THE FIRST EXERCISE in acting technique will illustrate to the beginning actor the complicated interrelationship between the various elements from which an acting performance must be constructed.
Presuppose that the stage on which the performance is to be given is approximately 28 feet wide. The action is that two characters appear at one side of the stage, as though the scene were set in a street or in the corridor of some office building, and walk across the stage. Only one of the characters speaks, and so it is best that the exercise be performed for the first few times only by the speaking actor, the second character being imagined. The lines to be spoken are:
I am going on a vacation.
I am going to New York.
I have a friend there.
He is an interior decorator.
The personal pronoun in the last sentence should be that of the opposite sex from the person who is doing the exercise.
The lines have been intentionally selected to be as banal as possible, and they are completely unrevealing as to the kind of person who is saying them. Nothing in the lines particularly suggests the size, age, appearance, or emotional or intellectual qualities of the speaker. If, in the performance, any sense of the character of the speaker is communicated to the audience, it must be that the characterization was supplied by the actor and not by the author.
If the actor who speaks the lines is of normal height and walks with a normal step, not having either extra-long or extra-short legs, he will immediately discover that the lines do not fit the space. If he speaks the lines without any pauses between the sentences and walks with a natural, unbroken rhythm, he will have finished speaking the lines approximately four steps before he disappears on the opposite side of the stage. The exact amount of time between the ending of the spoken line and the end of the pantomimic action will vary slightly according to the size of the step of the actor, but he will immediately feel embarrassed if he finds himself on stage, even for a few seconds, with nothing