We’ve all played them. Acting games. Even writing it makes me feel excited, scared, and sort of bored all at once. Over worked drama teachers will throw you into space jump to give themselves a moments peace, and so they should! They work crazy hard to keep dreamers like us dreaming. They deserve it. But can you learn something from an acting game, even if it is just an adult version of nap time.
Listening and responding.
Almost every single acting game is about listening and responding. Whether it’s with your voice, body, mind, soul, most games require you to receive information, process it, and then respond. And that’s what acting is! For some reason, when acting becomes a job or you’re doing it for grades, scripts, audiences, and outcomes get in the way of the basics. Jog your memory, play an acting game.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said it but I’ll say it again… Acting is storytelling. And you can’t tell the story on your own. You need everybody in the cast to be on the same page. Yes, there will be conflict between the characters, but the actors need to be able to work together. If you can’t pass a clap around the circle, what chance do you have of telling Hedda Gabler.
Another by-product of scripts and audiences is the almost obsessive level of self awareness, or in many cases self-consciousness. We start to doubt our ability to “live up to the part” or to get it right, which will inevitably ruin our performance. Acting games can release that pressure. You can’t stuff up improv, and if you do, then you are probably doing it right. Stop thinking about yourself, and your character, and play!
If you haven’t played an acting game for a while, I encourage you to look back at some of your favourites and see how they could apply to acting more generally. I think you will find that games, and not study or intellect, are the foundation of great acting.