acting 101: #9 table reading & cold reading

For you as an actor, table reading is a great tool to get used to your acting partner and to test your chemistry. Table readings also most importantly give the producers a sense whether the scene/dialogue works or not.

What is this “table reading” and how does it work? Read on to find out 🙂

TABLE READING

With little or no practice at all, the actors find themselves together (mostly at a table) and read aloud the scenes. Dependend on how familiar you are with the scene, you can put more or less expression into your lines. Before, the writers of the scenes have only heard the lines in their heads with their own voices. It makes a huge difference when heard aloud. If in an early stage of production, changes in the scenes and dialogues can be taken into consideration after the reading.


Another term used in the acting world whose meaning is similar but which is used differently, is cold reading:

COLD READING

These readings usually take place at auditions. The actor gets a text that they don’t know and are asked to speak the lines aloud with as much vocal and also facial expression as possible. Cold reads can be practiced in a really good way when preparing for auditions: Just pick scenes that you don’t know and start to read aloud after shortly outlining the scene to yourself.

These tools are really fun, if you are in a new group of actors, try it out — it gives you a great sense of acting chemistry between one another and improves your adaption to new scenes!

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #8 freeze (improv game)

An absolute classic improvisation game, Freeze is much respected by beginners. But once adjusted to the pace of Freeze, it is great fun. Not only do beginners overcome the fear of playing and establishing silly or extraordinary scenes (which you have to consider when playing Freeze on a regular basis), they also grow through the speed of the game.

Freeze should be played with a large group of people, at least about five people. This is how it works…

FREEZE

Two people stand in the front. One of them starts a scene — totally improvised. He/she has to make his/her game partner clear, where they are, who they are and in what relation they stand to each other. The other person then has to play along.

One of the viewers at some point claps their hands, when they have an idea to create a new scene. The moment they clap their hands, the two in the front have to immediately freeze — no moving, no changing of position, gesture or facial impressions. The person who claped their hands, taps at the person with whose place they want to take. From there, the person who came in new starts a new scene.

Important improv rule: There is no “no” when playing Freeze — you should be willing to tag along to any scene idea that your acting counterpart serves you. No declining, only accepting. This is the most important rule of improvisation — take it as it is and play with it. Can be translated to life in general as well, right?

Have fun playing/practicing!

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #7 warming up methods II

I have written about the importance of a vivid and expressive face for an actor before. One method to warm up your face is the “the mouse & the bear”-technique. Another one is the following — which also has no official name, I guess, so I call it “chew baby chew”.

Chew baby chew focuses on your jaw area and lips, aiming for it to get loose and get rid of any kind of tension. Here is how it works:

  • Chew small: Pretend to be chewing a tiny tiny bit of chewing gum. Make very small movements with your jaw and your lips.
  • Chew big: Now imagine a giant chewing gum in your mouth and chew making big exaggerated movements with your jaw and lips. Widen your mouth forming circles, trying to keep your lips together, as you would when chewing a gum properly.
  • Repeat, also changing the direction of your chewing.

Do you feel the difference? Does your jaw feel more relaxed?

-your tiny woman in a giant world

 

acting 101: #6 attitude towards acting

The way you consider your intention and your task as an actor highly influences your performance.

Mahershala Ali, winner of this year’s Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance in Moonlight, gave an inspiring acceptance speech which I’d like to quote:

“And one thing that they consistently told me is that it wasn’t about you. It’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories, to these characters.” — Mahershala Ali

Do you just act because it is your passion and it’s fun or do you see a greater meaning in your job/hobby as an actor/actress?

Mine is the purpose of creating art that people can relate to and be inspired by for a long long time. And it’s so freakin’ fun!!

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #5 scene acting – figuring a character’s story

Today’s tip is regarding your character preparation in scene play. There are some simple questions to go over when preparing. The tricky part is to keep those background information that you thoughtfully put together in mind and playing towards them but still being able to react to what your acting partner(s) offer(s) you.

Before entering a scene, you have to prepare your character’s story. These questions help you figure out a background story if not already being directed in the script:

  • Where does your character come from? Mentally and physically. What does she/he think? What has she/he experienced before entering the scene?
  • Where is your character within the scene? What is the setting? Be careful how “far” you look, imagine walls or a specific environment. Move accurately for given space/place.
  • Where does your character want the situation to lead? What outcome does your character hope for (if any)? Your reactions should be conform to your answers.

Rehearsing with your acting partner(s) to fully understand their intepretations of their own characters as well as yours is key to an harmonious scene play. Give input and take input. Act and react, but don’t lose focus of the background questions above.

