The Actor's Toolbox
Games, Warm-Ups, and Monologues to Prepare for Performance
Getting Into the Act
Preparing for a performance is a feat in itself. Actors utilize warm-ups and games before shows to warm-up their bodies and their minds, sharpen skills, build confidence, and familiarize themselves with their cast members. These games and warm-ups are great to use for teams and individuals who are not involved in drama to sharpen the mind and build confidence. Included below are also a few example monologues which are great to use to express oneself, release stress, and build self awareness.
Warm- Ups and Games
1. Tongue Twisters
Tongue twisters are excellent for performers. They warm-up the muscles in the mouth used to talk and make actors very aware of their diction and pace when speaking. They're great for younger kids who are developing their motor skills and professional presenters as well. Here are a few below:
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? (x3)
Sally sells seashells by the sea shore. (x3)
Red leather, yellow leather. (x3)
A cup of copper coffee in a copper coffee cup. (x3)
You know you need unique New York. (x3)
Whether the weather be fair or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot,
Well, whether the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not. (x1)
2. One Word Story
This is an improvisation exercise used to grow accustomed to working with others and teach actors to think on their feet. This is a great game that creates a sense of togetherness in a group, builds confidence, and is great for a laugh.
In this game a group of at least three individuals line up. A topic is given to the group and the individuals must create a story off the top of their heads about this topic without conferring about it first. Every individual may only contribute one word to the story when it is their turn to speak. (The first actor might begin with "Once" so the next three actors can follow with "upon a time".) The story must make sense so actors have to listen to what the person before them said so they can appropriately contribute a word that will complete the sentence. At any time an actor may say a word that no one else in the group is expecting and completely change the story. Actors have to learn to adapt and think quickly to contribute words that will create a complete story at the end.
3. The Number Game
This is another game that is fantastic to teach individuals to attune to the people around them. This is another good team building exercise used to create a sense of togetherness in a group.
Description: In this game a group of individuals (typically of at least six) will stand in a circle. The goal of the entire game is to count to 20 with each person saying only one number at a time. Counting to 20 must be random- there can be no set order of who goes next in counting. If two people say the same number at the same time, then the count goes back to one and the entire group has to start counting to 20 all over again.
4. What Are You Doing?
This is an improvisation exercise used to practice pantomime and quick thinking. It's excellent on developing movement for stage and creativity. It's also a fun game to relieve stress.
Description: In this game a group of actors will stand in a circle. One person will begin pantomiming some sort of action (like brushing their teeth). The person next to them will ask, "What are you doing?" The actor pantomiming has to respond with an answer that doesn't match their action (like "Shooting with a bow and arrow"). The actor who asked "What are you doing?" has to then begin pantomiming whatever action the actor just described. Then the actor next to them will ask, "What are you doing?" and the game will continue throughout the circle.
Meditation is excellent for warm-ups for actors. Meditation calms nerves and allows the actor to focus. Meditation is excellent for anyone when they need to calm down and relax.
Description: An actor will sit or lie down in a comfortable manner. They will then take slow, deep breaths, emptying their mind and relaxing all the muscles in their body. This can last for however long. Sometimes a director will prompt actors to envision themselves in different environments (like a beach on a warm day or a mountain covered in snow) while meditating. Actors will adjust their bodies and breathing as they imagine themselves in the different environments. This allows actors to come more in contact with their emotions and senses and builds excellent self awareness used in acting.
Monologues are powerful pieces of text that are meant to be performed by an actor. A good monologue will typically have a beginning, middle, and end, and various points where the character who is speaking is changing and developing as new emotions, memories, and realizations dawn on him or her. An actor will either envision themselves (in depth) in the character's predicament or tap into various experiences of their own to convey the emotion that the monologue needs. Because of this, a monologue is an excellent way to express oneself and relieve oneself of stress or pent up emotions. Monologues also help a person build a better idea of self awareness as they often require variation of movement, tone, inflection, and facial expression to be done properly. Here are a few example monologues below:
And Turning Stay
By Kellie Powell
Amy: Don't you dare walk away from me! And don't tell me you're sorry! And don't tell me to forget it, and don't you dare tell me to "let it go". God knows, I'd like to. I wish I could, but I can't! I can't forget that we had something, and you're running away. You're running away! Don't you see, Mark? You're running from what I've searched for all my life! Why, because you're scared? Well, I'm scared too, but you and I- we have something worth fighting for. We could make it work, I'm not saying it would be easy, but I care about you. And I know deep down, under this (Spitting out the word.) bravado, you care about me. And that's what it's all about, Mark, don't you get it? It's the human experience. You can pretend all you want, but you're only lying to yourself. You're denying the simple and wonderful fact that you are emotional, and vulnerable, and alive.
Can you honestly stand there and tell me that I mean nothing to you? That everything that happened that night was a lie? That you felt nothing? I feel sorry for you, Mark. I'll move on. I'll find someone else. I'll be all right, because I'll know that I tried. That I did everything I could. But someday you will look back, and you will realize what you threw away. And you will regret it always.
By Terrence Mosley
Son: Nope. Picked up the blade at 14 and never looked back. Ma never wanted me to shave. I always thought it was because she didn't want me to grow up, or something like that, but now I understand. She would always say to me...every time, she would say, "It's only going to grow back thicker". First couple of times weren't too bad. A little irritation, no cuts, everything was fine. Next thing I know I start getting all these bumps. I would let it grow out, they would disappear, and I would shave again. I would get more, every time I shaved, and I started to pick at them. I couldn't pop 'em fast enough. Then it started feeling like I had steel pushing out of my pores. Sometimes it's so bad I can't sleep at night. Ma tried to warn me and I didn't listen. I would go to bed mad at you. Thinkin' you did this to me. Try and put you out of my head and there you were just beneath the surface pushing up. Pushing pain.