What is the “Private Moment Exercise”?

The concentration that it takes to have a private moment in public, empowers the actor to bring a higher level of concentration to a character

(by Tonya Tannenbaum)

(Photo by Madison Lavern on Unsplash)

A private moment exercise is a training exercise designed to help actors feel they are in private, while in a public space, when they perform. It involves actors doing something in public that they would normally not wish others to see; something they would normally only do in private.

Breaking down the “Private Moment Exercise”?

The “private moment” exercise is a training exercise that was taught by Lee Strasberg. Strasberg derived the exercise from Konstantin Stanislavski’s “public solitude” idea, whereby the actor’s performance is enhanced by his or her ability to feel private while in public.
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During a performance, an actor cannot help but to consider the judgmental eye of the audience or the camera. When the mind focuses on the audience’s reaction, it cannot stay in the moment. It cannot concentrate on the character needs and objectives. In this way, the audience has the ability to alter the performance of the actor who does not maintain total concentration on the character.

The private moment exercise was devised as a way to peel away the audience’s power to influence an actor’s performance. Using the exercise, the actor is able to shed the self-consciousness that sometimes inhibits an actor’s performance.

Example:

(Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash)

For example, an actor might pick out an activity that they do at home, an activity they would normally do with no one watching. They could choose, for example, singing aloud and embarrassingly off-key to their favorite song on the radio. The actor might be embarrassed to do this in public, since they are not the best singer.

The actor practices the activity at home and then brings it to class. There, they can sensorially reconnect to the experience they had at home and perform this activity, singing loud and off-key, just as they would in private. Normally, the actor would be self-conscious about their ability to sing. But for this exercise, the actor trains their mind on the activity, rather than the judgmental eyes of those watching.

The concentration that it takes to have a private moment in public, empowers the actor to bring a higher level of concentration to a character. The actor becomes less afraid to do something embarrassing, ridiculous or uncomfortable. Their concentration lies only with their performance, not on those who view their performance.

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