Sunday, September 29, 2013

Breathing Eyes In Acting

In my previous post "Where Do You Look", I wrote about the "Look Away" and how it is projected direction-wise. We use several terms around this subject such as "The Look Away", "The Universal Audience", "The Takes", etc. I recently started using a word "The Moon". 

"The Moon" to Create Farsighted Eyes:

Imagine, you are walking outside at night. You find the gigantic Moon (a hundred times bigger than the normal Moon) in the sky, right in front of you, slightly above your eye height. 

How do you look at the Moon? You might feel afraid of the power of the Moon. You know that you have no control over it. And then, think of something else, which happened ten years ago, or yesterday, or in your night dream, while you still face the Moon. 

Do you feel that the muscles behind your eyeballs are wide open and you are no longer looking, but you are visualizing a thing (could be a physical thing, person or concept which does not exist there) with strong flows of energy coming out from your eyes?

That is the eye focus to project the powerful "Look Away". The image of the Moon somehow helps many people spontaneously create the perfect eye focus with psychologically "unguarded eyes" which work very well with "The Look Away." No one tries to use nearsighted focus when they see the Moon. The Moon is far and symbolic enough to take us to a state of remembering using farsighted focus.

Breathing Eyes for True Acting:

Another difficulty I had in my training to learn this "Look Away" was that when I started hitting perfect "Look Away" moments, my eyes could not keep breathing due to the fear of losing the perfection of the angle and state of eyes. 

I did not know how to release the tension of my eyes. With the frozen state of eyeballs, my acting looked too serious, thus, not funny or enjoyable to watch.

If you are having the same problem, you can learn how to change colors of thoughts physically with the muscles behind your eyeballs. Did your teacher tell you that you are not acting even though you were trying so hard to act with your eyes?

If your eyes are not changing the colors (of thoughts) inside your eyes, your thoughts look superficial and small, even if you open your eyes wide open, hold there and scream your thought internally... 

Candle Exercise - changing the colors of thoughts:

Here is a great exercise for changing colors of your thoughts. It teaches you to relax your eyes in order to breathe like a volcano.

Light a candle (with a real flame) and put it in front of you. Look into the flame and see the shape of the flame which keeps changing. It gets kind of tall and thin, and gets short and wide in sequential order, doesn't it? Notice the irregular rhythm of flame as well.

Imitate the shapes and rhythm of the flame with your eyes using the muscles behind your eyeballs. Then, add actual thoughts in your eyes on top of this physical exercise.

*The muscles behind your eyeballs are used to visualize things that do not exist there. Therefore those are effectively used to show thoughts, i.e., "Wish", "Doubt", or "Believe" in your "Attitude Phrases". Contrary, muscles on the front side of your eyes, i.e., the muscles you use to raise your eyebrows or read, help your eyes to "Look" at things with nearsighted focus, thus it helps you show "See" in your "Attitude Phrase". *

Eye Focus Exercise:

Next section is from my mime acting class. I wrote this especially for you to print and take to the studio to work on. It is a great exercise to melt your frozen eyes and create breathing effect in your thoughts. 

Sit on the floor and play music. We actually recommend a specific song to do this exercise: "Gymnopedie" by Nurturing Baby Tunes.

1) Have someone tell you the numbers at random.
Numbers are between 0 and 120. Those numbers are the percentage of the size of your eyes. 

0 is closed eyes.
20 is slightly open.
50 is half way open.
80 is comfortably open.
100 is totally open wide.
120 is stunned.

Try to sing the notes (music) only with eyes by changing its colors and sizes, like you did to the candle flame. Then later, add your chin, then after that, add your chest (subtle enough so you feel that the motor is in your eyes!). Then, subtle movement, like very small wiggles, of your hip bones on the floor. Always remember that "eyes" are first for this exercise, and other parts are only reflecting your eyes' breathing.

0..(wait 1 to 10 seconds in between these numbers using various length of break) ...... 20 ....... 30 ... 20 .. 30 .. 20 .... 50 ......... 100 .... 120 ... 80 ........... 90 ... 80 ... 90 ... 80 .... 40 ............ 10 .. 20 ... 30 ......... 40 ........ 120 

2) Same exercise again, but this time, add a specific character or age of the character before starting it.

Now, you were just born ....(numbers).....
80 years old ....(numbers).....
You are evil ....(numbers).....
You are a prisoner ....(numbers).....

3) Same exercise again, adding specific scenes occasionally.

Now you are 5 years old... leaving your mother for the first time ...(numbers) ..... 
Going to school, playing with friends.... (numbers) .... happy and excited .... (numbers) ..... insecure .... (numbers) ..... lonely .... (numbers) .... etc...

Any inspirations to change the character or color of thoughts are helpful for this eye focus exercise. 

Even though the language and grammar of mime is quite specific and scientific, it is important to make the edges of your body movement including eye expressions not too tight. If you are too tight on stage, either physically or psychologically, audience cannot relax and watch you or laugh. 

