Dig Deeper into Action

Lesson 9:

Dig Deeper into Action



Students will demonstrate their ability to push themselves in rehearsal by raising the stakes for their character in their performance piece.


Materials Needed:




Spread students out in their own space.  Have them write their name in the air.  Now do it involving their entire upper body.  Now do it involving your entire body (think of writing with sparklers in their hands) exaggerating the name and use the entire space.

What is different about the three times you wrote your name?  How can you involve more of your body in your performance?  Acting from the neck up or waist up isn’t enough.


As you process your performance, think about the actions that your character is going through.  How can you use them more to your character’s advantage?  How can you use your actor’s tools (voice, body, imagination, text) to full communicate what you want and create a relationship – even if it is with an invisible partner?




“Yes, No, Maybe, Please, Okay”

Sometimes we restrict ourselves because of the text.  So let’s get rid of the text.  Play “Yes, No, Maybe, Please, Okay”.  You can use these words ONLY in your scene.  Have one of the partnerships come up and model this for the class: They are to perform their scene but only have those words to use as dialogue.  They can decide which word to say when, but the basic framework of the scene’s action needs to be in place throughout the exercise.  (I like to have these words written on the board for visual reference if needed by the actors).


It’s a tricky exercise, but can be effective if students give it their all.  Highlight/side coach through the modeling how using just these words as text forces the actors to engage their bodies more fully in communicating and how their tone of voice conveys so much.


Have all the students do this exercise.  People doing monologues can pair up with another monologist and be a stand-in for the “invisible other” partner.  The actor might need to give them some context so that their reactions are realistic, but it works.  Make sure you know the general and some specific for this to work.  So sharing the paraphrasing or talking the scene through will be helpful.  Scene partners get together and do it.  Monologue performers get together and share the “leading up to” context and paraphrasing and then do it with partner standing in for the invisible other.


Deconstruct: What did taking the text away do for you?  How did it involve your non-verbal communication or physicality or gestures or subtext?




Talk with the students about revisiting scoring the role:

We need to make sure the detailed moments are each working AND that they work in the greater arc of the piece.  So go back to your script and dig deeper into your analysis.  If you haven’t yet or only half-heartedly did this before – Score the script into beats and have a very definite task to achieve for each beat.  Think about what is at stake for your character if you don’t get what you are fighting for.  How can your entire body commit to your “want”?  An active verb means being ACTIVE – not just talking.


Think about how to be more SIMPLE and DIRECT in your performance – how this work can focus and channel your energies and work.  If your beats do not have a simple, direct objective, then create one.  If you have scored your role already then dig deeper into how you’re going about fulfilling the task and intention.  Work your piece beat-by-beat – don’t fall into the trap of just running through the piece.  Explore levels and actions and tactics in each beat.




After a little bit of individual rehearsal time, focus the students on their actions specifically: they can run through each beat but can only have one action for each beat.  While this may not be the way they perform their final scenes they should explore what this restriction does for their character and acting.

Worry about the ACTION, not the result!


After trying this out, have them go back to their piece and rehearse it “regularly” again.  Have them stop and consider the differences and work on making more specific, detailed choices in their acting.



Have students stand in a circle and share one new discovery that they had in today’s rehearsal.  Encourage them to not be content to just rest where they are in the performance piece; to continually push themselves to go further and deeper and to raise the stakes for their character.  Next class period will be the last rehearsal day before final performances.