1. GENERAL HEADING: Exploring the Text

2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Cavepersoning"

3. GOALS: Discover essential line of communication in speech or scene by isolating key words and delivering them with resonant, animated expression.

4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Can work in pairs or small groups.


6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: Will vary depending on the size of the group but it can be explored in about half-hour session.

7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: Warm up group by getting them to play cave-talk, pretending to have only a primitive command of language -- something on the order of Tarzan's level of locution to Jane or simpler. Let gestural charade-like signals accompany speaking of words to help clarify or magnify intent of speech. Each participant will try to distill a speech or a scene by speaking the fewest possible words without losing the essential line of communication. The meaning of the chosen words can be charged with nuance to convey some of the function of the words omitted. Partners of speaker can encourage repeated expression of words -- such as by asking "Huh?" -- until significance is understood.

8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: The fun of this exercise comes out in how it helps demystify complex language by channeling thought and feeling into fundamental sounds in few words. Participants should know the full lines well enough to make informed choices. Histrionic vitality should be encouraged but efforts should be grounded in an earnest attempt to communicate. The active involvement of the correspondents who ask "huh?" will foster appreciation of how the words need to be empowered with specific meaning in order to effectively communicate. The process helps break down inclination to recite memorized words.

9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Paul Nelsen, Marlboro College; I connect my first experiments with this exercise to Peter Brook's work with text in the 1960s.

10. ADDITIONAL READING: Cicely Berry's The Actor and the Text, Chapter One.

11. VARIATIONS: An exercise that reduces a speech to "telegram" language is similar in its emphasis on finding the essentials, and can work very well as a written assignment. "Cavepersoning" is a more active, histrionic, and playful class/rehearsal approach.