I will write about psychological aspect within your projected thoughts another time.

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where Do You Look? Secrets for Performing Artists in all Stage Arts.

Do you know "where" you should look when you project a strong thought on stage? Especially in a mime play, it being wordless, showing the thoughts is the core of how we convey the story. If those are not clear to your audience, the story becomes unclear to them.

In performance: character thinks, then character feels.  If you said this in words, it would translate to this:  “I think this will make me sad.”  This seems elementary because it is so logical when you read it here; but we have found that few performers are aware of the difference between thought (wish, doubt) and emotion (believe) and how to deliver them in a phrase. 

In my previous post titled "How To Show Thoughts On Stage", I explained the structure of an "Attitude Phrase" to deliver each thought in proper order to make a thought process visibly clear.

Here is the link if you have not read it:

This also applies to other art forms. Even if you can speak the lines or sing the lyrics fluently, your eyes can still confuse your audience if those are used ineffectively.  Once you learn the method of how to deliver your thoughts and where to project them from eyes on stage, those two eyes will become the most powerful tools you can use to touch your audience. So we, as mime artists, study not only the delivery of each thought but also the projection (direction) of thoughts using exercises of eyes and face as well as the whole body.

I think most dancers can improve acting by learning the technique I am describing here. Dance techniques in general have much farther developed than acting in dance, as figure skaters' jumps keep breaking the record while most of them have lost acting moments, which were put aside long ago and there is no more space to put it back in... This is what I learned when I was coaching a young talented figure skater who wanted mime technique for that reason. 

But are you only looking for record breaking techniques? Don't we secretly look for warm human thoughts and acting moments while we wait for their next jump or spin? 

Learning where to look and how to look on stage will add an infinite value to your stage presence called "charisma" you might have been searching for.

Here is an example, illustrating where the difficulty is of how to play a stage scene:

Imagine, you are in a scene walking on the stage and just about to find a thing (visible or invisible) on stage. It is a dead person, for example.  

Beat 1) "Hey..." (you see the body)

Then, where do you actually face and project your thought next moment (on Beat 2) right after that event? 

Beat 2) "...what the..."

Are you still looking at that dead body saying that line internally? 

Or do you give that emotional glance to another performer on stage?

Or do you look into eyes of a spectator sitting in the front row? or the balcony? 

We advise you not to do any of the above. Because you have a better and safer way to do it.

The most effective and safest area for this "Look Away" we call, is facing the proscenium wall straight ahead of you, at a height slightly above your eyes.

*This can be adjusted based on the theater structure.*

And right there, expand (open) the muscles behind your eyeballs and broaden the eye focus to not see any particular thing in the theater, and look far away as if you are seeing a wildfire in front of you. 

That's where you can share your thoughts most effectively with everyone in the theater. The combination of this particular direction of thought projection and powerful farsighted eye focus enables your audience to feel you as a universal character, thus, helps them feel "included" in your scene. I will write about how to control your eye focus at another time.

We call this "The Look Away" because we look away from the thing (event) and project a clear reaction to the event towards the audience, like a camera in a film approaching to an actor's face to capture emotional moments. We control the camera work by adjusting the angles of our face (easy to feel it if you think of where your chin is) in a very precise speed variation. 

This feels extremely unnatural first for a human to learn, but it is the most natural and powerful look for the audience. 

Gregg Goldston in "Phantom 309" 

Gregg looking at the audience in the final curtain call

The two photos above are great examples to see the difference between the Look Away to share inner thoughts (above) and looking at the audience (below). 

I hope you enjoy reading these posts on technical topics. We are accepting any personal requests or questions to be discussed in our blog or video series. Please send us your thoughts at

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Monday, September 16, 2013

How To Show Thoughts On Stage

When I first started mime training with Gregg Goldston, I felt that my brain was working harder than my body. Many people feel this way, especially in their early stages of mime training, and are surprised how technical "mime acting" is. Learning to show a clear thought process, which is our visual monologue, was the most foreign element I found in mime training.

However, once your brain learns how it works, I assure you that you will be always using this powerful technique to show your thoughts clearly. In fact, we find very similar techniques in great animation films such as my favorite "Monsters, Inc." Readable thoughts bring your art closer to your audience whether it is through a film projector or a live performance.

In this Blog Post, I will explain our Terms and Descriptions of the Mime Acting method we have developed and teach here in New York, and at our Institute for Mime in Italy.

All right, let's proceed:


We intentionally use the word "thought" instead of a more common and similar word "emotion". The word "thought" often conveys better images of visual and clear, i.e., physically choreographed therefore readable, emotions for the audience. Contrary, the word "emotion" can trigger various vague expressions which can hardly work in mime performances.

A single move is called a "beat", a series of 4 to 12 beats is a "phrase", and a series of phrases becomes a "section" or a "paragraph". Getting too technical? Let's move on before you understand what this means.

"The Attitude Phrase"

An Attitude Phrase consists of 4 or more thoughts (beats). It is a phrase to complete a thought process of a character. 

