Text – the Unnatural Act:

Words are enormous!  In life, we dig into our storehouse of memory, choose our words carefully, censor them, find new ones, then add another.  We weigh our thoughts up against a visual, kinaesthetic or auditory memory, remember how we felt about it, and finally invest the words to describe it with enough vigour for the listener to share the picture in our heads – all in a millisecond! Once words are written down and repeated, all this energy has gone and the words become flat and lifeless, divorced from their original impulses.  You need to re-find this energy:

When Rehearsing:

  • Make sure you warm up – centre breathing (relaxed abdominal/diaphragmatic – don’t go into high, tense ‘fight and flight’ breathing).
  •  Use good posture – keep leaning forward to a minimum.
  • Use physical metaphors for difficult text – act it out.
  • Act out any ‘story’ you tell.
  • If you feel disconnected – or are pushing – hang over and speak, let your neck go completely, then come up quickly so nothing changes. (bend your knees, watch your back!)
  • Put the script into own words or just speak as yourself then go back to text.
  • Breathe where you think. If you let your breath out first, you are ‘missing the moment’. New thought on a full stop. One thought at a time.
  • Make sure you have specific pictures in your head that you’ve chosen/planted in rehearsal. Then let them pop up as they will.
  • Fill in gaps in story with improvisation work to make it come alive.
  • Know where you are. Understand the relationships.
  • Find the previous relationship, circumstances etc.
  • What senses do you use? What is different to your own experiences?
  • What physical life has your role led?
  • Where have you come from – where are you going to?
  • Repeat a phrase many times trying different intentions to keep it fresh and avoid decisions on ‘how’ to say it.
  • Know what you want & why you want it.
  • It is YOU ‘as if’ you were in those circumstances, that world, that time.
  • Use animals to inspire you in preparation. Use ‘chakras’ or secondary centres.
  • If you have to play older, use gravity/weight to find age.
  • Find the rhythms of speech and thought.
  • Once you’ve prepared, trust it. Let it go. Don’t feel you have to show us the work. Be ‘in the moment’. Fly lightly.
  • It is a super-serious, wonderful game. All must have fun!

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About Mel Churcher

I am an acting coach, voice coach, actor and director.