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
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
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
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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