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Acting Out Loud

By • Oct 5th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice

If I am reading a script, there is a good chance that at some point I will read a scene I like out loud, performing each of the roles in the scene myself. It’s a practice I encourage every actor to try at some point. Not as a way of life, but as a useful exercise.

Keep in mind the purpose of an exercise is not to replicate the exact skills and experience of being on stage. Just like jumping rope is a popular exercise for many athletes, even though the exact skill is used in no major sport. But by working muscles, reflexes, the lungs, and such in the crucible of the jump rope workout, an athlete keeps all the above in good shape for their actual use in the game. This little acting exercise will accomplish similar results.

Choose a scene you like from a script you have. This could be done with any script, though a few considerations will make the exercise more useful to you.

For example, it should be a script that you do not know by rote already, something with which you are not intimate yet. It should also be one with at least two characters that differ in some measurable way. It will probably be a more enjoyable exercise if you also enjoy the scene you select, but that isn’t a requirement.

Have a scene? Now, read through it silently once or twice to get familiar with the broad cadence. And then perform the scene. Play all of the characters in the scene out loud, as though it were a one-person show.

And I don’t mean to simply read the lines out loud while switching out voices or accents between the characters. You need to actually present each character to the invisible audience. Inflection, tone, motivation, projection. The whole bit. And do so at performance speed. That is to say, don’t pause for two minutes between each character change in order to get into the next character. You should be able to jump from one character into another in a seamless fashion for the entire scene.

Not as easy at it may sound. To commit fully to the angry, abusive husband, and jump in an instant to the pleading submissive, frightened wife? I am sure that sounds like it could be dizzying. And it is. Or at least it should be. You will almost certainly find yourself reading the lines of Person B as Person A, switching up accents, confusing motivations and emotions. That is to be expected. Yet if done with full commitment it can also be an exhilarating experience for an actor. Just as skipping rope is both exhausting but invigorating at the same time.

Remember, the point is not to experience performance in the same manner you would on stage for an actual show. During an actual show you are almost never going to be switching that quickly between different tones, moods, motivations, syntax, and other such characteristics that vary from role to role. Yet for the exercise, such rapid changes will strengthen your ability to interpret and create all the above, and more.

Intensity and immersion are the keywords to the exercise. It gets your creative juices flowing in ways that simply reading a script to yourself, or performing one character will not.

For an extra jolt to this exercise, add rudimentary blocking as well. Face one way as Character A, and sit down in a nearby chair for Character B, only to hope up again to be Character A on the next line. This also adds a bit of a physical workout to the exercise as well, though of course this is not required to glean the other benefits.

You can’t be everywhere at once, but with this exercise you can come pretty close for a few minutes!

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

One Response »

  1. Great advice Ty. Keeps those acting skills honed. I might add that this sort of work can really help you at auditions, especially those “Cold Readings” from the script so many directors like. When I audition for a show I like to grab a copy of the script, read through it and then try out all the different charactors trying different approaches. Works for me, at least I know it has kept me on the stage in many different roles.