. Practical analysis (work on self) and analysis (work on role). “One must give actors various paths.”
Pp Slide: Work on three different skills as you develop your acting technique:
Physical – voice and body as expressive instruments
Conceptual – analyze the script and recognize how your character fits in it
Spiritual – be relaxed, centered, observe, focus, be aware and become the character
Let’s go back to relaxation – concentration:
Pp Slide: “I saw that freedom of the body, relaxation of muscles and complete subordination of the entire physical apparatus to the actor’s will played an important role in promoting the creative mood. Such discipline permits splendidly organized creative work which enables the actor to express freely with his body what his soul is feeling.”
How does this quote connect with the list generated on the board from the earlier discussion?
Have students follow the following directions in making poses. Tell them not to “check” themselves or try to observe themselves – instead they should focus solely on the TASK and not worry about how they look or if the pose is ‘correct’.
Adopt Poses: KS Exercise 4.1
Work through a series of poses: sit up straight, half sit, standing, leaning over, kneeling, crouching) and make a mental note of which muscles are involved in the task (how few are actually needed!). After each pose relax whatever muscles aren’t necessary. “How many muscles do you use in acting that you actually don’t need to engage?”
Pp Slide: “The greatest obstacle in the artistic development of an actor is haste.”
Circle: Breath then Movement: SA p.109 & 122
Hold hands and concentrate on other’s eyes and breath. Release hands. Move only when others move in any way. Now turn outward and do the same without looking around you. Pay attention to the breath and connection and just know when people are moving.
Song Focus: SA p.175
Half the group singings “Happy Birthday” out loud while the other half hums their own song silently to self. Switch the task for the halves.
Pp Slide: Creative state is when you are relaxed, playful, and non-judgmental – be playful, whole, and open.
Read your piece out loud. Concentrate on your own piece even with others around you. Don’t act the piece. Just read it. Take any notes directly on the script if anything strikes you.
Pass out and go through the actor’s homework that students need to complete. This homework is basically taking notes of some focused things so that students have complete contextual understanding of the play, their piece, and character.
Read detailed synopsis of the play and take notes of the storyline: (pass out handout)
What is going on in the play? Create a list of events of the play – hit the most important events that move the story along, but detail the events in the scenes just before, during and after your piece. What exactly is happening with whom and when (and maybe even why if the text gives you that)?
What is your relationship with other people in the play? List the key people in the play and note how you interact with them (if you interact with them).
What is the setting for your scene/mono? Where does it take place and what time of year?