Fun writing exercise to help you discover new acting choices

Posted on June 19, 2012 by

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In the 1990’s, I began keeping a book of daily thoughts and journals at the advice of professors in college. One of the professors was my acting teacher, and the other, an English literature professor. They gave me an exercise that I still find useful. The interesting similarity is that both involve examining how others would think and feel, if in the same situation. When I began auditioning in New York in the 90’s, and taking buses, subways, and ferries, I wrote all the time (to make sense of what I was seeing).

I started using the following writing exercise, and found it helped me discover new acting choices, which helped with auditions as well:

  1. Decide who you are, and write it down. Are you a farmer, policeman, tourist etc?
  2. Pick a place you would not normally find yourself, and write it down.
  3. Write from your point of view of “discovery”, how you feel in that moment, what you would think about what you are seeing, and describe it as if you were in that moment.

How this helps…

  • It helps you discover the process of making the best acting choices for yourself, as the “performance of life in the moment”. When it comes to being entertained or sold on an idea, we tend to find “real life” boring.
  • People who think and act “in the moment”, usually do not get caught up in “consequences of actions”.
  • Because their choices are a reflex reaction, and insistent, their behavior is more interesting to listen to, and watch.
  • It may just be that taking the time to evaluate your thinking through writing, and gauge the how, what, when and why of what should be expressed.

For this post…I dug out one of the very first things I wrote after an acting audition in June 1995. It did not go well, so I drowned my sorrows in a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Times Square; one of the most fast-paced environments on earth. I sat down across from the counter and watched touristsorder food, which is equally entertaining. The personality clashes are fascinating. I began writing, using the exercise, about the differences between how we “act” when we think we know everything, how we “act” when we feel out of place, and how we MIGHT think when we feel threatened. I began discovering my own interpretations of what I see, and as a result, started keeping written record of it to refer to on days when the creative side of the brain needs a boost.

I wrote this odd story when I was 22-years old, 17 years ago:

  • “I am not sure what is wrong with New Yorkers. I am in McDonalds, and I just asked for an extra tomato on my burger. The young lady just replied, “What is a tomato?”. I thought everyone knew what a tomato is, but I guess not. I am worried now about the fact there is something round and red on my burger, and she does not know what it is. Why is everyone eating it then? Is it a tomato? Is that why so many people are in here and acting so aggressive? I think I am going to just get a shake and walk out of here quietly before anyone notices. The smiling clown is making me nervous, and people are starting to look angry with me.”

Oddly, not too long after this day…I booked a Burger King ad, where the copy made fun of McDonald’s quality of food, which was a freak coincidence. I did learn that the more I wrote, the easier creative decisions came to me. I was also able to go back and evaluate how I handle certain situations, and how to describe best “what I do”. I used to have a cover letter on my resume that agents loved, and would get me calls:

  • “I am that guy from New York City that all tourists talk to first when they need directions.”

Ultimately, I discovered this from consistently writing, and it has helped me with all forms of auditions from voice overs to theatre, any job I had on the side including Wall St., and writing, too.

What helps you get prepared for auditioning?