Stanislavski - Tempo and Rhythm

The Stanislavski System  PART THREE
Interpreted by Sonia Moore 


Tempo and Rhythm

How fast or slow the character moves is an important condition for truthfulness when performing a physical action on stage. How many times an action is repeated is also something the actor can manipulate to help with the truth of the moment. 

The tempo and rhythm choices* an actor or director makes must correspond to the givens that already exist in the scene and for that character. 

Remember that every real moment in life has a corresponding Tempo and Rhythm.

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PART 1 -The Tempo (speed) of the ACTION 

The logic and order of the action relies on the actor choosing the right tempo for an action. 

YOU MUST ASK: What is the Tempo of this action? 

(*Reminder) 
PHYSICAL ACTIONS - what you "do" in each moment

Examples of TEMPO terminology:
FAST---Moderately Fast---medium speed---slower---SLOW 
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EXERCISE 1

Place six chairs in a row and have students sit in each chair

Give the group an action to accomplish. Then have the row perform that action one-at-a-time... down the row. 

A: Each actor is to perform the action gradually faster tempo than the person before them or slower depending on what is prompted by the instructor. 

sit
stand
type

hammer
pick up the phone
cheer

sweep
fall down
punch 

stab
pull a gun
eat a hamburger

DISCUSSION: This activity should show how the tempo can help in building a scene by the way the actor's speed affected the action.

1.) "Did it show options for building a character?"
2.)  "What did the tempo do the actions themselves?
3.)  "In what way can this help when creating/blocking a scene?"
4.)  "What is your tempo?"..."Your Science teacher's?"..etc


EXERCISE 2


Same six chairs in a row, same list of actions. Have students sit in each chair

A: Each actor is to perform the action as a triad. The actions should have differentempos and should tell a simple story.

NOTE: Each action gets performed only once in the sequence.

#1 - Sit, hammer and pick up the phone
#2 - Stand, punch, and drink
#3 - Jump, type, and stab
#4 - Fall down, shoot a gun, and drive
#5 - Cheer, sit, and escape
#6 - Pick up phone, walk, and pull a gun
#7 - Eat a hamburger, walk, and sweep

DISCUSSION
- "Where the actions performed at a tempo that helped define character and the situation?"
- "How was the speed of the action significant to the moment?"
- "Where could it have been adjusted?"
-"How is this helpful when working on a scene?"
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PART 2 -The Rhythm of the ACTION 


EXERCISE 1

Place six chairs in a row with space between and have students sit in each chair

Give the entire group an action to accomplish. Then have the row perform that action at the same time but in different rhythms

PART 1: Each actor is to perform the action in a repeated pattern forming a rhythm with the action. After a few moments of the action being performed the instructor will have the student pick a new action and start a new repeated pattern of physical action.

hammer                             mince                         stretch
cheer                                 stir                              cut
sweep                                bow                            steer
punch                                squat                           sneeze
stab                                   flex                             throw 
eat a hamburger                chew                           wring 
knead dough                     wave                           slap


PART 2: (whole class)
Each actor is to perform the action in a repeated pattern forming a Rhythm with the action. The instructor will call out the new action and everyone in the room performs in their own physical actions.

Write with a...
...pencil on paper
...chalk on a board
...Ink well and feather pen
...typewriter
...crayon
...paintbrush and paints
...can of spray paint
...sparkler in the air

DISCUSSION:
-"What are we learning about action and rhythm together?"
-"Are their choices? Are some more believable?"
-"Is there a right or wrong rhythm for the action?"
-"How is this useful in staging a moment or scene?"

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PART 3 -The TEMPO and RHYTHM of the ACTION 


EXERCISE 1

Have the students spread out around the room and find their own space. 

PART 1: Each actor is to perform both actions choosing a specific Tempo and Rhythm for the actions. The performance SHOULD NOT TRY TELL A STORY!!! 

NOTE: Do not change the tempo or rhythm of each action and repeat the actions over and over until told to stop by the instructor

Give the entire class 2 actions to accomplish. Select a few for the class to watch individually after the whole class activity for further discussion.

#1.) hammer and swat
#2.) cheer and choke
#3.) sweep and sob
#4.) type and drink
#5.) drive and photograph
#6.) stretch and make phone calls

DISCUSSION:
- "What happens to the emotion when we roboticize the action?"
- "Is their truth in the repetition?"
- "When do we have ritual and repeated patterns in our lives?"


PART 2(With Writing) 
Each actor is to choose a specific Tempo and Rhythm for the actions. This time the performance SHOULD TRY TELL A STORY in under 1 minute. 

NOTE: This time the actor may move between the actions and change the tempos or rhythms of each action over and over in order to find some truth and to hopefully find story.

WRITE
Students write out their intentions for each action, how they might shift, the story the actions might try to tell, and all of the various options for tempos and rhythms.

#1.) hammer and swat
#2.) cheer and choke
#3.) sweep and sob
#4.) type and drink
#5.) drive and photograph
#6.) stretch and make phone calls

PERFORM
Students perform their short pieces one at a time in front of the class.

DISCUSSION
-"what is the take away about the speed of n action?"
-"How do we control urgency in a play's action?"
-"How do we build suspense in a moment?"
-"How do we build intensity? passion? power?"
-"who's in charge of these choices in rehearsal?"






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