Why Sense Memory?
As an actor, the job demands that you display emotion on demand. This part of the job does not come naturally for most. Since memory is one of the simplest tools that the best actors use to bring originality and spontaneity to their roles. We say it is simply because it is not a complicated process; not because it does not require any practice.
Sense memory is a conscious process where you recall the physical sensations that accompanied an event that happened to you in the past. There are five sensory organs, and each plays an important part in forming memories. The most obvious forms of sensory memories are the sound and sight aspects because they are the most developed senses in most people. However, there is more to sense memory than meets the eye (Get it?).
“This feels familiar” is a thought that one would get when their sense memory is activated. It could be because of a familiar smell, a song playing, or touching a material associated with an event from the past. Recalling these stimuli and the emotional response it invoked helps actors bring their roles to life. Since the writers created each scenario from their imagination, the actor needs to tap into their imaginations to bring authentic performances.
SENSE MEMORY EXERCISE – WHY IT WORKS
Invoking Emotional Responses Naturally
Developing sense memory makes your response on stage look more natural, and you can achieve this by invoking those memories continuously until it becomes second nature to you. The more you practice, the better you get at invoking emotional responses on cue. Sometimes, sense memory can be literal. For example, someone who has experienced the loss of a parent can recall that event’s memories and use them. However, one that has not gone through that experience can still use a similar memory that invoked elements of the emotion you are looking for. The death of a pet or loss of a precious toy could do in this situation. The events are not the same, but they have the potential to cause the same reaction.
Sense Memory is Supposed to Be Controlled
However, it is not enough to tap into these memories because there is a method to acting. Sometimes, the emotions you tap into can be overwhelming, and you lose control over your response. Sense memory is supposed to create controlled, repeatable emotional responses. Anything short or more than this is not good enough. Very recent memory can cause an overreaction that can take you out of character and get lost in your real life. Look for something further in the past that is less likely to trigger an unwanted reaction.
HOW TO EXERCISE SENSE MEMORY
Honing your Craft
There are steps to develop your glossary of sense memories so that you can switch on at a moment’s notice. At Method Acting, we have effective and efficient ways to help you develop your craft as an actor. Honing your craft from the beginning helps you on set, in your daily interactions, as well as when you meet people who love your work. It is easier to be pleased to see a fan when you know how to be happy, no matter the kind of day you are having.
Classes Tailored to Help
Relaxation and mindfulness meditation are techniques that go in tandem with sense memory. However, neither of these two is enough in the absence of sense memory. Relaxation and mindfulness meditation help increase self-awareness without developing the technique to spontaneously and repeatedly produce the wanted emotional response. We know nothing comes close to constant practice at Method Acting. That is why our intensive four weeks program includes classes tailored to help you master your sense memory.
An actor needs to find an emotional trigger to complete a sense memory training successfully. This trigger could be the music playing in the background or a smell that stuck with you from the event. Once the actor finds this trigger, they no longer have to remember the event to recreate a response. They just need to tap into the memory and practice their response until it comes naturally.
USE EVENTS TO SUBSTITUTE
What If, there is No Memory to Recall?
What if the actor does not have a memory to recall? We mentioned earlier that sense memory could be so simple that it is literal. However, if there is nothing to remember, an actor can use an event that is a close substitute to extract the wanted response. For example, an actor that needs to act as if he/she were stuck in a cold storage room is highly unlikely to have been caught in that situation in the past. An equivalent experience would be the time they felt the coldest. Sense memory exercise is recalling how the cold felt on your skin. How you pulled your head warmer over your ears and your hands between your thighs. This beats the ordinary response of blowing hot air into your palm and curling up. These subtleties bring more originality to your role.
HONING YOUR CRAFT UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE
Slip Into Character Effortlessly
Once you know the appropriate interpretation of the script, the next part is repetition. A successful actor gives himself/herself to practicing their craft until it becomes second nature to them. A good actor will enter a room, salute the audience and slip into character effortlessly. This is because they have put so much effort into their interpretation of the script. And when they do not get a script beforehand, they can still interpret a role on short notice because of hours and hours of practicing different scenarios. It does not matter if it a situation they have never practiced before because they can look for the essential elements of the scene and tap from their extensive glossary of responses.
NO EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED TO ENTER THESE CLASSES
Method Acting classes are rooted in the methods fostered by Meisner, Hagen, Adler, Stanislavski, and Strasberg. We teach relaxation techniques and exercises to access sense memory in intensive classes, using leading teachers in their respective fields. No experience or training is required to begin these classes. We know relaxation and self-awareness alone are not enough. It only becomes a theory when it can be reproduced under controlled conditions with identical results.
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