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Exercise: whisper and shout

The following exercise gives students the opportunity to explore different ways of approaching and interpreting a scene with two people, using two different volume levels: just whisper and shout. It challenges students to act outside their comfort zones, use safe voice projection techniques, and analyze a character’s lines.

Note: You may want to warn teachers whose classrooms are close to yours ahead of time that you are doing this exercise with your students – it can get loud! Additionally, be aware if you have students with sensory concerns who might find this exercise overwhelming—you may want to give them a quiet place to do the analysis in Prompt E and excuse them from the rehearsal process.

Materials required:

  • A copy of a short two-person scene for each student (such as a section of “The Big Lie” of Ten/Two)
  • A pencil for each student (to write on the script sheet)
  • The water
  • Optional: a whistle or noise maker to attract students’ attention between repetition cues, in case they all shout at once


1. Start with a vocal warm-up. Try one of the warm-ups found in our Fun Rehearsal Warm-Ups article to get everyone ready.

2. Divide students into pairs.

3. Give each pair a short scene to analyze and rehearse. Students will play the same character in a scene for the whole class.

4. During the lesson, each pair will analyze and rehearse the scene in six different ways (promotions are described below). Between prompt rehearsals, select a pair of students to present the scene to the rest of the class using the prompt they are currently working on.

Depending on the class time you have, it is likely that not all students will be able to perform every version of the scene. However, if you know your students well and their strengths/weaknesses, select students who will be challenged by prompts (eg, choose a quieter student to shout and an open or talkative student to whisper).

Encourage students to drink plenty of water throughout the process.

5. Repeat and present (on the book) the six prompts in the following order:

  • Both characters whisper (while making sure the audience can hear them).
  • Both characters shout (while shielding their voices).
  • Character A shouts all the lines; Character B whispers all their lines.
  • Reverse shout/whisper (Character B shouts; Character A whispers).
  • Analyze line by line: Characters can ONLY whisper or shout. Choose what you think is best for each line. Mark it on the script with a W for whisper or an S for shout.
  • Reverse the shouts/whispers from Prompt E.

6. After each prompt performance, discuss:

  • What was your initial impression of the presentation?
  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • After Prompt E: What lines, if any, would you have changed from a whisper to a shout or vice versa? Why?

7. After all requests have been made, discuss:

  • How does your voice feel? (Have them drink more water at this point.)
  • Which prompt worked best overall? Why?
  • Name something funny or memorable that happened during today’s shows.
  • What was the most challenging aspect of only being able to whisper or shout?
  • How can this exercise help you become a better actor?

8. Students will complete and submit an exit slip (link below).

Additional resources:

Click here for a free exit slip.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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