Assignment 1: Acting 104 class: Exploring Crying

Hi everyone, the exercise for this week has to do with crying. 

I should preface it by saying that I’m not asking you to “try to feel sad” or “try to cry” or “fake cry” (and won’t be asking you to do to these things in class). Instead, I’ll be asking you in this assignment to think for a bit about your own experiences with crying, then do a couple of other exercises related to it.

Reviewing memories related to crying

Take out something you can write with or write on (a pen and paper or electronic device), and jot down your answers some questions. Set aside at least an hour for the exercise:

  1. What’s a time you remember crying very freely? (Some people don’t cry often, so only one or two memories may come to mind) (If crying comes easily to you, you might choose “the most recent time I remember crying” instead.) Jot down your thoughts and memories about it.
  2. I would not recommend choosing a horribly painful experience, but a lighter one that you got through and feel better about now. (For example, maybe you cried when watching a movie or listening to an inspirational speech.)
  3. Let yourself free associate about it for a while. What was going on in your life at the time? What happened? What made you cry?
  4. Next, think about a time you remember crying very hard (without inhibition) (or as close as you’ve gotten to that)? (Some people call this ”ugly crying” or just “having a good cry”.) (One definition of “ugly crying” is “crying so intensely that one’s facial expression becomes contorted.) 
  5. Most of us will be able to remember times we really let go and cried hard, but if a time doesn’t come to mind, picture what it would be like to cry that way.
  6. What’s a movie you remember that made you cry? Or a book or TV show? What scened did you find touching?
  7. Another interesting part of this is to think about how crying may have related to our own lives when we were little. I.e., what was crying like when you were very young? how was it regarded in your family? Was there space for  you to cry when you needed to? Or was it looked down on and suppressed? 
  8. If you find yourself crying when reviewing memories related to crying, that’s great; a great acting teacher, Konstantin Stanislavski, pointed out over a century ago that expressing emotions on stage is way easier if we also give us some space to express them in our lives (even if we’re alone when we do so). Nothing bad is happening when we’re crying, we’re just giving ourselves some room to feel and process our emotions. 

Then watch this video

After doing the above exercise, watch the video below, and, if you want to, try doing the exercise along with the narrator. The heart of the exercise is telling someone you love them and how much they mean to you.

It’s fine, of course, if you’re doing the exercise, to pause the video as needed to give yourself time to do the exercise. 

“Songs, books and movie scenes”

Another interesting exercise which some actors do is to set aside some time to cry, in association with a song, book or movie scene. Again, we’re not trying to “make ourselves feel sad” and “force crying” when doing these exercises, but instead are giving ourselves space and permission to cry if it turns out we’re able to.

To do this exercise, set aside an hour two to read a chapter in a book, watch a scene in a movie, or listen to a song that has made them cry in the past. Make sure you have privacy for the time you set aside, so you won’t feel inhibited by how other people (friends, housemates, family, or whatever) might react. Then if you feel like crying again, let yourself. An interesting variation can be to let yourself cry “long and hard” so you can experience an crying on a deeper level than many of us tend to.

The first time(s) I did this exercise, I found myself crying, and decided just to let myself cry really hard. It was cathartic and I felt better after doing it. And I then felt more able to cry in scenes if the it felt appropriate for my character.

When doing these exercise, I recommend planning on doing some activity you find fun or relaxing or pleasant afterwards.  An example might be walking in a park or watching a really funny movie.

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