I really hate stupid wee acting games. Running around, fannying about, screaming and shouting has little place for me in the training of professional actors.
It isn’t the silly acting games themselves that I hate. I will explain why I think they’re useful later. The reason that I hate silly acting games is that they are generally used to babysit drama classes. In other words, you can set up a wee game for a class, then go have a cup of coffee, come back and give them another. It’s lazy.
Keith Johnstone’s Impro reminded us all of the value of drama games in training actors. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and soon drama games and silly acting games became the norm.
And then what happens is that the game and the training intention behind the game becomes separated. Or the intention behind the game is so flimsy that all it does is occupy the actor or the student like a child.
People often fall into teaching acting as a way of bringing in an income. That’s probably the worse type of acting teacher. They don’t intend to teach acting for a living, and so they look everywhere they can for content to fill their classes with. Of course, many people to fall into teaching acting after careers in the industry and do brilliant work too.
The worst have filled their classes with silly acting games with the intention long forgotten. And many people have experienced those classes and understand what an unmitigated waste of life they are.
But acting games are very useful. When the use is made clear. Acting games are useful when they help the actors to raise their awareness, lose their inhibitions, develop their performance skills. But they must be carefully planned and aimed at specific improvement, rather than general amusement.
It’s too easy for them to become a way of filling up time that we assume is a given good.
Acting games are NOT a given good. But they can be useful. It’s even better when they are allied with specific obstacles that a group of actors might be facing.
General goals lead to general results, which are often vague and unmeasurable. If have a team building goal and you introduce team/ensemble building games and exercises, then you can measure the results.
The purpose of these games and exercises should be made clear to everyone. Not always upfront, but eventually. Without the clarity of purpose, they are purely diversionary.
With clarity of purpose, they become powerful tools of self and skill development.
To You, The Best
Mark Westbrook is the Course Leader of the One Year Stage and Screen Acting Course at Acting Coach Scotland