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Expression Charades is about practicing total commitment to one expression of emotion at a time. Beyond that, there are several ways to approach playing it. The key is to have a set of cue cards that each have an expression/emotion on them. A good-sized set has about 50 cards in it. Some cards might be simple and generic - Happy, Sad, etc. Other cards might be more challenging and complex - Bittersweet, or Consoling, for example.

The most useful approach to this is as an exploratory acting exercise and NOT as a competitive game. I've often found that trying to "act well" - or play well in this case - can lead to indication. It does the actor NO good if the audience guesses your expression/emotion correctly only because you have INDICATED it. The goal is to experience the emotion genuinely; to BE the expression as much as you can. Don't keep track of how quickly the audience guesses or how many correct answers you get. Let the leader listen for the correct answers. It's not a competition. It's a means to developing a vocabulary of genuinely felt and clearly expressed emotions.

Each consecutive version will contain elements of the previous one, so read all of them.

Version 1 - Basic:
An actor stands on stage and attempts to make the audience guess what they are doing as required by the card that comes up for them. Choose for yourself if you want to have each actor perform one expression/emotion per turn or more. Each actor should be given an equal amount of stage time. The group may also decide whether improvised speaking is allowed or not. I recommend starting out with no speaking and introducing it later if desired.

The leader may direct the performer on more challenging cards and remind the performer not to indicate if they should sense indication. "Passing" should only be done at the discretion of the leader. In most cases, it's more useful for a performer to work on one very difficult emotion/expression for several uncomfortable minutes, rather than moving through a series of more simple ones.

A useful tool the leader may wish to use in direction is a scale of 1 to 10. For example, if the leader doesn't feel full commitment from the performer, she might say, "I'm feeling a level 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 from you right now. Give me a level 8." And so on.

Version 2 - Monologue:
Like Version 1 except that the cards are used to guide the performance of a monologue. Once a correct answer is given from the audience the performance is paused for the leader to show the next card. The monologue is then picked up from where it was left off with full conviction of the new expression/emotion.

It's important that the leader keeps the performer focused on only the ONE expression/emotion on the card. It may be diffucult for the actor to perform it any other way than the one that he/she is used to. You are likely to be surprised by the number of different things one monologue can communicate by being forced to perform it in unlikely ways.

Version 3 - Scene for 2:

Two actors split the deck of cards, each holding his half while performing a memorized scene. Before the start of the scene each actor looks at her first card and shows it to the leader and the audience, but NOT to their scene partner, The scene then commences with each actor doing his best to experience it from within the expression/emotion on the card. If or when it feels appropriate, the leader calls out "switch." The actors pause the scene, look at their next card, show it to the audience and leader but not each other, and continue the scene using the new expressions/emotions.

This is the most advanced version and can easily become convoluted. Memorization of lines is very difficult under these circumstances and will be put to the test. Start off with a simple, short scene and move on from there if you find it useful.


Have a brainstorm to create your own deck, and add to it as more come to mind.
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