The first part of this exercise involves drinking some coffee.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, just use a different beverage, such as tea or a smoothie. But it should be something you need to prepare.
Start by picking up a cup, which you’ll be filling with coffee or a smoothie or some other liquid. First look at the empty cup, pick it up, examine it, before pouring coffee into it. Pay attention to how you pick it up, to what it feels like. Feel the weight in your hand, and the textures. Is it cold or warm? Is the handle rough or smooth to the touch? Look at it carefully, letting yourself see the color, shape, etc., clearly in your mind.
Now pour some coffee into it. As you do so, notice the difference in the weight, and notice how its balance changes as the coffee sloshes a little from side to side. Notice how you are holding it, which fingers you are using.
Lift it to your lips and take a sip. Let yourself really taste the coffee, notice the sensation as it goes into your mouth, and as you swallow it. Even after you swallow, pay attention to the sensations. Can you fee the warms as it moves down your throat toward your stomach? Is there a residual taste in your mouth?
The key thing in this exercise is paying as much attention as you can to the experience, so you can recreate it later. Part of being an actor is being able to recall sensory impressons such as how the cup looks, how it feels, how the coffee tastes, etc. Pay attention to as many sensations as you are able to notice. Take several sips or drink the entire cup if you like, while paying attention to what you’re doing.
The second part of the exercise is to recreate the experience without a prop, as well as you are able to.
Look at the counter or table and “see” an empty cup in your mind. Base it on the cup you just picked up and drank from. Let yourself see clearly what it looks like. Pour some imaginary coffee into it and let yourself see what the coffee looks like going in. How full is the cup? Now reach out and pick it up — that is, pick up the imaginary cup.
Move your hand through space and let your fingers curl around the handle as if it were really there. Let yourself feel its weight, lift it to your lips. Smell the aroma as you move it toward your mouth. Take a sip. (You’re doing all of this without a real cup, without real coffee.)
Feel the coffee you’re sipping going into your mouth; how hot is it? Swallow it and set the imaginary cup down. Feel the warmth of the imaginary liquid as it moves down your throat toward your stomach.
As you do this exercise, remember that there’s no hurry. It’s better to go in slow motion and give yourself a chance to connect with your “sense memories” than to rush through it. “Sense memory” exercises like this are one of the foundations of acting; take your time and have fun with it. It’s fine to practice this exercise several times, if you have extra time. The main thing you’re practicing, really, is paying attention to an everyday task.
- Next, try expanding the exercise to not only drinking the coffee, but preparing it.
- For example, when I make coffee, I go through these steps.
- Again, it does not have to be coffee – you could go through some other morning ritual like making breakfast or making a smoothie as long as it ends with eating or drinking something.
- Fill a kettle with water
- Put the kettle on the stove
- Turn the burner on
- Remove it from the heat and set it on the stove to cool
- Get out my French press coffeemaker.
- Put some coffee grounds into it.
- Pour the hot water over the grounds
- Put on the lid
- Press the coffee
- Pour the coffee into a cup
- Drink it.
(The idea isn’t to overcomplicate it, just to make sure you do all of the steps.)
Also memorize this short scene (learn both parts)