Method Acting and the first Sense Memory exercise

Published: 16th February 2009
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This is part four of the basics of Method Acting. The Breakfast Drink is the first Sense Memory exercise.

The Breakfast Drink
The purpose of this exercise is to experience and fix in memory the reliving of all the sensory aspects of the breakfast drink. Choose what you habitually drink in the morning (e.g. a cold fruit juice or a hot drink like tea or coffee). Take the cup or glass in both hands and concentrate on your five senses one at a time. Breathe in the smell. Concentrate on the aroma. Allow yourself to feel the heat, steam or cold of the cup. Explore the cup with your hands. Note the weight and texture of it. Be aware of the patterns or decorations on the cup. Note any cracks, nicks or flaws. Listen to the liquid as you stir it or swirl it. See the color, size and shape of the cup. Taste the liquid. Be aware of the temperature, texture and flavor. Also pay attention to the cup against you mouth. 

This whole procedure should be done slowly. Deeply explore all of the sensations. The more time to devote to exploration, the more beneficial the exercise becomes. The idea is to be entirely focused and completely concentrated on the breakfast drink.

Now set the container down, turn away and repeat the entire procedure without the breakfast drink.

If you find that you are not able to recreate some of the sensations experienced with the actual cup or glass in your hand, go back to the physical object itself and explore it again. Concentrate on weak sensory aspects as you work with the container (for example, if you cannot re-live the odor, return to the drink and focus on the odor in particular). By thus alternating between the actual drink and imaginarily re-experiencing the drink, weak sensory aspects may be strengthened.

The goal of this exercise is to improve concentration, but specifically this is an attempt to determine how many of your senses are working.

The "breakfast drink" refers to coffee. Coffee has a distinct smell. As you have learned, smell is an important trigger for memory recall. Using a cup of coffee as the breakfast drink will make the exercise easier. However, the exercise is called the breakfast drink so that any cup and liquid may be used.

The goal of the exercise is to become familiar with the object, and be able to draw on the memory. As a Method Actor, you want to be able to experience the breakfast drink and recall the sights, smells and sense of touch at will. When you have mastered the breakfast drink you will be ready to move on to other objects. The final outcome will be the ability to recall objects from memory, experience the sensory input from those objects, and have a genuine emotional response to those sensory stimulations. You as the actor will then have a library of object in memory you can use to create true reactions.

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