Today I want to share a Write and Win entry from Haley Salitros of Lincoln High School (Vincennes, IN). She shares some tips and exercises for eye contact.
Often, my teenage performers have a hard time looking each other in the eye. Some are naturally nervous, and I have the uncanny ability to throw two people into an intimate scene who have otherwise barely had a class together. To work past this, I try two exercises.
Scene stare down
I have the actors perform the scene repeatedly staring each other deliberately in the face. Often, I’ll have them do this face to face, then add distance, and then allow them to start working away from each other. It’s an effective desensitizer.
This is a rather classic exercise requiring the performers to face and mirror each other’s movements only using peripheral vision, calm composure, and silent switch of who leads. Also, many students find doing the mirror exercise relaxing. I’ve found actors in a corner quietly doing this!
Using these exercises early in the rehearsal process helps the actors break the ice. I also never hesitate to go back to these exercises as reminders even during dress rehearsal week.
Zip. Zap. Zoom.
A final exercise in eye contact is more complex. I learned “Zip. Zap. Zoom.” while performing improv at Indiana State University. Those are the only three words of the game.
Place your performers in a circle. The word “zip” travels around the circle (“Zip. Zip. Zip.”) But when a player says “zap” in response, the “zip” changes direction and goes the other way in the circle.
“Zoom” throws that “zip” across the circle to any other player. This requires eye contact and a point gesture. The game sounds silly from afar:
Zip. Zip. Zip. Zap! Zip. Zip. ZOOM! Zip. Zap. Zip Zip. ZOOM!
Once your players are proficient at keeping their composure and a quick pace, try the game using dead silence and eye contact. It requires great concentration”and composure from dissolving into giggle fits. But giggle fits are okay in rehearsal.
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