The Overall

We are encased in the largest organ of our bodies, our skin. The skin has two layers, the outer layer, called the epidermis, which has no feelings, and the inner layer, sometimes called the true skin, which is highly vascular and sensitive. We will be dealing with this highly sensitive and vascular part of the skin's qualities in this chapter and how it can be used in the sense memory series of the Overall.

An Overall is a condition that can be experienced over all of the surface of the skin at one time. It also includes the sympathetic reactions that these conditions cause in the rest of the body. The best example of an Overall is nakedness. Nakedness is the ultimate Overall, because it is a condition that is clearly experienced over the entire surface of the skin and certainly creates sympathetic reactions in the rest of the body. Many things that we do naked are also a part of this sense memory series like shower, bath, sauna, and steam room. Weather conditions are also Overalls, conditions like rain, sunshine, wind, or extreme cold. All of these conditions are external conditions that are experienced over the surface of the skin through the sensation of touch. When used literally, the creation of these external conditions through sense memory can be very useful for an atmosphere that may be necessary in a film scene, as in the example I mentioned above. Metaphorically, they can be used to create a character or a reaction needed for a specific shot. It is the metaphoric aspect of these sense memories that makes them of special interest.

I will give you several different examples of an Overall and explain how to create a sense memory on the skin. Once you have done one or two Overalls, it is easy to take on others, as the system of creating each one is similar.


™ As I said before, nakedness is the ultimate Overall and, therefore, a a

< good place to start. If you have never done this type of exercise

5 before, you should be aware that almost anything can happen. It is also possible that nothing happens or that your reactions are minimal. Each person has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sense memory, which means that there are people for whom certain exercises do almost nothing. If you find that to be the case with one Overall, try another. If none of them work for you, go on to something else. Always give yourself at least two two-hour sessions of working on an exercise before you decide that it's not working for you.

To begin working on Nakedness, you must of course start, as always, with the Relaxation.

1 Do the Mental Relaxation exercises for about twenty minutes.

2 When you are ready to start to focus your concentration, stand up and turn your focus to the parts of your body that tend to be naked all the time. That would generally be your face, your hands, your neck, possibly your arms, and very often your feet and parts of your legs.

3 Pick one part of the body, like a naked arm for instance, and concentrate on the skin and how it feels being exposed to the air. Move the arm in space slowly, while keeping the breath high in the chest.

4 Once you have a sense of your skin being naked on that arm, move to the other parts of your body that are also naked, like your cheeks and forehead, and try to discern the same feeling of nakedness that you felt on your arm.

5 Take the sensation that you can identify on your naked skin, and start to move your concentration to the skin surfaces that are beneath your clothes. If you start with the portion of your arm that is naked, then move slowly up the arm to the shoulder that is covered by the cloth of your shirt. First, you feel the skin and the cloth touching it—the actual reality must be accepted first—then move the sensation of nakedness that you pinpointed on the actual naked skin to the area of skin in the shoulder area which is covered by clothing.

6 Move very slowly in this process, starting with a shoulder and « moving slowly down the back. The checking process is incorporated into this exercise by the comparison of sensations on the ^ truly naked skin to the area of skin that you are focusing on. The ^

o question that is posed is: If this is how the skin on my naked hand feels in reality, how would that sensation feel if it was the skin on my lower back? If this is how the skin on my cheek feels, then how would it feel if it was the skin on my inner thigh? And so on.

7 The object is a "connect the dots" game. The parts of the body that are naked all the time in public are taken for granted in the western world; we don't even think of these parts as being naked, but they are. If we can connect this feeling of nakedness over the entire body, we have the beginnings of this exercise.

8 The more private the part of the body, the harder it is to achieve the sensation of nakedness. Remember, though, that the state of nakedness is self-explanatory: no clothing at all. In order to achieve this state, we must concentrate on the skin over every part of our bodies, including the genitalia. It should not be an easy process, but rather one laden with all kinds of surprises.

9 The body must be in constant motion while working on Nakedness, especially the part of the body on which your attention is focused. The movement is not large, but it is movement all the same. You should avoid becoming stiff or overwhelmed by the sensation. When my students start to connect to a sensation and begin allowing that sensation to travel to different parts of their bodies, they tend to become afraid of moving their bodies. They are under the impression that movement will dissipate the sensation. They have to learn how to deepen the concentration, so that movement deepens the sensation and makes it more reliable. I always tell them they look like the extras in Night of the Living Dead. Sensory work should be fluid and alive, not stiff and zombie-like. Only if it is fluid can it be used for acting purposes.