Here is a perfect example of an Attitude Phrase:

Beat 1) Hey,...  
Beat 2) ...what the... 
Beat 3) ...huh?... 
Beat 4) ...oh!  

The term the "Attitude Phrase" is equivalent to a sentence in writing. 

However, we call it a phrase instead of a sentence. Because in mime, we use "compressed" rhythmic wording, internally of course, instead of long sentences full of eloquent meaningful wording often found in drama.

Although mime is a wordless art form, we do have our own language with grammar. It is much more simplistic than, let's say, ballet or Martha Graham Technique.

In mime, thoughts are projected as visible dots and audible beats, that we can actually count with our eyes and (imaginary) ears by watching. 

Here is the basic structure of an Attitude Phrase.

The minimum number of thoughts in an Attitude Phrase is four. It can be five or more, but not less than four.

1. See
2. Wish 
3. Doubt
4. Believe

1 is called "See". It is a moment of an event, e.g., you find something, you are being pushed, you heard something, etc. 

Please note that "See" is not actually a thought. Separating thought from event (reaction from action) is an essential technique you need to learn first. This "See" (event) follows the last beat of your previous phrase.

2 is your first thought (reaction) addressed to the event. We call it "Wish". It can be either a positive or negative thought. 

3 is your counter-thought. We call it "Doubt". It is just a different thought from 2. It could be a thought with a frown such as ".. but wait a second..." or " .. he actually looks like...", etc. You are giving a second thought or doubting about your previous thought.

4 is your conclusion. We call it "Believe". It is a conclusion to your entire thought process. You could say "... I was right!" or "... so sad." or "... beautiful!" etc.

As I stated earlier, the minimum number of beats in an "Attitude Phrase" is four. It could be five or more.

You can simply add 2 "Wish" and 3 "Doubt" as many times as you would like between 3 "Doubt" and 4 "Believe", i.e., See, Wish, Doubt, Wish, Doubt, Wish, Doubt, then Believe.

Basically, you just look for changes of colors in sequential rhythmical thoughts to expand the phrase, i.e., there is no need to use your left brain to identify which is "wish" and which is "doubt". However, "See" and "Believe" are obvious ones you should recognize.

We do not have time to say the actual words in grammatical order of your language. Saying long sentences in your head will only make you live in Shakespeare Time, instead of Mime Time, which is always either compressed or expanded. Imagining colors and textures of thoughts helps you a lot to spontaneously express them on dots in the right timing. 

Feel those colors and textures of thoughts, and just internally sing with sounds that represent those thoughts. Scat singing or imitating instrumental sounds can be helpful for you to learn the rhythm of mime phrasing.

Common mistakes are made by using only two thoughts to show an "Attitude Phrase". The structure of this wrong version is below:

"See" (event)  - "Believe"(conclusion - happy, sad, etc.). It actually looks very thin and fake, thus, incorrect on stage. 

Here is an example of a wrong phrase consisting of only two beats.

A. You find an apple in a box. ("See" Event A)

B. I'm happy! ("Believe" Conclusion to Event A)

C. Then find another apple. ("See" Event C)

D. I'm happier! ("Believe" Conclusion to Event C)

The example above is not a 4-beat phrase, instead, those are two separate 2-beat (incomplete) phrases. The performer skipped 2 (wish) and 3 (doubt) before both conclusions. 

Let's fix the problem and make it right here.

A. Look in a box and see an apple 

B. Look front (We call it "Universal Audience") and say (internally)
" ... I think that is a..." 

* Here, you don't complete the sentence, so you suspend the end of this thought as if you are still "in the middle of this thought process". In other words, you have not understood your emotional reaction towards the event.*

C. Look somewhere else and say,
"... but why is it...?" 
"what does this mean...?" 

D. Look front and finalize your thinking by saying,
" ... I now understand what it is!"
" ... I now understand why I found this!" 

You see the difference?

Here is another important element in mime. As long as the thoughts are clear and true to you as images, i.e., you have clear See-Wish-Doubt-Believe in your phrases, your audience will paint their own exciting story and fill with their own monologues, based on the visual images you project.

I advise you to consciously train your Attitude Phrases in various rhythms for at least a few months having an experienced viewer to tell you if you are doing them correctly. In my own experience, identifying correct phrases and incorrect phrases took time to get used to. Unfortunately it does not come naturally to most people, but anyone can learn by conscious training.

It is important for you to know that in real life we do not skip these color changes (wishes and doubts) before each phrasal conclusion, and if you skip those elements, people notice that something is not true in your acting.

Also, especially in a mime play, meaning where you want your audience to follow your monologue visually, you must articulate these amplified thought dots using your whole body, and project them effectively. I will write about "Where to Look on Stage" subject at another time.

Here is a simple rule for you to remember:

A phrase is a sentence, when it comes to the acting.

A phrase is a song, when it comes to an activity. 

And remember, many emotions are colorfully blended and woven into each thought like a candle light in your eyes. 

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.