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Exercise: Whisper and Shout

The following exercise gives students the opportunity to explore different ways of approaching and performing a two-person scene, using two different levels of volume: only whispering and shouting. It challenges students to act outside their comfort zones, employ safe vocal projection techniques, and analyze a character’s lines.

Note: You may want to warn any teachers whose classrooms are near to yours ahead of time that you’re doing this exercise with your students — it can get noisy! Additionally, be aware if you have any students with sensory concerns who may find this exercise overwhelming — you might want to give them a quiet place to do the analysis in Prompt E and excuse them from the rehearsal process. 

Materials Needed:

  • A copy of a short, two-person scene for each student (such as a section from “The Big Lie” from Ten/Two)
  • A pencil for each student (to make notes on the script paper)
  • Water
  • Optional: a whistle or noisemaker to get students’ attention between rehearsal prompts, in case they’re all shouting at once

Instructions:

1. Start with a vocal warm-up. Try one of the warm-up exercises found in our article Fun Rehearsal Warm-Ups to Get Everyone Ready

2. Divide students into pairs.

3. Give each pair a short scene to analyze and rehearse. Students will play the same character in the scene for the entire class.

4. Over the course of the class, each pair will analyze and rehearse the scene six different ways (the prompts are described below). In between prompt rehearsals, select a pair of students to present the scene in front of the rest of the class using the prompt they’re currently working on.

Depending on the amount of class time you have, it’s likely that all students will not be able to perform each version of the scene. However, if you know your students and their strengths/weaknesses well, select student performers who will be challenged by the prompts (for example, choose a quieter student to shout and an outgoing or chatty student to whisper).

Encourage students to drink lots of water throughout the process.

5. Rehearse and present (on book) the six prompts in the following order:

  • Both characters whisper (while still ensuring the audience hears them).
  • Both characters shout (while protecting their voices).
  • Character A shouts all their lines; Character B whispers all their lines.
  • Reverse the shouting/whispering (Character B shouts; Character A whispers).
  • Analyze line by line: Characters can ONLY whisper or shout. Choose what you think is most appropriate for each line. Mark it on your script with a W for whisper or an S for shout.
  • Reverse the shouting/whispering from Prompt E.

6. After each prompt performance, discuss: 

  • What was your initial impression of the presentation?
  • What worked well? 
  • What didn’t work so well?
  • After Prompt E: What lines, if any, would you have changed from a whisper to a shout or vice versa? Why?

7. After all the prompts have been performed, discuss:

  • How does your voice feel? (Have them drink more water at this point.)
  • Which prompt worked the best overall? Why?
  • Name something funny or memorable that happened during today’s performances.
  • What was the most challenging aspect of only being able to whisper or shout?
  • How can this exercise help you to become a better actor?

8. Students will complete and submit an exit slip (link below).

Additional Resources:

Click here for a free exit slip.
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