Shared Secret

LevelAdvanced
RequirementsMinimum 40 hours of repetition and has demonstrated full range of emotional expression (Rage/Grief/Ecstasy/Terror/Pure Joy).
RehearsalSpend a week using your imagination to create sensory memories based on the given circumstances the two of you decide on that are meaningful and personal involving your scene partner. What happens if you don’t get what you need, why you can’t wait, why you have to do it, etc.
CompetencyEmpathy / Concentration / Imagination
Skills DevelopedWorking Moment to Moment / Altering Perception to be that of the Character
Created BySandford Meisner

Acting Principles

  1. The words don’t matter. What matters is the relationship (point of view), objectives(want), and tactics (efforts to get what we want).
  2. When we alter our perception, when we are able to percieve a stranger as a lover or friend or bitter enemey, when we take words that were written by someone else spoken by someone who is only saying them becasue they’re getting paid to as though they are directed at us, we alter our reality, what is imagenary becomes real, and acting becomes as effortless as being.

Summary

With a partner, the two of you will agree on your relationship to each other making sure to avoid intellectual relationship terms like mother, brother, boss and to focus on emotional relationship terms that affect us personally and in meaningful ways, for example, caregiver, protector, master, oppressor, partner, pleaser, etc. It’s okay to use intellectual terms like a wife but you must be able to articulate what wife means to you emotionally. Does it mean love of your life or ball and chain? You will also agree together as to why you are getting together, in other words, a mutual satisfaction of a shared want. We are getting together so I can borrow a toaster, one person is satisfying their want to make toast and the other is satisfying their want to pay back a favor, gain brownie points, avoid conflict, etc. Then each of you will come up with their own secret want that the other does not know about that you will try to get. For example, to get the other person to go out with you by confessing your love. Do not try to guess what the other person’s secret is, or allow the fact that you know they have a secret to affect your behavior. You should enter with your agenda and the assumption that all that the other person wants is to lend you their toaster or to borrow the toaster. Remember to create sufficient detail engaging all of the senses and creating enough sense memories so that the sight/sound/smell of your scene partner triggers them and they are sufficiently emotionally stimulating. Details and specificity are essential, your results are proportionate to the level of effort you put into your prep. Repetition in this exercise may be more “dialogue-y” in order to affect point of view changes. I.e. friends become enemies, enemies become friends, etc.

Application

The words don’t matter. Dialogue in a script should never be taken literally nor should an actor make any attempt to try to emphasize meaning or indicate how their character feels or attempt to sell it by embellishing their performance. The script doesn’t have answers, it only provides questions that the actor must answer. This exercise reinforces that matters is the relationship and the moment and when performed correctly the actors will create a compelling clear narrative without a script.

Example

The scenarios are designed to help you understand the exercise they are not to be copied. Don’t be lazy and use one of the below scenarios. Acting is creative work. If you’re not interested in creating then you are not interested in doing the job of an actor.

Sample Scenario 1

Actor 1Married Congressman (Master)
Actor 2Young Campaign Aid (Servent)
RelationshipAfter working together closely for years one night they got a little drunk and had sex. It was the most intense experience the two of them ever had and they have been meeting regularly for sex and the affair has lasted over six months.
Reason for MeetingThey are meeting for sex at a hotel
Actor 1 SecretThe congressman wants to end the affair and work on his marriage without anyone finding out about their affair which would jeopardize his marriage and his career.
Actor 2 SecretShe is pregnant and in love and can’t wait to tell the congressman so he will leave his wife and they can be together.

Sample Scenario 2

Actor 1Respected Basketball Coach (Provider)
Actor 2Divorced Unemployed Friend (Provider)
RelationshipBest friends since childhood, Actor 2 has always been there for Actor 1, stood up for him against bullies, was there for him during difficult breakups, and when he was unemployed after college let him stay with him for several months. Actor 2 has just lost his job due to the stress caused by a very difficult divorce. Jobless and broke he had nowhere else to turn. Actor 1 happily took him in, and got him a job at his school, and has started to turn his life around.
Reason for MeetingActor 2 has been at home all day, after calling in sick. Actor 1 is coming home for his lunch period. Actor 2 is not expecting them.
Actor 1 SecretBefore he heads home for the day one of his 16 year old students confides in him that she slept with Actor 2. His student is unaware that they are friends and doesn’t know what to do. Nobody else knows about it except the 3 of them.
Actor 2 SecretActor 2 is in the process of tying a noose to commit suicide.

Sample Scenario 3

Watch the following video of two students performing this exercise in class and see if you can figure out who they are, what their relationship is to each other, and what their individual shared secrets are.

Actor 1 was a social worker assigned to Actor 2’s case about getting her kids back. Actor 1’s secret was that she knew she was not getting her kids back.
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