Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Focusing on emotional reactions.

After Mark Sutton's class at KCiF, and in an effort to get ready for the show with Jill on Saturday, I've been thinking a lot about staying in the moment and reacting to what just happened.

Which means that's what my kids got to work on tonight.

There are a couple of challenges to working on this stuff with teenagers:
  • The teenage brain isn't completely wired for emotional response. From an interesting article: "The area of the brain associated with higher-level thinking, empathy, and guilt is underused by teenagers, reports a new study."
  • Life experience is helpful in playing scenes that let you showcase a range of emotional reactions.
  • Kids are giggly.
So I went in with my usual general idea of what to do: a goal, some key exercises, and a flexible attitude. We're down two kids for this show, and there were only eight at rehearsal, so it was a calmer, more focused group—at least by a little—than usual. Here's what we ended up doing:
  • Warmup: Big Booty, Killer Bunny (to build energy and get focused)
  • Pass an emotion
  • Ping Pong (from the Physical Comedy Handbook)
  • Character walk with animal spine and status—add Ping Pong
  • Timed scenes with setup (no eye contact, start with shape) and physical/emotional check-in before dialogue
  • Ditto, but with numbers instead of dialogue* (scene ends when they hit 50)
  • Full Plus Ronde with numbers instead of dialogue
  • Busby Berkeley
The Plus Ronde was fascinating to watch. Creating characters and scenes without dialogue forced them to focus on the physicality and emotional games their characters played. It showed them that any character can be in a scene with any other character and it can be interesting to watch if they're affected by each other. It brought out some really nice acting in players who tend to be either over-the-top or primarily verbal.

Now I'm looking very forward to trying the same thing with Erik when we rehearse tomorrow.


*Yes, we could use gibberish instead. If you're good at gibberish, awesome—if you're not, or have never done it before, it's easy to let working hard to create varied gibberish become a distraction. Numbers make it easy to say something without that something mattering.

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