One thing amateur actors lack is technique.  Sometimes trying to embed a foreign technique into a new actor can be a challenge.  One of the most important techniques any actor must have is the innate ability to control time and space.  A good actor can speed up time or slow time to a crawl.  Speeding up is easy; slowing down is hard.

When we are upset, time speeds up for us.  Our heart accelerates.  Our limbs move faster.  The world spins a bit.  We speak quicker.  We are out of sync and the best way to re-start someone in a hyper state is not to match the state or even calm them with reality:  You must slow down time to bring them into normal.

You see parents naturally use that technique with temperamental children who have lost their reality in crying and anger.  The parent uses a soft voice and speaks slowly.  Arm movements toward the wailing child are slow and tender and deliberate.  Like pressing your finger against a roulette wheel to slow the spinning, so too, a parent slows a spinning child with the emotional brake of a reality retard.

One of my favorite techniques to teach actors is how to take over a stage in slow motion.  If someone hands you a bottle on stage and if you slow down time in taking that bottle because you know there’s poison inside — you’ve created a moment with your movement — and that is always a delicious, and silent, joy for celebrating on stage.

You might be surprised how hard it is for young actors to comprehend the idea of slow motion.  One student, who was supposed to “run like leopard” in slow motion simply ran around the room at normal speed.  When questioned about the lack of slow motion, she said, “But I can’t run as fast as a leopard, so I am in slow motion.”

“You might be in slow motion to a leopard, but to us, you are running very fast,” I told her.  “You need to understand it is our perception of time that you need to bend, not yours and not the leopard’s.”

She looked at me with a blank expression.

“Lick your paw,” I said.  “Create a perpetual momentum out of nothing.”

She licked her paw.

“Slower.  Take 60 seconds for your tongue to touch your paw and lick one inch of your fur.”

“But that’ll take forever!”

“It will take 60 seconds.”

As she began to lick her paw, the rest of the class quietly counted out loud from “one Mississippi” to “sixty Mississippi” to help time her action — and the things she did with her hips and eyes and her other paw during that one-inch lick where hilarious, touching, and masterful.  When she finished her licking, she collapsed on the floor — exhausted and red-faced from the tremendous toll on her body from warping time and collapsing space.

Imagination comes alive in the ruins and it is the actor’s job to take on any challenge and make a moment — and one way out of the rubble is to slow down time and walk through the valley of a deconstruction you did not commit, but can still abide with professional aplomb.

Posted by David Boles

David Boles was born in Nebraska and his MFA is from Columbia University in the City of New York. He is an Author, Lyricist, Playwright, Publisher, Editor, Actor, Designer, Director, Poet, Producer, and Boodle Boy for print, radio, television, film, the web and the live stage. With more than 50 books in print, David continues to write 2MM words a year. He has authored over 25K articles and published more. Read the Prairie Voice Archive at | Buy his books at David Boles Books Writing & Publishing | Earn the world with David Boles University | Get a script doctored at Script Professor | Touch American Sign Language mastery at Hardcore ASL.


  1. kathakali.chatterjee January 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I used to participate in lots of dance-drama when I was in school, mostly as a back stage lead-singer…and I think I absolutely know what you are talking about David.
    The songs those were slow were the toughest one to rehearse…the dancer/s used to be quite ok to pick up the fast-numbers, but the slow songs were usually more expressive with all kind emotions that needed them to “slow down” and both me and the dancers/ actors/ actresses used to struggle a lot…matching words with action and expression – all three together were pretty exhausting but rewarding the end.



  2. Gordon Davidescu January 20, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Whoo! What a tremendous exercise that was. I will have to try that sometime.



  3. Yes, I love anything done in slow motion because the performer must be in total control at all times. Any small mistake is magnified in the time bending.



  4. Let us know how it goes for you, Gordon!



  5. […] In slow motion, I picked up the my crumpled article from the floor and tossed it into a wire wastebasket.  I turned around and walked out of the newspaper office.  I never returned. […]



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