Jan 16 – Ball and change.
Last night was my second Accent Study class. We did some vocal and physical warm-ups at the beginning. We did a ball tossing exercise, the purpose of which was to get us to pay attention to each other. One person stands in the middle of a circle and has a ball they throw to people around the circle’s edge. Whoever the ball is thrown to, throws back to the center person. At some point someone else from the edge of the circle stands behind the center person and they change places.
The point is to keep the rhythm of the ball throwing as the exchange is made. Then a second ball was added. The people on the circle’s edge throw to the middle at the same time the person in the middle throws to the circle. Again the goal is to keep the rhythm as the exchange of the center person is made. What has that got to do with learning British accents? Nothing directly, it is more of an exercise in listening and paying attention to what is going on.
Another exercise we did was “Honey I love you.” Again it is the circle formation with a person in the middle. The person in the middle (PM) walks up to a circle person (CP) and says, “Honey I love you. Can you give me a smile?” The CP replies “Honey, you know I love you, but I just can’t smile.” The goal is for the PM to make the CP laugh, and of course for the CP to not laugh. If the CP laughs, then they go to the middle of the circle and it is their turn to try and make someone laugh.
I am an easy mark when it comes to someone making me laugh. I was laughing when the PM was working on someone on the other side of the circle. Often they wouldn’t even get “Honey, I love you.” out and I would be laughing.
Some people were better at resisting laughing than others. One woman was really good. No one could make her laugh. After about my fourth or fifth time in the middle, I thought OK, I am going to go for her. I am going to make her laugh.
My clown training helped. I walked to the far edge of the circle opposite her, as far away as I could get from her. Then I undulated my way over in my clownesque walk. Right as I got to her, I got the instinct not to say anything yet. I circled around her, undulating and making eye contact as I went. Then I stopped in front of her and said my line. No laughter.
I maintained eye contact, giving her my crazy clown eyes. She started to say her line. I saw the corners of her mouth twitch just a bit. I stood about 6 inches in front of her and pointed an index finger at each corner of her mouth pretending to push them up into a smile. We weren’t allowed to actually touch the person, so I just mimed it and made little squeeling noises as I maintained eye contact. She got almost to the end of the line and burst out laughing. I raised my fists to the air triumphantly. Gotcha!
Thank you George again for the clown class. I had the determination to follow the thread I picked and it worked.
What has this got to do with learning British Accents? We had to say the lines in our best Received Pronunciation (Uppercrust British) accent.
We also worked on reading a monologue in front of the class, and the teacher would correct our pronunciation. We will be working on scenes the next time with our proper British Accents. All good fun, but for me the highlight was getting that woman to laugh.
Smashing good fun I say!