Think you might have a budding actor at home whose interest you’d like to explore? A teen so excited to hone their craft that they want to practice all the time? Or, perhaps simply a child in need of a creative outlet? If so, acting exercises may be just what you need. While interactive, improvisational activities are often used in drama classes and workshops, we’ve also selected some options that can be used at home. Even better, we’ve sorted them by age and difficulty!
Benefits of Acting Exercises
Acting is a skill that benefits from practice like any other. Acting exercises are a great way to not only practice skills you’ve already learned, but also develop new skills for performing and do so in a fun, creative way! Such skills might include:
- Movement, rhythm
- Vocal projection
- Listening, concentration
- Visual storytelling
In a class setting, acting exercises also benefit students and teachers by serving as an ice breaker to get everyone comfortable, warmed-up, and focused.
Acting Exercise Examples
Here are some of our favorite acting exercises. Keep in mind that despite the age listed, most can be adapted to be more or less difficult, depending on the group.
Explore music and movement concepts using songs your child enjoys dancing to and household items as props like a broom or a dust rag. Start the music and use prompts like “How does this music make you feel?” and “How does this music make the prop move?” to inspire your child to get creative with their movement.
Acting Out a Story
Have children play different roles and act out favorite storybooks or fairy tales. Use prompts like “Show me, don’t tell me!” to keep them in character. This acting exercise helps with listening skills, vocabulary, and imagination. Plus, they can burn some energy.
- Young Children
Clap, Snap, Stomp
In this acting exercise, children clap, snap, and stomp in turn, sticking to a steady rhythm. Start by having the children stand in a circle, and count off around the circle: 1, 2, 3. Continue for as many children as you have, only counting up to three. Repeat this count off, but this time all the 1s will be replaced by a snap of the fingers: snap, 2, 3, snap, 2, 3, etc. Then do the count off again, but this time replace the two with a clap: snap, clap, 3, snap, clap, 3, etc. For the final round, 1 will be replaced by a snap, 2 will be replaced by a clap, and 3 will be replaced by a foot stomp, making the sequence sound like: snap, clap, stomp, snap, clap, stomp.
Who’s the Leader?
This acting exercise doesn’t require a lot of dialogue but it encourages everyone to participate. One child leaves the room while the others stand (or sit) in a circle and choose a secret leader. The leader will start making a repetitive motion (hand claps, shoulder taps, or something similar) that the other children follow; then, the leader will gradually change the motion, while the others follow without missing a beat. The student outside is invited back in, and will try to guess who the leader is by observing the circle. They will only get two or three guesses. Once the leader is revealed, the process is repeated.
Scenes from a Hat
Have participants write brief scene suggestions on small bits of paper and place them in a hat (or box). Two children draw a scene from the hat and improvise the scene without telling the audience what the prompt is. Those in the “audience” can guess the prompt to end the scene or make a guess after the scene concludes.
Ask the children for a setting for the scene. Choose two participants who can only speak to each other in questions. Example: “Hi, are you here to buy a new shirt?” “Does something seem wrong with the shirt I am wearing?” If a participant accidentally responds with a statement, they are out and another participant can replace them. Continue until the scene naturally ends, or you run out of participants.
Player 1 uses a script or a comic, novel, or book. Player 2 doesn’t have a book/script and is experiencing the nightmare and must improvise the responses. Player 1 reads lines from the book/script to player 2, who must respond. The object is for player 2 to respond to each line player 1 says. The goal is to build character(s) and a story based on the information in the book/script and keep the scene going. Participants can switch who holds the book midway or start a whole new scene; others can be rotated into either role to keep the scene going.
This acting exercise works best with a minimum of four players. Form two pairs: in each pair, one player is the “actor” in an imaginary foreign language film, and the other is the actor who “dubs” the lines in English. Essentially, two actors are performing a scene in gibberish, using mainly grand gestures, tone of voice, and body language, while the other two actors “interpret” what’s happening for the audience. Participants can switch roles, and you can swap out actors as the “film” goes along to give everyone in the group a chance to perform.
Interested in taking the stage? Multiple musical theatre productions take place at Expression City in our Roy E. Barberi Theatre throughout the year. To learn what acting opportunities are available, visit https://expressioncity.com/acting-musical-theatre/.