It's nice to have those moments when you get to hear what your students are learning from your class, how they apply it, and how they create new insights about the work we do.

 Last night, one of our new students did her environment exercise. Here is what the manual says about the
Creating an Environment Exercise:


CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT EXERCISE

This is to help the actor create a real place.  By bringing in personal objects (hair brush, books, radios, make-up, etc.) the actor now makes the environment his own.  He creates his bedroom, den, kitchen, etc. on stage and goes about a task; the same task he would normally do at home.  Pictures are good to use because often times they invoke emotion.  This makes the environment and the experience specific and real to the actor.  It also teaches true to life human behavior and gets the actor to function in his or her personal space instead of performing on stage.

Too many actors play scenes in front of the set rather than simply being a person in a room.  When assigned the exercise, feel free to bring anything you want: objects, furniture, music, anything that will help you create your environment.  Give yourself a task and accomplish it just as you would at home.  It can be simple or complex.  Please understand this is not a performance.  Don’t try to entertain, just live.


This new student was in my High School Acting Class 5 years ago and was already familiar with the Environment Exercise. Last night she said, "I knew that I had brought enough stuff for the exercise when I went back into my house and for a split second thought, 'Holy crap! Where's all my stuff?!' That's when I knew." I must say that is a very good gauge. 

Many actors (myself included) often try to do as little as possible when it comes to preparation, rehearsal, and the inconvenience of bringing props, wardrobe and sets (i.e. furniture) for their work in class. When it comes to work in class, nothing should be considered too inconvenient to do. I remember doing a scene when I was a student in Scott Ditty's class in 1998. Laura Jones and I chose a beach scene from 'To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday'. We rehearsed together twice a week for 2 weeks before putting up the scene. (She lived downtown and I lived in West Jordan 20 miles away.) We each chose wardrobe very carefully. We got a recording of waves crashing on the beach (this was before you could just go on the computer and get it). Each of us worked on the scene on our own in between our busy schedules (Laura worked at a radio station, was recording an album and rehearsing for 2 concerts in the coming weeks with her band, and I was in a show and booking voice over work). Our class was surprised when we set up for and performed our scene. Not only were we 100% in the moment with solid character and scene choices, but we brought the final touch that made it believable for us. A tarp covered the stage and we filled the stage with 500 lbs. of sand. My experience of acting changed that day, not because we did something over-the-top, but because when the idea occured to us that it would be easy to feel that we're on a beach if there is sand between our toes, we didn't say "Oh, that's gonna be too much work. I don't have time for that." We figured out a way to do it, recruited help from our friends and classmates and made it happen.