Being in the entertainment industry is not much different from being in the sports world. In addition to some natural talent and interest, a huge overlap with both industries is the time spent honing your craft. Of course regular practice is a necessary evil, but come race or audition day, our minds and bodies still need to be prepared for what’s about to happen. Just as we see athletes spending time stretching and warming up before a performance, it’s mandatory that actors warm up before auditioning. Good acting warm up games help you to get into a relaxed, focused space, where you feel ready to go out and nail that performance! There are plenty of fun acting games you can try on your own either in your acting lessons, or before an audition.
Those who don’t act on a regular basis can’t always grasp that acting can be strenuous. The work is physical, emotional, mental, and vocal, and in order for someone to perform at their absolute peak, constant training is required. Whether it’s prior to an audition or minutes before they take the stage, an actor’s mind and body need to be warmed up properly before any performance.
Before we begin trying these fun acting warm-ups, our bodies need to be loose and limber. Here’s a quick checklist to work through prior to jumping into the games:
- Gently roll your neck backward, forward, and then around (clockwise and anti-clockwise).
- Roll both shoulders forward and backward to release any nervous energy and stress.
- Extend your arms and begin to open up your chest. Remember to breathe deeply from your diaphragm and repeat this exercise for a few minutes.
- With arms extended, twist your waist side to side like you’re dancing The Twist.
- Do a forward bend, dropping your head as far as it can go. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and then slowly rise back up.
Now that your body is getting warmer, you can get more playful with these acting warm up games! Experiment with these fun acting warm-ups for adults to help exercise and loosen up your facial expressions and prep your voice for your star performance. Try one or try all of them to get you ready for the stage. Let’s dive in:
Game 1: Energy Ball (for the nerves)
Stand in front of a wall and imagine that you’re gathering your energy in an invisible ball. Really start to feel it pulsating while holding it with both hands in front of you. When it starts to feel too intense, throw it against the wall. Feel it bounce back by leaning your body to receive and pitch it back to the wall. This is an awesome acting warm up game to help you focus your energy and get your body moving, shake off the nerves, and nail your performance.
Game 2: Small Face, Big Face (for great expressions)
An actor can say a lot without saying anything at all through a range of facial expressions: happy, sad, angry; you name it. Micro-muscle facial control plays a huge part in your ability to express yourself, so it’s important to stretch out your face as well. Start by scrunching up your face like you’ve just eaten something really sour. Get your face as small as you can get it and hold that for 10 seconds. Now stretch your face with the widest, most surprised smile you’ve ever made (like the one you’ll have when you actually book the job you’re auditioning for!). Now hold that for 10 seconds and repeat the whole exercise a few times. This is one of the better acting warm-ups for expressions.
Now that you’re physically warm, it’s time to let your voice be heard. Remember, you don’t have to be a singer to warm up your vocal cords – it’s important that all actors do vocal warm-ups before performing. Whether it’s for lines or a song, no one wants to hear rusty pipes.
Game 3: O E (for a strong voice)
When it comes to your stage voice, it needs to be loud and clear. Even though it’s far from boring, start this game with a good, long yawn. Really – have a few wide yawns to open up your mouth and throat. Then start by slowly making exaggerated ‘O’ and ‘E’ sounds. As you repeat the letters, begin to speed up until you run out of breath. Repeat this exercise a number of times and you’ll notice a significant difference when you begin saying your lines.
Game 4: Good Buddha (for a flexible tongue)
Tongue twisters are one the best acting warm-up games for the entire mouth. They require concentration and skill. You can use the common ones like “Unique New York,”“She sells seashells on the seashore,” “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane,” and many others, but this is one of our favorites for the palette as well as the upper and lower parts of the tongue – try saying, “Gooda, Gooda. Buddha, Buddha.” Repeat and progressively speed up. You can also try this in different tones so you can work on your range.
Finally, we’re sure you’ve spent a great deal of time learning your script and perhaps researching or imagining the character you want to bring to life during your audition, so here’s a fun exercise to throw in at the very end…
Game 5: Theme Song (for the right mood)
Music is a fantastic tool to help you get into the mood of your characters! Based on your understanding of your character, take some time to pick out a theme song for him/her. Answer this question: If your character were a piece of music, what would they sound like? Now process this idea around whether he or she would be modern, instrumental, slow, techno, etc. Once you’ve settled on a song, plug it into your phone or iPod and make sure you listen to it while rehearsing, warming up, and just before you sign into your audition.
It may feel a little silly, but it will also take your mind off the task at hand, relieve you of unneeded pressure, and help you get into character.
Whether you’re preparing for a Broadway play or a small spot in a television commercial, we hope you’ve found these acting games and warm-ups helpful. Toss those anxieties out the window and shine like the star you’re destined to be.
Good luck and break a leg!
Photo by Ben Smith