Acting effectively on a stage requires a special set of skills. Most of the time if we are watching actors they are on television or a movie screen and their faces are always perfectly framed. No matter if they are whispering or shouting, the audience can always hear exactly what is being said. But, being in front of a real audience without the benefits of a microphone or a cameraman is another matter completely.
Stage actors must have an awareness of where they are in relation to the audience at all times. All too often I have seen P.A.R.T.Y. skits with a good story get muddled because the actors turn their backs to the spectators. No matter how good the acting, it is wasted if the audience can’t see the actor’s faces. In a real conversation people usually face each other, but during a play the regular rules don’t apply.
Actors must remember to “cheat out” and angle their bodies so members of the audience can see everything they do. Whenever I take the stage I pretend someone is trying to sneak up behind me from the wings (the technical term for the areas beside the stage), so I make sure I can see off stage from my peripheral vision. This keeps the shoulders turned squarely to the front and most of the body open to the audience. All of the action of the show must be directed at the spectators even if it feels unnatural.
During P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box performances, teams should be provided with a minimum of 8×10 feet area in which to perform, but often get even more space. While doing their performances, students should endeavor to “fill” whatever space they get by ensuring the characters move around the stage. Oftentimes teams end up “stuck” to the backdrop holder which can end up functioning like a security blanket. The audience (and judges) will be much more engaged by a show that features people moving confidently around the stage. It is also possible through movement and props to delineate separate settings on a single stage, so if the action is occurring stage left, stage right is free to be prepared for the next change of location or scenery.
But, being seen is only half the battle– actors must also be heard. Fear of public speaking (glossophobia) is the most commonly reported phobia of them all. When a person is nervous their throats begin to constrict and it can be very difficult to get the words out. This is one reason that professional actors always engage in warm-up activities before a performance. These release tension and stretch muscles in the throat and the rest of the body in order to facilitate locution. Tongue twisters are a great way to get the lips and tongue ready for a performance, and ensure the throat muscles are relaxed enough to carry a voice to the back row and beyond.
Below are some of my favorite tongue twisters that I picked up in acting classes over the years. Speed is less important than precise pronunciation when it comes to using them to warm-up before a performance, but challenging students to race each other or beat a set time adds another dimension of challenge. They are also just plain fun to say and even making mistakes usually results in giggling so they are a nice way to break tension.
1. Unique New York, unique New York, you know you need unique New York
2. The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.
3. The teeth, the lips, the tip of the tongue,
The tip of the tongue, the teeth and the lips (x3)
4. I sit in solemn silence
on a dull, dark dock
in a pestilential prison
with a lifelong lock
awaiting the sensation
of a short, sharp shock
from a cheap and chippy chopper
on a big, black block
5. About Socks (Dr. Seuss)
Give me the gift of a grip-top sock,
A clip drape shipshape tip top sock.
Not your spinslick slapstick slipshod stock,
But a plastic, elastic grip-top sock.
None of your fantastic slack swap slop
From a slap dash flash cash haberdash shop.
Not a knick knack knitlock knockneed knickerbocker sock
With a mock-shot blob-mottled trick-ticker top clock.
Not a supersheet seersucker ruck sack sock,
Not a spot-speckled frog-freckled cheap sheik’s sock
Off a hodge-podge moss-blotched scotch-botched block.
Nothing slipshod drip drop flip flop or glip glop
Tip me to a tip top grip top sock.
Do you know any great tongue twisters you’d like to share? Please leave a comment!