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The Actor's Tools

mask.jpg (1940 bytes)    Characterization Exercises     mask.jpg (1940 bytes)

index.3.jpg (1940 bytes) There are many ways for the student actor to make changes to appearance and personality in order to practice characterization. There are three areas that are fairly easy for the beginning student to practice simple changes:

Movement-this includes such things as walk, gestures and posture. Changes could incorporate pace, rate, rhythm and style.

Voice-this includes accent, diction, sound and vocabulary. Changes might include pitch, rate, volume and words specific to the character type.

Personality-changing the movement and voice will often change the personality of the actor to fit the character. Or the characterization might take place in the opposite way-the actor could change personality traits and the voice and movement changes would follow naturally.

The exercises included on this page come from many years of teaching beginning actors in public schools. Many of the exercises involve observing others and then incorporating the observed traits into the student's memory. Careful observation is one of the most important tools for the student actor.

Characterization Exercises for the Student Actor

mask.jpg (1940 bytes) Take a trip to a public place where sitting and watching people could occur. Some good places for this activity are a shopping mall, an airport, a sporting event or anyplace where people move around as a natural part of the event. Pick a movement trait to observe such as how fast or slow people walk or how people gesture with their hands when they talk. It is helpful to write down quick notes or to draw sketches of the traits you observe. Later, in private, try to duplicate the observed movements yourself. As you duplicate the movement, also imagine the type of person you watched and try to understand why they moved the way they did. Use your imagination.
mask.jpg (1940 bytes) Listen carefully to your favorite actor on television or in a movie. Try to imitate the way that person talks. This is one way to begin "collecting" vocal patterns to use in characters you will develop later. Listen carefully to individuals who have strong accents or rent a video specifically selected for the accents of the characters in the movie. Try to mimic the accent used by these individuals. You will probably be most comfortable doing this in private, but getting a friend to listen after you have been practicing for a while is also helpful.
mask.jpg (1940 bytes) Look through a magazine and find an interesting picture of a person in an everyday situation. Some examples might include a person eating in a restaurant or a person watching a sporting event. Study the picture and use your imagination to create a "life summary" of the person. Decide what their name is and where they went to school. Imagine how they sound when they talk and how they look when they walk. Fill in all the details about their life including favorite food and their most embarrassing moment. After you feel you really know the background of this imaginary person, write a monologue about what the person was thinking the moment the picture was taken. Rehearse the monologue using the voice you created for the person and perform your monologue for a friend.
mask.jpg (1940 bytes) Study individuals as they are feeling different emotions. Do this in a public place where you can watch people without being noticed. As you hear people arguing or laughing, watch how their bodies change and their gestures become faster or slower. If a person looks sad to you, try and decide exactly what the person has done to make you think they are unhappy. You are observing the effects of emotion on the outward appearance of a person. This is important in character study considering that very few characters go through a play without feeling any emotion. You may want to make notes on the various elements of the visual display of emotion.

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