1. GENERAL HEADING: Language: Sounds, Structure, Meter

2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Isolating Word Types"

3. GOALS: Understanding the words and rhetorical slant of a speech or scene.


5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: Script or photocopy handouts of speech/scene.

6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: Will vary depending on number of participants and length of speech or scene.

7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: We will be parsing the language and collecting word types into categories: e.g., identifying all the nouns or verbs or modifiers and listing them. Each participant can either list the words on separate paper or use some other code for identifying types on the script page(s) -- such as color coding with highlighters or circling all the nouns, underlining verbs, and bracketing modifiers. When participants read lists aloud, ask how these collected word groups contribute to understanding of meaning, character, situation, or style of rhetoric for the speech/scene as a whole. Is the language dominated by object references, names of people, pronouns, actions verbs, verbs of being, or are there long strings of adjectives/adverbs? Once the groups of words have been identified, try reading the whole speech giving special emphasis to one type of word at a time: e.g., hit all the verbs with more expressive energy than all the other words.

8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: Why do we use different types of words in different situations? Is the scene or speech a composed description of things? An eruption of spontaneous feeling? How frequently and where does "I" -- first person singular -- appear? Do object references fall into a pattern of imagery? How many words are subject to modification? Are there patterns of antitheses?

As will be the case with many exercises, there may be more revealing questions raised than easy answers provided. Experience with this kind of word work indicates that it encourages participants to think about how the words function in shaping the tenor of communication. In many instances, participants discover how dynamic the expression of words can be.

9. SOURCE/REFERENCE : Paul Nelson's class and rehearsal experiments.

10. ADDITIONAL READING: Chapter 4 in Cicely Berry's The Actor and the Text.

11. VARIATIONS: With some speeches, isolating the pronouns and names of people can be revealing.