Beats and Verbs

The top two search terms that land people on this website are “acting beats” and “acting/playing verbs”.

Why?  Many actors don’t know what they really mean or how to take advantage of them.  You can read about them in the blog, but in practice, even the actors who can find their verbs struggle with actually playing them!  It’s too big a mind shift to do without help, it seems.

It’s unlikely that you’ll emerge from the workshop being able to snappily mark your beats, choose your verbs, and play them to the hilt the following week, but you’ll learn what to look for and how to practice it.  The rest is up to you.

We could spend an entire weekend on Beats and Verbs, but it would get tedious.  So here’s the briefest way to introduce you to playing verbs:

Both Option One and Option Two begin with the following:

Hour 1: We go through a monologue and a scene or two as a group, identifying the beats and verbs in each and talking about what it means to play them.

Hour 2:  We apply the practice to scenework.  The actors identify beats, verbs, and rehearse their scenes (3 to 4 minutes long), followed by a short break.  I’ll visit each pair during this hour to review their choices.

How much time it takes to run each scene depends on how many actors you have and how much time you want to devote to the work.  Despite choosing good verbs, actors typically continue playing the adjectives.  The discussion after each scene, therefore, focuses on how to make the switch from adjectives to verbs in practical terms.

By the time we’re done, you may not be confident that you can do it with ease, but you’ll completely get the point.

The hours in parentheses below are the TOTAL hours for the workshop, including the two hours described above.

Option One (3-3½ hours):  We take approximately 15 minutes for each scene, and I focus my comments on the playing of the Big Verbs of the scene.  For 8 actors, this takes 1 hour; for 12 actors, it takes 90 minutes.

Option Two (4-5 hours):  We take approximately 30 minutes for each scene, and I talk about the playing of both the Big and Little Verbs of the scene.  For 8 actors, this takes 2 hours; for 12 actors, it takes 3 hours.

Option Three:  The actors prepare scenes prior to my arrival (run them by me first, though, to make sure the choice serves the exercise well.)  This allows us to dispense with Hour 2 as described above, thereby reducing Option One and Two’s total time by one hour.

Are all these options too confusing to you?  If so, then let’s talk on the phone!

For more information or to arrange a Beats and Verbs workshop for your group, email me at


One thought on “Beats and Verbs

  1. Pingback: New Workshops for Actors and Directors | Spacious Acting™

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