Exercise to Hone Your Spidey Senses, Know When Someone Is Lying, and Become a Better Actor
Were you the kid who was always watching everyone? Having started my life with the sole intention of becoming an actor I was always observing and watching people as a child. In fact, when I was very small I discovered that if I sat very still until my something inside me settled I could go unnoticed. Sometimes I would climb under the kitchen table at family gatherings, watching the feet bustle around me, listening to the people talking - not even really listening to the words, but rather the up and down pitches of their voice. The song of it. The "vibe" of it. Down under the table, I imagined I was invisible.
And from this "outsider" perspective I would watch the crap out of people.
All my life I've been a nerd about the study of human nature: the way people move and talk and pause. The way they convey the essence of who they are and the way they sometimes lie about who they are in the way that they move. And as a choreographer for many years, I would watch my dancers move and be able to spot within moments how they were feeling about themselves, where they were hiding, and sense the emotional readiness or non-readiness to break through to new places.
Can you relate? Have you always been an human observer?
I think it's one of those things as actors that we are likely prone to doing or even exceptional at doing. Actors are human observers. . . And because this is a practiced thing with us, we can even sometimes "sense" things beyond the five senses. . .
But when was the last time you stepped back and did it from the perspective of childlike fascination?
You may be working regularly as an actor, or you may be in a dry spell. You may be taking acting classes, or it may have been years since your last one. No matter. From wherever you are as an actor this week, I'd love to challenge you to become a keen observer of human nature. To help you to really get into being a "childlike" observer, here is a game you can play:
[Exercise] The Everyday Person's Monologue Observe those around you as though they are characters in a movie and watch for their monologues. To make this effective, try engaging people in conversations by asking questions that might prompt a story. "Tell me how did you come to be a massage therapist?" Then listen to them tell the story and notice how they do it. Do they stop themselves from saying to much? Do they say one thing with their mouth and something else with their body language? Do they stop telling one story because their mind goes elsewhere and they want to tell a different one - nesting stories inside of each other? Are they all over the place, unable to finish? Does something else have their attention? What is their emotional journey throughout their "monologue."
In Summary The great thing about this exercise is that it can be done alongside anything else that you happen to be doing. Nobody but you has to know that you are studying them, (heh heh! Sneaky!) keenly listening with every ounce of your being . . . and you don't even have to climb under a table in order to do it;) So this week, try playing this game and observing the people you talk to with a childlike observation. And let me know what you discover. Leave me a comment!
I'd love to hear how it goes.