As an actor, it’s important to exercise every day. It is just like another job where you have to keep improving your skills. And a great way to improve skills is by practicing every day as much as possible.
Most of the actors today all do is just focus on auditions and not bother about practicing their skills. You have to understand acting is just like any other art form, be it dancing or singing, where constant practice is a must.
Yes, practicing acting at home is a little hard because most of the exercises require a partner to practice. But even without partners, it is possible to practice acting and you can practice several aspects of acting.
For example, you can practice sense memory, voice, physicalizing, attitude, characterization, etc.
Yeah, we will discuss several acting exercises to do alone. By practicing these exercises every day you will improve not just your acting but you will also learn more about yourself as an actor. You will have a better stimulus to your surroundings, to your actors, to your scenes, and to your impulses. Overall as an actor, you will be more receptive which is an important aspect of an actor.
Before you begin to practice, make sure you have the right material and the Right tool. Most of the actors don’t have the right tools to even practice properly.
Please take a look at my personal preparation tool which is 100 Questions To Build An Living, And Breathing Character In An Hour (Click Here To Buy Now). Using this printable worksheet you will be able to create a well-detailed character in a very short time. This has helped in infinite gigs and auditions, it will help you too.
So what are the acting exercises to do alone?
Here I have compiled 7 exercises that you can do every day. These are like basic exercises which focus on the core aspect of acting.
ok, let’s start with the exercises…
1. Feeling the surrounds
Feeling the surroundings is the simplest acting exercise you can do alone. As the name suggests, you have to feel the surroundings. Be it the sound you hear or be it the objects you see, touch it. You have to take impulses or stimuli from surrounding.
Listening is a key aspect of acting. Morgan Freeman states that acting is all about listening. An actor who is a good listener has a very good chance of being successful in this business.
What I mean by listening is listening through your senses.
Use your eyes to see the surrounding objects co-actors…
Use your ears to listen to all the sounds that you hear….
use your skin to feel the objects that surround you. Touch them, see what kind of texture they have and what kind of feeling they have….
Use your nose to smell what kind of fragrance that surrounds you….
Use your tongue to taste the different food that you have it until now…
Yes, I will give you the proper direction how to do this exercise properly but for right now try to get the sense of all five senses…
Just give it a minute and observe your senses. I know senses are one of the most beautiful things. More sensitive the senses more receptive the actor.
If you have read any of the method acting books written by Stella Adler or Stanislavsky or Uta Hagen or Sanford Meisner might have come across a term called sense memory. Yes, the sense memory technique deals with how our senses help us in acting.
I do not want to discuss sense memory right now. We will completely focus on doing this exercise of feeling the surroundings.
You have to keep a few things in mind while doing these exercises. Make sure you are not wearing any shoes or socks or any gloves in your hand or sunglasses on your eyes and I advise you not to use any music.
Choose an empty space for this exercise.
Follow this direction in order to do this exercise:
- start walking on the floor and try to feel the floor. Try to feel the texture try to feel the temperature is it cold or is it hot is it slippery is it dirty.
- Now allow the floor to feel you. Make sure you walk in such a way that allows the floor to feel the texture of your foot ( I know floor cannot see but you have to believe that floor is a living thing that can feel your foot)
- Once you start to feel the floor and allow the floor to feel you, focus on your breathing. Do not force your breathing just feel how you breathe. Focus on how much time you take to inhale and exhale.
- Now add the sounds from surroundings to your focus. Discover the sounds around you. It may be a sound of an air conditioner, fan or wind or someone talking. Just hear. Do not think about it.
- Now with all the above steps, add the feel of the space around you to the focus. Try to feel the space that surrounds you with your whole body. Initially, you may start with your hands, then your face, chest, stomach, knees, etc. Until you feel, the space with your whole body.
- Keep doing this exercise for 5 minutes.
Note: If you lose the focus on any of the steps, go back to that step and do it again. This exercise requires practice, practice, and practice.
Believe me, if you master this exercise you will more receptive as an actor. You will be completely in the moment and receive stimuli not only from you co-actors but from the surrounding as well, even from those things that are not in front of you but you have imagined they are there for the shake of the scene.
2. How do I feel
One of my favourite book on acting is “No Acting Please” by Eric Morris (click here to get it now from Amazon). When it comes to sense memory, Eric is an absolute master. He believes that an actor can use all senses only if the actor’s instrument is perfectly tuned.
