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Session One lesson 5


Recall Development

Functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), is making it possible to correlate specific activities with specific regions of the brain. Consequently, when those same activities are recalled, those same areas of the brain show engagement.

Sense memory or sensory recall has been utilized as an acting method for many years. Dr. Richard Restak, author and Clinical Professor of Neurology at The George Washington School of Medicine and Health Science cites a common acting exercise in which novice actors are taught to use their sense memory as a plasticity-enhancing exercise for the brain. Let me stress that the success of sense memory relies on the details recalled. A general recollection ( the taste of a medium-well filet mignon is delicious) is not enough to ignite neurological responses. But, learning and practicing detailed recall ( the taste, texture, temperature, weight etc.) may result in neurological activity similar to the real event.

Taking the time to recall all the different senses involved and write or mentally talking yourself through each one is at first time-consuming, but soon, recalling those details with accuracy will become easier.

5.10 Sensory Recall: The goal is to recall, in as much detail as possible, past experiences.

1. In pairs, take turns describing for each other a savory dish or food. Recall not only tastes and smells but location, presentation of the dish, ambient sounds, temperature of the dish and of the feel of the atmosphere, emotional responses, etc.

Journal Response: Notes

2. In pairs, take turns describing for each other a happy occasion.

Describe who, what, when, where, and why. What happens to your breathing? To the pitch and volume of your voice.

When listening to your partner, what do you hear and see? Look at their eyes, what do you notice?

Journal Response: Notes

Skills Developed/Enhanced: Accuracy in recall, multi-sensory involvement

5.11 Add on Group Improvisation

Improvisation requires mental flexibility. Like sense recall, improvisation is also a skill actors work to develop. The goal is to respond in a realistic way to imagined circumstances.

  • For the purposes of this program, all improvisation should be based in reality.

  • Existing objects are used to define a locale. For example: a desk and chairs are used to establish a kitchen with table and chairs, another desk represents the sink. What these objects represent should become obvious to the observer as the improvisation unfolds.

  • If an object represents something different from what the object actually is, that should be shared with observers before the improvisation begins.

  • A facilitator starts and stops the improvisation.

  • A participant begins the scenario by recreating an activity that would naturally occur.

  • After a minute or two, another participant joins the improvisation.

  • After a minute or two, another participant joins the scenario and this continues until the scenario comes to a natural conclusion. For example:

The scenario is a grocery store. The first participant pantomimes stocking the shelves. After the activity has been established, another participant assumes the role of a customer who asks the worker about a particular item, or directions to a location, or for information about the store, etc. Another participant may join by establishing a "checkout" area, scanning merchandise or bagging items. This offers other participants an opportunity to join the improvisation by taking on the role of a customer checking out unloading the contents of a cart onto the conveyor belt for the cashier to scan. Another participant adds to the improvisation by acting out a customer with a cart going down the aisle where the stock person is stocking shelves and asks, "Excuse me, can you tell me where spaghetti sauce is?", and so on. As each participant joins the improvisation, details become fleshed out and a scene takes shape.

  • Participants continue to "add-on" to the scene until the facilitator calls "stop".

"Stop" may be called if:

1. The scene is going well and comes to a natural conclusion. If this is the case, end the scene and begin another.

2. No one engages with the first volunteer. If this is the case, end the scene and establish one or two details to jump-start the improvisation.

3. Participation has halted with several other options still available. If this is the case, end the scene and ask what other options have yet to be addressed?

Skills Developed/Enhanced: mental flexibility, spatial awareness, recall, imagination

Group Discussion: How much time did the group take to fully develop a scenario? When the improvisation stopped, were there other details to be added? What is the story of this scenario? Based on knowledge from the lesson devoted to blocking, sketch a layout of the scenario that was unfolding. Does your layout match the others?

Journal Response: Did you join in this improvisation? Why or why not? Did you listen to the improvisation and allow the activity to create a mental image or were you thinking of an activity that you could add in? If another participant added in an activity that you were planning to add, were you able think of something different? Notes:

If you seem unable to "think" of something to do, it is possible you are limiting your flow of ideas by placing your attention on yourself and the stress that induces, rather than paying attention to the scene. Examine whether or not your attention is on your self or on the scenario. Moving your attention outside of your self and onto the scenario often helps to lift this barrier allowing a freer flow of ideas or "brainstorming" to occur. This encourages mental flexibility.


Janice and my great-aunt Ruth!


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