Acting Skill Exercises
This is a great activity that is not only fun, but one that forces everyone to think about good blocking. When a cast has a script mostly memorized, force them to go through the entire emotional range and duration of the script without any spoken lines. Ask them to do it all with exaggerated body language and gesture. To separate the lines, have them express the line's content visually and then point to the actor with the next line to keep the baton passing. See if the gist of the message can still get through. Although you won't want to use that much movement in actual performance, it's a great expression-builder.
Breaking It Up:
Sometimes it's good to draw others into the directing process so they learn what makes good acting. Using this exercise, you can train actors by having them direct. Take a script that's nearing completion and assign one person to listen for volume and articulation, another to watch the blocking, another to listen to how the lines are delivered, and another to keep an eye on timing -- both line speed and overall pace. Whenever they see or hear something that isn't right, they raise their hand and the script stops until it's fixed.
Try this game to teach natural blocking. Put a volunteer in front and forbid them to say anything. Rather, call out emotions and have them move on stage to reflect the inner emotion. Anxiety calls for a completely
different kind of movement than confusion or fear. Show how movement should match emotion.
Shutting Your Mouth:
Momentum is crucial not just in performance, but in rehearsal, too. Sometimes, in the middle of the directing process, you might interrupt so many times and so often, that the actors can't sustain characterization
and you lose momentum. You also lose a feel for how the script is really going. That's over-directing. Space out your comments and save some for later. Jot down notes to yourself so you don't forget what you
wanted to say.
Leaving. That's right, leaving. Right before the performance, when you've said all you can say, leave. Find something to do. Go ahead and tell them to run it without you a couple of times. That's a subtle way
of expressing confidence and telling them you think it will go well.