Scene play is so much fun — you can fully apply everything you learn playing a scene. Enjoy practicing 🙂

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #4 pay attention to your surroundings

In times of smartphones, non-stop connectedness and social media information overload, most of us stare at our phones to bridge time gaps. Me, I try to eliminate this habit whenever possible by setting offline time episodes (even days) and taking along a book wherever I go. Initially, spare time is well used and a dependancy on my smartphone to spend time is restricted. Especially when you are an actor/actress, paying attention to your surroundings can be of huge benefit for your imagination when creating a character.

You can take so much inspiration out of other people’s behavior/movements and the way they speak. Be observant, take in the impressions of your environment. Not only the people, but also watch actively everything there is to be found around you. Attentiveness makes your eyes come alive, it gives your eyes expression. The more you see, the more your imaginational skills grow and develop.

See consciously and experience how much there really is to be inspired by.

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #3 mirroring exercise

Mirroring is a great exercise for not only working on your visual sense and your attentive concentration, but also on getting to know your acting partner and be attuned to one another. You can gain a lot of information about a person through his/her movements and choice of movements.

Here is how mirroring works:

  • Stand in front of your partner in one to two metres distance.
  • Look each other in the eyes throughout the whole exercise. This is very important to really connect.
  • One of you starts moving slowly, the other one follows his/her lead. Be careful to mirror your partner’s movements precisely, never losing eye contact and also mimicking imitating his/her facial expressions.
  • Change the lead.
  • When you change who is leading again, become a little faster.
  • Take turns, becoming for fluent. The goal is not to make visible to observers who of you is leading and who is mirroring. Exact instant replication of your movements and facial expressions.

If you have done this exercise before, you know what a difference it makes in your acting with your partner and how you improve your mirroring from turn to turn. If you are new to this exercise: you will love it! Have much fun mirroring!

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #2 warming up methods I

Before starting to play a scene, you should warm up. There are multiple methods to make your face and eyes be more awake and to really be more expressive. Especially in camera acting, your facial expression is crucial. The camera sees everything. Here is an easy tip for your face to come to life and ready to play:

I don’t think this method has a name (if it does, please inform me about it), so in my head, I call it “the mouse and the bear”-technique.

First, you make your face really really small — like the face of a mouse –, wrinkling, pressing your eyes together and while trying to pout, also pressing your lips firmly together. Hold for a few seconds.

Then — in the attempt to look like a giant scary bear –, make your face as big as it goes: widen your eyes, open your mouth as much as possible, widen the alar wings of your nose and make your eyebrows go up. Hold for a few seconds.

Repeat a few times.

-your tiny woman in a giant world

acting 101: #1 loving your instrument

In the art of acting, your body is your instrument. Before you can use your body as means to an end — which is embodying a character –, you need to feel good about yourself first and also be able to move freely and comfortably. So there are two aspects that you have to be aware of:

  1. What your body can accomplish physically.
  2. How you feel in your body.

If one or the other does not apply “free” as an answer, there is a limitation in your capability of playing a character freely. You will not be able to go into a character, the way you could otherwise.

Make your body strong and healthy

Besides the body being an instrument for actors/actresses, the human body is a machine that carries us through our whole life. In order for the body to function properly, we have to nourish and move it. So it won’t rust in and let us down. Our bodies and us, we practice the greatest sort of teamwork ever. If you are nice to yourself, your body will appreciate it in making your life a healthy one to live. When your body enables you to move freely and in a wide range of motions , providing for enough air when you move wildly and powering you when you need the physical strength, you will never stop caring for your body. You will learn the difference it makes. And you will not want to miss it ever again.

  • move every single day: cardio and strength training; even if it is only stretching for 20 minutes and walking distances faster than usual
  • eat clean, nutrients-rich food, don’t skip meals
Live in the body you feel good in

Putting the health and fitness aspect — which is a must — aside, there is also the aspect of loving the body that you live in. In acting, you have to play lots of characters or scenes that may not be your favorite ones to play. Being in peace with your body helps a whole lot in order to improvize more independently and in a free-of-guard kind of sense. Realizing the former point (making your body strong and healthy) will be the core of loving your body. This love, you must practice regularly. Don’t start taking your body for granted. Never stop loving what the teamwork between you and your body accomplishes and be proud. All this will show in your acting capabilities. You will be more risk-taking, more innovative and free in your acting.

Love your instrument!! x

-your tiny woman in a giant world

announcing: acting 101

Howdy dear readers,

As I picked back up on one of my greatest passions and hobbies acting this year, I decided to 1. use enchanting notions as kind of my acting diary, writing down techniques, methods and tips to look them up whenever I need to, and 2. share them with all of you who might be totally in love with and fascinated by the art of acting just like me.

Once a week, I will publish little acting 101 notions. Besides concrete techniques, methods, exercises for warming up etc., there will also be tips from other areas that are also connected to improving your acting skills, like for instance Yoga.

I am very much looking forward to this new format on enchanting notions!

Have a wonderful weekend x

-your tiny woman in a giant world