What does he mean by that? He means, an actor’s body is just like an instrument which has to be tuned in order to function perfectly. But our day today lives affect us even on the stage or in a scene. This is the worst thing to have when you want truthful performance.
Every actor struggles with that. Even if you have been acting for ages, every now and then, your personal life will block your instrument from playing at an optimal level.
How do you cope with that?
Eric Morris believes by simply acknowledging what you are feeling could fine-tune your instrument.
This is one of the most important method acting exercise to do alone that I have added to my repertoire. I do it when I am at home or driving or during rehearsals or even before the performance.
How does this exercise affect your body?
When you acknowledge what you are feeling at that moment, your body accepts it. When you accept its there, your body is freed of that emotion and gets ready to be affected by other emotion.
Basically, this exercise will bring you back to the moment.
Follow this simple direction for this exercise:
- Start by asking this question “ how do I feel?” Answer the question either out loud or semi-audible.
- Answer the question within two seconds of asking it. Keep in mind do not try to force your feeling. Express what you feel.
Example: How do I Feel? I feel calm. How do I feel? I feel the cool weather. I feel fresh. I feel blank now.
Keep expressing what you feel. If you feel nothing or nothing comes to your mind. Just express that.
3. Vulnerability Exercise
This is one of the most powerful exercises I have known in acting. I still remember the day I performed this exercise for the first time. It brought out several emotions out of me. I really felt the anger and sadness. And its effect stayed with me throughout the day.
I am not saying it will affect you personally every time you do that exercise. It’s just that when you are an amateur actor, you don’t know how to deal with those emotions. But as you learn acting, you will learn how to create those emotions and let go once the job is done.
This exercise is a modified version of the “how do I feel” exercise.
In this acting exercise to do alone, you imagine a person from your life and tell him how you feel about him or her. It is usually a monologue but you share your personal life in it.
What this exercise does is it helps you elevate emotions that you may want to show for a part. These emotions are very vulnerable emotions. It could be heartbroken, or loss of someone or extreme rage or happiness.
I highly recommend you to record your exercises with a good camera with self audition kit (get it now from Amazon). My personal favourite kit is CorLED (Get it Now on Amazon). Buy a camera with remote control and a proper stand specifically for shooting your exercises or rehearsals. As you are doing these acting exercises alone, there is no one to give you feedback. And feedback is the most important part when you want to grow as an actor.
For this exercise follow this direction:
- First, choose an emotion that you want to express. Be it anger, sadness or gratefulness.
- Now choose the person from your life who is still alive. Choose the person who makes you feel that specific emotion. If you want to show anger, choose someone who makes you angry every time you see him or her.
- Once you selected emotion and the person, imagine the person standing or sitting in front of you. First imagine the details like clothes, hair, eyes, smell, etc.
- Once you have created that person, now say to him what you feel about him. Share with him, if you want to complain, complain. Do not hold back. Speak about everything.
- Keep speaking for about 4-5 minutes. Do not stop or hold back. Its monologue, just speak your heart out.
Initially, you may not feel anything, but once you are through a couple of minutes, you will start to feel the emotion that you have chosen. You may be compelled to stop the exercise because of those intense emotions but just keep going. If you stop you will never have that sensitive skin that actor must-have.
Don’t be afraid of expressing your emotion as an actor.
Check the recording, when you are done. See if you have done exercise truthfully or not. If you see that you are being fake. Do the exercise again.
4. Breathing exercise
Voice is the most important instrument for an actor. Take any great actor, you will realize how they use their voice for great effect. It’s not just the quality of the voice, but how they modulate it to convey the emotions.
There is no factor that affects your voice as much as breathing does. Even doctors acknowledge that by correcting the breathing process, most of the speaking inabilities can be corrected.
So, how do you master the breathing process? Follow this direction:
- Lie down on the floor on your back and keep one hand on your stomach.
- The first thing you must do is to breath only through your nose and not through the mouth.
- Inhale until you can feel your stomach rising. Try to inhale as much as possible.
- Exhale slowly not forcefully with “hmmm” sound.
- Repeat the steps again.
Simply by mastering this process, you will be able to improve the quality of your voice.
5. Waiting For…
This is again one of my favorite acting exercises to do alone. A great thing about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere.
