Throughout my years of working as an actor, casting director and screenwriter I have personally witnessed both great and awful actors. Now, that’s not to say that the “awful” actors had no talent, but rather these actors were not trained to properly communicate with their fellow actors.
Whether you’re acting on stage or in front of the camera, you must be able to recognize the psychological motivation behind your characters movements. This improvisational exercise is designed to strengthen an actor’s ability to communicate through psychologically motivated physical actions in order to tell a story and accomplish a goal.
There are very few rules within this improvisational exercise; however, the rules that are instated must be followed exactly. The actors are able to use their body as the primary means of communication; however, the actors may also use a made up language in order to fully communicate with one another. No actual words may be used.
While there are many scenes that you may use in order to engage in this exercise, I have chosen one that I’ve used many times when doing this exercise. Feel free to follow this example or create your own.
Gather at least 5 actors. Choose one actor who will be “human.” This actor will not be able to speak, he can only use his facial expressions and body language to disclose his emotional state.
The other actors are another species, they could be aliens or simply another human species from an underground civilization. They may speak; however, they must use their own language – no actual words.
The scene starts with the “human” actor suddenly waking up in a strange place. The air has a weird scent, the air is cold and the atmosphere is frightening. He tries to scream and talk, but his voice has been taken away. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He is frightened, scared, angry and worries.
Upon seeing him wake, the “creatures” rush over to him and try to calm him down. At first they try to speak to him; however, he cannot understand their language. Thus, the first goal of the “creatures” is to calm him through their physical actions. Allow the actors to make their own choices, the “human” can try to run, but he find out that his legs can’t move, or are damaged somehow.
After calming him, the “creatures” lay him down and proceed to examine his body. Studying him as if it is the first time they’ve seen a “human.” They discover various objects within his pockets and examine them.
One “creature” can feel sorry for the “human” and tries to help him escape while the other “creatures” examine the items within his pockets; however, they are caught.
Allow the scene to progress for 10 minutes, then stop. Discuss the scene with the actors. Perform the scene again, but select a different actor to be the “human” and the “compassionate creature.”