Acting tips on how to do sensory exercises

QUESTION:

What are sensory exercises and how do you do them?

ANSWER:

Sensory exercises are acting exercises where you practice using your five senses to re-create the reality of something.

For example, you could work on trying to re-create a coffee cup. First, you would work on a real coffee cup, concentrating on how the cup looks (colors, shapes...) and feels (the temperature of the cup, the texture of it...) and on how the coffee smells and tastes. You would also listen carefully to the sounds you hear when you drink the coffee or stir a spoon or straw in the cup. Once you've spent a good amount of time with the real cup, you would put it down and try to recreate the feelings you just noted with an imaginary coffee cup. You would try to recall the feel, taste and smell of the coffee, etc. You can go back and forth between the real coffee cup and the imaginary cup until you start being able to recall the cup through your senses. You can see a video demonstration of this simple sensory exercise on our method acting page.

This is just a basic example of a sense memory exercise. You can use sensory exercises to create more complex realities for your acting scenes. For example, you can re-create the feeling of rain or being drunk, tired, hot or cold (you can see a video example of using sense memory to re-create the cold on our Stanislavsky page). You can also use sensory exercises to create complex characters, for example using your senses to explore an animal you think your character is like. The thing to remember is to relax before you start working on a new exercise. Start working on simple exercises like the coffee cup and then you can do more complex sensory exercises as you get better and better at using your senses to re-create imaginary circumstances in your acting scenes.

Sensory exercises are really helpful to help you believe the imaginary circumstances of the play or film you're in as an actor. Once you believe the imaginary circumstances, the emotions and acting can come naturally.

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