For the role of Mrs. Braddock (and actually every role I play) I did several exercises with my coach before rehearsal started. This helps me find the core of the character and gives me a starting path.
1. Precious Object – The actor picks something from the characters life that is very, very important to them. It can be anything! Honestly, the object isn’t as important as making a choice and going with it. Then, in stream of consciousness, as the object, you talk to the character. It astounds me how much information I get about the character doing this. EVERY TIME!
2. Six Minutes – This exercise is from Anne Bogart of SITI Company in New York. This is to explore the playwrights vision of the play. The actor does lots of research for this one. Then, you spend two minutes showing what the world of the play looks like, two minutes showing what the world of the play sounds like, and two minutes showing what the people in the world of the play are like. I love doing all the research. And this exercise helps in grounding me in the playwrights world.
3. Private Moment – Exactly what it sounds like. This is something the character does in private, when no one else can see. The example used in class is the part of the movie “Risky Business” when Tom Cruise is dancing in his underwear. Actors have to be able to do things for an audience that might embarrass them in real life. And we have to jump in and do it wholeheartedly. This exercise informs the character for me in ways the other exercises don’t.
4. One Word At A Time – Again, exactly what it sounds like. You take a bit of your lines in the script and say them out loud One. Word. At. A. Time. It can sound a little robotic and weird when you see it done, but as an actor it helps me get the language in my mouth and body.
There are probably thousands of other exercises, and there are many more that I like but these four are my favorites.
Researching and preparing a role is one of the things I like most about acting. Learning something new. Finding parts of myself that I don’t use everyday, or maybe ever except on stage. It can be scary and exciting and fun and frustrating and I love it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.