You may ask yourself, why work on something like Nakedness in the first place? At first, you work on an exercise like this to develop your sensory instrument, so that it will respond to your imagination more fully when it is given a command. An exercise like Nakedness incorporates the whole of the body; no area can be left out. As an actor, you are able to literally explore every inch of your external self and discover what kinds of responses are of there for you to use for future reference.

™ An exercise like Nakedness could make you feel very confident and < sexual. It could take away your inhibitions and make you move in a way that 5 would normally elude you. This way of movement could be used to create the basic movement of a character. On the other hand, Nakedness could make you feel shy and intimidated, which could also be used for the basic movement for a character. It doesn't matter what the reactions are, what is important is that they be truthful, consistent, and reliable. In order to get a response that is reliable, you have to work on the exercise for at least two weeks.

The basic movement of the character is an inner rhythm that is always present. This basic movement is not necessarily the character's walk or grimace or a gesture that one associates with a theatrical performance. It is a much more subtle movement, an internal rhythm or "music" to which the character always moves. An Overall is an excellent way to begin to create this basic movement of a character.


Sunshine is one of the most popular sense memories, and one that everyone seems to be able to do very easily. Most of us associate the sun with good times, and we go into the exercise with expectations of pleasure, but Sunshine can be many things.

1 First, decide from which direction the sun is coming. Is it directly above you or on an angle in front of you? Place the sun in a realistic relationship to yourself.

2 Decide with which part of your body you are going to start, and place that part in direct line with your imaginary sun source. I would suggest the hands or the face, preferably a cheek, which is the example that I will use. First, you must feel the sensations of the skin as it exists in the moment. To help you to do this, you centralize the area that you are working on. For instance, to centralize your concentration on your left cheek, begin by concentrating on your eyeballs and moving them around in their sockets. Now, concentrate only on the left eye. You know that ~ your left cheek is just below your left eye, so move the concen- ^ tration down from the eye to the cheek. Wriggle you nose, and o feel its bone structure with your concentration (it's best not to touch yourself with your hands, but rather to direct the concen- ^ tration mentally). You know that your left cheek is to the left of « your nose, so again, move the concentration to the left cheek. Be very specific when you centralize an area to begin working on it: ^ below the left eye, left of the nose, etc. Don't assume you know where something is—direct the concentration there without touching or looking at it.

3 Now, add the memory of sunshine to the area that you have specified and centralized. It should be very hot sunshine. Move the area around in the rays of your imaginary sun. Breathe into the sensations and impulses that occur as a result of this attempt.

4 Avoid sun-like behavior. In other words, do not take on the body language of someone who is sitting in the sun, e.g., lounging, relaxed on the beach, sunbathing while on vacation, etc. None of that has anything to do with the Sunshine exercise. An Overall is a sensation on the skin, not a place. For some people, it takes a lot of concentration to separate the sensations of sun on the skin from the places with which they associate this activity in their minds. It's important to separate the two experiences.

5 If you can feel the sun on your cheek, move the sensation to another area of the body, and see what happens. Keep moving the sensation of sun on the skin, until you find the area that has the greatest response. It could be anywhere on your body. For some people, the sun can be felt most intensely on their backs; for others, it may be their toes. It doesn't matter where it is. What matters is that you feel the response and it is truthful. Once a response is truthful, you can usually depend on recreating it again and again.

The sensation of sunshine is thought of by most people to be used as a weather condition for acting. If it is supposed to be a sunny environment, the actor acts like they are in the sun. They squint their eyes, lick their lips from thirst, and wipe away the sweat from their brow. All of these things would be called indicating. You use a gesture to indicate what is going on in the environment. These gestures are generally too stagey for the camera. Unless you are performing in high comedy, such indication of reality should be avoided by the screen actor. Although Sunshine could be used for the literal purpose of being in the sun, it is not the ultimate sense memory purpose of Sunshine.

Sunshine, like Nakedness, can have a myriad of affects on one who uses of it as part of a character development. The response is so individual and the ™ usage so broad that I could not describe it all here, except to say that each < person creates the work anew and takes it further into the realm of unique 5 creativity. Sense memory is a little like learning a new language; it is accumulative knowledge. Many things that make no sense whatsoever today will become perfectly clear and understandable tomorrow.

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