Two New Character Exercises

I led a one day character workshop on Saturday and came up with two new character exercises that might be helpful for anyone out there running similar things. Here they are….

That’s Great, New Character

Two actors – A and B.
A starts talking about a topic from their real life they know lots about (a holiday they went on, what they’ve been up to since school etc). They initially start talking as themselves. 
B says “that’s great, new character”.
A carries on but as a different character. 
B says “that’s great, new character”.
And so on.

Encourage B to vary the speed and intervals of when they say “that’s great, new character”. Also encourage them to spot things that are interesting and to encourage them in A. For example, “That’s great, more licking of lips, new character”. Also encourage them to sometimes overload A and then pick up on the things A does accidentally and make a character out of this. For example if A runs out of characters and sighs/feels like giving up, get A to play a character that sighs and feels like giving up.

Encourage A to experiment with different ways of finding character – different physicality, voice, emotion, attitude, point of view, genre etc. 

Make sure they keep including the “that’s great” statement so it stays positive. 

Opposite of You

Actors get into pairs with a pen and paper each. 

They discuss who they actually are and then write down their individual character traits, so that if someone else came along they could play them accurately. 

It’s easier if you go through in categories so that they have something to focus on. E.g – walk, posture, accent, shape, how you talk to others, beliefs, attitudes, emotion etc etc. 

I’ve often found when actors do personal stuff like this it sometimes ends up negative so I encouraged a positive attitude by mentioning this, playing nice music as they discussed things, and not letting them stay on any topic for too long. 

After about a while of this they had a list of character rules about themselves. I then got them to individually write down the opposite thing for each rule. For instance:

Quiet in groups —> Centre of attention and noisy
Straight back —> Hunched
Long strides —> Shuffling steps

They then took it in turns in their pairs to play these opposite characters, with their partner encouraging them and shouting out the rules similar to the That’s Great New Character game. It’s important to encourage the positivity so it remains a fun way of finding a new character rather than a negative dwelling in the person’s shadow. 

For each person there seemed to be a few ‘trigger’ rules that snapped them out of themselves and their default characterizations and really let them become someone else. All the characters that resulted were fascinating, inhabited and far removed the person’s normal characteristics. The actors all seemed to be capable of staying in these characters. 

It was interesting that many of the characters didn’t appear as the direct opposite of the actual person, more a tangent. This is probably people interpret themselves differently in the first round than we do as casual outside observers. 

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