If you can just look at your everyday routine, you will realize that you wait for many things. You wait for you may wait for bus, cab, train or coffee or even a friend.
Waiting for anything is kind of whole scene itself that you can recreate. Yes, there may not be many dialogues, but it’s a situation. You can hype the situation but introducing race against the time element or you can make it fun by introducing an exciting factor like going on a date. There are several angles that you can play with it.
The advantage of doing this exercise is that it involves almost all aspects of acting.
For this exercise follow this direction:
- Pick a place that has enough room that allows you to move freely and add a chair or anything that you can seat on.
- Now pick an offstage. Offstage is an event that has either happened or going to happen. For instance, you are going for an audition. This is a future offstage. design the offstage in detail. For this example, you can say you have the monologue. So you try to memorize it. Decide at what time is the audition call. Are you running late or you have time.
- Now imagine you are on a platform, waiting for a train.
- Now do anything that comes to you naturally. But keep offstage in mind. Here we have taken an example of an audition, so you can try to think about that while waiting for a train.
- Be in the situation, do not go out of it. And you are playing yourself, there is no character. Just be truthful to the situation.
If you are doing these acting exercises at home, you can use a camera to record yourself.
And I also advise you to keep an acting journal, where you can write about your experiences with these exercises. An acting journal is a great way to analyze your progress as an actor.
6. Thought process
Have you seen a seen, where the actor does nothing, but still keep you hooked as an audience? By external appearance, the actor may seem inactive, but he is active internally.
What I mean by being active internally? Is that actor is thinking as a character?
You have to understand that you cannot hide anything from the audience or camera. Whatever, you are thinking it shows. You may think you are not showing, but your body is too sensitive and it keeps on broadcasting your thoughts with your body language.
How many times I have seen actors showing their nervousness in the scene without them realizing it.
How many times I can easily see that actor is trying to remember the next line, just by looking at their eyes.
Hence, it is important that you keep your thought process within the dimensions of the character. Even without any dialogues, the audience will know that you are still the character and not you.
So, this acting exercise to do alone will help you fine tune your thought process in any way you need. Follow this direction:
- Sit down on a chair comfortably.
- Now pick an objective from your real life. For helping you understand this exercise I am asking you to pick objective from real life. But if you are preparing for a play or film, you can pick the objective of your character.
- Now, ask yourself what will happen if do not achieve your objective (not loudly). Lets for example purpose, you want to get an acting gig badly. If you don’t get it, you may get broke or maybe not able to pay your rent.
- Now ask a question on the consequence of not being able to achieve your objective. For this example, lets you say you won’t be able to pay your rent. So the consequent question you ask is what happens if you won’t be able to your rent, you may be kicked out. Now go to the next consequent question, if you are kicked out, what will happen? You may have to move back to your parent’s house. If you move back to your parents, what happens then? Your parents may ask you to stop pursuing your acting career and ask you to take a real job. Now form a consequent question for that answer and so on.
All you have to do is keep thinking of the questions, and not try to act. Whatever you will be thinking, it will show in your body language or in your eyes. If you do this truthfully, you may even feel real emotions.
This exercise requires you to record yourself on a good quality camera. So that you can see, that was your body expressing your thoughts? If not, you were not really asking questions truthfully.
7. Sense Memory
If you ask me which one exercise is must among all the acting exercises to do alone? It is sense memory exercise. Sense memory is a technique which allows an actor to recreate an object or moment from the past using senses.
Many actors confuse it with emotional memory. But it is totally different from it. Emotional memory is a technique in which you use an emotional event from the past in the scene. But it does not work for all actors. There is no sure way to improve on emotional memory because in this technique you are trying to remember how you felt on that day.
Just thinking about the sadness you felt when your pet died, won’t bring the sadness in the scene. It might work for some actors, but it requires to have a good memory of that event and skill to recreate in your mind.
But if you master sense memory, you will be able to create an event in detail using your senses. And emotions created with sense memory are always real.
Let me give you an example of how sense memory works in a scene. Let’s assume in a scene you are required to covey the feeling of losing someone. You may choose an event from your past when you lost your beloved dog. So, what you will do is try to remember the event with your senses. Try to remember what color your dog was, what was the temperature of your dog when you touched his or her body, what did you smell when you hugged him. If all the stimulus is correct, the emotion will be organic. You may not cry, but you will definitely feel the sadness of losing him or her.
