We observe the world through our senses. We have five (and the much-talked-about sixth sense, which is another matter altogether). Our five senses bring us through the world each day, translating everything that we experience into a language that we understand. Then, through our senses, we are able to communicate back to the world around us.
Our senses have a memory, a ship's log, of everything we've experienced, encapsulated somewhere within. To become aware of the power of that memory and its use in acting is a lifelong pursuit. There are volumes written about sense memory, what it is, and how it should be c taught and used. The teachings of Lee Strasberg and Stanislavsky are hotly g debated and discussed; I am not going to get embroiled in that here. | Certainly, one needs an excellent teacher to learn the complexities of sense s memory, but there is a lot that can be done on one's own to develop and strengthen the use of the senses. If the work appeals to you, you can always start to look for a teacher to take you further down the path.
First, let's take a brief look at each sense and how we experience it in our memory. In later chapters, I'll go into each of the senses and how the sensorial memory can be used in film acting.
SIGHT: THE SENSE OF SEEING
We see through our eyes and also very strongly in our mind's eye. If you close your eyes, the act of seeing often continues, with memories, colors, and dreams. Sitting in a chair as in the Mental Relaxation exercise, with your eyes closed, think of different things you know well, which come up spontaneously, and allow the eyes to wander through different places. This will be much like the beginning of the first chapter, where we went through our favorite movie scenes.
Now, take your bedroom at home. This "home bedroom" will mean different things to different people; it may be a place in the present, or it may be one of the past. It doesn't matter which one it is. The first room that comes into view in your mind's eye is the right one to use now.
How much of it can you see? If you look at the walls, can you see the pictures on them or the color of the paint or wallpaper? Ask yourself how much better your vision becomes if you focus your concentration onto a specific point or aspect by posing a question. Example: If I turn my mind's eye to the left wall of my room, what is there? (Obviously, you know what's there because it's your room, but turn your focus to the wall anyway, and see what your inner concentration shows you.)
Don't assume you know the answer; allow the vision to reveal to you how much you know. This is key to developing the concentration and the senses. You may be very surprised by what happens when you pose a question and wait to discover the answer. Continue the process with the rest of the room, posing a question, waiting for the answer through what you see. Keep your eyes closed; keep the concentration on the eyes and the process of seeing.
SOUND: THE SENSE OF HEARING
en Hearing is accomplished by the ears, but unlike sight and our eyes, which « we deal with in a more conscious way, hearing and the ears are taken £ greatly for granted by many people. Unless one is gifted or a trained musi-< cian, hearing is done unconsciously most of the time. So, let's consider the u ear and its construction. Try and feel the ear canal and the outer part of the ear, which "catches" the sound. Now, place yourself in the same bedroom at home, still with your eyes closed (it's easier to concentrate that way, we'll open them later), and try and hear the sounds of that room. Again, pose questions:
Am I alone in the house? If not, do I hear anyone else? If I look out the window, what do I hear? Does the room have sounds of its own? The water in the pipes, sounds of wind, the window blinds tapping slightly against the wall? If I concentrate on my ears, what do I hear?
Listen to the sounds; feel them in your ears. If your body is relaxed, it will react to the sounds that you hear.
SMELL: THE SENSE OF SMELLING
We smell things with our nose and the inside of its membranes. The sense of smell has been attributed to have the most powerful emotional recall capacities. I don't know if that's really true, but from my own experience, I have often found it to be.
In the same room, your bedroom, with your eyes closed, take in a deep breath with all your focus on your sense of smell. As the air comes through your nose, pose the questions: What do I smell? Is there a linden tree blooming outside my window or someone cooking in another room? The lingering scent of someone's perfume? A distinct smell, which I can't identify, but that I associate with this place?
Whatever you come up with, you might get flooded by the other senses. Memories or scenarios might appear that charge the concentration with data. Don't worry about these things now, and don't get sidetracked by them. Stay within the chosen task by asking questions. Acknowledge whatever goes on in your mind, and move forward with the concentration on the sense that you are working on.
TASTE: THE SENSE OF TASTING
Ahhh! The mouth, tongue, and lips. What a trio! If you take some time out and consider all the functions of this triumvirate while moving your tongue over your lips and within the inside of your mouth, many interesting things may start to happen. Spend some time with this and explore.
The first sensorial taste to introduce should be lemon. It's a strong taste c and causes many reactions within the mouth. Lick the tongue over the lips g as if you had just sucked on a juicy lemon. Swallow; investigate the roof of | the mouth. Ask questions: What happens to my lips if I taste a lemon? How s does my tongue feel? Where do I taste the taste of lemon?
Don't worry if nothing happens. If you don't taste the lemon, or for that matter don't respond to any of the senses in your imagination at this point, remember these are concentration exercises. We are not working for results; we're just doing inventory. We are moving through our repertoire of stimuli to discover what creates a strong reaction and formulating the necessary structure from which to work our concentration.
Try combining the senses of smell and taste. Think of one of your favorite foods as a child, something associated with where you come from. Now, try to smell its aroma. Even if it's ice cream, it has a smell. Move from the scent to the taste by moving the sensation around the mouth, tongue, and lips.
TOUCH: THE SENSE OF FEELING
Touch is an enormous field of experience. The skin, which we are encased in, is the obvious emperor of this sense, but the entire inner organism also experiences feelings, feelings like muscle ache, tickles, indigestion, and heartbeats. At this time, we'll only be dealing with the skin and, more expressly, the hands. If we stop and think of all the things our hands do, all of the millions of things they have touched and experienced, we will quickly see how vast their work for us has been.
Let's go back to the same "home bedroom." You are still sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. Extend one of your hands out into the space before you, and imagine that you are touching the covering of your bed. Don't know beforehand what it will feel like—that is to say, "Oh, now, I'm going to touch that soft, flannel bedspread." Just let the hand reach into space, and in the mind's eye, see it gently "touching" the covering on the bed. Then, pose the questions: Where do I feel it on my hand? If I move my hand back and forth lightly, can I feel the texture of the fabric? Am I breathing steadily and fully? If I take a deep breath and relax my shoulders, can I get more sensation from my hand?
Explore the sensation. Bring in the other hand to touch the bed covering. Don't let the fingers bunch together. Always leave a space between you and your imagination.
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