However, you will have to practice sense memory every day in order to create a bank of events that you remember through your senses. If you are practicing sense memory regularly, you will make a habit of remembering every moment of your life through your senses.
For this exercise, there is no right direction, its all about observation. But initially start with simple objects like a marble, ball, stone, etc. Follow this procedure:
- Examine the object with a sense of touch first. Feel the texture and hardness.
- Then you can just observe the color, pattern or any irregularities with your eyes.
- Smell the object.
- If it’s an edible object, taste it. If not, the above steps will do.
- Now leave the object and try to recreate the object just using your senses. In other words, mime it.
In addition, to these steps make a habit of observing things around you using the above steps, this way you will remember every moment through your senses. Hence, whenever you want to recreate or use as a substitution, you can recreate them through your senses.
There are many more acting exercises to do alone, but I have tried to explain only a few them which I think can help you as an actor. In the future, I will try to add a few more and extend the list.
If you like these above exercises please share them with your fellow actors and just point them to this site. This will help not only them but also motivate me to give you more like your fellow actor.
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This is a fantastic article to help young directors like me better improve our skills and consequently help our actors. Well-compiled and easy to understand. Thank you.
The vulnerability exercise…. WOW. Just tried that by myself, and IT BROUGHT OUT ORGANIC EMOTIONS to the point where I was in angry tears. Did not expect that, and now I’m still shaking off the feelings from it, because I’m new to this and didn’t realize how intense it would be on me. That was super powerful… I’m going to hold on to all these pointers and use them. I’m an amateur actor who just started at age 24/25… I’ve only just stepped into this field professionally and seriously for the last 2 and a half years or so, (just turned 27 last month) I’m not in the union yet, and I’ve been taking small stand in roles, extra roles, and small non speaking roles in tv and film, just to start with something and keep myself on some kind of production set while I develop my craft on my own with self training and group workshops, until I feel sufficient enough to move on to taking the next step of actually auditioning for real parts, and taking anything I can get. I’m heavily type casted, because at age 27 I have the face of 16 year old and my last 5 jobs were portraying some type of high school student, babysitter, or teenage fan girl. I’m not sure where to even start to get past these roles and start actually auditioning for things without a SAG card. I have a casting networks acct, basic mediocre pro headshots, and I do see a few non union auditions posted that are wanted via video reel/clip. But other than this platform, I don’t have anything. I feel as if finding these things on my own is hard work. Do I need a manager/agent? I feel so stuck in limbo right now and clueless. Acting, and this industry in general is the only one that never turned its back on me. The only job I’ve ever had where no one gives a shit about my past, no one googled me to find my old mugshots from a rougher time that implies I have a CDS charge on my record. As a women in my 20s who already has the odds so stacked against me in corporate 9 to 5 America, I’ve decided the arts is the only thing that I feel embraced by. This is the only thing I feel accepted and at peace doing. Getting told no by casting directors for a part is nothing, I can handle that. imagine landing a good job at a company and being fired for no reason on the spot, only to find out someone googled my name and found an arrest article from 5 years ago and decided to abruptly fire me. Imagine working at a bar to make ends meet, and even there being talked about and mentally abused every day by gossiping coworkers that think they have a right to talk down to me, make fun of me behind my back and downplay my entire work ethic because they also found out. Every damn job I’ve gotten, has casted me out and judged me. Acting is the only thing in my life, where people looked at me only for what I was as a whole at that moment in time (and not who I was in the past), for my ability and skills, and how I could be of service to a production. I wish that life could be more like that, and that all people would see me for what I can do, as it pertains to a job. Not my troubled past, not my mugshot, not anything but the ability and the person. I’m sorry for ranting but I’ve never told anyone that thats one of the real reasons I want to act. I just want to be judged for my craft, not the past.
Thank you for sharing your story kristi…! We all have a similar journey… the only thing we can control is to learn practice n perform…rest leave it to the casting directors….!
I have a question, the 6th exercise, it need to be done in my mind or by speaking?
Hi Alex, sorry for late reply…this exercise need to be done in mind…it is an internal process.
Hey wow this is great! Amazing points, I was getting quite frustrated with myself, in front of a mirror I believe my acting is fine, but when I record myself I feel like my acting is not real. I really want to work hard at this, and seeing that practice is a huge part of the craft is a big comfort, so thank you for sharing!
Helpful article. Thank you.